Dec 09, 2021

The Ultimate Guide To College Football Tailgating

There are few experiences more fun than going to a stadium and watching your favorite team play, and one of them happens in the parking lot in the hours leading up to game time. Tailgating is one of the most popular social gatherings in sports where friends meet and enjoy a celebratory warm-up with food, drinks, and lots of team spirit.

To ensure you’re getting the most out of your next game-day experience, we explain everything your need to know about all of the crucial aspects of having an epic tailgate. 

Where did tailgating get started?

According to some sources, tailgating can be traced back to Roman times, used to celebrate a bountiful fall season known as a vestaval. The version of tailgating that we know today has debatable origins. However, some credit historic American universities such as Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, and the University of Kentucky with this game-day tradition.

While many university students partake in tailgating fun, around 60% of tailgaters are 25-44 years old, and about 46% of tailgaters participate in the pre-party six to ten times per year.

Essential College Tailgate Supplies

Keeping in mind that must-have items can vary from tailgater to tailgater, there are a few essentials that everyone agrees you should have when organizing a proper pre-party. These items include:


The grill is essential during a tailgate because it is the primary method used to cook your food. Many fans choose to bring plenty of additional sides and snacks, but the grilling is the main event. Without a good grill that’s big enough for you and your friends, you may be looking at some very hungry football fans. Grilling at a college tailgate party

One grill is often enough to supply food for an average group, so unless your party extends across several cars, a single grill is all you need. On the other hand, it can be handy to have multiple grills going simultaneously to accommodate different foods. One focuses on meats, burgers, and hotdogs, while another cooks up tasty veggies.

Portable grills are easy to transport, set up, and clean. If you’re in the market for a new portable grill, we’ve got you covered. According to Food Fire Friends, these eight tailgating grills were reviewed and rated as the top choices of 2021: 

1. Weber Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill 18 Inch

2. Coleman Roadtrip LXE Portable Gas Grill

3. Blackstone Tailgater Portable Gas Grill and Griddle Combo

4. Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill

5. Solaire SOL-IR17BWR Anywhere Portable Infrared Gas Grill

6. Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill

7. Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill

8. Masterbuilt 205 Stainless Steel Tabletop Gas Grill


A crockpot is an excellent addition to your tailgating list. You can make just about anything with it, from dips to chili to BBQ pulled pork. Enjoying hot comfort foods can be particularly beneficial when the weather gets cooler, and you and your friends spend hours outside before the game. You’ll need a power outlet to keep the crockpot going, so be sure to have the right equipment before you get to the parking lot.


Most tailgaters have alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages ready to sip throughout the day. Be sure to pack plenty of water, sodas, and energy drinks. For the boozy side of the drink menu, standard beverages include beer and hard seltzers. If you feel like preparing a few cocktails, try a bloody mary for early-day drinking or margaritas in the afternoon. 

For drinks that scream team spirit, try making a themed cocktail to share with friends. Delish reports 13 college-football team-specific drinks that are a tailgating hit:

  1. 1. Notre Dame: The Luck of the Irish
  2. 2. Ohio State: The Boozy Buckeye
  3. 3. Alabama: The Yellowhammer Slammer
  4. 4. Lousiana State University: LSU Lemonade
  5. 5. University of Texas: Hook’ Em Horns Margaritas
  6. 6. UCLA: Blue & Gold Punch
  7. 7. University of Missouri: “Old Missouri” Spiked Root Beer
  8. 8. Oregon: The Mighty Duck
  9. 9. University of Florida: Gatorade Margaritas
  10. 10. University of Georgia: Bulldogs’ Spiked Sweet Tea
  11. 11. Auburn: War Eagle Rum Punch
  12. 12. Wisconsin: The Angry Badger
  13. 13. Michigan: Big Blue Spritzer


When you spend hours a day outside, you’ll need a cooler to hold all the drinks, ice, and foods that need to stay chilled. A good rule of thumb is one cooler per car. A basic icebox that you take to the beach works well, or if you’re looking for a new cooler, Sports Fan Focus has ranked the top ten tailgating companions according to ratings and reviews, including:

  1. 1. YETI Tundra 65 Cooler for Tailgating 
  2. 2. Igloo Polar Tailgating Cooler 120-Quart 
  3. 3. YETI Tundra Haul Wheeled Cooler for Tailgating 


After long hours standing, cooking, and chatting with friends, you’ll want a comfortable spot to rest and relax before the big game. Portable chairs offer convenience and mobility, and setup takes seconds. Most teams sell branded portable chairs, so you can show your team spirit while you take a load off. 

Popular options are durable, lightweight, and easy to collapse. Choose one with cup holders or a small foldout table attached to the side to keep your food and drinks safe. 

Wireless speakers

Whether you’re listening to your favorite playlist or game-day interviews and announcements, you’ll want a wireless speaker that everyone can enjoy. Choose one with longer battery life so you don’t run out of power in the middle of your pre-party.

What time to start tailgating? 

The average tailgate lasts about four hours, with many going as long as five or six hours for games scheduled later in the day. Die-hard fans will often begin tailgating around 6 a.m. for games that start around midday, while others will go as far as setting up the night before. 

Since tailgating is such a popular activity, particularly at highly anticipated football games such as the Cheez-It BowlCheez-It Citrus Bowl, or Florida Classic, showing up late means you won’t find a spot to park and set up. Be sure to get your things organized the day before and pack up your car early. 

Make plans with your friends to meet at a specific location, and keep in mind that some stadiums have rules about how early tailgating is allowed to start. Attendees should always check with the local stadium rules to see when they can show up before making their way to the parking lots.

Best Types of Food for Tailgating

The most common munchies that make their way into tailgating events are casual easy-to-make finger foods. However, some fans like to get creative and fun with their game-day food options. You might even find grills cooking up shrimp, steaks, and lobster. While there aren’t any real requirements to what you should bring or make, many popular tailgating foods include:Food table at a college football tailgate

• Meats and veggies for grilling: The main course of most tailgating parties includes hotdogs, hamburgers, sausage, wings, ribs, and chicken. You can also grill veggies like corn on the cob and cheese-stuffed peppers. Be sure to remember hotdog or hamburger buns, too.

• Crockpot dishes: Popular recipes include buffalo chicken dip, slow cooker french dip, cocktail meatballs, bacon-wrapped smokies, and chili.

• Chips and dip:  Shop for an assortment of chip flavors and varieties that you can easily transfer to big bowls for sharing. Enjoy solo or with your favorite dips, like buffalo chicken, queso, salsa, and guacamole. 

• Condiments and toppers:  Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce are essential game-day companions.

• Sides: Make a few side dishes at home and pop them into a reusable container. Popular side dishes include beans, potato salad, pasta salad, greens, and slaw. 

• Snacks: For the perfect tailgate bites, be sure to bring trail mix, pretzels, veggie sticks, and cheeses. 

• Dessert: Everyone loves a sweet treat after their meal. Easy tailgate dessert options include cookies, brownies, and candy.

Best Games and Activities for Your Tailgate

Since tailgating lasts for hours, you’ll need some activities that will keep you and your friends entertained while you wait for the main event to start. Depending on the activity, you may want to carve out some space next to the cars, or you can bring your equipment to a nearby grassy area. The most popular games to play at a tailgate include:

  • • Corn hole
  • • Beer pong
  • • Kan jam
  • • Catch
  • • Spikeball
  • • Ladder ball
  • • Frisbee golf

Types of Music: Get Pumped Up for the Game

While some tailgaters prefer to stream pre-game commentary, high-energy music is the most fun way to get you and your friends pumped up before the game. Create a playlist on your favorite streaming app, like Spotify or Apple Music. Some apps even allow friends to collaborate on the same playlist from their devices, so everyone gets a chance to play their favorite stadium anthem.

Some teams also have specific songs that play at every game, like “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor and “We Will Rock You” by Queen. Queue up your favorite feel-good songs, or draw some inspiration from Billboard’s top ten best tailgating songs, including:

  1. 1. “Litty” – Meek Mill ft. Tory Lanez
  2. 2. “So Excited” – Fat Joe 
  3. 3. “No Mercy” – Lil Wayne
  4. 4. “Black & Yellow” – Wiz Khalifa 
  5. 5. “Play To Win” – Ace Hood 
  6. 6. “Push It” – O.T. Genasis
  7. 7.  “It’s Ok” – Zoey Dollaz ft. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
  8. 8. “Man Of The Year” – Schoolboy Q
  9. 9. “Big Rings” – Drake & Future 
  10. 10. “All I Do Is Win” – DJ Khaled 

Good Company

Of all the ingredients you’ll need for a great tailgate party, good friends should be top of the list. 

Friends at a college tailgateThe entire spirit of a tailgate lies in the camaraderie of fans, joyously celebrating their favorite team. If you are going to a game from your alma mater, consider contacting other alumni for a fun reunion. For national team games, gather your friends, relatives, and neighbors for an enjoyable day of food, drinks, and sports.

Don’t miss National Tailgate Day 

National Tailgating Day is observed every first Saturday of September, kicking off football season. Fans heavily anticipate this day, as it marks the beginning of their favorite time of year. Join in on the time-honored tradition of tailgating, and you’ll experience one of the most fun parts of a sporting event. 

Become the Ultimate Tailgate Fan

If you think of yourself as the ultimate college football tailgate fan, then you should consider joining one of our most popular groups at Florida Citrus Sports, the Team Selection Committee. Throughout the college football season, members represent Florida Citrus Sports and its bowls on campus at schools across the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, and Big 12. 

The Committee also gathers for weekly breakfasts to share their experiences from the road and break down what the results mean for each of our bowl games. If you’re interested in joining this or any of our committees, simply fill out the committee form on our site!


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