Last year’s Super Bowl drew a record-breaking audience of 111 million viewers, and that number is expected to grow even larger this year. Super Bowl 2012 will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Feb. 5, with seats for 63,000 fans. For the remaining millions of fans, television and live streaming over the Internet will have to suffice. But no worries, we’ve put together some awesome Super Bowl party ideas to make your 2012 football bash a party to remember. With this party planning cheat sheet, you’ve got all the drive you need to score extra points with your favorite football fans.

Menu strategy

Appetizers: Finger foods and mini-portions are a great way to keep the fans well-fed without the need for a formal ten-piece place setting. Sliders, nachos, franks in blanks and other Super Bowl appetizers are easy to eat while perched at the edge of the couch rooting for a touchdown. And with the smaller portion size, guests can snack throughout the game without overdoing it.

A great way to keep guests busy during halftime is to customize the menu by laying out a make-your-own pizza or hot dog bar. To make pizzas, set out bowls of toppings, hot and traditional pizza sauce and a variety of cheeses. Give each guest a small ball of pizza dough and they can let it fly up in a ‘hail Mary’, or just roll it out and top with their favorites. Pop them in the oven, but be sure to label with foil and permanent markers so the pineapple-tuna pie doesn’t end up with the sausage-pepper fan.

A hot dog bar offers guests a choice of regular, wheat or Hoagie buns, different types of hot dogs (include some vegetarian), fixings and condiments. Compliment this all-American menu with spicy and sweet potato fries, salad and dressings.

Vegetarian guests can enjoy crudités and dip, meatless burgers and other faux meat foods that look and taste like the real thing, but won’t offend the herbivores. Check ingredients for vegan no-no’s such as eggs, honey and dairy products, and clearly mark homemade foods for guests with allergies or special diets.

Snacks and dessert: Have plenty of nuts, party mixes and cut-up fruits for lighter snacking. Dessert can be cookies or cupcakes iced and topped with sugared football decorations, available on Etsy, Amazon, at Michael’s and in supermarkets. You can also bake your own cake and order a custom NFL edible cake topper featuring your favorite team.

Drinks and tableware: For a football-themed buffet, you can use well-known football terms written on card holders to rename party foods, using words like half back, scrambler and turnover. Be sure to include two goodies that have a double entendre when it comes to football – hot dogs and Hail Marys.

Have a variety of drinks on hand, including a selection of non-alcoholic drinks for those who abstain. Look for glasses with favorite team logos at dollar stores, online, or print out stickers with the logos and paste them onto plastic cups. Match tableware, plates and napkins to your team’s logo to create a themed color scheme.

A solid green plastic tablecloth can be used as a base to cover the table. You can then use permanent markers to draw a football field on it with yard lines, end zones, goal posts and other field markings. Place platters at varying heights to allow guests to appreciate your artwork and football expertise while filling their plates.

Smaller-sized plates are the easiest to balance while watching the game. If you’re using disposable, avoid paper as it tends to get weak and flop over, particularly with moist foods. You don’t want to have to spring for new carpet when the party’s over.

Game plan for kids

Older kids will probably sit right along with the adults and be fascinated by the game, but if you’ve got younger guests, it’s best to plan a few kid-friendly Super Bowl activities.

  • Football Trivia – buy or make your own cards with football trivia questions and answers. You can use stats on players, football terms, or information on your favorite players or team. The player with the highest score can win a jersey, football or other relevant prize.
  • Ball Toss – Sports Authority and other retailers sell bean toss games that are designed like a mini football field. You can pick up several mini-footballs at a dollar store and label them with kids’ names to give them a take-home keepsake.
  • Team Match Ups – Perfect for kids and wives who want to brush up on their football knowledge, this home-made game matches up players with their team. Cut index cards in half, write player’s names, and draw squares with team names on a piece of colored oak tag. Pile up player cards and have each participant take turns picking a card and putting it on the correct team pile. Choose one person as referee, and task him with noting if match-ups are correct. Use this online NFL team list to create a reference sheet.
  • Famous Photos - To take the party up a notch, offer guests a chance to pose as an NFL player using life-sized cutouts (Party City has them for $40). You can then print out the pix and let guests sign and date their photo. Kids can decorate picture frames using mini-footballs or helmets (pick these up at Michael’s or other craft stores).

Super Bowl lasts only three and a half hours, but thousands of workers and fans spend months and millions of dollars preparing for the big day. With just a few hours of planning, shopping and preparation, you can create the event of the year that’ll leave your guests begging for an early invite to 2013’s Super Bowl party.

Got other tips for Super Bowl party ideas? Leave us a note in the comments below.

Sarah F. Berkowitz Sarah F. Berkowitz was born in Jerusalem, raised in Detroit, and currently lives in Atlanta with her Manhattan born and bred husband. Her dream of becoming a psychologist was traded in for a laptop and chef’s hat when she decided to pursue her passion for writing and food. Sarah enjoys cooking, trying to get food to stay still for a good photo, and convincing her kids that they're lucky to have a chef as a mom. (They're still waiting for dinner.)

Super Bowl party ideas
Last year's Super Bowl drew a record-breaking audience of 111 million viewers, and that number is expected to grow even larger this year. Super Bowl 2012 will b