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The Ultimate Guide to Hosting the Best Tailgate Ever


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Football season has arrived! Even if you're not a huge sports fan, going to a game is the perfect excuse for a fall visit to campus, plus a great way to support your student's university and have quality family time.

CollegiateParent has compiled a list of tips and tricks to make this year’s tailgate the best one yet!

Tip #1: Plan ahead and reserve your spot

Don’t make the rookie mistake of waiting until the last minute to reserve a tailgating spot. Some universities use a lottery system and/or have certain parking lots that are more convenient than others.

In addition, tailgating regulations vary from school to school — check the website to review the tailgating policies and parking lot guidelines. You'll find rules about start and end times for tailgating, sound systems, alcohol, trash, charcoal disposal, catering rules, recycling and more as well as information about what you can and can't bring into the stadium.

Tip #2: Bring your A-game with the food

Since the quickest way to a college kid’s heart is through their stomach, an easy approach to keep your student and their friends around is to bring your A-game with the food. Fire up the grill — chicken, steak, burgers, hot dogs and barbecue are all great tailgate choices. Include vegetarian or vegan options, too.

Side dishes and desserts can be the star of the show. Get creative! Check out these fun, football-themed examples:

Football Whoopie Pies With Cinnamon Cream

  • No matter what the final score ends up being, these football-shaped treats will ensure everyone ends the day on a sweet note.

Big Game Football Field Party Dip

  • This festive fruit bowl is a simple and affordable option that's ideal for game day. Here's a helpful video tutorial for how to carve the watermelon.

Cupcake Stadium

  • Every tailgate should have a fabulous dessert to top off the feasting extravaganza. This cupcake stadium is a really cute idea — sprinkles give the illusion of a roaring crowd.

Tip #3: Game day décor

Embrace the school spirit and bring on the game day décor. Some universities or organizations broadcast tailgating highlights or present awards and prizes to the most spirited or best tailgate. If you want a chance to win or to see your crew on the jumbotron, be sure to deck out your tailgating spot (and yourself!) in university colors and gear.

Tip #4: Entertain your guests

A little pregame competition can really heighten the energy at your tailgate. Here are some fun ways to entertain your guests.


Cornhole is a classic game and the pieces allow for a great deal of personalization! You can buy a paintable all weather set and personalize it to your teams colors, buy a pre-designed set, or if you're crafty, make your own set with the help of an online tutorial. Rules are simple — teammates stand on opposite ends and toss bean bags, scoring three points for getting the bag into the hole and one for getting it on the board. First team to 21 points wins.

Ladder Golf

Like cornhole, you can buy a ladder toss/golf set or make your own. Individuals or teams can play. There are two ladders placed apart and the object of the game is to wrap your bolas (two balls attached to a rope) around the steps of the ladder. The top rung is worth three points, the middle two, and the bottom one.


This is a fun two-on-two game that's like a combination of volleyball and four-square. Games are played to 21 points and you must win by two points. Here are the rules, and you can buy the game here!

And bring a football!

Easy and simple. Nothing beats tossing around a football on game day!

Tip #5: Bring a killer playlist

Music makes or breaks a party and you need it if you want students to stick around. Be sure to bring speakers with reasonable volume to make your presence known and help your guests get amped for the game. If strangers walk by bobbing their heads — or better yet, stop to join your tailgate — you're doing something right.

Here's a Spotify list of must-have songs that emphasize good vibes and celebration (and of course winning).

Tip #6: Pack your car with this tailgating checklist!

Avoid the "oops, I forgot the napkins" scenario. (Once you're on campus, last minute grocery shopping is a major hassle if not downright impossible.) Here's our list of tailgating essentials, including a link to download and print.

Click to download the Tailgating Checklist

Tip #7: Make it count

You've probably been missing your student and naturally want to make every second count. That said, keep in mind that they've started forming a community at school, and during the tailgate and game (and over the course of the weekend, if you're staying longer) they'll want to be with their friends and may have many other things going on. Even if you don't spend that much time with your student, they truly will appreciate you joining in the school spirit. When you represent their colors with pride, you reinforce that they are where they need to be: creating a new, independent life in college and making memories that will last a lifetime.

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