Rays of sunlight peek over the top of the horizon. There’s a crisp chill in the air—but it’s a warm and welcome beginning, a reward for those early risers and super fans who embrace the elements regardless of the forecast.
Jovial greetings are passed between strangers without second thought. Grills and barbecue smokers fire up throughout the parking lot, the smell of burning wood and charcoal a fragrant prelude of the feast that’s to come. These are the sights, sounds and scents at the beginning of a KC tailgate, a tried-and-true local tradition unlike any other.
Get acquainted with everything you need to know about tailgating in Kansas City:
Tailgating, put simply, is the parking lot party before the main event, whatever that may be.
Food and drinks are traditionally bountiful, from grilled bratwursts and burgers to low- and slow-smoked barbecue. But the center of attention can be anything from the meal prep itself to yard games and other revelries.
There’s no right and wrong time to tailgate. That said, most KC tailgates take place before and after big events like concerts, Kansas Speedway races and the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, as well as home games for the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals and Sporting Kansas City.
Since they share roughly the same real estate, tailgates at Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium are veritable preparty paradises, where all are welcome to join in the fun so long as you’re wearing the right team colors—and sometimes even if you aren’t.
Plan on arriving at least an hour before the event begins but try to get there even earlier to avoid traffic and to maximize your time. The most hardcore fans make it their mission to show up before anyone else—to prep food, beat the crowds and more—so if you count yourself among the most faithful, get used to waking up before the sun rises or arriving before everyone else gets off work.
What Makes Kansas City Tailgating So Special?
The dedication. When it comes to NFL, MLB and MLS games, no matter the team’s record or place in the standings, the Kansas City faithful always arrive in full force to support their team.
Kansas City’s status as the Barbecue Capital of the World certainly plays a role in its tailgating culture. With so many ‘cue enthusiasts gathered in one place, there’s bound to be a bit of friendly competition over who smokes the best ribs and whose hamburgers are the juiciest—resulting in an atmosphere of unrivaled cookout excellence.
KC tailgating is essential to countless other experiences, including concerts and major annual events. As with everything else in the city, Kansas Citians take their tailgating tradition seriously, showing as much pride in the parking lot party as they do in their fandom.
Tailgate Tips and Traditions
- Arrive early! Showing up when the gates open and before the big crowds will help you build comradery amongst the other faithful fans.
- Go all out with your tailgate menu. Anyone can grill hamburgers and hotdogs; it’s the special sauces, homemade rubs and exclusive Bloody Mary recipes that separate the good from the great.
- Stay safe and utilize one of the many park-and-ride shuttles offered by local restaurants and bars. Or, take advantage of the Uber pick-up stations, where available.
- Bring a side, your own drinks and a collapsible chair when attending a tailgate that you’ve been invited to.
- Keep your eyes peeled for Chiefs Rumble, the team’s very own drumline, and mascots, who regularly roam the lots to drum up team spirit.
- Pay for parking in advance to save money and maximize your time spent tailgating.
- It never hurts to bring along good luck charms, just in case.
- Be friendly. There’s a good chance fans from the opposing team will be present, and while a healthy dose of good-natured ribbing isn’t unheard of, it never hurts to remind people why Kansas City is known for being a welcoming destination.
- If attending a sporting event, wear the team colors. In Kansas City, we’re usually partial to red and blue.