Fall means many things: pumpkin spice lattes, football season, and of course, tailgating. On the surface, the century-old tradition of tailgating is about celebrating sports. But according to John Sherry, a University of Notre Dame anthropologist, when people tailgate, they are making a “a real active and orchestrated effort in community building.” It’s a time for people to come together over their favorite football team, cook and eat food together, and maybe throw back a few beers. Some families have been tailgating for generations — sometimes even in the same location for years — and they form welcoming communities (as long as you support the same team!).
Want to join them? You’ve gotta come prepared. Want to up your tailgating game? This checklist will give you tips for becoming a master tailgater (and might even win you a few new friends).
Canopy tents offer shade on those super-sunny days early in the season, and can save your food (and fun!) from rain or snow later on in the season. Some canopy tents even have options to add wind screens, mesh screens to keep out bugs, or a sunscreen. It helps to find one that works well in windy conditions, unless you feel like chasing your canopy tent across the parking lot.
You can turn a regular toolbox into a tailgater’s box of essentials, holding everything from cooking and serving utensils and lighters and cleaning supplies, to a first aid kit. And don’t forget your favorite condiments! Keep your toolbox loaded and waiting in your trunk for all your tailgating needs this season.
Drinks are a must-have for any tailgate party, but who says you have to stick to beer? A make-your-own Bloody Mary bar is a fun way to get creative and make everyone else do the work. This guide offers some killer ideas, including flavored salts for the rim and a pickle-infused vodka. For non-alcoholic options, consider this cucumber lemonade mocktail from Food & Wine for adults, or an ice cream soda bar from Celebrations at Home for younger fans.
Any dish you can make ahead of the big game will give you more time to hang out with your friends. This cold avocado tomatillo soup from Avocados from Mexico is easy enough to throw together the night before and store in the cooler. And guacamole is always a crowd pleaser.
Your team loyalty can extend beyond the game and into your desserts. Check out this guide to figure out your team color’s icing formula. It’s time for your cakes or cookies to rep your team the right way!
AVO TIP: When making guacamole ahead of time, here’s some great advice on how to “keep your guac green” from Chef Pati Jinich.
AVO TIP: If you just can’t live without guac, though, check out this video tip from Chef Pati Jinich!