Last updated on January 25th, 2023 at 07:19 pm
When you roll up to stadium parking at the crack of dawn, it helps to have an idea how to setup your tailgate party. Sure, you can wing it, but when tailgating, every moment counts before kickoff. Try these tailgating setup tips and layouts!
Consider breaking out your tailgating party into zones!
You’ll need a spot for food, beer and drinks, seating, and games, at the very least. You can set up tailgating essentials with a flow that makes sense to your party.
What do you need for a good tailgating setup?
More than anything, you need a grill, flat-top, or other cooking apparatus to complete your gameday setup! Also be sure to bring cones to mark off parking spots so you can create your tailgate layout. You also need folding tables, chairs or seating, coolers, food and drinks, trash bags, and outdoor games, and maybe a tent for weather protection.
The parking lot is a blank canvas for your football tailgating fun!
Tailgating Setup Supplies
To make the best tailgating layout, make sure you have some long folding tables and camp chairs. You can create different zones.
Before all that, though, you need to invest in some CONES!
I am not joking! You’ll also need an awesome friend to get to the tailgate lots wicked early to reserve your parking spaces and party space.
(Our guy gets there before the sun.)
We usually try to get a block of 8 or more spots back-to-back and side-by-side, depending on the number of tailgaters we’ll have.
Of course, if you don’t have cones, you can totally make due.
We’ve blocked off spots with coolers, totes, games, and even beers.
Hey, they’re orange. And completely nerve-wracking to anyone with a peanut allergy, but that’s our tailgating pal for you.
Anyway, this is just the start of the tailgate setup – so let’s work our way through all the most important components.
Create the Atmosphere with Music
Before the guests arrive, turn on your tailgating speaker and get some good tunes going! (Remember to charge it the night before!)
Maybe you’d like to start the morning off with some ACDC or some other hard rock. If you’ve got to be up before 7 a.m., you might as well wake up your eardrums!
Tailgating Hangout Environment
Weather dependent, you might like to set up your tailgating tent. This can help in the event of a rainy tailgate or to help shield you from the sun.
Both forces of nature can be a pain when it comes to the perfect tailgate party.
- Tent – Set up your tent and use bungees to secure the legs to a table, cooler, or some camp chairs.
- Chairs – Arrange some chairs for those who prefer to sit.
- Tables – Set up a tailgate table for the food, games, and anything else you might need. We can usually survive with two 8-foot tables plus random Eagles themed tailgating tables for extra stuff or hanging out.
- Food – Set out the finger food and snacks right away. Then start the meal prep station if applicable.
- Drinks – Make sure you have coolers ready for folks to dig right in. Be sure to have lots of ice for cold drinks!
- Decorations – Take a moment to set out some football and tailgating decorations to set the right mood.
- Games – Set up the games early so guests can cut loose and take the edge off right out of the gate.
Tailgate Food Setup
Probably the most important part of your tailgating setup is the food and your food station.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How do you keep the tailgate food warm?
- What is the best way to serve tailgating food?
- What flow do you want for tailgate guests getting food?
Most of the time, a tailgate grill works perfectly for all your tailgating food needs.
You can also bring crockpots if you have a generator, but I once shorted one out trying to plug in too many heating appliances. (Whoops! But those potatoes were bomb!)
Sometimes cold tailgate food is quick and easy enough to sway that way. But, how do you pass up burgers, breakfast sandwiches, cheesesteaks or other tailgating sandwiches?!
Anyway, here are my best tips on your tailgate food setup:
- Set up a long folding table for the food.
- Assemble any electricity or flame needed to warm the food. (Ex: Sterno)
- Spread all the food warmers or food trays out on the table.
- Put paper plates, napkins, and utensils at the starting end.
- Hook up this AWESOME trash bag holder at the other end.
- Set up a station for food prep for anything going on the grill. (Cutting boards, platters, knives, etc.)
- Set up the tailgating grill nearby for easy access to anything you need.
Outdoor games add to any tailgate, rain or shine. That’s half the fun!!
Washers is my classic favorite tailgating game, but we play quite a few, like 3 man (dice game) and beer pong or flip cup.
Once everyone parks, we set up washers in front of the cars where we drove through to park. This is usually after most parking spaces are already filled and traffic slows down through these parts.
Washers – Basically you have rows of vehicles next to you and you throw longways toward the other washer box. Better yet if you can park near the grassy knoll!
Flip Cup – We’ll repurpose the food table as a flip cup table toward the end of the tailgate. Sometimes it’s just easier to bring a second table!
Beer Pong – Of course, if you have a spare table, that most likely gets promoted to beer pong and you’ll have to wait for flip cup until the end, or find another table!
Dice Games – You can play 3 Man on a cooler, on a tote, or on a small canvas tailgating table. It matters not. It’s a lot of fun to play 3 Man dice games with tailgating friends because a lot of times you don’t know everyone, and it’s a good, fast-paced ice breaker.
Or ball-breaker. Whatever.
I’ll share the rules in a future post if you don’t know how to play!
Creating a Good Flow with Smart Tailgating Setups
Keep in mind how you envision your tailgating setup to flow. You can always move things around if need be.
Typically this is how it goes:
- Park, crack open a drink, and start setting up. Turn on the tunes!!
- Guests arrive, park, and grab a beer.
- Someone cooks breakfast, a few people help with assembly line if needed.
- Some people play washers or other outdoor games.
- Everyone eats and throws out trash.
- Back to playing games and talking football.
- Whack open a homemade paper mache piñata and get on TV.
- Play one last game of flip cup, drink shots of pickle juice, quick cleanup, and head into the game.
(Of course, this is the super simplified version. Notice I left out the trash talking, bio breaks, making new friends in the parking lot, slap the bag (Fireball), and putting away leftovers, and all that jazz.)
By the way, here is everything you need to bring for a morning tailgate!
For the Perfect Tailgating Setup
Basically the biggest stuff you need to plan for is:
Food & Drinks > Tables / Serving Stuff > Trash / Recycling > Relaxing & Entertainment
Of course, who am I kidding?!
Wishful thinking right there – I have yet to make it to a tailgating event where people actually collect recycling instead of trashing all those bottles and cans.
Have you found any? Let us know in the comments if so – we want to hear it!
09.12.22 – Updated to add link to tables post.
01.25.23 – Updated to add link to a.m. tailgate post.