Recently updated on September 13th, 2023

Group of friends cheering with hands in the air.

The time-honored tradition of sports, friends, and mouthwatering food is what makes tailgating an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or just here for the food and family, tailgating is an opportunity to embrace the spirit of the game. To ensure you make the most of this pre-game ritual, we’ve compiled a list of tailgating essentials that will elevate your party to the next level. From grilling equipment to games and comfortable seating, let’s dive into the must-have items for an incredible tailgating experience.

Man cooking at the grill during tailgate party

Got to Grill

First things first, fresh barbequed food is a staple of tailgates all over America. You should get plenty of supplies like plastic cups, disposable plates, utensils, and napkins. These items are easy to buy and transport, which is another facet of tailgating: it is supposed to be easy enough that anyone with a car can do it. The grill itself is one of the most important things to bring, so make sure you have a good portable propane grill and even more importantly, someone who can make it sing. Remember to pack essential grilling tools like tongs, aluminum pans, spatulas, spices, and a meat thermometer to ensure perfectly cooked food. Always be aware of any allergies or vegan/vegetarian preferences; tailgates are for everyone to enjoy!

Three women talking and smiling at a tailgate party.

Set Up for Success

Comfortable seating is crucial for relaxing and enjoying the festivities. Buy chairs and tables that are lightweight but sturdy enough to withstand enthusiastic fans. Look for chairs with cup holders, armrests, and padding for extra comfort for when the game gets going. Collapsible tables are necessary for all the food, drinks, and games. Opt for tables with adjustable heights and a wide surface area to accommodate whatever items your tailgate ends up having. Coolers are another must-have to keep the food and drinks fresh and edible, just be sure you have enough coolers and ice to accommodate all those empty stomachs. If the weather is not looking good, bring a pop-up tent to at least protect the grill. If the weather is dry, then you will have plenty of shade to cool down on a hot day.

A person playing cornhole on a football field.

Compete with Companions

For the build up to the game or just to hang out afterwards, outdoor games are an easy way to make tailgates a memorable experience. They are also a great way to fire up the competitive spirit needed to get into the spirit of the game. Some of the classics that anyone can pick up and play are cornhole, ladder toss, disc slam, or just throwing around any ball you have. Don’t be limited to just these games, use your creativity to express yourself and play the kind of tailgate game you would want to play. Games are especially good if you have fans of opposing teams at the same tailgate, allowing for an icebreaker between people who aren’t necessarily comfortable with each other.

A woman stands next to two friends while holding a portable speaker.

Pump up the Party

The final ingredient to the perfect tailgate party is music. Tailgates are usually loud with people boisterously talking over each other, the sounds of food sizzling on the grill and other tailgates going on around you. To compensate for this, you will need a portable speaker (or use more than one) to really get the party going. Picking the playlist is not something you want to do last minute, but if that is the case or you don’t think yours will suffice, delegate that to someone else at the party.

A group huddles together with hands in the middle.

By being prepared with the right tailgating essentials, you can enhance your pre-game celebrations and create fun memories. From a portable grill to comfortable seating, a well-stocked cooler to exciting games, and even a portable sound system, these essentials ensure you and your fellow fans have an unforgettable time. So gear up, gather your friends, and get ready to tailgate like a pro!