Tailgating Gone Wild: The Best NFL Cities For Pre-Game Celebrations
One of the best things about American football is tailgating. Before you dismiss the idea of participating as a few friends gathered around the ol’ portable Weber BBQ with an esky, think again. This is the USA we’re talking about. Think thousands of hardcore fans painted and dressed in their team’s finest, filling multiple sprawling parking lots with elaborate cooking systems and trunks full of ice cold beer.
These pre-game celebrations are an essential part of supporting your local team and thus start well before the game with fans ready to have a plenty of beer, plenty of food and plenty of fun. While most NFL cities have mastered the art of tailgating, these cities tend to take things to the next level.
- Team: Denver Broncos
- Stadium: Invesco Field
- Signature Dish: Rocky Mountain oysters
Celebrations in the Mile High City are likely to hit a fever pitch this year with the Broncos earning their spot in Super Bowl 50. But when it comes to the regular season, all of the stadium’s lots allow tailgating with fans starting to pour in at around 8am for an afternoon game. Flat-screens, food, cheerleaders and DJs are all par for the course. Plus, Denver fans are some of the friendliest in the league so be prepared to make some new friends.
- Team: Chicago Bears
- Stadium: Soldier Field
- Signature Dish: Chicago-style hot dogs
When it comes to lifelong dedicated football fans, you’ll be hard pressed to find a crowd more diehard than Chicago as evidenced by their tailgating scene. All surface lots are open to tailgating four hours before each game and two hours after. Make sure you get there in time to catch Fiesta Bob’s pregame speech. It’s a 20+ year tradition. And make sure you rug up! It’s gets mighty chilly in Chicago.
- Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Stadium: Heinz Field
- Signature Dish: Pierogies
Pittsburgh takes its football and tailgating very serious. So serious, in fact, they have a Mobile Tailgating Unit that makes the rounds, bringing team spirit to the eating and drinking masses. This repurposed ambulance is hard to miss thanks to its snazzy Steelers-yellow paint job. You’ll be happy to see it when you’re three beers into your celebrations and discover it has an on-board bathroom!
- Team: New England Patriots
- Stadium: Gillette Stadium
- Signature Dish: ‘Chowda’ (clam chowder)
Another fan base that fills the lots come rain, snow, sleet or shine, the New England crowd has perfected the tailgating experience. It’s no wonder since the team has played in the most NFL games in the league over the course of the last decade. What sets these fans apart from others is their penchant for fine food. These lots are brimming with master parking lot chefs cooking up everything from lobsters to fresh oysters well before and after the game. It’s an eater’s and sports enthusiast’s heaven.
- Team: Philadelphia Eagles
- Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field
- Signature Dish: Cheese steaks
Philly fans are a passionate group. So passionate in fact that when you head to the Link (Lincoln Stadium), you’ll be met with tailgating groups with official names and t-shirts holding down the same spot they’ve been celebrating in for the past 10 seasons! Most lots are open to pre-game fun, but much of the action centres on the Wells Fargo Center across from the field. This is where you’ll find the famous Football Shuttle – a repurposed old school bus that has been stripped down and transformed into a tailgaters paradise complete with TVs and cushy seats.
- Team: Houston Texans
- Stadium: Reliant Stadium
- Signature Dish: Anything smoked
You may have heard the old adage, everything is bigger in Texas. Well, it’s true when it comes to tailgating at Reliant Stadium. It could be the only crowd that had to be cut down by team officials because it was getting so popular. There are games, beer and BBQ, but it’s the latter that’s sure to blow your mind. We’re talking experienced pit bosses bringing custom made smokers into the lots to cook up some of the best brisket, ribs and sausages you’ve ever tried!
Green Bay, Wisconsin
- Team: Green Bay Packers
- Stadium: Lambeau Field
- Signature Dish: Beer brats and cheese curds
Many Packer fans will tell you that tailgating was invented in Green Bay way back in the 1920s, with groups of fans gathering around fire pits to keep warm in the parking lots. That may be true, but we do know that these fans have been doing it for so long they have developed a name for the lots surrounding Lambeau Field. The Tundra (as in frozen) opens approximately four hours before game time. Parking is scarce though. The entire city nearly shuts down come game day to take part in the fun.
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Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.