With the Big Ten season returning in October, but no fans allowed at Michigan Stadium, an at home tailgate is a perfect family activity – and you’ll save a ton of money over parking fees and ticket prices.
Note, this article was originally written in 2015 as a sponsored post. It has been edited for 2020 since no spectators are allowed at Michigan Stadium.
Disclosure: Links below may be affiliate links. Ann Arbor with Kids receives a commission on sales. We appreciate your support by shopping through our links.
How to Host an At-Home Tailgate
Any tailgate has a few requirements: Friends, Good Food and Drink, and Activities.
Invite Friends and Family
Usually a big group is an integral part of any tailgate. However, with social distancing restrictions (currently 25 people for an outdoor gathering in Washtenaw County), it is a good idea to pare down the guest list. For Fourth of July, we had a socially distant barbecue with the neighbors. We co-ordinated a menu, each prepared our own food, and put our tables about 10 feet apart in our own yards. A similar plan would also work for a socially distant tailgate.
Setting a Menu
One of the fun things about a tailgate is that everyone brings their own special dish to share. However, with COVID-19 restrictions we are trying avoid buffets or passing plates. But, you can still have a mini-buffet for your family by preparing a few simple snack type foods.
With the party at home, you have more preparation options than a tailgate which is typically limited to pre-prepared foods and grilling. We can easily use our toaster oven, crockpot, or Instant Pot outside with an extension cord.
Prepare the Food
When I originally created this at-home tailgate article, it was to promote Coca-Cola. I used this recipe to make Barbe-Coke Shredded Chicken. The day before the tailgate, I used my Crock Pot to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in Coca-Cola. Once they were done, I used my Kitchen-Aid to shred the chicken (yes, it really works) and refrigerated overnight. On the day of the tailgate, I just warmed the chicken with a mixture of barbecue sauce and Coke in the Crock Pot.
Pulled chicken cooked with Coke in the slow cooker is a great tailgate food.
For the Chicken
- 3.5 lbs Chicken, Boneless, skinless
- 1 Can Coca-Cola
For the Sauce
- 2 Cans Coca-Cola
- 2.5 Cups Barbecue Sauce
- Corn Bread
- Tortilla Chips
- Potato Chips
- Shredded Cheese, I used a Mexican blend
- Sour Cream
- Place Chicken in slow cooker and cover with one can of Coke
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours until the chicken is cooked throughout and tender
- Shred the chicken (I recommend a Kitchen-Aid mixer), discard the cooking liquid, and return chicken to the slow cooker
- Add one can of Coke to the shredded chicken and allow to absorb
- Then add barbecue sauce and last can of Coke. Stir and heat on low until sauce and chicken is heated throughout
- Serve on top of corn bread, rolls, tortilla chips, or potato chips. Top with shredded cheese, onions, and sour cream to taste.
Steps 1-3 can be done a day in advance to allow for quicker preparation the morning of an event. Refrigerate the shredded chicken in the slow cooker and allow it to warm slightly before turning the slow cooker on to avoid your crock from breaking due to the sudden change of temperature.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 433Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 806mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 1gSugar: 29gProtein: 40g
Barbe-Coke Shredded Chicken pairs great with corn bread, rolls, chips, or even on its own.
Setup Your At-Home Tailgate
The best part of an at-home tailgate is you are not as restricted space wise as you are in a tailgate lot and don’t have to fit everything you need in a car. At an at-home tailgate, you have access to your full size grill and electricity for small appliances. In preparation for setup, I ran an extension cord from my garage to my party area.
For decorations, I had spiral danglers from previous character parties in blue and yellow. I simply trimmed off the character portion of the danglers and taped them to the frame around our garage. I also taped them to our mailbox to make it easier for guests to find. Other easy decoration options for your party are streamers and balloons.
For seating, I pulled out our camp chairs that we use for soccer games. I love that they have cup holders built into them! If I need additional seating, I can move my deck chairs from the back yard to the driveway. Of course, you can always improve your theme by buying themed chairs.
A cooler or an open bucket full of ice is the best way to serve drinks at a tailgate. My parents have the perfect red Coca-Cola beverage buckets for a large gathering that I borrowed for my tailgate (although they definitely can’t be used when playing Ohio State). Since I was hosting a small gathering, I flipped a smaller bucket upside down in the bottom and placed a tub on top of it. I then filled the smaller tub with ice and Coke. A cooler is also a great choice for drinks – and one that most people already have. I like to loop a towel on the handle to dry the beverages as they are pulled out of the container.
I set our food table at the top of the driveway near the garage door. We have an outlet in our garage near the door, so it was easy to run an extension cord under the door and out of any walkway. In placing your table, you may need to consider where your electrical outlet is if you are using slow cookers. Since I was at home I was able to use my football themed serving dishes instead of having to use containers that double as storage and serving dishes. I used a tailgating table, and had a plan to bring a table to the front yard from the deck if I need more room.
Once I had everything ready for the tailgate, I closed the garage door for a nicer backdrop than the inside of our garage.
I wanted to add some activities for our tailgate. I added some chalk for the kids to decorate the driveway. I got the fun started with a football field – driveway squares are perfect for this! I also added some yard games – Disc Golf, Corn Hole, and Bocce…the benefit of having extra space than in a tailgate parking lot. If you don’t have games, you can use chalk and bean bags to make games on the driveway.
I’ll have to look at the Michigan football schedule and the weather and see which day works for us to have an at-home tailgate.