Here Are 5 Tips for Hosting the Best Tailgating Party Ever

Entertain, Fall, In Season, Learn, Menu Ideas, Menus, On the Table, Tips & Techniques

This post comes to us courtesy of home entertaining and lifestyle blogger Jenny Steffens Hobick


There couldn’t be a better time for me to dream about the perfect game day party. I happen to be boarding a plane, heading to my alma mater’s 100th homecoming celebration. For weeks I’ve been looking forward to getting together with friends, enjoying the cool, crisp weather, beautiful fall foliage and football fever of the Midwest.


Tailgating outside of the stadium will no doubt be a big part of our homecoming weekend. I am always excited to see the fun ideas that seasoned tailgaters come up with for their game day festivities. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for creating a memorable tailgate party.


Tips for Hosting a Great Game Day Party:


Selecting a game day menu

Many times when you go to a tailgate party, you’ll find most menus run the gamut — chips and salsa, barbecue, buffalo wings, chili, vegetables with onion dip, cookies, brownies and cake pops. While most of these sound great on their own, they can be a bit overwhelming when all are served at the same time.


I approach tailgate menus like any other occasion. I think about foods that are seasonally appropriate, will complement each other and will leave my guests satisfied. Think of each item as part of a whole and balance your menu with entrees, vegetables and sweets. If possible, avoid flavors that do not mix well together, like a spicy salsa and hot buffalo sauce. I recommend choosing one or the other — your guests’ stomachs will thank you! Also, make sure you tap into some of those fall favorites (maybe caramel apples or pumpkin spice cookies?) to make it feel like autumn has arrived.


How much food should I prepare?

Tailgates can be a little tricky when it comes to portioning, because you never know who will stop by (and bring their friends!). You definitely want to have enough, but you don’t want to have too much that has to be transported, set up and then packed back up to take home. As a caterer, I would always plan for 25% more guests than had confirmed. So, if you are expecting 20, plan for 25.


I also recommend bringing extra snacks that, if unopened, could be used another time. For example, I always traveled to catering events with an extra supply of gourmet crackers and nuts. In a pinch, they can be just enough to curb an appetite when served with a drink.


How do you keep hot things hot and cold things cold?

The short answer is, you don’t. I recommend selecting a majority of menu items that are best at room temperature, and serving only one or two high-maintenance foods that need to be kept hot or cold. For hot items like barbecued ribs, brats or burgers, a mini Weber-style grill can be a great tool for a small investment. When serving crudités and dip, place the platter on a bowl of ice to keep them fresh and crisp.


If you are a serious tailgater (or plan to become one), invest in a festive tent for your game day parties. Not only will it provide a great party area for your guests, it will also keep your food shaded and out of the elements.


Game Day Decor


Seasonal touches

It may be “football season” but it is also still fall. Bring along seasonal touches such as pumpkins and mums to liven your food display. If you can’t find a pumpkin that coordinates with your team colors (or your rival’s school color happens to be orange!), paint the outside of an entire pumpkin, then carve it. Tell everyone you grew the special pumpkin yourself – and watered it with team spirit. It will serve double duty, as it will look great on your front steps after the party is over.


Team colors

There are more ways to incorporate your team colors into your table display than store-bought flags and stuffed mascots. I made a simple pennant banner to hang on the table by cutting out paper and fabric triangles, then gluing them to a ribbon. The banner looks great on our mantle for our game day watch parties, too.


Another great way to add your team colors to your table is to think outside of the plastic tablecloth. I like to use a plaid blanket or throw for a more rustic look. If you want to go really rustic, use a piece of burlap — surprisingly, it comes in a lot of different colors!


Baskets and boxes over plastic

Game day tailgates aren’t the time to be fussy and fancy, but you don’t have to sacrifice style. Heavy “real” ceramic or pottery platters look great at home, but can be a bit of a hassle to pack into the car successfully. I’ll do anything to avoid serving food out of plastic storage containers or on flimsy platters. Try displaying and serving your menu items in cloth napkin-covered baskets and boxes instead. They are lightweight and will not break on the way to your tailgating spot.


A great game day menu

Here’s a tried and true menu that’s always a big hit at my game day celebrations!


Pulled Pork Sliders
Creamy Spinach Dip with Tortilla Chips
Pigs in a Blanket
Football Whoopie Pies

About the authorJenny Steffens Hobick, a home entertaining and lifestyle blogger, makes entertaining accessible and enjoyable… for the hosts and guests.  As a former caterer and party planner, Jenny shares her secrets to hosting casual and elegant parties. From table settings to recipes, her creative tips and resourceful methods inspire her readers to make Everyday Occasions special – whether it be a family style feast, elegant cocktail party or intimate dinner for two.  Jenny believes that entertaining at its best is done often, with an effortless and easy style.

10 comments about “Here Are 5 Tips for Hosting the Best Tailgating Party Ever

  1. MB

    As an Iowa Hawkeye headed back to Iowa City next weekend for Homecoming, I appreciate the black and gold pennants on the table. Thanks for the suggestions and go Hawks!

  2. Roger

    Thanks for the fun post, Jenny. Lots of great tailgating ideas and we love the pennant banners! If your readers are looking for stylish ready-to-use all weather banners in team or seasonal colors we hope they visit 100% recyclable ecoGarlands are made in the U.S. Thank you!

  3. Jackie

    Go Mizzou!!! Great ideas and thanks for the post!! I am excited to see that someone else besides myself is willing to make tailgating more than just beer and burgers!!!

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  6. khach san sam son

    Similarly to Knight and Day from earlier this summer, once the second half rolls around, most of the appeal is lost, and the movie becomes more of a financial thriller than a buddy-cop comedy.

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  8. Joanne McDaniel

    I love all of these great ideas for hosting a fun tailgate party. I agree with you that it can be challenging to know just how much food to prepare. That’s why enlisting the help of a local caterer can help. Not only will they be able to take away some of the hassles that comes with planning and serving the party’s meals, they can help you design meals that cater to specialty diets, and even give you some healthy alternatives to make your party a little more health-conscious, but just as delicious. Thanks for sharing!


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