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For some, hosting the Super Bowl is the event of the year. It combines some of the reasons people love the holidays — it brings friends/family together, everyone gorges on food and drink, and there’s a central attraction for everyone to engage with.
It’s a rare event — in that it focuses on a football game, but non-football fans can still participate and have fun. But all of that (like with the holidays) just puts more pressure on the host, who has to ensure everyone is comfortable and having fun while the big game is on the TV. We’ve thought of everything you should know to have a Super Bowl party to be proud of, and threw in some less-traditional suggestions so yours will stand out more than others.
At the end of the day, it should be fun, and if you follow these tips, you can ensure everyone has a great time — even you, the host.
Hosting tip 1: Plan ahead
This seems obvious, but taking steps in the week ahead of the big game will save you so many headaches when Sunday comes around.
Let’s face it, for most, drinking and the Super Bowl go together like sour cream and onion. So you have to plan ahead to accommodate all that encompasses.
First off, your guests are going to bring drinks. A lot of them. How are you going to accommodate that onslaught? First, we recommend preparing by faithfully clearing out the fridge in the week leading up to the game. Every inch of real estate is going to be valuable as people show up with 24-packs of beer and dozens of White Claws.
If limited fridge space is an intractable problem, then invest in a cooler that can be left on the back porch or in the living room. We love the Yeti because it’s huge and will be an investment you’ll be happy you made when it’s time to tailgate at the next concert or baseball game (or even on a car-camping trip). If you’d prefer to not spend that much on a cooler, that’s fine. All we suggest is avoiding the foam one-use coolers at all costs. They’re terrible for the environment and aren’t even that effective. Instead, go with something more economical (that will still have long-term value) like this classic model from Rubbermaid.
Make sure you have ice and non-alcoholic drinks on hand. It’s so easy to overlook ice when you’re shopping for the big game, but failing to plan ahead for ice is frequently hosts’ biggest regret. And there are going to be attendees who don’t want to drink alcohol. So having soda, lemonade, iced tea, and other non-alcoholic drinks on hand will be appreciated.
Finally, the game is played on a Sunday — meaning, at the end of the party, a day of work is just hours away. We recommend stocking up on beer and wine, and staying away from the hard liquor, to avoid (or at least lessen the chances of) a truly terrible Monday marred by a nasty hangover. By the same token, offer people water as the game is coming to a close.
Seating is always a tough issue to navigate at larger Super Bowl parties. Some people want to be front-and-center and not miss a second of action; others want to talk through the game action and just care about the commercials and halftime show (but only kinda).
A good rule of thumb is to prepare prime-viewing seating for at least 80% of attendees. The last 20% can get creative with where they sit, and you’d be surprised how able people are at self-selecting for where they’d like to plop down during the big game.
But to accommodate that last 20% of people who won’t have chairs/spots on the couch, we recommend stocking up on “flex seating.” This means grabbing lots of comfortable pillows that people can use to make sitting on the floor more comfortable. Also, don’t hold back: Grab those captain chairs that you only use camping. Your guests will understand that this is a unique situation.
When you’re designing the menu for Super Bowl Sunday, plan heavily on dishes that you can prepare the day before and then leave in the refrigerator until guests start arriving. This way, you aren’t a frantic mess around game time and people have food items available to them when they get to your place.
Timing is key, and anything you can take care of the day before is something you’ll be happy you did.
Also, messes are going to happen. Prepare for them by stocking up on Tide Pens and trash cans/bags. That way, when one of your guests spills a hefty chunk of 7-layer dip on their shirt, they can take care of it and keep having fun without being embarrassed for the rest of the game. And if you have trash cans readily available all over the party space, your guests won’t leave their plates and cups all over the house for you to clean after they depart.
Accordingly, you’re going to want to stock up on one-use plates ahead of time. Using your own plates isn’t practical and there’s nothing worse than being left with a huge mess after a fun afternoon of partying (especially with Monday looming). So, to avoid being overly wasteful, we recommend buying compostable plates in bulk. They aren’t as eco-friendly as washing off your plates, but it’s better than getting plastic plates/cutlery.
Hosting tip 2: Accommodate the non-football fans first
The reasoning behind this tip is straight forward: The diehard football fans only need an angle to watch the TV from — everything else is secondary and doesn’t really matter. But what about the people who haven’t seriously watched a game in their entire life and frankly could not care less but want to hang with friends? Those are the people worth preparing for.
One solution: Make fun side games. We love designing your own Bingo cards that will help non-football fanatics engaged with the game and having fun. You can include squares like, “Crazy touchdown dance,” “Tear-jerking commercial,” and “Surprise guest at the halftime show.” Basically everything is in play, and the Super Bowl always has the same basic elements, so it’s easy to predict enough outcomes that will leave the bingo players checking off squares all game.
Another way to keep non-football fans having fun: Highlight commercials. There are studies, admittedly most of which were commissioned by marketing agencies, that suggest that more people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials than for the game. So keep an active conversation going about them. At halftime, ask your guests what their favorite ad was. This is a rare case where you can let your opinions fly without offending anyone (unless there’s someone in the room who worked on the Doritos commercial, of course). So have fun with it. The same principle applies to the halftime show. Everyone can be a critic during the Super Bowl, and you should encourage it.
Hosting tip 3: Don’t spend too much time/money on decorations
This dovetails off of the last tip. People who care about the game won’t care about the decorations. And people who don’t care about football are unlikely to get excited about a diorama of paper footballs that are hung from the molding.
We’ve tested several varieties of Super Bowl decorations and they all fall into the same category of bland, boring, and borderline wasteful. They’re valuable basically only if you want to really overdo a “sports ball” joke and hang them everywhere as an ironic bit. Otherwise, no one is going to remember or really value them.
Instead of exerting your energy on that, your time will be much better spent on deep cleaning your house before guests arrive. The chore to prioritize is vacuuming. People are going to be more intimate with your floor than any other day of the year — what with them sitting on the floor and all.
We recommend investing in a top-flight vacuum (especially if you have pets and want to minimize the amount of pet hair your guests take home as souvenirs). Our favorite is this model of the Ball by Dyson. It’s powerful to make the job go quicker — and it will be something you’re happy you spent on long after the NFL season is over.
Another highly recommended product for preparing for guests: A robotic vacuum. You no longer have to pay a premium for the “Roomba” name — the popular model by iRobot — as you can now get comparable performance from a non-name brand at a lower price point. The technology has become widespread, and that’s a benefit to the consumer. By adding a robotic vacuum to the mix, you’ll have more time to prepare other areas of the house.
One final note on cleaning the house: The work doesn’t end when guests arrive. Quite the opposite. Trust us, you’re going to want to keep some cleaning supplies on hand for when the plates of dip start circulating throughout your living room. This means stocking up on paper towel and all-purpose cleaners to ensure your counters and furniture makes it even if one guest manages to get everything everywhere (which is more likely than most would like to think). Our favorite is this eco-friendly variety that cleans as good as the more harmful stuff.
Best TVs for your viewing party
At the core of it all, the TV is the main attraction of Super Bowl Sunday. And those who are in the market for an upgrade are in good luck. The market has never been friendlier to the consumer.
High-end technology has become ubiquitous, and there are so many sellers out there, so prices have plummeted while features have become more accessible. So, while the following options will be great for the big game, they’ll also be a worthwhile investment for sports fans and movie buffs alike.
Best of the best: LG OLED
The picture that this model produces is frankly stunning. It’s the pinnacle of what you can expect from a 4K TV. (There are higher-end models on the market, but there’s so little content currently shot in 8K, they offer little upside for the present).
BestReviews has tested this model extensively and has found the colors really pop off the screen while the picture moves naturally and without lag. It really shines when it’s hardwired into a cable package (because then it won’t matter how well your cable internet is working), and we recommend this to people who really care how their TVs perform.
Best bang for the buck: Samsung UHD 4K TV
This is for the budget-conscious purchaser. It’s not for the person who wants to drop jaws. That’s not to say it isn’t a capable, impressive TV. It is. But there’s a reason why it sells for such a reasonable cost.
But, with that said, we love the value it offers. At this price point, it’s tough to find a name as recognizable as Samsung, and you can find this model on sale almost anywhere that sells high-end TVs. Since it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the OLED, we find it’s better for cord-cutters who aren’t as concerned about motion rate and vivid colors.
Overall, it’s a great TV, and at that price, you’ll be extremely happy with the addition it makes to any room you’ll be watching the game.
Best sound systems for watching football
The way modern televisions are designed practically makes buying a soundbar a necessity. With TVs optimizing a sleek, slim appearance, there’s little space in the hardware to produce rich sound.
That’s where soundbars come in. The technology is relatively simple by design. They take all of the complicated aspects of setting up a surround sound set up and consolidate the number of pieces of equipment you need. You no longer need an equalizer, several auxiliary speakers, a subwoofer, and yards of cord to have rich, dynamic sound to accompany your game watch. Instead, invest in a simple-to-install system and experience almost all of the benefits with much less work up front.
Best of the best: Sonos Beam + speakers
If you truly want to blow your guests away, set up your house with a Sonos system. It’s easy to set up, and when it’s operational, your guests won’t miss any action no matter where they are in the house because you can set every system in the network to play the audio from the game.
It requires a significant initial investment. But we recommend getting a Beam for your TV, some speakers to place behind the guests for a surround-sound effect, and some more speakers for the rest of the rooms in the house. It’s a setup that you’ll love you have every day of the year and will really impress your guests for the big game.
Yes, it’s expensive — but you can’t beat the simplicity and the sheer coolness of having a house wired for Sonos, the best option for those who demand the best.
Mid-range: Bose soundbar
OK, not everyone wants a whole-house experience. For those who just want to set up the room with the TV, we recommend the Bose soundbar.
This iconic brand is evolving with the times well and we’ve tested this model with the Sony OLED to remarkable results. If you set it up with the surround-sound speakers, you can wow your guests with the rich, immersive sound. We love how much it made us feel like we were really at the divisional round game in testing.
Best bang for the buck: Taotronics
If you don’t care too much about the quality of your sound, Taotronics has made a name for producing effective equipment with an inexpensive price tag.
It’s not going to be as impressive as Sonos or Bose, but it’s going to get the job done — and costs a fraction of the price.
Best ways to watch the Super Bowl
With so many people cutting the cord, figuring out how you are going to watch the game has become more of a question than ever before.
Recent cord-cutters should have a plan in place — because it’s not as simple in the old days when you could turn the TV on and it was on one of the few channels available. It’s still on one of those classic channels, of course, but those aren’t available to just anyone. And you absolutely do not want to leave finding a stream up to chance.
This year, the game is on Fox. You can prepare by signing up for their a-la-carte app now.
Or, you can sign up for one of the several streaming TV services that carries the network.
Cooking tip #1: Free up stove/oven space
Guests are going to come over with half-concocted dishes that are going to put stress on the appliances in your kitchen. Prepare by planning as many dishes that don’t require the range as possible.
To do this, you’ll need the right tools.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot already, take this as your opportunity to understand how helpful it can be in a number of different avenues. First, it’s the best for those nights when you want to eat something delicious but don’t have the energy to manage several different simmering dishes at once.
The same usefulness will apply on Super Bowl Sunday. Late getting the pulled-pork recipe in the slow cooker? No sweat! Pop it in the Instant Pot an hour before guests arrive, and it will be ready with time to spare by the time they’re hungry and looking for a sandwich.
Adding an Instant Pot to your arsenal will help take at least one dish away from your fore-focus, and you’ll be thankful for that.
These are your best friend on the day of the big game. They can prepare and then keep warm all the dips you want. They can make standard gameday fare (pulled meats, chilis, and other easy-to-make offerings).
You’ll want to scale the number of slow cookers you employ according to the number of guests you have. People will appreciate the slow-cooked goodness (because some items just taste better the more time you give them to prepare) and you will be happy to go with some leftovers if you overestimate how much food you need — just remember to keep some extra food-storage containers on hand.
Cooking tip #2: Keep it (somewhat) healthy
Having an air fryer in the kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday accomplishes two major goals: You’ll be able to prepare delicious items like french fries or chicken tenders that everyone will eat up; and you’ll keep it relatively healthy in the meantime.
The air fryer uses a fraction of the oil that other fried dishes require, and it makes a difference in the nutrition of the item without detracting from the taste. That seems like a worthy investment to us — especially when you acknowledge that it creates even more space on the stovetop.
Cooking tip #3: You can’t overdo it
If you have a recipe you’ve always wanted to try, now is the chance. You’re going to have a crowd of hungry people over and they’re going to be predisposed to trying new things and gorging a little bit.
Maybe you’re inviting over kindred spirits who just love to make new dishes? In that case, have a dip contest. Everyone brings a dip of their making, and let the best chef win. You really can’t screw it up because Super Bowl Sunday isn’t a day for diets or being a picky eater — it’s a day for enjoying company and letting yourself go a little bit.
Super Bowl Sunday is an important day for most Americans because it brings us together and allows us to share in the things we love most — sports, spectacle, and food.
Don’t stress about all the things you need to do to prepare for that deluge of people: Prepare for them to come, get the work done early and then enjoy everyone’s company.
After all, it only comes around once a year.
Jacob Palmer is the editorial manager for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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