How to Tailgate Like a Pro

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It’s officially football season. Not autumn, not fall, not the equinox–it’s football season. That means a lot more than games, highlights, wins and losses; it means tailgating. It means freshly grilled food and adult beverages in a parking lot full of fans and high energy. Tailgating isn’t for wimps, however, and every serious tailgater needs some advice now and again for a successful event. Here’s how to tailgate like a pro at your next game.

Choose a Committed Group

If you’re serious about tailgating, you’re going to do it often. Skip the hassle of weekly invites by urging a collection of committed friends to tailgate with you every time. You can always add to the group come game day, but if you’re certain that four or five of you will always be there, you’re not only more pumped, but also better equipped to plan all the other necessities.

Make a Cheap and Easy Meal Plan

Tailgating is as much about the food as it is the football and the camaraderie, but you don’t want to break a sweat perfecting a demi-glace when you could be good-naturedly arguing with tailgaters from the other team. Stick with delicious basics. Make one main meal, like sausages, chili or skewers, and supplement them with snacks you can throw together in advance, like chips and salsa, guacamole, deviled eggs, trail mix, a cheese assortment or just good old-fashioned potato chips.

As for the drinks, make sure you know any rules the stadium has for adult beverages before you go handing out tall boys to every comer. Keep plastic cups on hand if there are glass rules, and always have non-alcoholic options and water handy too.

Dress the Part

Hopefully, you were already planning on wearing the team’s colors. Jerseys are best, but at least wear the correct color scheme. In addition to that, you’ll need sturdy, comfortable shoes—team-friendly boots are always a good choice—and some warmer clothes if the weather turns sour. It’s football season, so that means rain, snow and wind aren’t outside possibilities.

Arrive Early

You may not think the parking spot is an important consideration, but you do want to be near the action. Arrive early and grab a spot near some grass, so you can spread out more, or determine where the most action will be. Another reason to beat the early birds is so you can set up and light the coals. You want everything ready to eat when you’re hungry.

Football season is generally considered the best season of the year, at least in America, with fans from across the nation piling into cars, trucks, vans and Winnebagos to hit the stadium parking lot and experience the game. Make the most of these awesome urban picnics by preparing for them in advance.

What’s your best memory of tailgating?