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It’s the quintessential American experience. A unique combination of cars, camaraderie, food, and football that’s as much a part of the national pastime as the ol’ pigskin itself.
We are talking about the humble tailgate, a pre-game ritual that sees millions of football fans pack out parking lots across the country to clink beer cans, grill some brats and toss bags of corn through a hole.
These fan-fuelled festivals are much more than just an opportunity to enjoy some gameday revelry however. They’re a badge of honor. That’s why from NFL to college football, fanbases across the country are as proud of their tailgates as they are their team’s trophies.
So who boasts America’s best tailgate? To find out, researchers at WSN crunched the numbers, conducting a statistical scrimmage to determine once and for all who’s the MVP of parking lot parties.
Congratulations to Missouri and Kansas, who saw the Chiefs and the Wildcats scoop the top spots in our respective tailgating countdowns. It seems that when it comes to pre-game festivities, the Show-Me state and The Sunflower state really are the greatest of all time with the Chiefs scoring an impressive 69.2/100 on our tailgating index only to be eclipsed by the Wildcats who landed a huge 74.3/100.
As two of the world capitals in BBQ, the food here unsurprisingly plays an essential role in the footballing festivities. But alongside some of the smokiest ribs and juiciest burgers in sport, it’s the fans that really make the Wildcat and The Chiefs tailgates so special.
The very best tailgates on our countdown all share one thing in common, an incredible spread of artery-clogging foodstuffs. What started with humble burgers and brats has since evolved into a culinary kaleidoscope, with gridiron gourmets cooking up bonafide feasts in parking lots across the country.
We’ve already covered their culinary offerings, but both the Chiefs (19.2%) and Wildcats (15.6%) boasted an impressive percentage of high-rating TripAdvisor reviews for their footballing food. But beyond the BBQ our research showed that variety is the spice of tailgating life. Whether it’s seafood in Baltimore (28.65%), lobsters in New York (23.1%), or Coney Dogs in Detroit (29.3%) - football food is almost as important for fans as the game itself.
Whether they’re in the middle of the desert or a mile above sea level, soaked by rain or battered by snow - the one thing that connects every parking lot on our countdown of football’s top tailgates is the fans who run them. For the fans it’s more than a sporting event, it’s a way of life; a chance to come together as a community to share in the excitement of the pre-game atmosphere.
Fans were a key consideration when it came to compiling our data. Metrics like average attendance and stadium capacity saw the likes of the San Francisco 49ers (104.5%), LA Chargers (101.6%) and Kansas City Chiefs (100.8%) all score highly in the NFL. Meanwhile, in college football, Kansas State Wildcats (102.3%), Michigan Wolverines (100.3%), and Utah Utes (101.2%) were the standouts when it came to fans.
As part of our index, the researchers at WSN considered the total number of TripAdvisor reviews that mentioned the tailgating experience. From the good to the bad to the downright bizarre, by scraping this information we were able to quantify what the most memorable parking lot festivities in football are.
So who came out on top?!?
Well, unsurprisingly when it came to the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs were once again top of the pile with more than one-third (31.4%) of all TripAdvisor reviews containing the words “tailgate” or “tailgating.” On the college front, it was the Clemson Tigers who came out on top, with the South Carolina team coming in with an impressive 22.3%
Forget the Super Bowl, the rankings below separate the best from the rest when it comes to the NFL’s top tailgates.
Congratulations Chiefs Kingdom, you’re officially the top tailgaters in the NFL. Yes, according to our research, the asphalt around Arrowhead Park is home to the league’s best parking lot parties, a feast of football that’s awash with red shirts, beer, and some of the best BBQ on the planet. The party here gets started around dawn and continues well after the game is actually finished. But even that’s not long enough to enjoy the sheer scale of festivities which features everything from live music in elaborate teepees to chili cook-offs.
WSN’s research saw Chiefs revelers score highly when it came to metrics like home attendance and Tripadvisor reviews on its way to scoring an impressive 69.2 (out of 100) on our tailgating index. It’s no wonder then that pre-gaming at Arrowhead has become something of a bucket list item, a sporting spectacle that every football fan should experience at least once.
Cards fans are lucky enough to spend their Sundays in one of the league’s best facilities. But the sumptuous surroundings of the State Farm Stadium aren’t the only attraction on game days. That’s because Arizona was the surprise runner-up in our ranking of gridiron’s greatest tailgating experiences.
Though they may lack the iconic traditions and passionate fan bases of other franchises, the pre-game festivities in Glendale scored highly on our index thanks to affordable ticket prices and a comfortable climate, which means during football season, fans can soak in some sunshine while the rest of the league shivers in sub-zero temperatures.
Home of the legendary “Bills Mafia,” the hardcore fans who support their team through thick and thin, Buffalo’s tailgating has to be seen to be believed. Home to table slamming (when fans literally slam each other through folding tables), the Kummelweck (a local kind of kaiser bun) and the now legendary figure of Pinto Ron (a die-hard superfan whose been establishing tailgating traditions since the 1980s) - Highmark Stadium is the place to be for the most boisterous pre-game atmosphere in America.
Sadly WSN’s statisticians didn’t have a metric for cooking pizzas in filing cabinets or dousing partygoers in condiments (both of which you’re likely to find at every Bills game). But they did rank Buffalo tailgaters highly for affordable ticket prices, attendance and average TripAdvisor scores.
Scoring 58.9 on our index, the Baltimore Ravens tailgate is officially one of the best in the entire league. Just a short stroll from the inner harbor, M&T Bank stadium is located in the heart of downtown Baltimore. But the team’s central location doesn’t take away from the tailgating experience, if anything it adds to it.
Here fans can also enjoy some of the best food in the league, but we’re not talking about your usual football fare like hot dogs or nachos. Instead, according to the huge number of five-star reviews that mention the incredible eats, tailgaters can chow down on everything from crab cakes to oysters as part of the pre-game fun. Yum!
What can be better than tailgating at 5,280 feet above sea level? Mile High City isn’t just home to some of the league’s best tailgating, it’s home to some of its highest. But the altitude isn’t all that’s on offer here in Colorado. With more than 150 microbreweries in Denver alone, the pre-game refreshments are pretty great too.
Those cheeseheads sure know how to tailgate! No matter how frigid the game-day temperatures get in Wisconsin (Green Bay was home to the infamous Ice Bowl where players took the field at 13 below zero) the welcome is always warm from tailgaters who set up their stall in the shadow of Lambeau Field.
Known for their title-winning teams, Green Bay can also lay claim to one of the NFL’s best tailgating experiences. According to WSN’s research, the Packers top the charts in terms of Tripadvisor reviews with more five-star accolades than any other franchise.
Jets fans haven’t seen their team lift the Vince Lombardi trophy since 1969. But even though their on-field fortunes show no sign of improving anytime soon, the Gang Green can at least lay claim to one of the NFL’s best tailgate experiences.
It’s the food in New York that really elevates the experience - after all where else can you enjoy a whole lobster before kickoff? But perhaps the most interesting thing about the pre-game experience at Jets football is the weather. At 82.06mm, MetLife Stadium has the highest amount of precipitation of anywhere in our top 10, not that these tailgaters will let that rain on their parade.
One of football’s greatest-ever dynasties, the Niners trophy cabinet is groaning under the weight of the accomplishments they collected during their heyday. But to their list of achievements, these Californian giants can now add another accolade - a coveted spot on our countdown of the NFL’s best tailgates.
The food, the beer, the crazy traditions - there are many things that make tailgating great. But above all else, the best pre-game festivities bring fans together. And nowhere is this more true than at Sofi Stadium, the new home for the long-suffering Chargers. Sure the California climate and those West Coast vibes also help to make this a great game-day experience, but after years stuck in the San Diego suburbs Bolts, fans deserve something to cheer about.
Detroit have been so bad for so long that you’d forgive the Lions faithful for staying at home on game day. And yet thousands of fans in Michigan make every Sunday fun day thanks to a raucous tailgate that shuts down the streets around Ford Field.
For those in the know, Brush Street is the place to go. Here Coney Dogs and cold brews go hand-in-hand, so it’s perhaps no wonder that the Lions were one of the best-performing teams on our ranking for game-day food reviews.
There are some iconic pre-game football festivities across the country, but the following ten are the cream of the crop when it comes to college football’s best tailgates.
The Sunflower State is in the top spot, with Kansas State Wildcats landing first position in our countdown of college football’s top tailgates. Topping our index for average attendance levels, Tripadvisor reviews and food fandom, the Bill Snyder Family Stadium is the place to go if you want to experience a true pre-game party.
The tailgating at Michigan Stadium, affectionately known as "The Big House," is so popular that some of the best parking spots are handed down through generations like family heirlooms. These Wolverines fans take their tailgating seriously, with many arriving as early as 6 a.m. on game day to set up their grills and giant coolers. It’s that Ann Arbor atmosphere that’s proved to be a hit with fans, whose online reviews have helped to propel Michigan to the podium on our countdown of top college tailgates.
One of the best tailgating experiences in the west, there’s plenty of college spirit to be found among the Rocky Mountains at Utah State. There’s a lot more than just red and black pride on offer around Rice-Eccles Stadium, however, the Utes also serve up some incredible food. From whole roasted pigs to the appropriately named bacon explosions - Utah is home to some of the finest football food in the country, with a higher proportion of five star reviews for great grub than any other college on our countdown.
Buckeyes fans are known for setting up their tailgates on Thursday evenings - a full two days before kickoff. It’s that kind of dedication to the cause that saw them land a coveted spot in the top half of our tailgating countdown. The ‘Shoe is a sea of maize and blue on game-day as more than 104,000 fans gather for kickoff, many of them line the Ohio streets to soak in the pre-game atmosphere and enjoy some of the best-reviewed food of any college tailgate.
Known as Death Valley to its fans, the tailgating scene around Clemson Tigers’ Memorial Stadium is very much alive and kicking. You notice it the second you get within a mile or two on game-day. Awash with red and tiger print, the fans put on a festival of football that culminates in The Tiger Walk - a pre-game ritual that’s one of the most iconic sights in the NCAA. It’s no wonder then that Clemson topped our rankings when it came to tailgating reviews on Tripadvisor.
What’s better than tailgating? How about boatgating? One of the most unique traditions in college football sees the Vol Navy float in for game-day. Fans from across the southeast make the journey with boats and craft of all shapes and sizes thronging the banks of the Tennessee River. Throw in some lively fans and great food and it’s easy to see why Tennessee landed a spot on our countdown of top college tailgating.
TCU might be one of the smallest colleges in the Big 12 conference, but it punches well above its weight when it comes to pre-game festivities. There are two things Texans love: football and barbecue - and you’ll find plenty of both on offer outside Amon G. Carter Stadium. In fact, TCU is home to one of the biggest smokers in college football, a two-storey behemoth that’s been churning out incredible Texas BBQ for generations.
Tailgating at the University of Alabama is more than a ritual — it’s a requirement. For a team with such a storied history it should come as no surprise that the Tide throw one of the best pre-game parties in the whole of college football. Home to the Elephant Stomp, the Walk of Champions and the Yellowhammer (a blend of orange and pineapple juice with amaretto, rum, and vodka that’s Tuscaloosa’s signature drink) the atmosphere here builds well before kickoff and continues long after the game is done.
As you might expect from the fans behind one of the most incredible atmospheres in all of sport, “Dawg Nation” knows a thing or two about tailgating. Before every home game a sea of them flock to Sanford Stadium - painting Athens red and black and filling the crisp fall air with smoke from their grills. Put simply, if a UGA tailgate isn’t on your bucket list - it’s time for a rewrite.
Those Trojans know how to throw a party! California might not be the first place you’d think of when it comes to college tailgating - but USC is bucking that trend thanks to their friendly fans, great food and iconic surroundings. Of course, the weather here helps too, as does the stardust that’s regularly sprinkled on Trojan tailgates with celebrity fans like Will Ferrell in attendance.
Data was gathered from multiple sources including ESPN, Statisa, Tripadvisor and more to look deeper into the top teams in the NFL and College football for tailgating. ESPN's rankings were used to find the top 10 college teams currently.
This information was based on multiple metrics, including the weather, Tripadvisor reviews for food and tailgating, stadium capacity and average attendance figures, as well as ticket prices. This was then put into an index to show an overall view of which are the top teams in the NFL and college football for tailgating.
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