The Ultimate Home Tailgating Guide for Fall

Turn your backyard into a tailgate party rivaling the likes of Lambeau Field and Arrowhead Stadium with these awesome football party ideas.

By Tom Scalisi | Updated Sep 19, 2022 2:32 PM

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While parking lots are the setting of choice for a rowdy tailgate party, not having season tickets shouldn’t keep team faithfuls from enjoying the festivities. Hosting a game day get-together in the backyard can be a blast, complete with all the activities that make hardcore fans cheer.

Don’t worry about blacktopping that bluegrass before the coin flip, either. These football party ideas will have the away team happy to be enjoying the festivities on your home turf, even if it’s only your backyard.

Setting the Scene

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The goal here is to pull off the perfect backyard tailgate party. Splitting activities up into stations can help set the scene, allowing folks to meander around your yard and hang out wherever they choose. They’ll be able to kick back, have a drink, eat, watch the game, or play cornhole while feeling like welcomed guests (even if they’re rooting for the other team).

Whether it’s by the food or near the games, the following stations will make your next football party a touchdown.

Grill

Keeping the food and cooking appliances away from the rest of the party is important. There will likely be a pick-up football game going on, and no one needs to go crashing through a table trying to catch a pigskin only to send a few all-beef franks flying through the air. Also, it’s important to keep any tiny running backs away from the hot grill.

If possible keep the grill and the food on the deck or patio and let that be the place for food prep. Folks can come up to the deck for their burger or dog and head back to their seat or station of choice.

Bar

While some cold brews and sodas may seem like a given at a tailgate party, a bar is a luxury. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a permanent outdoor bar for mixing drinks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fashion one.

With just a couple of sawhorses, some lumber or plywood to lay across them, and a space in the shade, you have everything necessary to set up a bar. Place two coolers underneath for beer and soda (separate them for kids’ and nondrinkers’ sake), and place cups, liquor, and even a bowl or two of chips on top. Be sure to top off during half-time!

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TV

Do you really want your friends and their rowdy kids watching the game on your new couch? For those who’d like to keep those lovable but loud guests outdoors, run an extension cord or portable power station out to the yard and set up the TV. Be sure to place it on something flat and sturdy, and keep the kids from playing near it. If you have the means, consider installing a TV bracket on a fence post temporarily.

Keep in mind that the sun may block out the picture, so it’s best to place the TV in the shade. Also, if the weather is a concern, set up an easy-up shade or tent to protect it.

Lawn Games

The big game doesn’t have to be the only content occurring. Find an open spot in the yard and use it as the tournament grounds for cornhole, horseshoes, bocce, or a frisbee game. Give these competitors plenty of space, allowing them to take their game seriously without disturbing the rest of the crowd.

Hosts can encourage party-goers to keep the games and toys in the “game zone” by setting up chairs, potted plants, tables, or any other number of items. Allow these items to divide the party area and the game area, using them as a border of sorts.

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Restroom

With enough beers, bratwurst, and burgers, the restroom is bound to feel like the end zone for at least a couple of sports fans. If all the guests are familiar with the home’s layout, let it be. But, if there are rookies around, it’s a good idea to direct them to the locker room—don’t be afraid to set up some fun themed decorations or signs to point the way. Consider posting football-shaped signs with arrows pointing the way to the bathroom. (Guests may get a kick out of a field goal on the bathroom door!)

Essential Gear for At-Home Tailgating

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Sure, we’re eschewing the stadium parking lot for the shade of your backyard maple tree, but digging out an old jersey and a cooler isn’t quite enough. There are a few items every at-home tailgate party needs. Treat your guests like team owners with the following must-have tailgate items:

  • Football party supplies
  • Grill and grill fuel
  • Folding grill table
  • Cookware for flipping burgers, steaks, or hot dogs
  • Camp chairs or patio chairs
  • A couple of good coolers (don’t forget the ice!)
  • Cornhole set and other backyard games for serious competitors
  • Folding canopy tents
  • Bluetooth speakers
  • Fully charged power station or extension cord

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Food for Thought

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Is there anything more critical to a great tailgate party than the food? Let’s be real: Tailgating food ideas are running post patterns through most of the party-goers’ heads from the moment they’re invited. Delicious burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and grilled veggies come to most grill masters’ minds for the main course, but there are more options to consider.

When it comes to hors d’oeuvres, timeless classics such as Buffalo wings, onion rings, chips, and dips are always a hit before you bring out the entrees. For those with a sweet tooth, who can celebrate fall’s favorite pastime without seasonal fruit desserts? Bringing apple pie to the table is like kicking an extra point, while brownies and blondies are sure to sack the visitors’ taste buds.

When planning your tailgating menu it’s a good idea to include some vegetarian options, and be mindful of guests’ food allergies. There’s nothing fun about someone with a tree nut allergy accidentally getting ingesting some pecans. Opening your secret recipe playbook and labeling dishes that contain nuts, wheat, dairy, and other allergens will keep everyone safe and well fed.

RELATED: Tailgating Party Foods

Weathering the Weather

A bit of rough weather can force the offense to punt a few downs early. Instead of letting forecasted rain, clouds, or cold from catching you offside, plan for it. First, make sure guests bring their favorite team hoodies. Also, have a few blankets and hot cocoa mix on hand if a cold front breaks through the offensive line.

Have a backup plan in place, too, if you’re hosting an all-outdoors affair: Consider cleaning the garage and setting up some chairs. Pick up an extra canopy tent for the grill, or serve kitchen-prepared comfort foods like mac and cheese, ribs, and baked potatoes. While a garage-based tailgate party isn’t ideal, it’s better than getting soaked to the bone for four quarters of football. Just imagine overtime!

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Tips for Quick Cleanup

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Hopefully, the worst part of your awesome football party will be when it’s over and there’s cleanup to be done. As if setting up wasn’t enough, breaking it all down can be a real chore. Here are some tips:

  • Set out bins for trash and recycling so that you don’t have to sort through garbage afterward.
  • Use disposable tablecloths on all of the folding tables. Extra points for matching them with the home team’s colors (and using ones that are compostable).
  • Rather than repackaging all the yard games, place them in a big plastic bin and label it.
  • Have small takeout containers at the ready and encourage guests to take food home after the party.
  • Don’t say no to help. Some folks want to show their gratitude for throwing an epic party by helping you clean up.