You see it before you even pull into the parking lot— a gray haze of smoke rises above the sea of tents, tables, and games of cornhole. It is undeniable that Kansas City Chiefs games offer one of the most unique and enjoyable tailgating experiences in all sports.
It’s a tradition that is closely tied to the barbecue culture of the city — but tailgating at Arrowhead is about so much more than food.
It’s a fun-loving carnival atmosphere — a mix between Mardi Gras and the American Royal, with a dash of middle-aged men throwing their arms out while they try to prove that they can still throw a spiral.
The beautiful thing about tailgating at Arrowhead is that you can go as big or as small as you want. I’ve been with groups of people who set up the tent and TV, watched the pre-game show and all of that ... and then I’ve also just wandered around with a sixer of my beverage of choice with a few buddies and mingled with my fellow fans.
Kansas City is known for its hospitality, and this is on full display in the parking lot in the hours before kickoff. As long as you show up to have a good time, there is no wrong way to experience tailgating at Arrowhead Stadium.
A few things to keep in mind prior to your pilgrimage to Arrowhead
Prep the night before:
Go to the store and do all of your shopping prior to the day of the game. Nothing derails a tailgate like being unprepared. Whatever level of tailgating you are planning on, get everything ready that night so all you have to do the morning of is load up the car and decide which jersey you’re wearing.
Plan your route ahead of time:
On The Mothership, the Chiefs provide some pretty comprehensive resources to help you navigate your best route into the stadium, including this map that shows the gate access points, ride-share drop-off points, and a lot more useful information.
Get there early:
The gates open 4.5 hours prior to kickoff. If you want to get a good spot, set your alarm and get out the door on time.
Bring a grill but leave the smoker at home:
If you are planning on cooking in the parking lot, it’s important to remember that only charcoal and gas grills are allowed at Arrowhead Stadium, you are not allowed to use wood as a fuel for any cooking while tailgating.
That’s OK, though, because it takes hours to cook anything properly on the smoker. If you want to make some BBQ for the game, just wake up early or do it the night before and bring it with you. You can always use the grill to keep anything you’ve already cooked warm while you’re grilling up those sweet juicy bratwursts.
Bring enough to share:
When it’s all said and done, a tailgate is just an excuse for you and your loved ones to get to spend a little extra time together. Life is fast, tailgating is a time to slow down and just enjoy the people in your life, while also carb-loading in preparation to scream your lungs off as the Chiefs destroy the Broncos for the 456th consecutive time.
Don’t forget the sides and the cold ones:
A plate full of meat isn’t enough for a true tailgate; you have to have a nice selection of sides and beverages to really balance things out.
When it comes to sides, it’s all about preference — but trust me, choosing the right ones can be the difference between a good tailgate and an epic one.
For drinks, if you choose to drink alcohol, be smart and know your limit. I advise choosing something that is not too heavy, like a PBR or a seltzer — anything that can help get the party started without making you feel full or taking you down for the count before the good times really get going. Nothing ruins a tailgate party like a guy who has had one too many. The goal is to pre-game, not be passed out by kickoff.
And of course, always have a designated driver.
Bring the games:
Whether it’s cornhole, ladder toss, flip cup, etc., nothing gets you ready for the game like a healthy dose of friendly competition. Just a word to the wise, if you see our boss Pete Sweeney lurking about, don’t challenge him to a game of anything unless you like parting with your money ... apparently the man is unbeatable.
My entire Venmo transaction history is me sending @pgsween $20 for losing in bar games.— Stephen Serda (@StephenSerda) August 5, 2022
Game day rib recipe
If you are from Kansas City, chances are you grew up using a rib bone as a pacifier like the rest of us. This is my tried and true rib recipe that I make most game days during the season.
Mix together in a bowl:
1⁄4 cup garlic powder
1⁄4 cup onion powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1⁄4 cup paprika
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground mustard seed
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 bottle of yellow mustard
As many slabs of ribs as you want
Butcher paper or tin foil
How to prepare:
Prep your ribs at least 2-3 hours before your plan on cooking them. This will give the rub and the mustard time to start tenderizing the meat prior to cooking.
Step 1: Trim the membrane off the back of your slab of ribs as shown in the video below. This will help the meat pull away from the bone as the fat renders giving you that fall-off-the-bone tenderness you’re looking for.
Step 2: Apply a generous coat of yellow mustard to the entire slab of the ribs. This will help the rub adhere to the ribs, and the vinegar in the mustard will start to tenderize the meat.
Step 3: Apply a healthy coating of the rib rub to the front and back of the ribs, so that all of the meat is covered evenly.
Step 4: Wrap the ribs in Saran Wrap, and place them in a pan in the fridge for two-plus hours.
Step 5: Pre-heat your smoker to 250 degrees. I prefer to use a pellet smoker, but this is just my preference.
Note: If you do use a pellet smoker, make sure you are using high-quality clean-burning chips, like Bear Mountain or Traeger.
Step 6: Remove the Saran Wrap from your ribs and wrap them in butcher paper or tin foil and place them on the smoker (bone side down). Leave them undisturbed for 3 to 3.5 hours.
Step 7: Remove ribs from the smoker and unwrap them from the butcher paper. Place unwrapped ribs back on the smoker for 1 hour.
Step 8: Take the ribs off the smoker, cut them up, and enjoy.
No matter how you choose to tailgate at Arrowhead, as long as you come to have a good time, you’re sure to find it.
What are some of your favorite tailgating traditions and tips for the upcoming season?
Got any favorite game day recipes?
Let us hear them in the comments below.