Hosting a backyard tailgate just in time for football season

30 September, 2014

The months spent lounging poolside may be over, but now that fall has arrived, there's a new way to get outside: with a backyard tailgate. If you can't make it out to the stadium to see your favorite team play, there's no reason you have to miss out on the pregame festivities. Not only will you skip the bathroom lines and crowded parking lots at your own home, but you'll also have much more space and comfortable outdoor seating. Hosting your tailgate in your backyard differs slightly than one you might have thrown stadium-side, however, so we've rounded up a few ways you can prepare.

The invite
Because your tailgate won't take place where tons of enthusiastic football fans are constantly meandering by, you will probably have to invite your guests. You can do so informally, of course, but you can also create fun invitations, such as ones designed to look like tickets to the big game. If you'd like there to be a larger food and drink spread or want to delegate some of the responsibility, you can also ask guests to bring a food or beverage item to the party. 

The setup
Every great tailgate starts with a grill and plenty of outdoor seating. You likely already have both on hand, but this is a great time to arrange your outdoor sectionals and patio dining chairs around a central area. If you're able to set up a TV outside to extend the tailgate into game time, you should also provide enough seating for guests to comfortably watch.

The next step is maximizing your drink storage. A few large coolers will do the trick, but so will a well-stocked outdoor refrigerator. Keep a few bottle openers and plastic cups on hand to make grabbing the next cold one even easier for your guests.

Make sure to set up an outdoor dining table nearby to create a tailgating buffet, complete with plates, napkins and plastic silverware. Last but not least, don't forget to incorporate your favorite team's flag into your outdoor decor. Just because you aren't set up in the stadium parking lot doesn't mean you can't show off ample team spirit.

The menu
No tailgate is complete without a spread of great food, and hosting a tailgate in your backyard gives you even more options when it comes time to decide on a menu. Items that are often too difficult to prepare ahead of time and take with you can easily be made from the comfort of your home, so consider using this time to try new, fun recipes, like beer can chicken and pulled pork sandwiches. Bacon-wrapped smokies make easy finger food, along with dips like artichoke and jalapeño or buffalo chicken. 

Celebrating football season in your backyard also gives you the freedom to set up a more elaborate drink selection than you might be able to otherwise. If the game will be taking place in the morning, consider a bloody mary bar, and set out a few crock pots filled with warm drinks like mulled cider or Irish coffee once the weather gets colder.

The games
Last but certainly not least, set up an area for tailgating games. Patio tables allow for less traditional tailgating games like cards, while the remaining space in your backyard can be used to set up cornhole, ladder golf or your very own game of football.

It's tough to make it to every big football game of the season, but that's no reason you can't celebrate with just as much enthusiasm right in your backyard.