Ranking All 32 NFL Teams For Tailgating

crazy-tailgating.jpgEarlier this month Sports Illustrated rated the game day atmosphere for all 32 NFL franchises using a litany of criteria to determine the best experience in the National Football League. SI graded each team and its city based on seven criteria; ticket prices and availability, food and souvenirs, stadium accessibility, the team’s 2007 performance, the neighborhood of the stadium, overall stadium atmosphere and of course tailgating. Each category was judged on a scale of one to 10. Based on the above mentioned criteria, The Green Bay Packers graded out on top racking up a final score of 54 out of a possible 70. That’s all well and good but we here at TailgatingIdeas.com only care about the tailgating experience. Hard core tailgaters don’t mind if their team is not doing so well or the costs of a souvenir inside the stadium. True tailgaters care about three things: parking costs, stadium accessibility and the overall tailgating atmosphere. We have taken the time to reevaluate the rankings and have tossed out the meaningless criteria that does not apply to the tailgater. With a maximum score of 20 available, will Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers still come out on top? The results may surprise you.

Seeing how we used only two of the seven criteria used by Sports Illustrated there were a number of stadiums and teams that ended up with the same score out of a possible 20 points. Rather than try to break ties based on other criteria the teams are listed here by their overall score based on stadium accessibility and tailgating as judged by the writers of the SI article. In the interest of fairness those teams that ended up with a tied score are listed alphabetically based on their city name.

For the complete rankings with all seven criteria included, make sure to read the entire article from SI.com.

Kansas City ChiefsArrowhead Stadium
Parking Fees – $18
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – The commute to the game is relatively light because of the large number of tailgaters who have already been on-site for 3-4 hours. While that allows for a relatively smooth ride for many, it makes for slow traffic 45 minutes before the gates to the parking lot open. The big problem is after the game and the parking lot backs up for at least 30 minutes following the game and can leave one stuck for hours.
Tailgating Score: 10 out of 10
Reason – Tailgating in Kansas city is the most important social event of each weekend during the football season. Everyone brings their grills and smokers, and by 9 a.m., the sky is covered in a thin layer of barbecue-flavored smoke. K.C. tailgating turns a three-hour game into a six-hour event where people who don’t have tickets will go and set up a big screen TV in the parking lot just to have the crowd noise in the background.
Total Score = 15 of 20

Oakland RaidersMcAfee Coliseum
Parking Fees – $20
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – If using your own vehicle, the commute can take awhile due to the volume of other cars. The freeway exits near the stadium are poorly designed for the amount of cars that crowd the area on game days. Despite easy access to two freeways, leaving at the same time 40,000-50,000 fans are spilling onto the streets still takes tremendous patience.
Tailgating Score: 9 out of 10
Reason – Belying the scary reputation of Raiders fans, tailgaters are actually a really friendly bunch if you get them to open up a bit. These being Raiders fans, the atmosphere strikes some as Halloween for adults, more like a colorful scene although the team colors are silver and black. It’s a mix between a Rick James and a Tupac video. With a three-ring circus of tailgating this diverse, it’s no surprise some line up as early as Friday to get a prime spot on Sunday.
Total Score = 15 of 20

Philadelphia EaglesLincoln Financial Field
Parking Fees – $10
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – Two major Interstates (I-95 & I-76) lead to the stadium but the sheer volume of cars can make the commute just awful. Taking the subway helps but if you plan to drive and tailgate there seems little escape from the gridlock of leaving the stadium.
Tailgating Score: 9 out of 10
Reason – Starting at dawn and running non-stop all day, the Eagles tailgate features heavy drinking and lots of food from large, 100-person groups to two-man get-togethers. The festive atmosphere is punctuated with guys dressed like Andy Reid, people singing the Eagles fight song and Terrell Owens is burned in effigy. Even if you don’t have tickets, the party is good enough to show up for.
Total Score = 15 of 20

Baltimore RavensM&T Bank Stadium
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – With exits directly into the parking lots off of I-95 and numerous downtown streets leading right up to the stadium it’s easy to drive into the stadium. There’s plenty of parking at a lot shared with Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Tailgating Score: 8 out of 10
Reason – Tailgates offer regional food such as crab cakes and oysters or more traditional fare such as hamburgers and ribs, and even pancakes in the mornings. In Baltimore, it’s not about the food; it’s about meeting like-minded friends and having a party.

Total Score = 14 of 20

Buffalo BillsRalph Wilson Stadium
Parking Fees – $20
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Situated about 20 minutes outside of the city, the stadium doesn’t offer much in the way of public transit, so it’s all cars. Parking is never a problem in either the decently sized stadium lot or in the mini parking lots which consists of the homes surrounding the stadium set up, where most people pay $5-$10 to park on someone’s lawn. The commute home is a whole different story making normally a 20-minute drive take an hour and a half.
Tailgating Score: 9 out of 10
Reason – Some people park their campers and RVs as early as Friday for a Sunday early afternoon game… and leave the day after the game. For many, a tailgate that some estimate draws twice as many people in the lots as the stadium, is one of the top 50 things you have to do before you die. With large lots surrounding the stadium, the unbelievable scene spreads in a 360-degree circle around the facility. Touch football games can be found in every aisle, and special tailgate vehicles with built-in grills, sound systems and hot tubs on flatbed trailers make the rounds.
Total Score = 14 of 20

Carolina PanthersBank of America Stadium
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – The stadium offers 4,000 spaces to season-ticket holders, but does not control any other locations that includes smaller lots scattered over multiple locations. A 15-minute
walk and you can find free parking and an easier route home after the game.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – A slow building tradition, tailgating has struggled to take hold because there isn’t a big parking lot next to the stadium where everyone congregates. Parking lots are scattered around the stadium, so there is little tailgating continuity. However, each lot seems to have its own vibe.
Total Score = 14 of 20

Cleveland BrownsCleveland Browns Stadium
Parking Fees – $20
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – The commute is very easy to the stadium. Multiple highways lead to many parking lots, which may be accessed even easier via surface streets. Leaving after the game is a bigger problem. The stadium is on the lake, so 60,000 people all have to go south at once.
Tailgating Score: 8 out of 10
Reason – With no official stadium parking, people are tailgating everywhere you look, from the west side to the east side. tailgating in Cleveland is described as ‘mayhem and full bellies no matter the weather.
Total Score = 14 of 20

Green Bay PackersLambeau Field
Parking Fees – $30
Accessibility Score: 4 out of 10
Reason – No public transportation, Town of 100,000 does not have the best infrastructure to handle a large influx of fans on game day.
Tailgating Score: 10 out of 10
Reason – Not uncommon to see people setting up at 7 am for a noon kick-off. Multiple bathrooms outside the stadium built solely for tailgaters. The stadium lot regularly is full three to four hours before the game.
Total Score = 14 of 20

DicksSportingGoods.com

Pittsburgh SteelersHeinz Field
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – The three rivers and extensive number of bridges can make getting from place to place around Pittsburgh a little bit of a hassle. On-site parking difficult to obtain without a permit.
Tailgating Score: 9 out of 10
Reason – No matter the weather, there are people grilling dogs and putting away cold ones all morning. You could go down to the stadium without any food or beer and still go into the game full and drunk.
Total Score = 14 of 20

Cincinnati BengalsPaul Brown Stadium
Parking Fees – $21
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – The stadium is downtown, so fans can arrive from N/S/E/W, which prevents major congestion. Inexpensive parking close to the stadium isn’t easy to find, but there is plenty downtown within 8-10 blocks. Additionally, parking across the Ohio River in Kentucky and walking across the suspension bridge makes the commute easy. A water taxi and a $1.00 shuttle bus ride also offers easy access. While public transportation is relatively limited, Bengals Express buses offer rides in from the Cincinnati suburbs that couldn’t be any easier. Leaving the game is always a bear, but with several routes in and out of the city, it’s never too bad.
Tailgating Score: 8 out of 10
Reason – Until recently, tailgating was the only reason to go to the stadium. With parking near the stadium pricey and limited to season-pass holders, the tailgating scene covers about a square mile in many far-flung locations. Dispersed from absolutely phenomenal Longworth Hall — an old railroad building about twice the length of the stadium — to a huge parking lot next to a gravel pit, Bengals tailgating is a mix between Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. People have ambulances painted orange and black, grills are cooking classic Midwestern fare (brats, burgers, chili, etc.) and lots of alcohol is around. Games of parking lot football abound, as do games of cornhole, a bean bag toss game similar to horseshoes named as such because the bean bags are filled with corn. The festive atmosphere stretching a mile in both directions along the river has gained a following so intense that Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson himself has even walked about the tailgates for the experience.
Total Score = 13 of 20

Denver BroncosINVESCO Field at Mile High
Parking Fees – $20
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – There is precious little parking in and around the stadium, and you are going to have to pay an arm or a leg for what is there. Getting home from a game is terrible because nobody leaves early and the freeway entrances are clogged, leaving you in a long, one-lane line from your parking spot to the freeway.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Since you need a parking pass for the stadium lot, tailgaters spread to outlying lots and neighborhoods around the stadium, turning game days into a multiple block party. Each lot has its own fans who have tailgated for years together and their own unique foods. Though no kegs are allowed, there is lots of Fat Tire beer, a regional microbrew.
Total Score = 13 of 20

Houston TexansReliant Stadium
Parking Fees – $15
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – Given the circumstances that Houston traffic is awful as it is, but throw in 75,000 people cramming into one large parking lot with three entrances, congestion is almost unavoidable. Most have found the easiest way to avoid the congestion is simply to arrive very early for tailgating and avoid the after-game traffic by having a drink or looking through the stores.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Given that tailgating was prohibited when the Oilers were in town, people now have jumped on the opportunity to tailgate. The stadium has taken note of that, and the new Texas phenomenon is highly encouraged by the Texans organization. Tailgaters allowed to purchase parking passes even if they don’t have game tickets. Tailgater of the Week and Tailgater of the Year have become very prestigious awards to receive.
Total Score = 13 of 20

Footlocker.com

Jacksonville JaguarsMunicipal Stadium
Parking Fees – $10
Accessibility Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Although the stadium is located in the heart of downtown, traffic flows surprisingly well in and out. Many roads lead into and out of the stadium and a lot of the streets become one way before or following a game. There is plenty of free parking within walking distance of the stadium. Should you hope to avoid traffic altogether, a water taxi from Jacksonville Landing on the St. John’s River takes you to and from the game with ease.
Tailgating Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – The laid-back scene has the potential to rock, week-in, week-out, but it needs more dedicated early risers. A lot of people roll in after church or after having been to a Florida or a Florida State game the day before and don’t want to get up earlier. Once awake, many fans find the best tailgating occurs the farther away you get from the stadium at the private grass lots on the river.For a city that holds the ‘World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party’ [at the Florida-Georgia game], it’s clear the Jags draw a much milder tailgate scene in comparison.
Total Score = 13 of 20

St. Louis RamsEdward Jones Dome
Parking Fees – $5
Accessibility Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – St. Louis is a relatively small ‘big city,’ so the traffic isn’t what you would expect from a New York or Chicago. The Dome’s location on the north side of downtown makes for a lot of one-way streets, and surface parking space near the stadium can cost a premium. Traffic is spread out by the number of different highways and routes that converge in downtown St. Louis, although the city doesn’t seem to do much to combat game day congestion except for a couple of traffic cops. Generally a straightforward commute, travel to the Dome is complicated by all the godforsaken construction taking place, an issue that will likely get worse with the anticipated shutdown of Highway 40. The city’s light rail system, Metrolink, helps with traffic and the difficulty of parking at a stadium without its own lot. The Metro pretty much goes directly to the stadium, which makes getting to the game really easy, if somewhat crowded.
Tailgating Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – Tailgates are disjointed from each other, a result of the stadium not having a large lot of its own and from the tearing down of the biggest and best lot for another casino. Consequently, you have to pick and choose from several smaller lots scattered around the [area], from church parking lots to parks to shopping centers to garages. Many readily admit the scene pales in comparison to K.C., however it is still pretty active. Some groups come in decked-out motorhomes and set-up couches and TVs in the parking lot; some show up late, cook a hamburger or a brat and call it a tailgate.
Total Score = 13 of 20

Arizona CardinalsUniversity of Phoenix Stadium
Parking Fees – $10
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Given that the stadium was built west of Phoenix in Glendale, the 101 freeway takes fans practically right up to the parking lot. For the most part, traffic flows well into the stadium and one can be on the way home in 15-20 minutes. The stadium, in the minds of many, is kind of in the middle of nowhere, requiring a 40-plus minute drive for a good percentage of the fans. Parking can be a bit of a hassle due to a lack of parking close to the stadium for those who are not season-ticket holders.
Tailgating Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Being that last year was the first for the Cardinals at the new stadium, there were a lot of rookie tailgates out there, but they are improving. It’s no Kansas City, but there is a good atmosphere, despite temperatures of more than 100 degrees outside the stadium. A designated tailgating area that is all green grass helps cut down on the Arizona heat. A live band on the ‘Great Lawn’ for each game is a nice added touch, but fans in Phoenix just need time to develop their own style of tailgating for this scene to gain its own flavor.
Total Score = 12 of 20

Chicago BearsSoldier Field
Parking Fees – $40
Accessibility Score: 4 out of 10
Reason – Driving is a pain, especially if you decide to drive in and out of the stadium directly and attempt to use Soldier Field parking without pre-assigned passes. Be warned, there isn’t much on-site parking, so many park at nearby lots at Millennium Park or McCormick Place and take cheap buses that run to the stadium. some feel that what makes the commute easy is being there four hours early.
Tailgating Score: 8 out of 10
Reason – Despite pricey parking passes nearly impossible to come by, that doesn’t stop grills from firing up four hours before the game. The best tailgating is actually a mile or so away in other lots, where a huge sea of barbecue smoke covers an army of navy and orange-clad fans sharing food and drinks with their neighbors as footballs sail through the air.
Total Score = 12 of 20

Teamstore.com

Indianapolis ColtsRCA Dome
Parking Fees – $10
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – The stadium is in the heart of downtown but local police have traffic direction for big downtown events down to a science. A sufficient of parking surrounding the stadium makes for a walk of no more than five minutes.
Tailgating Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – A small but lively tailgating scene in the lot just south of the RCA Dome has been scattered now that the lot has been shutdown to build Lucas Oil Stadium. Further hampering tailgate efforts is the fact that the stadium is downtown close to many bars and restaurants.
Total Score = 12 of 20

Miami DolphinsDolphins Stadium
Parking Fees – $18
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – There is lots of traffic, but lots of roads, too. The stadium is located just off of two major expressways [I-95 and the Florida Turnpike], and the exit off the turnpike goes right into the parking lot. That being the case, the exit ramp tends to get congested, leaving many searching for parking 5-10 blocks away because the lots are often full as of 9 a.m. Those auxiliary lots cause heavy traffic on the way out, but once you get past getting out of the stadium, the traffic is easy.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Perhaps the greatest handicap facing this good, but not great scene that doesn’t really get going until two hours before the game is Miami itself: There is quite a bit to do in Miami on a Saturday night; it’s hard to start tailgating at 9 a.m. Sunday. Those who can open their eyes will be treated to a Latin-influenced menu including roasted pork, grilled shrimp and cooked beef. As it can get boiling hot in the early season, there is a lot of hardcore drinking while kicking back in an area with enough room, with no interference from other tailgaters.
Total Score = 12 of 20

San Diego ChargersQualcomm Stadium
Parking Fees – $20
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Access is plentiful, but so are the drivers. Qualcomm is easily reached by car in theory. If you can get to the park early, there is no stress, but an hour or two before game time, prepare to act like a baby not getting that piece of candy. With three major freeways merging in a matter of a one-mile stretch, the gridlock on those freeways and roads leading in and out of the stadium can be unbearable Further exacerbating the headache is a parking lot that is very expensive, has too few attendants and fills to capacity well before the game.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – There’s lots of room, lots of beer and lots of girls in bikinis. The great San Diego weather makes it easy for people to grill and lay out in the sun for hours before the game. Many tailgating veterans long for the days before a tailgating section was created in the outer ring of the parking lot and RVs weren’t charged an outrageous price. Most find it a pretty good experience, with lots of good food, great weather and great-looking women.
Total Score = 12 of 20

Tennessee TitansLP Field
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Bottlenecks getting on and off the interstates and the extremely poor design of the area around the stadium create gridlock and a generally dreadful traffic situation. With Nashville’s public transportation lacking and the lots near LP Field restricted to club and suite members, most fans recommend parking on the opposite side of the river and crossing one of the two pedestrian bridges to the stadium area.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – For those select fans with LP Field parking permits, tailgating is a giant block party with lots of regulars and excellent food in varied styles. Those without parking passes take advantage of the pub crawl atmosphere around Nashville’s downtown bar and restaurant scene located just across the river.
Total Score = 12 of 20

Championcatalog.com (Sara Lee)

Atlanta FalconsGeorgia Dome
Parking Fees – $10
Accessibility Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – Traffic in Atlanta is always horrible; on game days it is 10 times worse. Though the Dome is situated in the city — so expressway access is superb — with so many people trying to get off it feels like everybody just got off work on a Friday afternoon. If you know your way around town, of course, it is an easy commute. Parking at the stadium is limited, but scattered parking garages are within walking distance of the dome. Since most of the roads are bumper-to-bumper leaving the game, taking MARTA [Atlanta’s subway train system] saves massive headaches. The trains get very crowded, but with two stops right outside the Dome it’s easy to avoid traffic.
Tailgating Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – It’s pretty difficult to tailgate at a stadium without a large parking lot close by. Most folks tailgate in vacant lots up to a quarter mile from the stadium, so if you want to pull out a few chairs, drinks and eat out of a picnic basket, that’s pretty easy. If you want to grill and really spread out, that’s not easy at all. An abandoned rail station across from the stadium known as ‘the Gulch’ is the place to be. But many find the location under a highway overpass not very inviting. The alternatives are spread out over many parking lots, are small and hard to get to. That doesn’t stop some motivated souls from deep-frying a turkey or serving up soul food mixed with ribs and barbecue.
Total Score = 11 of 20

New England PatriotsGillette Stadium
Parking Fees – $40
Accessibility Score: 3 out of 10
Reason – Foxboro simply does not have the roads to accommodate the levels of traffic on game day. Luxury box owners or a season-ticket holders from Foxboro can use a special access road that allows for easier entrance and exit. Otherwise traffic is horrible getting in or out of Gillette Stadium.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Patriots fans come early and stay late possibly due to the fact they know how bad the traffic is. The friendly atmosphere lends the feast a sense of mass buffet, where ribs can be traded for T-bone steaks, and jalapeno peppers for three gallons of gas. This atmosphere doesn’t come without a sky-high price to park but they set you up with plenty of space, and some spots can be purchased that have electricity, cable and a grill.
Total Score = 11 of 20

New Orleans SaintsNew Orleans Superdome
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – The stadium is smack dab in the middle of downtown, so there is a plethora of convenient routes that will get you to the party with relative ease. If you go early, there’s no traffic; if you go [two hours before game time], you will be sitting in [your car] for a while. Parking at the Superdome is limited to 5,200 in a garage and isn’t open to just anyone.
Tailgating Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – The Superdome is downtown with no stadium-owned open parking areas, there is little-to-no space for traditional tailgate parties. Some people still find spaces to do it, such as on the roof of the parking garage or on lots a few blocks away from the stadium. With too many alternatives in the form of bars and restaurants nearby, many feel it’s best to wait for the game to start in a local bar around the stadium.
Total Score = 11 of 20

Seattle SeahawksQwest Field
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Two interstates and another highway serve the area around the stadium but at which the speed the Seattle traffic moves, the freeways might as well be parking lots. There is very limited parking in the nearest areas around the stadium, making it hard to find close parking without shelling out the cost of another ticket.
Tailgating Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – Tailgating at the designated lot north of the stadium is tiny and heavily policed. The real tailgating action is in an area about a block away from the stadium called Tailgater’s Heaven. Limited parking discourages tailgating and many would rather go to a local bar prior to the game.
Total Score = 11 of 20

Champs Sports

Tampa Bay BuccaneersRaymond James Stadium
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 4 out of 10
Reason – Getting to Raymond James Stadium is easy if you know the back streets and come early. That isn’t to say being close to all the major highways going into Tampa is a detriment to the facility. Fans can take advantage of the friendly homes around the stadium that will let you park in their yards for $5-$10 instead of $25 at the stadium. Keep track of those side streets, as getting home can be disorienting because police block off roads that would alleviate traffic congestion and funnel all the traffic in one direction.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Parking is limited to season-pass holders. The 1999 closing of Al Lopez Park, an area across from the stadium with lots of trees and bathrooms, to tailgating has caused the pre-game tailgate has become more widespread. And though fans seem to enjoy the festive atmosphere, the Bucs can’t hope to compete in a state where college football and all its accouterments is king.
Total Score = 11 of 20

Detroit LionsFord Field
Parking Fees – $10
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Parking is spread throughout the city from a parking garage next to Ford Field to private lots further away. without a lot of reasons to be heading down to Detroit on a Sunday morning besides going to a Lions game, traffic is pretty laid back.
Tailgating Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Since the stadium doesn’t have a single, large parking lot, there are no central places for people to gather, so tailgating is a random affair. Main tailgaters congregate at the Eastern Market a few blocks away but others will find small enclaves of civilization sitting around small fires and cooking meat at abandoned lots or among burned-out buildings.
Total Score = 10 of 20

San Francisco 49ersMonster Park
Parking Fees – $25
Accessibility Score: 4 out of 10
Reason – Getting to and from the stadium is a painful experience. Traffic getting over the bridge into San Francisco is insane, and once you get to the game it is an unorganized mess of cars trying to get into the stadium. Travel from Highway 101 merge[s] into only two lanes in each direction from the one exit off the highway, which generates waits as long as two hours sometimes just to leave the game. Fans can take surface streets through the neighborhoods around the stadium, but some caution the journey is a long, slow drive on narrow, one-way streets through a scary neighborhood. Public transit is limited to the bus system, which some find effective.
Tailgating Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – The scene is mellow, but good, complete with an impromptu award for the best set-up each game. Tiny parking spaces force tailgaters to limit their spreads, and if it rains, the parking lot soon becomes home to a bunch of muddy, small lakes. Still, in recent years, it has been more fun to tailgate than to watch the Niners inside. Thanks to the diversity of San Francisco, you can find food from all over the world, from Hawaiian barbecue to boiled crabs to stuffed mushrooms to Napa Valley wine paired with triple-cream French brie.
Total Score = 10 of 20

Washington RedskinsFedEx Field
Parking Fees – $35
Accessibility Score: 3 out of 10
Reason – In a city of dreadful commutes, this one deserves a medal for willful intent. If you drive, you’ll sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on 495, otherwise known as the Capital Beltway. If you’re not a season-ticket holder, you can’t park in the stadium lot, which means you’ll have to pay $30 to park in one of the satellite lots a mile away, or more. Then you have to catch a shuttle bus to the stadium, a process that can take an hour. After the game you wait in line for 45 minutes to get ON the bus to take you back to the parking lot. Then you sit on the bus in insane traffic for an hour to get back to the lot. Then you still have to drive home, sharing the road with 90,000-plus fans. At least stadium personnel seem to have the traffic logistics worked out well… and there’s lot of information and traffic reports on game day. In theory, the Metro (Washington’s rapid transit system) makes the game accessible for those who don’t wish to drive, but it isn’t convenient because the almost two-mile walk from the station is a bit lengthy. Simply put, plan to get there hours ahead.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Despite the fact that you are almost forced to tailgate because of the horrendous traffic getting into and out of the stadium it sometimes is the best part of the game considering the way the past decade has gone for the ‘Skins. As stadium parking is limited to season-ticket holders, the more your tickets cost, the closer you are to the stadium; the closer to the stadium you are, the more extravagant the tailgating becomes as fans in the satellite lots are scurrying to get to the stadium in time. For those who have time, the scene is pretty good. You can find [everything from] shrimp and wine to hot dogs and beer, and there is lots of barbecuing. While many find this to be a friendly atmosphere with good food and a common disdain for both [owner Daniel] Snyder and whomever the opponent happens to be, often there is little interaction between [different] groups. [Stadium personnel] won’t let you spread out beyond your space; they patrol the lots and give you grief for a number of minor things. Bringing a bucket of chicken and a cooler [sometimes] is all you have room for. With sitting in traffic, one of the few alternatives, fans have little choice but to get there early and tailgate all day.
Total Score = 10 of 20

Dallas CowboysTexas Stadium
Parking Fees – $12
Accessibility Score: 3 out of 10
Reason – In theory, getting to the game should be easy as Texas Stadium sits at the intersection of three major freeways. But getting in and out of the parking lots resembles Dante’s first circle of hell, backing up traffic onto the highways for miles in every direction. With few entrances, lots of pedestrian traffic and multiple parking zones that unintentionally encourage a lot of loop de loop driving, it can easily take more than 90 minutes to finally park once you hit game time traffic. Adding to the misery is the possibility of a walk of more than a mile if you don’t have a pre-paid parking pass and are sent to one of the distant, unpaved lots. Getting out is no easier for many. Parking lots don’t have enough exits and the police direct you to certain highways, often not of your own choosing. Unfortunately, there seems little alternative to taking your commuting medicine since buses are too few and there are no trains/subways to the stadium.
Tailgating Score: 6 out of 10
Reason – There aren’t as many tailgaters as at other stadiums. However, those who [do] have VERY good food, TV (even satellite) and often are willing to share with strangers. In many ways, the Dallas scene is still in its embryonic stages after a ban was lifted on open flames in the parking lots in 1999. Now, a virtual smoke screen arises from around the stadium, even at some of the remote lots. Everything from beef to chicken to vegetables is prepared. And during the annual Thanksgiving Day game, the Cowboys Corral, a group that organizes game experience packages for fans, offers rows of tables with a feast that is unimaginable. Though spread across the stadium’s vast array of lots, tailgating at the famed Blue Lot is where you see your stadium family. The beer is always cold, footballs are being thrown, pregame shows are being watched … and you will meet people from all over the country [and the world sometimes] who have come to see the Cowboys.
Total Score = 9 of 20

Minnesota VikingsHHH Metrodome
Parking Fees – $18
Accessibility Score: 5 out of 10
Reason – Getting into Minneapolis isn’t too bad since the Metrodome is located in an area where several major highways come into downtown. Traffic near the stadium is not awful, but it is generally congested with people trying to jam onto one-way streets searching for parking spots due to the fact that there is no one central parking area. There are plenty of smaller lots near the stadium, but if you don’t arrive early enough or aren’t willing to pay enough, you better bring your walking shoes. While the diversification of parking locations helps because not everyone is in line to get into the same parking lot, in winter, a long walk to the Metrodome isn’t fun, especially if you just paid $15 and have to walk eight blocks. A new light-rail commuter system has improved traffic, but you can sit there for 30-plus minutes to get on the train and then you are packed in like sardines. Considering it can take a half-hour to get to your car anyway before jumping into the brutal traffic out of downtown, perhaps squeezing into a train isn’t so bad an option after all.
Tailgating Score: 4 out of 10
Reason – People would love to tailgate more, but parking is so spread out, it’s difficult to get a big party going consistently each week. Moreover, many of the lots once located around the Metrodome have been developed with condos … over the past 5-6 years. The official lot moved about half-a-mile away behind the Target Center, and requires a [free] bus or light rail to get back to the dome. However, now that the Twins’ news stadium is being built there, tailgating is even more fragmented, forcing fans to set up wherever they can park. This is a sad legacy for a fan base accustomed to all-day barbecues at the old Metropolitan Stadium and still pack available lots with purple and gold flags, blaring music and beer and brats even in the middle of winter when it’s 10-below.
Total Score = 9 of 20

New York GiantsGiants Stadium
Parking Fees – $15
Accessibility Score: 2 out of 10
Reason – From the sheer volume of cars to the drivers who think lane lines are suggestions to the confusing signage that can easily have you heading in the wrong direction if you’re not careful, getting to and from Giants Stadium is an exercise in stress management. With multiple routes that can be taken, if you leave early enough, driving to the Meadowlands is not a problem, although going over any of the bridges in NYC and sitting in traffic is beyond painful. On the way in, the parking lot is full of police and security who direct traffic through poorly designed lots. A bad situation has become even worse this season with the loss of 5,000 spaces due to construction of a new stadium, scheduled to open in 2010. Those without season-parking passes have been re-routed to satellite lots two miles away, requiring a shuttle bus ride to the stadium. Trying to get out is a nightmare. Parking attendants who should be directing traffic just sit and watch, and there are too few exits out of the parking lots. Public transportation isn’t easy, either. Trains don’t travel there, and a bus to and from New York City’s Port Authority is cheaper, but often gets stuck in the same traffic as the thousands of cars leaving the game.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Both sides of the extreme are represented here, from those who come with a standard grill to quite a few motorhomes, as well. Every tailgate is professionally done; if you tailgate at Giants Stadium, you learned how to do it from your father. The menu is diverse, ranging from hamburgers and hot dogs to shrimp, lobster and steak. The scene is rowdy but controlled. Sure, some burn jerseys of the opposing team every week; others, though, drink, eat, toss the football around and give a little guff to opposing fans in a light-hearted manner. New York attitudes cool off when you’re tailgating, and it starts off by 7 a.m. for a 1 p.m. game. This year will be a challenge because the Xanadu sports complex (a developing entertainment complex that will include a new stadium for the Giants and Jets to share) will surely cut into the available tailgating scene. In addition to the loss of on-site parking spaces, a satellite lot has already been ruled off limits to tailgating.
Total Score = 9 of 20

New York JetsGiants Stadium
Parking Fees – $15
Accessibility Score: 2 out of 10
Reason – Assuming one can navigate the confusing roads, getting to New Jersey is no problem, but areas around the stadium become congested quickly. A lack of entrances to the stadium creates immense bottlenecking, and the parking lot is so poorly organized it’s ridiculous. That frustration likely has grown this season, as all non-season parking pass holders have been relegated to satellite lots and shuttle buses, a side effect of having 5,000 stadium spaces elminated to make way for a new shared stadium with the Giants, set to open in 2010. There isn’t much relief to be found on mass transit, which only offers shuttle bus service to and from the Port Authority bus terminal and can take forever when you want to leave. That might be a little faster than trying to escape in a car. Huge traffic tie-ups, poor signage and drunken tailgaters careening around the parking lot make for hours of high-blood pressure with your foot bouncing on and off the brake. It can take two hours after the game for traffic inside the lot to ease up, however if you park on the outskirts of the lot and are willing to walk 10 minutes to get to the gates, that is not a bad alternative.
Tailgating Score: 7 out of 10
Reason – Despite the fact that there isn’t really any regional cuisine, this is a very underrated scene. You can have your typical burgers or dogs and a lot of high-quality Italian-style barbecue. Some class it up, though, with everything from a rib eye steak with roasted red pepper mayonnaise to a lobster boil to filet mignon to shrimp cocktail. Classy or classic, the parking lot fills up early with plenty of tents and the smell of charcoal. A lot of interesting vehicles also make the rounds, be it a renovated school bus or an extravagant RV. Considering food selection in the stadium is poor and the prices high, tailgating is a necessity, and an event in which the friendly participants willingly throw a beer or burger your way if you are alone or with a date. Unfortunately, the Jets also are throwing something this season — large groups of fans out of lots now dedicated to the construction of the new stadium. Remote lots a few miles away offer a place to park, but not a place to tailgate, as local police will frequently remind you. With the rush to leave the game creating a traffic nightmare, the post-game tailgate also is becoming a staple for those lucky enough to have a prime spot.
Total Score = 9 of 20

For the complete rankings with all seven criteria included, make sure to read the entire article from SI.com.

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One Response to “Ranking All 32 NFL Teams For Tailgating”

  1. <path_to_url> RaiderHater

    Went to Seattle Recently and the tailgating scene is not all that great.. Much props to the small area called Tailgater’s Heaven..

    Definitely if anyone goes up there to tailgate. Be prepared for the weather… It can get ugly at times….