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Ranking NFL Stadiums By Best Pregame Fan Experience

Adam Thompson for Bookies.com

Adam Thompson  | 12 mins

Ranking NFL Stadiums By Best Pregame Fan Experience

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Sunday afternoons in fall are unofficial holidays in all corners of the nation thanks to the National Football League. The sport drives the national entertainment narrative. And while TV networks have modernized broadcasts to make watching games a technological spectacle, nothing beats the energy and social connections of being at an NFL game. 

For many fans, the game itself is just part of the experience. There is a vibe about live football on Sundays. It starts outside the stadium. Many fans converge in lots and fire up grills for pregame tailgating. Others prefer the social scene of jersey-clad fans filling up local bars and restaurants. Those with kids could seek out memories for their families. 

Indeed, the sounds, the smells and the overall energy is a strong part of the experience (which now includes in-stadium NFL betting in some places). The NFL experience is just as much about pregame, perhaps more so in some places, as it is about watching the actual game.

With NFL game tickets averaging in the hundreds of dollars, pregame entertainment has become a key part of the experience for the billion dollar organizations hosting the weekly fall pilgrimages. Bookies.com has compiled a comprehensive list of the top NFL pre-game destinations. The second annual ranking of NFL Pre-Game Experiences is a list borne from an algorithm based on multiple factors. Among them:  

Bookies.com has compiled a comprehensive list of the top NFL pregame destinations. The list is borne from an algorithm based on multiple factors. Among them: 

  • Location: Close to the action, accessible to fans
  • Tailgating: The ability to park and enjoy a crisp fall day with a beverage and grill
  • Entertainment Around Stadium: A vibrant bar and restaurant scene within walking distance to your seat
  • Family Sentiment: Is the area safe and entertaining for kids and those with kids?

Here are all 32 NFL pregame destinations, ranked. 

Best NFL Stadiums To Visit By Pregame Experience

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32. Washington Commanders

It’s practically a clean slate of opportunity for new Commanders owner Josh Harris. While the on-field product is hit or miss, FedExField is widely considered the bottom-frills NFL stadium. No locale ranked worse in overall atmosphere or in family entertainment. The latest for a new stadium were likely quashed with the selling of the team by Daniel Snyder, but expect the new owner to renew the conversation. (2022 Ranking: 32nd) 

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31. Miami Dolphins

One wouldn’t think Miami would be among the bottom places to catch a game. But it’s not an easy stadium to get to thanks to the often-horrific traffic on gamedays. Hard Rock Stadium ranked bottom-10 in all four categories, including bottom-five in overall atmosphere. A winning team can often help spur the conversation for game-day improvements. (2022 Ranking: 31st)

30. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams and Chargers share a stadium, but the other L.A. team gets the nod thanks to a virtual tiebreaker in overall atmosphere. The team’s plummet from Super Bowl champion to four-team also-ran didn’t help. (2022 Ranking: T-29th)

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29. Los Angeles Chargers

It doesn’t get much better than the modern marvel of SoFi Stadium. Unfortunately, no stadium ranked worse in terms of tailgating. The overall vibe gives the L.A.-area stadium a lift, but location and difficulty of landing a parking spot that allows a grill keeps it down. (2022 Ranking: T-29th) 

28. Carolina Panthers

Bank of America Stadium is adjacent to downtown, making it an easy commute for many of the team’s fans. But the home of the Panthers lagged in other area, including a bottom-five spot in overall atmosphere and tailgating options, and bottom-10 in atmosphere. (2022 Ranking: T-27th)

Ranking NFL Stadiums By Best Pregame Fan Experience 1

27. New England Patriots

Tailgating is a thing at Gillette Stadium, but few teams ranked lower for family entertainment. No team had rankings in family fun and overall atmosphere further apart from one another than the Patriots. Its distance about 30 miles from downtown Boston is considered an inconvenience. (2022 Ranking: T-27th)

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T-25. Jacksonville Jaguars

Only the Commanders’ and Panthers’ stadiums ranked lower than Jacksonville's TIAA Bank Field in terms of overall vibe. Add a few things to the mix, and this score could rise. Despite its seventh-lowest ranking, the home of the Jaguars did all right, ranking close to average in other important factors. Winning often propels atmosphere and improvements, and the team appears on the right track. (2022 ranking: 25th) this upcoming football season.

T-25. Cincinnati Bengals

Excitement has built for the team on the field. Now it’s time for the team to take it up a notch outside the stadium. Tailgating around Paycor Stadium isn’t big due to its location downtown – it’s tough to have it both ways. A nearby entertainment scene helps, and more family options could make for a big bump. (2022 Ranking: 26th)

24. Buffalo Bills

The Bills Mafia is known for adding massive flair to the art of tailgating, so it should be little surprise that Buffalo ranked No. 2 among all NFL teams in the tailgating division. After that, though, it got ugly. Highmark Stadium finished bottom-10 in every other category. A new stadium is slated to open in 2026; Buffalo has an opportunity to skyrocket up the rankings. (2022 Ranking: 24th)

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23. Detroit Lions

There are ample entertainment options close enough to Ford Field. Tailgating, however, isn’t one of them for the majority of fans. There isn’t a big atmosphere outside the domed stadium, and crime numbers made a dent in the family score, pushing the Lions down the chart. (2022 Ranking: T-19th) 

T-21. Chicago Bears

It may be a surprise that the nation’s third-largest city is home to the NFL’s smallest stadium. While Soldier Field doesn’t offer a lot in family fun compared to other spots, its convenient location and ample tailgating scene help. Bring your own pregame entertainment. (2022 ranking: 18th)

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T-21. Cleveland Browns

The overall atmosphere score was down for Cleveland Browns Stadium. Its location against Lake Erie and adjacent to downtown make it an easy walk-and-enter, and tailgating is ample. There are enough activities and sights for the kids, too. (2022 ranking: 13th)

20. New York Giants

To outsiders, tailgating doesn’t sound like something that would be available at a stadium adjacent to the largest metro area in the U.S. But MetLife Stadium did it as well as could be expected, and it’s considered the top pre-game activity for Giants and Jets games. Perhaps oddly, the Giants ranked worse than the Jets in most other categories. (2022 ranking: 23rd)

19. San Francisco 49ers

Getting to Levi’s Stadium is a chore for a majority of the Niners’ Bay Area fans. It’s nearly 40 miles from the San Francisco city center, by far the furthest from their hometown than any other team. Once you can get there and park, though, the Niners do it right. They rank eighth in both tailgating and overall atmosphere. (2022 ranking: T-15th)

18. Houston Texans

The Texans and NRG Stadium don’t rank in the top 10 in any major category, but they don’t rank in the bottom 10, either. That means Houston offers something for everybody – not a bad trait, one that helped push the Texans up the charts compared to a year ago. (2022 ranking: 22nd) 

17. New York Jets

The Jets consistently ranked a slight notch above their Giants co-tenants in family entertainment and overall vibe, for whatever reasons. Stadium location and tailgating options ranked the same. Both fans have reason to take the pre-game partying up a notch, but that's especially true for the Jets, who acquired Aaron Rodgers to help break a 12-year postseason drought. (2022 ranking: 21st)

16. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium has done it right in Glendale, with amenities, including tailgating options that have made it a good time for families and partygoers alike. That said, the Glendale location does offer a bit of an issue for an area flooded with too many cars and not enough lanes. Despite the traffic issues, Arizona climbed up the rankings. Like the 49ers' Levi's Stadium, just getting there is the biggest issue. (2022 ranking: T-19th)

15. New Orleans Saints

New Orleans is a notoriously difficult city to get around in, but the Caesars Superdome was built in the perfect spot, adjacent to all the major highways. Only the stadiums in Nashville and Seattle were more conveniently located for the majority of fans. Tailgating, as expected in the Big Easy, is elite, though family entertainment and safety concerns push down the potential. (2022 ranking: T-15th)

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The pirate ship isn’t for everyone, but imagine being a kid and seeing that when you enter Raymond James Stadium. That’s the cherry on top for a pre-game area that ranked No. 3 for families. Tailgating may be the start, and it’s an upper-half locale for that, too. (2022 ranking: T-15th)

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13. Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore and M&T Bank Stadium didn’t rank in the top 10 in any of the four major categories. But it was near the middle in all of them, something most locations can’t say. Family entertainment and tailgating options give the Ravens a push above similarly ranked competition. (2022 ranking: 14th)

12. Tennessee Titans

Nothing beats the location of Nissan Stadium, within walking distance of Broadway Street and its limitless and unique entertainment options. Tailgating ranked bottom 10, but nobody can complain. There’s enough for families that want to avoid the entertainment district chaos. (2022 ranking: T-11th).

11. Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas isn’t the first location that comes to mind when people think of wholesome family activities. It might be among the last. But the Raiders have made it a priority to ensure there’s something for everyone. It’s one of only six NFL stadiums to rank in the top-half of all four major categories. The combined pageantry of Vegas and the history of the Raiders helps make atmosphere the top score. (2022 ranking: T-11th)

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10. Denver Broncos

Like Vegas, Denver ranks in the top-half of every measured category. Tailgating is a tradition at Empower Field at Mile High, and Mane Street offers a family destination. (2022 ranking: T-9th)

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9. Indianapolis Colts

Tailgating at Lucas Oil Stadium, while available, appears to be a last resort. Everything else about the area is a blast. It offers not only a downtown location, but a pile of activities that push Colts' games into the top 10 in both family and overall game atmosphere scores. (2022 ranking: 10th)

8. Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles fans have earned their reputations as a wild bunch, and it starts in the parking lot. Philly games ranked No. 4 in tailgating, but it isn’t all grills, beer and crazy at Lincoln Financial Field. The team ranked between 11th and 13th in every other category, too. (2022 ranking: T-7th)

7. Atlanta Falcons

Tailgating isn’t the top option for those heading to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But the Falcons more than make up for it with a lot of something for everyone. The Home Depot Backyard is a pre-game destination for families, and there is enough of a scene to make just about everyone satisfied. (2022 ranking: T-7th)

T-4. Seattle Seahawks

Tailgating isn’t the thing in crowded downtown Seattle. But everything else is. Lumen Field ranked fourth or better in every other category, including No. 2 in location and No. 4 in both family activities and vibe. Safety questions pushed Seahawks games down; the team tied to the top spot in the 2022 rankings, and it needs just a few changes to reach the top again. (2022 ranking: T-1st)

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T-4. Kansas City Chiefs

There are many NFL stadiums that are known for their tailgating and take pride in it. But it’s Kansas City that takes the top spot. Its reputation as a world class rib and BBQ city certainly doesn’t hurt. That’s just the start of the fun at Arrowhead. The Chiefs also rank in the top five in family and entertainment options. (2022 ranking: 5th)

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T-4. Dallas Cowboys

No stadium and location scored higher in combined family and entertainment than Big D and its bigger-than-life AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys topped the NFL in family fun and the around-stadium activities are top shelf. Traffic and location don’t make it overly easy to navigate arriving there, and while it’s not known for tailgating, the scene is real. (2022 ranking: T-5th)

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3. Minnesota Vikings

Tailgating isn’t the draw in downtown Minneapolis, and crime concerns have taken a toll. But not enough to slow horn-wearing fans of all ages from making the pilgrimage to U.S. Bank Stadium, one of the more-modern NFL palaces. The Vikings have taken pride in their pre-game endeavors and the result is the Vikings rank top-five ranking in both entertaining and family sentiment. Minnesota vaults into the Top 3. (2022 ranking: 4th)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Only one stadium ranks in the Top 8 in all four major categories. Acrisure Stadium has it all, from convenience to entertainment, with a tailgating scene that ranks sixth. It's all here: From those seeking a bar scene, a live music scene, to those who want their kids to experience things and those who want to sit in their lawn chair with a sausage – everyone can find what they want at Steelers games. (2022 ranking: 3rd)

1. Green Bay Packers

Lambeau Field is different. It’s an oasis of football surrounded by an old-school neighborhood. The nearest major airport is nearly two hours south. But if you can afford to fly into Green Bay, or rent a car in Milwaukee, a Packers game is a bucket-list destination for a reason. Green Bay ranked No. 3 in tailgating, No. 2 in family fun and activities and No. 1 in overall vibe and atmosphere. The weather can be frightful late in the season, but a sledding hill and full-sized football field to stage your own games (for free) help alleviate the chill. (2022 ranking: T-1)

Image credits: Top image courtesy of PA. All other images courtesy of USA Today.

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About the Author

Adam Thompson for Bookies.com
Adam Thompson
NFL writer and expert Adam Thompson joined Bookies.com in 2019 after a successful run as senior handicapper for SportsLine and CBSSports.com. He's long been established as one of the nation's premier handicappers, specializing in the NFL where he's hit on more than 60% over the past three years. Adam's NBA, PGA and horse racing picks have also produced major winners over the last 12 months. His customized NFL and NBA odds for players and teams have been picked up by hundreds of websites over the past year.