Tailgating: Preparation is Everything

Everyone should tailgate when you attend a game. It’s a huge part of the game day experience. It can be as simple (split a 6 pack with your buddy before heading in) or as elaborate (enjoy a dish tailored to the opponent while you watch the other games on a portable TV under the cover of a tent) as you want.

The most basic facts about tailgating are that in order to tailgate you need to drive to the stadium and you need to arrive early. Stadium lots open for tailgating 4 hours prior to the game (you can park earlier than that, but you can’t start tailgating until then). Private lots vary, but you can usually start a little earlier than that. Show up early and have a great time getting “lubed up”, but make sure to have a plan about who will be the DD to get home later. Also, if you are the DD you can get some free soda in the stadium.

Here is the official Gillette Stadium parking page. Keep in mind that private lots may have different policies, though they typically are pretty similar. Some of the more important items from this page:

  • Lots open for tailgating 4 hours before the game
  • Lots close for tailgating 2 hours after the game
  • A car costs $40 to park
  • Bring cash to pay for your parking
  • Open fires are not permitted. Any fire you make needs to have a cover.

If you want a very comfortable tailgate experience for a large group, you can bring an RV. This offers a lot of nice things (i.e. bathroom, cover from elements, easy transport of food, room for a lot of tailgaters, etc), but can get expensive. Parking an RV in the stadium lots costs $150 and requires parking in the specific RV section (use entrances P10 N or P11 on the parking map. Some private lots have room for RVs as well, but you should check with them ahead of time.

Make sure to pack up your tailgate before heading in for the game. For one thing, you need to leave the area open for other cars or people to get through. For another, your stuff may get taken during the 4 hours you aren’t around it (especially if it’s alcohol). When you get back from the game, you can tailgate again for a couple of hours. This is a great way to avoid dealing with any traffic, and assuming it was a 1 PM game, you can have dinner and watch the late games on a portable TV.

The amount of things that people bring to their tailgates varies a lot, but the following are some options that you should consider:

Necessities:

  • Alcohol: Probably the most basic tailgating item. Beer is the most popular choice. This is much cheaper than in stadium beer.
  • Food: Probably the #2 item in tailgating. Tailgating is a long process, and if you’re drinking you’ll want something to much on. Plus it is also much cheaper than food in the stadium. Popular items include chips, hamburgers, buffalo wings, steaks, and hot dogs, but some tailgaters will do more elaborate menus. This can even include tailoring the menu to the opponent (i.e. Cajun food for the Saints).
  • Cooler: You want to keep your beer cold (as well as any cold food you have).
  • Ice: For the cooler.

Basic Equipment:

  • Folding chairs: These allow you to sit down and relax while you enjoy your tailgate. They don’t take up a ton of room, and some even come with cupholders.
  • Folding table: Similar to the chairs, this allows you to spread out your food and drinks, without taking up a ton of space in your vehicle.
  • Grill: Tailgating usually involves some sort of grilled food. If your vehicle isn’t big enough to bring a full grill, there are a lot of smaller portable options that are quite cheap. You can also get a two burner stove, to allow you to cook things besides just grilling. Both of these examples use the 16 oz propane tanks, but there are small charcoal grills you can get as well. Bringing some sort of cooking device allows you to really up the quality of the food you enjoy during your tailgate.

Advanced Equipment:

  • Canopy: The parking spaces are the right size to put up a 10×10 canopy. The canopy is great for pretty much all weather. In the early season it gives you some shade, in rain/snow it keeps you dry, in cold/wind it helps keep you warm (you can get walls to attach to it as well), and it always “defines your space”. The E-Z Up (or similar) canopies go up in just 1-2 minutes, with about the same amount of time to take down.
  • Television: Because pretty much all NFL games are on Sunday, it’s easy to miss all the action happening at other games while tailgating. Fortunately you can still watch them if you bring a TV to your tailgate. Some tailgaters with larger vehicles will have a 50 inch flatscreen TV in the rear of their vehicle that they watch the games on. If you are really committed, you can get portable satellite devices, but you can also just watch regional games that are broadcast over-the-air on a small portable TV and antenna.

Miscellaneous:

  • Games: Have something for your group to play during the tailgate. Popular options include tossing a football or playing cornhole.
  • Extra lighters: Make sure you can start your fire/grill, though you probably can bum off someone around you if you have to.
  • Extra propane/charcoal: You don’t want to run out of fuel halfway through cooking.
  • Disposable plates/silverware: Easy to dispose of when you’re done eating.
  • Paper towels: Keep stuff clean.
  • Toiler paper: The portapotties often run out, so keep a roll in your car. You might not need it, but if you do you’ll be grateful to have the backup.
  • Water: Make sure to rehydrate after the game.
  • Baby wipes: For cleaning up sticky spills
  • Trash bags: Makes disposing of your trash much easier. You don’t want to have to make a trip to one of their barrels every time you need to throw something away.
  • Battery jumper pack/Jumper cables: In case you can’t start your car (or your neighbor can’t start his). You’ll look like a hero if this becomes necessary and you have it.
  • First aid/bandages: In the unlikely event that someone gets a small tailgating injury like a cut or light burn, you’ll be happy that you brought something to patch it up.