How good is the Triangle area at tailgating?
Surrounding Ryan’s Crossing are several highly successful collegiate football programs that send fans swarming to home games hours before kickoff for food, fun, and camaraderie. The Triangle area is so good at tailgating that, when the NHL brought its Carolina Hurricanes to town, locals immediately brought their knowledge of pre-game parties to its newest sports resident.
Yes, the Triangle area is so good at tailgating that it is credited with introducing this superfan experience to the entire National Hockey League. For those versed in tailgating festivities, game days run like a well-oiled machine. For those just getting started, we have a playbook for hosting your own top-notch soiree.
Do you bleed Carolina blue? Are you part of Wolfpack Nation? Do you run with the Blue Devils or fly with the Eagles? Superfans likely already have all the gear needed to dress the part, but what about the other tailgating essentials? When shopping for the basics, such as tablecloths, blankets, or reusable dishware, lean towards items that match your team’s colors. For a splurge, visit your favorite school’s fan site where you will find custom coolers, grill covers, chairs, and canopies decked out in with team logos or mascots, leaving no confusion about whose side you’re on.
As game day approaches, map out the size of your shindig. Will you be limited to your own parking space or will you be traveling in a caravan to the game? Does the parking lot have grassy areas or only pavement? Are there bathrooms close by? What about the availability of power?
At the very least, plan to pack:
● Comfortable chairs that break down for transport.
● Food, drinks, and serving ware. Coordinate by car or friends you may meet onsite so that all bases are covered.
● Games! Think frisbee, cornhole, or ladderball. Create a parking lot “I Spy” Bingo Board for your party and bring prizes for those who finish first.
● Wireless speakers You’ll want to hear all of the game-day interviews and in-stadium prep. Splurge here and find one with extra long battery life.
To ensure a timely start to your tailgate, organize the night before. Arriving late to the stadium may mean losing out on a perfect party parking spot, by prepping early, you can get up and go first thing. Die-hard fans often begin setting up four to six hours in advance of the game while, if the stadium allows, some will even set up the night before. Be ready to hit the road by creating a home inventory of items specifically used for tailgating, such as a dedicated portable grill, folding tables, reusable plates, and cutlery. Not only will you be ready to roll with a moment’s notice (you never know when a last-minute ticket will appear!), but you will also be able to store your tailgating stash more easily at the season’s end.
Most tailgating groups include a grill master who serves as the primary pre-game cook. A great rule of thumb for grilling is to bring one grill per participating carload of fans. An extra grill (or two) alleviates wait times for hungry guests and allows dedicated cooking space for each food type. Use one grill for meats, another for vegetables, and another as a “make-your-own” pizza spot.
A second must-have is crockpots. Crockpots come in a variety of sizes, allowing for dips, chilis, and baked beans to take the food field. Fill one with cider or hot chocolate on chilly autumn days to keep everyone warm while enjoying the chance to socialize. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper North Carolina event if there isn’t a big batch of pulled pork to enjoy. This can be cooked in advance and transported on gameday – but don’t forget to include or check on that power source!
Add a unique twist to your tailgate setup with a signature drink geared towards your favorite team.
● TarheelTini: Vodka, ½ ounce Triple Sec, ½ Lemon Juice, ¼ ounce simple syrup, and a dash of Blue Curacao to match the Carolina blue sky outside Kenan Stadium.
● The Cherry Bounce: A favorite Raleigh drink and perfect for games at Carter-Finley Stadium: Mix Cherry Vodka, Cranberry Juice, and Lime Juice to taste
● Carolina Pimms: Perfect to sip while parked at O’Kelly-Riddick. Gin, Fruit & Herb liquor, Durham Distillery Cucumber Vodka, Shelton Port, Triple Sec, and a splash of ginger beer. Garnish with your favorite citrus!
● ‘67 Cadillac: Take it old school at Wallace Wade with this margarita twist. Don Julio Anejo Tequila, Orange Tequila Liqueur, cane syrup, and fresh lime are all that’s needed for a pre-kickoff “cheers!”
Make sure to bring plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks as well, keeping them conveniently close inside an official team cooler. As with grills, a great rule for coolers is one per car. Make sure it is large enough to hold ice, drinks, and any foods that need to stay chilled throughout the day.
Fall and football go together like chips and dip (don’t forget those!). Residents of Ryan’s Crossing live in the perfect spot to enjoy both nearly every weekend. Get your gameday gear ready and join the fun!