A group of friends tailgate.

Tailgating is essentially hanging out before the game, stocked with plenty of food, drink, sports gear, and good company. If you’re going to a game, this is a great way to spend a full day basking in the excitement. To get the most out of it, you’ll definitely need a serious cooler, a set of premier tailgate chairs, and an eye for seizing the perfect spot in any given parking lot.

So what is tailgating, anyway? The details depend on who you ask! Tailgating can happen outside the stadium, but some will tailgate in their own driveways, or invite friends over for a “tailgating” party that doesn’t involve a car or a tailgate (but your outdoor recliners will surely still be welcome). In any case, it’s a moveable party—and one you don’t want to miss.

Since tailgating is a mysterious activity to those who don’t follow sports (and to most non-Americans) it should be noted that not all sports fans tailgate. On the other hand, some love tailgating without enjoying sports! If you fall into this category, don’t worry—it’s easy to pretend! Wear the team jersey or colors, smile, and cheer occasionally. Your friends will be unlikely to discover your complete lack of interest in the actual game, and no one will be the wiser.

A group of friends tailgates in a field underneath a canvas tent.

The Origins of Tailgating

While tailgating is today an American tradition for pre-game fun, it has evolved over the decades.

Tailgating grew out of the superfan movement, when dedicated die-hards would drive to the stadium before a big game to revel in a day of sports mania. Soon, their numbers grew. They began to bring grills, coolers, and lawn chairs, taking over the space around their cars. The tailgate of the car became the hub of friendly conversation, beer drinking, and lounging—and thus the tailgate movement was born.

Grilling and good times, with the Slim-Fold Cook Station™

Truly dedicated superfans took tailgating further still, bringing costumes, flags, and logo-drenched gear to their parties, some of which are even themed! But most tailgaters keep things simple, focusing on celebrating their team while enjoying good company and (hopefully) decent weather.

How To Tailgate

The typical tailgate often happens in designated tailgating areas, such as open fields or vacant lots, near the stadium or arena. Since stadium parking lots are roomy and spacious, there is plenty of territory to tailgate wherever you park, and a good chance you’ll have neighbors who are also lounging about in their Easy Chairs (adjustable cup holder included, of course!).

If asked “what is tailgating?”, extreme fans would say it’s about supporting the team like rabid cheerleaders. But it can also be about camaraderie among the fans. You can tailgate with a buddy, with family, or even with whoever you happened to park next to. Most tailgaters do socialize, although it’s not strictly necessary. A lone tailgater with a radio may hang out during the game, soaking up the ambiance with a Freestyle Rocker, a cooler (which doubles as a footstool!), and a mini grill. There’s certainly no shame in tailgating on your own.

Two friends chat during a tailgating party outside of a football game while reclining in GCI Outdoor tailgating chairs.
The Compact Camp Table 20™ is sturdy enough for all of your tailgating snacks.

Of course, what is tailgating without food and drink? A cooler is mainstay equipment for tailgating pros, and many also fire up a grill or hibachi. By bringing your own gear, you can set up early and sip cocktails, munch on snacks, and barbecue. Cooking and grilling makes the whole experience more enjoyable because you beat the crowds and save money on overpriced stadium food.

Clearly, the question of “what is tailgating” isn’t simple to answer, because it boils down to how Americans creatively enjoy the pre-game buzz. If you haven’t tried this type of party yet, it’s time. Pick up some ultra-comfortable tailgating chairs and something for the grill, and have fun!