The tough thing for professional football players is the NFL only gives them 17 chances to show up. Every win or loss matters, so they better bring their best every time.
For professional tailgaters, the stakes are arguably even higher: there’s only eight home games to get it right.
On the flip side, that’s eight chances to throw an epic party. If you’re an Eagles fan who’s ready to step it up in honor of your beloved Birds, check out these tips. They’re compiled from interviews with a group of hard-core Sunday morning warriors, who graciously agreed to share their lessons learned.
(Note: You’ll find a printable list of tips at the bottom of this article.)
Pick the right lot — and get there early
The first rule: show up to the proper lot. This map shows which stadium-affiliated spaces are designated for tailgating ahead of games, and where you’re not supposed to do it.
Most options are family friendly. If you’re looking to turn up with a more adult environment, the Jetro lot is known for being a little more rowdy (and a bit less kid-friendly).
For most of the public lots, you’ll want to arrive early to have your pick of spots. For a 1 p.m. game, that means you’ll want to rise with the sun. Yep.
Experienced tailgater Ian Oakley said he usually arrives 5 hours before kickoff, or right when the lots open. The 31-year-old Roxborough resident has been tailgating Eagles games since he moved to the city in 2013, and usually gets anywhere from 15 to 25 people to come out with him.
Early arrival is especially important if the bulk of your crew is driving in and you all want to park together.
“Tailgaters normally take the same spot every time,” said Alan Frankel, 66, who tailgated the Eagles for over a decade, until COVID hit. He always showed up early to get a big spot for his classic RV. “Every time you go to a game, it’s like your neighborhood is back together again.”
Marisa Magnatta, a radio producer for Preston & Steve on 93.3 WMMR, is a third-generation Eagles season ticket holder and one of the core hosts of Beast Tailgating. These die-hard fans set up right by the stadium each home game, and they end up with around 50 people by the time kickoff is near. To get such a prime spot, someone from their group shows up at 6 a.m. Magnatta, who’s 39 and comes in from Center City, usually rides SEPTA to the stadium a couple hours later.
Some of the lots don’t fill up as early because they’re limited to certain groups of ticket holders. If you like to sleep in, see if you know someone who’s planning to be there.
Dave Lee, owner of Manayunk’s Pizza Jawn, said he usually shows up about four hours before kickoff — but his lot is one of the restricted ones. To get into it, you’ve got to know someone.
Make a potty plan
Morning coffee + morning beers + tailgate food = we’re gonna need a bathroom, folks.
Be smart, and find a spot relatively near the porta-potties, if you can. It’s not a bad idea to bring some toilet paper from home, too.
If you’re feeling brave, maybe BYO toilet? Our tailgating experts have seen others create a temporary bathroom with a privacy curtain — though none had gone this route themselves. If you decide to give it a go, make sure you do your homework and have a plan for easy, safe cleanup.
Another option for private toileting requires a bit more commitment: get an RV. Which brings us to the next tip…
Roll up in a deluxe ride — or at least a practical one.
The highest level of tailgating comfort, hands down, is a fully-equipped RV or van — like the $143k Winnebago UFC fighter Eddie Alvarez bought in 2018 specifically for Eagles tailgating.
But RV convenience doesn’t need to mean six-figure luxury. The Beast Tailgating crew has “a 20-year-old RV that looks like a 20-year-old RV,” Magnatta said. It’s broken down more than a few times, but it gets the job done and makes for a distinctive home base. “It works for eight Sundays a year, hopefully a few more this year,” she said, cautiously referencing postseason hopes.
You could repurpose some other kind of large vehicle — like the Iggles Ambulance, the vessel captained by Ken Brown, of Montgomery County. Brown, 58, bought the retired ambulance about 8 years ago from a guy in Port Richmond who had been renting it out periodically as a movie and TV prop. In its first life, it was an actual emergency vehicle in Georgia.
Brown knew an ambulance had some prime characteristics for tailgating: large, distinctive, lots of storage space and plenty of electrical capacity. He made it look the part too, wrapping the vehicle body in Eagles graphics, swapping out the red lights for green ones, and installing a bar in the back. It’s a sight to behold. Brown acknowledged it was a lot of work.
Oakley and Lee said they do just fine with their trusty pick-up trucks. The open bed means you can throw all your gear in the back without worrying about moving around seats or making a mess.
At the very least, you’ll want something large enough to tote all your needs for the day.
Gear, games, grills and grub
Let’s start with the practical stuff. Bring what you’ll need to brave the elements. Early in the season, you’ll want some kind of tent for shade. Later on, you might need it as a shield from precipitation. Camping chairs and tables are a must if you want to sit and eat.
If you like to roam, consider a scooter, or perhaps even golf cart or a motorized cooler.
If some in your crew don’t have tickets to seats inside Lincoln Financial Field (it’s gotten expensive), it’s nice to have a TV for them to watch from the lot, Lee said.
Onto the fun stuff. You’ll want extra tables for beer pong and flip-cup — and ping pong balls too. And is it even a tailgate without cornhole?
Lee, of Pizza Jawn, says yes. His crew isn’t much for games, but music is a must have — make sure your bluetooth speaker is charged and ready to go.
Also a must for Lee are portable pizza ovens so he can warm up the grandma pies he brings from his restaurant.
For the rest of us, a grill is more likely (just make sure it’s allowed in the lot you choose). Oakley recommends a compact version, and Brown says propane is preferred for quicker cool-down and clean-up.
If you’re cooking al fresco, you’ll obviously need to bring plenty of burgers and hot dogs — including extra for unexpected guests and friendly passers-by. Breakfast food is also a hit for those early morning gaters, Oakley noted.
Whatever you choose, if it’s perishable and you’re not eating it right away, make sure you have cooler space and plenty of ice. And, of course, plates, napkins, and cutlery make for a more pleasant experience.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up, either. Frankel said his group always had the standard grill fare, but sometimes they threw on a rack of ribs too. Once per season, for a night game, they did lobster tails. One year they had a full Thanksgiving feast.
You can also let someone else do the food prep. Magnatta said her tailgate group tends to be a non-cooking one. They’ll usually designate someone to grab a hoagie tray, and a tray of minis from Philly Pretzel Factory.
Having some food is smart, but people tend to come to Beast Tailgating for the beer, Magnatta said. That, and the pinata filled with mini booze bottles they destroy just before kickoff.
If you’re attending any tailgate as a guest, it’s not a bad idea to BYOB, and even classier to bring some drinks to share. For beer pong and other games, a cheap, light beer will do — in cans, because glass creates safety issues.
Address your mess, and don’t be a jerk
Nobody likes a slob, and this is Philly, so if you disrespect your tailgating neighbors, you’re gonna get called out.
Seasoned tailgaters said they tend to start shutting down grills about 45 minutes before kickoff, and cleaning up at least 30 minutes before. If you have people who aren’t going inside, or you’re ok with missing some gameplay, you can stretch that a bit more.
“The second round of come-into-the-game fireworks is an indication that we’re on the final round of flip cup,” Magnatta said.
After you’ve had your fun there’s one simple rule: leave it cleaner than when you found it. Every veteran ‘gater said trash bags are the most important item to bring for cleanup.
“A lot of times the trash cans are overflowing,” Lee said. “Throw the bags in your truck and take them home with you so you’re not contributing to a mess all over.”
Cleanup includes that DIY toilet too, if that’s your jam. Bring some gloves and have a plan to dispose of the contents responsibly.
If you have tables and other gear, bring cleaning wipes and paper towels so you’re not filling your vehicle with dirty gear. Don’t forget plastic bags or containers to wrap up extra food.
Better yet, share it. Down by the stadiums “there are unfortunately plenty of people around who need food, so they’re happy to take your leftovers,” Brown said.
Soak it all in
Another piece of sage advice from Brown, the Iggles Ambulance captain: “Just have a lot of fun. There’s a lot of people wandering through the lots, including people wearing the other team’s colors. Have fun with them, too.”
Surely, that’s a piece of advice Oakley, of Roxborough, appreciates, given that the Birds aren’t even really his team — he’s a Panthers fan at heart. But Jalen Hurts is on his fantasy team, and he still loves the Philly tailgating experience.
“I’ve been here for almost 10 years now and enjoy watching both the joys of the Eagles fans and agony of Eagles fans at the same time,” Oakley said. “It’s just a love of the sport and a love of the city.”