How Early Should You Show Up to a Tailgate?

how early should I show up to a tailgate

A good tailgate is arguably more exciting than the event itself. With great food, awesome music, and cold drinks, what’s not to like? When tailgating though, there is often confusion. How early you should get there? What time you should set up? Almost every time I have planned to tailgate with others, there has been some debate on what time we should show up to the event. You don’t want to get there so early that it feels like you have been there all day, but you also want to give yourself enough time to enjoy the experience. 

As a general rule of thumb, it is best to show up about four hours before the event starts to give yourself enough time to tailgate. This gives you enough time to get everything set up, have a couple hours of fun, and get everything cleaned up before the event starts.

In my experience, showing up four hours before the event is just enough time. It usually takes about half an hour to get everything set up and then another half hour to get your area cleaned up before going into the event. This leaves you with about three hours to enjoy your tailgate which I think is the perfect amount of time. This is just enough time to grill and have a few drinks with your friends.

Setting Up Your Tailgate

Setting up the tailgate area is a pretty basic process. Depending on what you want to do, you can get by with just a basic canopy tent (if it’s sunny), a portable grill, a table, some chairs, and of course food and drinks. I like to put a canopy tent up because it establishes your area of the tailgate. The tent also makes it easier for your group to locate you. It can be hard to get everyone parked right next to each other. A canopy tent can also provide some protection from the sun and be a nice shaded area to relax.

You’ll want to get the grill set up and get started on the food. You can stick to the staples here, burgers, hot dogs, sausages, etc. For the drinks, having a good cooler and plenty of ice will help keep everything cold. This may sound obvious but it’s worth mentioning: you want to keep the hot food hot, and and the drinks cold. To make your clean up easier, I would also recommend putting out something to put trash or recycling in to save you some time. 

Don’t forget the entertainment! All good tailgates have to have some form of entertainment. I would recommend setting up a speaker and a game or two to play. You can never go wrong with tailgating classic, cornhole. If you want to get fancy, you could bring a battery powered TV along. Also, you will want to be nice to the people tailgating in your surrounding area. You don’t have to invite them over, but remember that they are there to have a good time too.

Cleaning Up Your Tailgate

If you planned ahead and put something out to put your trash and recycling in, cleaning up should take no time at all. If you want to leave as early as possible after the event, get everything put away before entering the event. Either way you definitely want to get all the trashed cleaned up so it does not blow away.

If you do decide to leave some stuff out, make sure that the grill or fire is put out. Make sure you don’t leave any valuables unattended. I prefer to leave the canopy tent up until after the event is over. It can take a little bit of time to put away. I’m going to spend time sitting in traffic anyways so I might as well spend that time getting everything put away instead. I would rather spend more time tailgating while I can, rather than putting everything away.

Once everything is put away and packed up, I would just do one final check to make sure all the trash is picked up because it’s the right thing to. Some places may even fine you for leaving excessive trash behind!

When deciding how early to show up for a tailgate, just remember that you’d rather be early than late. Don’t forget how long it’ll take to get set up and situated. Showing up earlier can also give you more wiggle room in case there is a lot of traffic. It’ll also be substantially easier to get together with your group when the lot is still half empty. Just a little planning ahead can make your tailgate that much better.

If you liked this article, check out our tailgating page, where we give as much advise as we can to prepare for the ultimate tailgating experience.

Sam Rebinskas

Sam is the co-founder of Improve Your Gameday and loves all Boston sports teams.

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