The Best Tailgate Party Games

Tailgating is a popular social event that takes place on or around a parking lot near or on the open tailgate of a vehicle, usually in a parking lot outside a sports stadium, to celebrate a sports game or other big event. This party is traditionally centered around the tailgate or back of a pick-up truck and typically involves cooking on a small grill or barbecue. Favorite foods and games are included as well.

These celebrations unfold pre-game festivities at various sporting events, including football, baseball, soccer, and hockey. Games such as ladder golf, Baggo, horseshoes, ring toss, and more are very popular for tailgate parties.

Ladder Golf

This game is played a few feet from your vehicle, since the goal of the game it is to toss two golf-sized balls tied together (bolas) at a three-prong ladder. The concept is similar to tossing tied sneakers to a lamppost, as the bolas are to wrap around one of the prongs and earn 21 points. The top prong equals three points, the middle two points, and the bottom gets one point. Comparable to blackjack, the goal is to get at or as close to 21 points in a round without going over.

Ladder Toss

Ladder Toss is played by tossing two balls attached by a string at a ladder containing three steps. Each step is a different point value, generally one, two, and three from top to bottom. The great thing about this game is that you can play either offensively or defensively. The first side to score 21 points is the winner.


Not to be confused with cornhole, Baggo is a trademarked name for this game. This is a portable bean bag toss game that is packable and is carried like a suitcase. It fits easily into the trunk of any car and is a perfect travel game. Baggo is a great game for any occasion, and is fun for all ages and skill ranges.


This is a new sport that blends two of men’s favorite sports: football and bowling. No bean bags are needed, so this game will show your children how to throw a football like a pro. The game operates similar to Baggo, but, instead of tossing a bean bag at a platform, players pitch a football at a row of kingpins. Similar to bowling, each team takes turns throwing a football at the opposing team’s bowling pins. The first team to knock down all ten pins down wins the game.


Horseshoes have always been an excellent way to spend time at a tailgate party. The object of this game is quite simple. The first player tosses their shoes one at a time, and then the next player does the same. The inning is over after each player tosses his or her shoes and the tossing order changes (i.e., the player who tossed first goes second in the next round). The horseshoe that ends up lying closest to the stake gives the player who tossed it a single point.

This outdoor game wages brains against aim, with the best players capable of taking on competitors. Be sure that adequate space is available to play and enjoy this game all day long.

Football and Frisbee

These basic tailgating games are usually overlooked until they become necessary. Be sure you always have a football to throw around or a Frisbee to toss at all times as traditional standbys. You can always determine the number of players involved and can set your own rules. More importantly, it is always just fun throwing these around until the food is ready or the game has begun.

Washer Toss

As a do-it-yourself tailgate game, all that is required is some cut PVC pipe, two old drawers, and some old washers from your toolbox. The purpose of this game is comparable to Baggo, such that players need to land a washer on or near the pit. If the washer lands inside the cup, a score of five points is given, while shots that land closest to the cup equal one point. This game is fun enough to entertain children for hours, as well as an easy way to pass the time.

NFL Trivia

This is a great game for a large group or even for just two people. The function of this game is that one person calls out the name of an NFL player from any period, and the other player has to announce the college the player attended — within ten seconds.

Ring Toss

To play this game while tailgating, free-standing stakes are required, as stakes cannot be hammered into the ground. Those participating can toss plastic, rope, rubber, or even braided fabric rings onto five large pegs or stakes which are usually placed in the shape of an “X” with one center peg, and four others marking each point. Play goes: five rings per round, with one point for each ringer. The winner takes all, with each stake representing a drink or some other award.

Anywhere Table Tennis

This small table tennis set can be set up just about anywhere. The game consists of a net, stands, balls, and paddles.

Play Anywhere Bocce

Bocce is a great game, but usually a parking lot does not offer the best location to play this game. To make it easier to play at tailgating parties, look for balls made from a durable ultra-grip material that will play on any surface and which are double-stitched for longevity. Fully self-contained, easily transportable versions of this game are available.

Pass the Ball

To play this game, two or more small foam balls are needed. Divide all players into two teams in a line, one behind the other. The first player holds the ball with their elbows. The ball is then passed on to the next person in line and, when the ball gets to the last person, that person goes to the front of the line to begin again. The winning team is the first that gets their starting person to the front of the line again.


This game is sort of a diminished size of a volleyball match that is played two on two. A small hula hoop-sized trampoline style net situated at ankle height between the players is fundamental to this game. The palm-sized ball is hit down on the net so that it rebounds onto the opponents. Just like volleyball, the players have up to three hits between them to control the ball and bounce it back to their opponents. The first team to score 21 is the winner.

Final Thoughts

Tailgating is about food and fun. Have a wide selection of both food and games available to make the party an event. Show your support for your favorite team by wearing their colors or customizing your game. Most of all, have fun!