College football is back, baby!! Well sort of. Luckily with the Pac-12, and Big-10 announcing their seasons, we’ve got a lot of content coming our way this fall and winter. Some teams are allowing a restricted number of fans in the stadium, but for the majority of teams, tailgating is very limited (if not totally banned), during the pre-game (and post-game for our SEC readers!). So read along for the must haves for tailgating at home.
For me, the football experience is not the same without a tailgate. I mean, the tailgate is sometimes even more fun than the game itself! Over the years, when I’ve hosted viewing parties at home for away games, I like to create a tailgate atmosphere around the game watch. It makes the experience more exciting, and my friends & family always love it.
The following content will outline the key elements to create an awesome tailgate at-home experience, or what we like to call, a homegate! Getting organized for a homegate will not only make the most this season, but will also allow you to be totally prepared for viewing parties in years to come when your team is traveling, or when you just can’t make it to the stadium.
To get the closest feel to the real thing, finding a location that has access to indoor AND outdoor space is key.
Having either a front or back yard, driveway, rooftop, shared common space (if you have cool neighbors!), will allow you to practically set-up the same tailgate you would at the stadium and create the most authentic experience possible. If you have a bunch of neighbors that support your team, consider making a block party tailgate, with everyone bringing out their equipment, favorite tailgate snacks, and make a day out of it!
In the outdoor area, you will set up your tents, tailgate chairs, tables, and of course your games – it’s not a tailgate without cornhole. If you want to step your tailgate up a notch, invest in some high-top round tables (here are the ones we use) so folks can gather around, munch on snacks, and enjoy their beverages while having a place to set things down if needed. If you want to REALLY step up your game, invest in everything you need for an outdoor TV set-up! I will be writing an entire blog about this in the upcoming weeks, so keep an eye out for that. I’ll be sure to link it here when it’s live.
There are a lot of benefits to hosting your tailgate at home, most notably:
- Access to a kitchen – so clutch!! No need to prep all the food the night before, and hope it travels well. You can make all your favorite go-to tailgate recipes fresh.
- Actual bathrooms – no more 20 people deep porta-potty lines <- the ladies will appreciate this one.
- Having the option to go indoors in case of not so great weather – we’ve all stood out in the rain a few times on game days, or chased down napkins from heavy winds.
If you don’t have access to a location with outdoor space, all good! Keep reading for some great ideas about bringing the tailgate inside with decorations, team colors, food options, and signature drinks.
Now, although you might be hosting this event at home, do not, I repeat DO NOT, use all your nice cutlery, plates, glasses, etc.! This isn’t a dinner party; this is a tailgate.
For an authentic tailgate, you need paper plates, plastic cutlery, plastic wine/cocktail glasses. There are a ton of sets you can buy online, like this one. This is a super simple step to bring that tailgate feel to the home and allow you to rep your team or team colors.
Most university bookstores have a large supply of items for tailgates. This could be a great opportunity for you to support your school through this difficult year. For NFL fans, be sure to check out sites like Amazon or Party City, or depending on the team, there is a wide array of super fan sites that have great products. At the bottom of this blog, I’ve linked some major retailers selling homegating décor!
In addition, you can order items like pom poms, beads, posters, banners, team branded equipment/furniture etc. You can see a selection of these shown in the photo above. Or here are some more photos to show you ideas:
When it comes to tailgate food, the key here is to keep it simple, and provide options that people can eat while holding a plate in one hand and their fork in the other. At most tailgates, there is not a ‘sit-down’ area to eat, so people must eat while standing.
Think finger foods, easy to hold items, things that don’t require the use of multiple utensils. To create an authentic tailgate, this is a must-have for your homegate! Here’s an idea for a sample menu for your event:
Fruit & Veggie Platters – can’t go wrong with these!
Spinach Dip with Pita Chips, or a sourdough bread bowl always goes over well
Grilled Chicken Wings
Pigs in a blanket
Cheeseburgers and Hot Dogs (wrap them in bacon!)
Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
Variety of Salads
Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars – a family tradition of mine, so so good!
Football themed cookies
Go to Beverages
For starters, you need the staples
- Water – we suggest getting the half-size, 8oz bottles (see here for an example), the full bottles always seem to be thrown away half full since people put them down and forget which one is theirs. Another way to combat this waste is to have a Sharpee marker station near the beverages, so people can write their names on their beverage.
- Variety of soft drinks – once again, purchase the smaller cans!
- Sparking water is always popular – these Bubly ones have become my favorite.
- Seltzers – seem to be the go to for most folks nowadays!
- An assortment of light beers – Coors, Bud Light, etc.
- An assortment of white, red and sparkling wine
Once that’s taken care of, you can get onto the fun stuff! Depending on your game time, and time of year, you want to cater your beverages accordingly. For instance, if it’s late in the fall, it might be nice to throw in some fall inspired IPA’s to the mix. If it’s a mid-day kick-off, starting your event with Mimosas, or a Bloody Mary station is always a fun hit.
In order to simplify your beverage list, we suggest having 1-3 signature cocktails that guests are able to make. Some examples:
- Fall inspired Bourbon drink
- Bloody Mary Bar (new blog to come on this!)
- Moscow Mule – you can provide Vodka, and/or Tequila to cover both taste preferences
For your friends/family who like to keep things simple, having a few soda waters and limes always seems to do the trick!
Entertainment, outside the actual game!
It’s always great to have additional entertainment options outside of watching the actual football game, for pre-game activities, during the game for the not so super fans, or during commercials/half-time!
If you have space, a corn-hole set up is always a fan favorite (Here’s a great neutral one!). If you want to take it up a notch you can even set up a tournament with all your guests. All you must do is pick-up a white board, grab some markers, and create a simple single elimination bracket for folks to keep track of their standing.
Another huge hit is Giant Jenga. This is something everything can get involved with and is quick enough to be able to sneak in a game during a commercial break. Here’s one on sale at Amazon for $42, linked here.
For those friends that might be interested in putting a little wager on the game, a great and easy game is Squares.
How to play Squares:
Step 1 – pick-up a large poster board, and create a 100-square grid
Step 2 – set an amount to purchase each square, typically I’ve always done $1 per square, but if you and your friends are in a gambling mood, there’s no limit.
Step 3 – sell off all the squares – i.e. if Megan purchases 10 squares, she’ll write her name in 10 random squares that are still available
Step 4 – set a payout structure of all the funds (see below for an example)
Step 5 – assign each side to a team, this can be done with a coin flip, or just having a random person say a team name
Step 6 – assign numbers, I typically pick a random person and have them count off the numbers 0-9 in a random order
If you’ve done everything correctly to this point, your board should look like this:
Example Payout Schedule – $100 board (here’s a simple one, but feel free to make as complicated as you’d like!)
Q1 Score – $10
Half-time Score – $25
Q3 Score – $10
End of Game Score – $55
If you’re planning on having a bit of a larger gathering, let’s say 10+, we recommend having at least two different viewing locations. Let’s face it, there’s always the group of superfans (typically the dudes) who must watch every single down, and hear every play call, and then there’s the group who enjoys the game, but doesn’t care that much. Mixing these two groups in the same room can sometimes create awkward situations. So if there’s a way to separate them, we’d suggest it!
Growing up, we use to have all the not so big fans in the main viewing area, near all the food & beverages, and then we’d turn the TV on down in the basement for all the superfans. It worked great!
Tailgater Concierge Services for Homegating!
If you are located in a Tailgater Concierge supported market, we can help create the perfect homegate experience! We will bring the tailgate to you at your home. Our services include: delivering and setting up/tearing down all requested equipment, coordinating catering and beverage options, plus we will have a team member on-site to help with any last minute needs!
The markets we can support fans in include:
- Los Angeles, Orange County, The Valley – California
- Eugene, Oregon
- Seattle, Washington
- Champaign, Illinois
- Chicago, Illinois
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
Resources to purchase Homegating Necessities
If this blog has convinced you it’s the year to throw a homegate, great! Here are some websites you leverage to purchase everything you may need (click the bold title’s below to hop over to their sites!):
- Sam’s Club Homegating
- Great resource for not only Food and Beverage, but they have great tailgate equipment you can purchase! From tents & tables to even flat screen TVs
- Homegating with Lowes
- For a more upscale experience, check out some cool back yard experiences Lowes has created for fans
- NFL Homegating
- If you want to up your team swag, check out the NFL Shop for all your needs
- Tailgating, Bed, Bath and Beyond
- Great article on all the aspects of a homegate experience (similar to this) with products linked throughout
If you have any questions regarding hosting a homegate experience, feel free to reach out to the team at Tailgater Concierge at [email protected] We’d be happy to help you organize a great viewing party!
Another great blog of ours that touches on similar topics is our Superbowl LIV Party Tips for more viewing party inspiration.