The Perfect At-Home Tailgate Party Slideshow


Setting the Scene: Game Day Gear

We always have the game going on our family room TV, and that’s where everyone will hang out before, during, and even after the big game. And of course, everyone dresses up on game day gear. My husband and I went to a Pac-10 school, so even the kids are all decked out in our alma mater’s gear!


Get your kids into the spirit of the day (and keep them busy) with face painting. Nothing is funnier than watching them decorate their faces with “team colors.”  


Setting the Scene: Activities

When the weather is dry, bundle everyone up and start a small football game outside. If it’s raining or too cold, set up puzzles and board games on the kitchen table to keep the kids busy. Usually, the grown-ups are strictly interested in the game, the drinks, and the food.


When hosting a tailgate at home, be sure that there are plenty of chairs and space to watch the TV. To set the scene, and added team spirit, use team colors and trinkets when setting the scene. I’ll sometimes get little hand-held team flags or the big foam fingers, just like you might have at the stadium, for people to use when cheering. 

Setting the Scene: The Buffet

When setting up the buffet, opt for a couple of stacks of brightly colored bowls and napkins, preferably in your team’s colors, and set out silverware in jars instead of setting a formal table. Alternatively, for something easier, use dish towels in bright colors to wrap up silverware so guests can grab and go without any fuss.


Drinks and tailgating go hand-in-hand. Beer is kind of mandatory, so set out a big container filled with plenty of ice, cold bottles of beer, and a bowl of limes.  


If it’s a morning tailgate, I like to do a Bloody Mary bar so guests can customize their own concoction.  Set out a pitcher of the pre-made Bloody Marys then arrange an assortment of garnishes such as celery sticks, pickled onions, and spicy green beans, for people to choose from.  


If the game is in the afternoon, I will usually serve margaritas made with fresh lime juice. But, if it is really cold out, sometimes the only thing that is sure to hit the spot is a spiked hot chocolate or spiced cider.

The Menu: Appetizers

Whether I’m expecting 6 or 16, I like to set up a buffet in the kitchen and just let guests graze throughout the game to keep things relaxed. Set out platters of fresh crudités with homemade red pepper dip and be sure to have plenty of another favorite: tortilla chips, homemade guacamole, and fresh pico de gallo.


If it is cold out, nothing goes faster than a hot and bubbly baking dish of my sister’s spicy artichoke dip served with baguette slices. The food at your at-home tailgate doesn’t have to be fancy, just pretty and delicious!

The Menu: The Main Event

Opt for something hearty and delicious served directly from the big heavy pots on the stovetop. Pulled pork sandwiches are good for both small and heartier appetites. Or serve a couple of chilis, like a kid-friendly, mild chicken chili and a more traditional (and much spicier) 5-Alarm Chili. Then elevate each of these dishes by offering a selection of “gourmet” toppings, such as homemade pickled red onions, fresh cut herbs, and ripe avocado slices with sea salt, so guests can customize their own meal. Set ladles into the big pots and let everyone help themselves.

The Menu: Dessert

Something sweet at the end of the meal is as essential to the event as anything else!


I find that the easiest and most delicious option is to make cookies and bar cookies the day before. They are a breeze to set up, and you can decorate them or use football- and jersey-shaped cookie cutters to keep in the spirit of the day.


Make it easy for fans to dig in by setting out platters of a couple of different varieties treats, like both brownies (like the peanut butter ones, left) and blondies, right out on the counter or table. And whether you're tailgating at the stadium or at home, the most important part about tailgating isn’t your style or your food, it’s your team. So cheer them on and have a blast.