Tailgating Tips


By Sid Robinson

Football season is here at last. High school games kicked off couple of weeks ago, and the college season hit full speed over Labor Day weekend. Now it’s time for the NFL, which launched its 2016 season on Thursday night. Whatever your pleasure, there is a certain art to preparing for game day, at least at the college and professional levels. With the Rams now back in Los Angeles, tailgate parties are all the more relevant – and important. In fact, there are plenty of people who are much more concerned with the pre-game tailgating in the parking lots than with the action inside the stadium. All the more reason to offer up a few tips for your outing at the Rose Bowl or the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. And if you can’t make it to a game, there’s no reason you can’t set up camp in your own back yard or garage and just pretend.

So for your grilling, eating, drinking, cheering and viewing pleasure, here are a few basic tips for tailgating fun.

Tip #1 Plan ahead.

Know what you are going to eat and drink on game day, whether you’re grilling steaks or packing sandwiches. Prepare your food in advance, or make sure you have all of the ingredients you need to build your meal on site. Finger foods are easiest. But complex spreads are more fun.

Impress your friends and family with this simple and delicious guacamole dip recipe. 

The bar. Beer and wine are easy. Mixed drinks require more ingredients and more time, but a good Bloody Mary is always great when tailgating starts in the morning. If possible, mix drinks in advance and transport them in milk jugs.

Tip #2 Know the rules and the surroundings. Different venues have different regulations about when you can arrive, what you can do and where you can go. For example, there are plenty of tailgating areas around the Coliseum at Exposition Park, but tailgating isn’t allowed in the parking structures across the street at USC.

Tip #3 Go camping. Your tailgate setup is just like a campsite, so count on spending time setting up and then tearing down before kickoff. Plan ahead and bring all the equipment you need. Obviously, trucks and SUVs are best for hauling cargo. Check that you have enough propane or briquettes to fire up the grill. Be sure to let the grill cool while you’re inside the stadium – meaning, bring a heavy chain and lock to make sure your grill is still there when you return. And for goodness sakes, make sure your fire is completely extinguished. It’s no fun having a flare-up in the back seat on the way home.

Tip #4 Bring shade. EZ-ups make the perfect cover for sun or rain.

Tip #5 Tool time. No matter how elaborate you go, you still need tools – grilling tools and a standard toolbox with hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and more. And don’t forget bottle openers (including a wine opener).

Tip #6 Arrive early. If you’re a novice, four hours before game time might seem too early. It’s not. And when you do park, be sure to give yourself room to set up camp.

Tip #7 Keep things portable. Make sure your ice chest, grill and chairs are easy to move around.

Tip #8 Mark your spot. Bring a flag or fly some balloons, especially if you have others meeting you. It’s not hard to get lost among the sea of tailgaters.

Don’t forget:

  • Lots of ice
  • Trash bags
  • Sunscreen
  • Water (most stadiums let you bring sealed water bottles inside)
  • Chairs
  • Easy-up
  • Umbrellas
  • Blankets
  • Portable tables or TV trays
  • Games like cornhole, football or even beer pong

Tip #9 Entertainment. Music can add to the experience, but can also be pretty annoying if not your preferred style, so be mindful of others. Many people pack big TVs to catch out-of-town games earlier in the day.

Tip #10 Walk around. Most people are pretty friendly and enjoy the company. You’re likely there to root for the same team, so you already have something in common. Wear your team’s colors. Be sure to check out some of the stadium’s outside vendors and activities. And listen to the college bands that march by before going into the stadium.

Tip #11 Share with your neighbors. If you have a chef in the group, let him or her show off. Nothing like a great gourmet spread while sharing a laugh with new friends.

Tip #12 Don’t get too drunk. You are there for the game (maybe), so make sure you’re coherent to enjoy it. Pre-game refreshments are great, but know your limits, especially if you’re drinking beer. You don’t want to be getting up from your seat every 20 minutes to relieve yourself.

Tip #13 Pick up your trash. Nobody wants to drive out of a parking lot filled with garbage and scattered beer bottles.

Enjoy the game and hope your team wins.