By Adam Thompson | | 13 mins
Ranking NFL Stadiums By Best Pregame Fan Experience
The National Football League is America’s most popular professional sports league and it’s not even close. And while the industry has made NFL games a technological spectacle, nothing beats being there in person.
Watching the best football in the world is just part of the equation. Along with what’s happening on the field, the sounds, the smells and the overall energy is a strong part of the experience. That goes for pregame as much as in-game. Oh, and you can't forget laying down your wagers on NFL betting sites. That's another awesome part of the equation these days.
For many, the NFL means hitting the lots for epic tailgating. For others, it means socializing with fellow fans at local establishments. For others, especially those with kids, it’s about all the family-friendly amenities that these billion-dollar organizations provide before kickoff.
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
32. Washington Commanders
FedEx Field is widely regarded as one of the bottom stadiums in all of the NFL. But the team doesn’t do itself a ton of favors to spruce gamedays up, either.
It ranked dead-last in our rankings among the 32 teams for family fun and for overall atmosphere, and was 30th in tailgating. They’re considering a new stadium, but the proposed location is 23 miles outside of town. Not great...
31. Miami Dolphins
You get some of the best weather to watch football. That’s good, because no stadium was ranked as more inconvenient to get to on any given Sunday. The Dolphins ranked bottom 10 in all categories – their top ranking was 24th in fan and family fun. The dismal traffic issues and a third-to-last mark in overall pregame atmosphere didn't help.
T29. Los Angeles Chargers
SoFi Stadium is a beautiful technological marvel. It’s also about the worst NFL spot to pick if you’re looking to fire up some burgers and sausage on the grill.
The L.A.-area stadium ranked at the very bottom of tailgating lists and in the bottom three for general location, too. The newness and overall vibe kept the Chargers well outside of the bottom two, however.
T29. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams share the stadium with the Chargers, so it stands to reason that both teams would be next to one another in these rankings.
What gives the Rams the nod over their neighbors down the hall? Well, they are the defending Super Bowl champions. That should add an extra smidgen of atmosphere for 2022.
T27. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers’ stadium is adjacent to downtown, making it an easy commute for many of the team’s fans. That’s about the one shining mark for Carolina’s home spot. It ranked bottom-five in overall atmosphere and tailgating options.
T27. New England Patriots
The Patriots put on a good show, but Gillette Stadium in Foxborough ranked 31st out of 32 teams in family fun. A team coached by the no-nonsense Bill Belichick being all about the product on the field makes sense.
Fortunately for New England fans, that product has been very high quality for two-plus decades. It did receive an average mark for tailgating but was bottom five for fun and location.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
Both teams from last year’s Super Bowl rank near the bottom of our NFL pregame rankings. Paul Brown Stadium sits adjacent to the interstate that runs through the city, offering major convenience to drivers and downtowners. Tailgating isn’t much of an option but the surrounding bar scene makes up for it, to an extent.
Hopefully soon it'll be able to add NFL betting to its entertainment options, with Ohio sports betting likely to go live during this upcoming football season.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field actually did alright in the rankings in three of the four categories, coming in between 16th and 20th. But when it comes to overall atmosphere, only the Commanders ranked lower. The lack of a reason to be excited about the next upcoming game – the team has been to the playoffs three times in the last 22 years – rubs off.
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.
The Bills finished a disappointing 23rd or worse in every other spot on the chart, including bottom-five in overall family fun.
23. New York Giants
Tailgating around MetLife Stadium is better than one might think, given its proximity to the nation’s largest city. Its lowest mark came in the family division, and the Giants also finished lower than the Jets. Gasp!
22. Houston Texans
Tailgating is pretty subpar compared to other aspects of the pregame experience in Houston, lowering the Texans down further than some may have expected. The team does its part, however, offering events that keep Houston in a solid spot in overall family entertainment.
21. New York Jets
Jets fans apparently offer a little more liveliness to a party compared to their Giants counterparts. The green-and-white ranked one point ahead in overall atmosphere and fan and family fun. The stadium location and tailgating options ranked the same.
T19. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have built nice surroundings around State Farm Stadium, and it’s still growing. But it’s off in the Glendale suburbs, pushing its overall location into the bottom-10. The rest of the Cardinals’ pregame rankings fell right in the middle of the pack, between 15th and 17th. This upcoming season, Super Bowl 57 will take place at State Farm Stadium.
T19. Detroit Lions
The Lions haven’t had a consistently good product on the field since, well, it’s been a long time. Tailgating options aren’t great in downtown Detroit. The atmosphere mostly involves walking into the stadium – in other words, not very exciting.
But its location for Motor City residents is very walkable and there is ample entertainment in the district that also includes the Tigers’ stadium next door.
18. Chicago Bears
Soldier Field is the smallest NFL stadium by capacity. But its location near the lakeshore and adjacent to highways make it appealing, and the tailgate options rank near the very best.
When it comes to overall atmosphere and fan and family entertainment, however, Chicago ranks bottom 10. Just have your sausage and get to your seat by kickoff.
T15. San Francisco 49ers
Few NFL stadiums can boast the tailgating atmosphere of the City by the Bay and the overall atmosphere is a party that also ranked in the top 10 for pregame.
The Niners’ Levi’s Stadium ranked among the bottom-10 family fun spots, and it’s no shock traffic and getting around the stadium was a big concern.
T15. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans is notoriously a tough city to drive around, but the Caesars Superdome was built in the perfect spot, adjacent to all the major highways. Those that haven’t been there can only imagine the tailgating smells of Bayou classics. The stadium ranks top 10 in both instances.
Aside from that, it didn’t do so well, including finishing bottom-three in overall family entertainment.
T15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The pirate ship is the symbol of Raymond James Stadium, and it’s a symbol for many of the pregame experiences. Tampa ranked No. 5 among all NFL stadiums for its family-fun options and was in the upper-half of tailgating overall.
14. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore has a little bit of something for everyone but didn’t stand out in any particular category. Instead, M&T Bank Stadium performed between 12th and 19th in every key area. Fan and family entertainment was its highest mark – that’s a good one to rank highly for in our comparison.
13. Cleveland Browns
The overall atmosphere was brutally, and surprisingly, low for Cleveland and FirstEnergy Stadium. But if you want a good tailgate spot and easy access to parking and other walkable areas, Cleveland does it right.
The Browns ranked a solid seventh in tailgating, its highest mark, and was near the top in location near the shores of Lake Erie and next door to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
T11. Las Vegas Raiders
Few places can match the atmosphere of a Raiders game. That was true in Oakland and it remains true in Las Vegas. What helps is its location right alongside the interstate, and it’s only going to be more accessible with extra transportation options coming soon.
In terms of fan and family friendliness, the Raiders did very well, ranking No. 8 out of 32 teams. People may not think of Vegas as kid-friendly, but the Raiders are making it a key part of their appeal.
T11. Tennessee Titans
Within walking distance of famous Broadway in Nashville, few places can match the overall pregame entertainment options of the Titans. In fact, no stadium ranked higher for overall location. But what about everything else?
Tailgating ranked bottom 10 – but again, who needs it when you have Tootsie’s – and average for family fun. The overall atmosphere was in the upper-third, too.
T9. Indianapolis Colts
Tailgating at Lucas Oil Stadium appears to be a last-resort option, but it can be here. That’s because everything else about the Colts’ spot ranked in the top 10 overall, including its ease of location, overall atmosphere and action around the stadium. Games in Indy are a good time.
T9. Denver Broncos
Denver is the first team city on this list – and one of just four on the entire list – to rank in the top-half of every measured category. Its highest is one to take pride in – family fun for the amenities it sets up around Mile High.
T7. Atlanta Falcons
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is often ranked No. 1 by NFL beat writers as their favorite stadium and area to visit, and fan sentiment for the pregame action isn’t far behind. While tailgating isn't great, the Falcons ranked seventh in both location and overall family and fan entertainment.
It also ranked top 10 for overall atmosphere, despite the Chick-fil-A booth being shut down for most gamedays.
T7. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles fans are known, perhaps unfairly, for being over-the-top intense. But few spots offer the party atmosphere of an Eagles pregame tailgate. It ranked No. 4 in the NFL for its vibe and ranked 13th or better in every category.
In terms of family fun and atmosphere, Eagles games at Lincoln Financial Field ranked 12th, perhaps dispelling a negative stereotype.
T5. Dallas Cowboys
The sheer scope of AT&T Stadium is something to behold, but there are things to do pregame, as well. In fact, when it comes to pregame family fun and fun in general, Dallas Cowboy games ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Overall atmosphere ranked No. 3.
The destination between Dallas and Forth Worth sounds convenient but the snarl of traffic and difficulty in parking knocked it down a bit.
T5. Kansas City Chiefs
When it comes to tailgating, the Bills and Packers are known for their fun. But it’s the Chiefs who top the list as the No. 1 locale to fire up the grill and lay out the spread. Its reputation as a world-class rib and BBQ city certainly doesn’t hurt.
For those who don’t tailgate, KC still ranks in the top six in both family fun and overall atmosphere. It’s tough to have a bad NFL pregame experience at Arrowhead Stadium.
How about more good news for Chiefs fans? For those who live in Kansas, within the next few months Kansas sports betting will go live, potentially in time for Week 1 of the NFL season. That means those traveling in from Kansas to the stadium in Missouri will be able to place a few wagers pregame before heading out to the tailgate.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Tailgating isn’t much of a draw in crowded downtown Minneapolis. But that is the only red mark for Vikings games. Few NFL stadiums are downtown but this one fits the bill, and as expected the bar scene is second-to-none.
But the family rankings and overall atmosphere marks were each top five as well. There’s something for everyone at Vikings games.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
We’ve all seen the Terrible Towels swinging during Steelers games. But pregame can be just as entertaining for all ages. Heinz Field ranked in the top 10 in every category – the only stadium to do so.
Its location near the Pirates’ MLB stadium and within walking distance across the bridge downtown makes getting to the stadium easier than most. It also ranked No. 6 in overall atmosphere.
T1. Seattle Seahawks
If you like tailgating pregame, the Seahawks may not be No. 1 on your list; they ranked merely average in that category. But no other NFL pregame experience can match the other amenities and activities the Seahawks offer.
It ranked a remarkable No. 2 in fan and family entertainment, and in overall atmosphere, as well as in location thanks to its position at the end of I-90, adjacent to the Mariners’ Safeco Field and Chinatown. Seahawks games are an experience, one that begins hours before kickoff.
T1. Green Bay Packers
Going to Lambeau Field isn’t just an experience, it’s considered a pilgrimage for NFL fans, a bucket-list item that must be experienced at least once. Its only drawback was location – it’s surrounded by houses and is 100 miles away from the nearest “big” city of Milwaukee; even the local airport is small.
Otherwise, Green Bay ranked No. 1 in overall pregame atmosphere and No. 3 in both tailgating and family and fan options. From live music to a full-sized turf field, a sledding hill in winter and the Packers Hall of Fame, Green Bay games have it all.
Image credits: Top image courtesy of PA. All other images courtesy of USA Today.