You may still be lamenting the swift coming and going of the too-short summer months (don't worry, we're right there with you), but fall signals the moment we've been holding our breaths for since spring-football season. It's time to break out the war paint and replace those bathing suits with multicolored jerseys as game day madness assumes its rightful place in our lives once again. We all know that the secret to a truly successful and satisfying football experience lies just as much in the preparation as the actual event. In the spirit of team pride and community fun, we've assumed our game faces and rounded up the 13 best tailgating destinations in the country for some top notch inspiration to celebrate the season.
Grade-A hot wings and buckets of homemade chili aren't the only reasons to enlist yourself in the "Bills Army" prior to the big game. New York's Ralph Wilson Stadium offers one of the biggest lots in the country for the practice of tailgating, even housing different factions of tailgating experiences, including specified sections for car, bus, RV and-yes, you're reading correctly-even limousine tailgating. Any city that provides a special place for fans to tailgate with limos coasts its way to the top of our list.
In the spirit of game day rivalry, notoriously good-natured Broncos fans even turn tailgating into a friendly and exciting competition, hosting their "Most Valuable Tailgater" program, which celebrates above-and-beyond fan displays with the VIP of pre-game experiences, throwing them an exclusive party at the "MVT pad," giving them six tickets and three parking passes to the next home game and entering them into the biggest competition of them all: the coveted and highly esteemed Tailgater of the Year award, which has, in previous seasons, included trips to the Football Hall of Fame and Las Vegas.
They say everything's bigger and better in Texas, and that does not exclude major sporting events like the raucous and enthusiastic tailgating before the Texans take the field. Game-goers will be instantly engulfed in a sea of true-to-form local folk, clad in the best of cowboy and team spirit attire that will undoubtedly solidify the authenticity of the experience. Large tailgating groups and extravagant parties are not a problem within the spacious combined lots of the Reliant Stadium and Astrodome. And don't forget the real treat of the entire experience-Texas-sized steaks, ribs and jalapeno poppers added for good measure.
One of the greatest aspects of the Dolphins' electric tailgating atmosphere is the diversity it brings in not only terms of fan heritage, ethnicity and cuisine, but also team support. With much of Miami's population being transfers from around the country, you're virtually guaranteed to find someone who supports your home team among the crowds of tailgaters, many of whom can be seen keeping tabs on other games occurring that day while celebrating their city's team to the hilt. The unique culinary blend features a variety of rich Cuban favorites-oh, and unlike most other favorite NFL or college football locales throughout the country, you're free to sport your favorite game-day shorts and flip-flops in the middle of January.
In addition to consuming the best seafood the Florida coast has to offer alongside standard beef-filled game-day far, Buccaneers supporters can pay $30 to become part of the official Bucs tailgate, which includes unlimited food, two drink tickets, and the chance to take photos and get autographs from all the team players and coaches, all while a live band energizes the already buzzing atmosphere.
The most basic of football tailgating knowledge holds that the two most important factors of the ultimate tailgating experience are food and family-friendly fun activities, and Cincinnati has no shortage of either. Called by team officials and enthusiasts the cornhole capital of the world, the Bengals' pre-kickoff festivities invite fans to participate in one of the professional sporting world's favorite games. The city is also known for its life-altering chili recipe, which includes cinnamon and unsweetened chocolate to make your eager taste buds explode.
One of the huge draws to this must-experience tailgating destination is the surplus of local microbrews available to fans throughout the day-forget cheap fraternity favorites. Speaking of a great beer selection, this crowd-favorite aspect translates over to the popularity of the Cleveland Browns' signature game-day dish-a whole chicken with a can of beer positioned right in the center for a real two-for-one kind of game-day experience.
When the Wolverines play, the entire city stops to watch-literally. Breaking out the maize-and-blue merch means Ann Arbor's statewide rankings get a boost to the second largest city in the entire state each Saturday the team kicks off. The community of super fans who rally together to support their team is so large, in fact, that in 2010 it was recorded that when Michigan played Notre Dame, the number of fans packed into the stadium was greater by nearly 1,000 than the number of residents living in the entire city of Ann Arbor. If that doesn't make for one unforgettable tailgating experience, we don't know what does.
Notorious throughout the country as one of the top schools for pre-game partying, Ole Miss University's premiere tailgating locale, known as the Grove, has gained worldwide fame as a must-experience destination for diehards out there looking for top notch beer, brats, burgers and brotherly camaraderie. It truly is a decadent affair to remember, with the red-and-blue-clad collective of students, alumni, and loyal families sporting their Sunday best while lining up their tents and vehicles as soon as the day before the game itself. A New York Times article described it most aptly, calling the atmosphere "every kind of party you can describe, at once: cocktail party, dinner party, tailgate picnic party, fraternity and sorority rush, family reunion, political hand grab, gala and networking party-heartyu2026"
Ever seen a Bengali-Siberian tiger paraded around a crowd of avid sports enthusiasts grilling the best the Cajun South has to offer while guzzling beers and teeming with game-day mania? Well, head to one of the many party-style tailgating extravaganzas hosted by the boisterous fan base at Louisiana State University and you may just catch a glimpse of Mike, the team's beloved-and fierce-as-the-fans-mascot.
It's no national secret that Tide fans put their all into game-day spirit, and, true to the Southern way, are known far and wide for the incredible culinary experience they offer to the hundreds of thousands of supporters who join in celebration of one of the nation's top-ranked teams in the SEC. There's even a published Alabama Tailgate Cookbook, if that tells you anything.
What kicks off a full day before the game even happens instantly becomes one of the most fun-and-community-filled events in the sporting realm. Tailgaters are guaranteed great eats, lots of pre-game activities and even the ritual Tiger Walk, the ceremonious parade to the stadium where fans and players become one entity as everyone gears up for a (hopeful) big win. And the community antics don't stop at kick-off-a win for the team means toilet papering Toomer's Corner, the historical and symbolic section of campus that links the school with the city of Auburn.
Alright, so maybe Washington's team doesn't have the greatest track record in terms of accumulated wins, but their fandom's unique spin on tailgating is certainly one not to be missed. With the stadium situated alongside the glistening Lake Washington, many of the throngs of game-goers host what's widely referred to as sail-gating (or stern-gating, if you want to get technical), which is exactly as swanky and interesting as it sounds. Rows of party-laden yachts line the crowded docks and turn a standard pre-game tradition into a maritime affair to remember.
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