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Get Outta Town! Ranking All 32 NFL Road Trips

They're all good in their own way, but some are better than others. We list every National Football League city, along with detailed advice to help you plan your next gridiron getaway.

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Of all the perks of working in the National Football League, traveling is among my favorites. Over the past 16 years, I've been privileged to journey with the Patriots to more than 150 road games as part of my job responsibilities with what we now refer to as the team's content production department.

This means that, with the exception of Los Angeles (I never got to see a game in St. Louis when the Rams organization was based there, either) I've been to every NFL destination – including the international ones – at least once, and, in many cases, on numerous occasions, for various lengths of time. And while I've yet to see a game at the Raiders' glamorous new digs in Nevada, I have visited Las Vegas once before for pleasure.

When folks hear about this, they inevitably want to know which NFL road trip is my favorite. They wonder about the different stadiums, the great places to eat around the league, and some of the fun things I've been able to experience during my travels.

About a decade ago, I decided to quantify my response by compiling a top-to-bottom list. At the time, though, there were still four NFL cities I hadn't yet visited. Since then, much has changed leaguewide. I've managed to check three of the remaining four off my list. We've also bid a fond farewell to beloved San Diego (one of the best places to spend a few days), said good riddance to Oakland (the absolute worst), and discarded poor old St. Louis for a second time in NFL history.

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Yet, we've also welcomed some exciting newcomers in aforementioned L.A. and Vegas, as well as Mexico City, part of the growing number of the league's international hosts. Meantime, several of the familiar places built and opened new stadiums. The time therefore seemed right to update my list and provide more comprehensive details.

My methodology considers these three primary factors:

  • Stadium quality (including facilities and unique amenities, proximity to the nearest metropolitan areas, and fans' game-day experience),
  • Locale attractiveness (number and variety of interesting things to do, historic/noteworthy sites to see, and can't-miss places to eat and drink), and
  • Length of stay recommended (could you spend a week or more in these places, making it an all-out vacation destination; might a long weekend suffice, or is a day trip enough?)

At the beginning of each listing, you'll find a quick reference guide that lets you know at a glance where the location previously ranked, how good the stadiums are (via traditional letter grades), how the areas rate (from below average to world class), and a suggested length of stay (from day trips to a week or more).

Bearing in mind that football fans aren't a monolith, that their tastes range from the simple to the sophisticated and their budgets from strict to virtually unlimited, you'll find recommendations for greasy-spoon diners as well as fancy-tablecloth restaurants; must-do tourist sites and under-the-radar alternatives; sports-themed outings and more culturally enriching offerings, almost all of which I've done myself unless otherwise noted.

Whether you've been to one or more NFL away games or none at all, I hope this ranking provides inspiration to plan your own road trip in the near future. Like a football depth chart, I've also broken the list up into three readable tiers: starters, backups, and third stringers. We'll begin with the latter and work our way up to the top.

Third String (32-22)

A general view of the exterior of the Packers Hall of Fame outside of Lambeau Field
A general view of the exterior of the Packers Hall of Fame outside of Lambeau Field

32. Green Bay

Previously: Unranked

Stadium Grade: C+

Locale: Below Average

Suggested Stay: Overnight or Day Trip

Undoubtedly, Lambeau Field and its Packers Hall of Fame are a must-visit for any true football fan, given the club's storied history. The second-oldest stadium in the league underwent an extensive facelift several years back, but it still doesn't compare to any of the newer stadiums in terms of modern amenities. It's also about a two-hour drive from either of Wisconsin's big college towns, Madison and Milwaukee.

The roads leading you to Lambeau are surrounded by quaint, evocative dairy farms for miles around, making you think at first that you're lost, until Lambeau suddenly rises along the horizon. And when the Packers are playing, the town of Green Bay quite literally comes to a standstill, and even when it's awake, there's nothing to do here.

If you're going to make the journey, though, try to go from November to January, when there's a good chance of snow to make "The Frozen Tundra" that much more atmospheric.

31. Cincinnati

Previously: 23

Stadium Grade: B-

Locale: Below Average

Suggested Stay: Overnight or Day Trip

I'll save you the embarrassment of asking a local – no, there is no WKRP. Last time I was in town, a colleague and I both commented, almost simultaneously, that Cincinnati reminded us of "a poor man's Pittsburgh." This isn't a pejorative, trust me. We like Pittsburgh (as you'll see later)!

The Bengals' stadium sits conveniently in near heart of the city, right along the Ohio River, which serves as a border with the Commonwealth of Kentucky (FYI, the Cincinnati airport is actually over there, not in Ohio). So, you could easily stay downtown and perhaps walk to the game. Animal lovers like me might enjoy the Cincinnati Zoo, a short distance north of the city center by car.

All the tourist literature will tell you to eat at the Skyline Chili chain, and I suppose it's unique-enough to Cincy to give it a try, but for a really fine Italian dining experience, book a table at Nicola’s.

30. Detroit

Previously: 27

Stadium Grade: A-

Locale: Below Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

While the Motor City continues to struggle in so many ways, it pains me to put Detroit so far down, because in Ford Field, it can boast one of the nicest stadiums in the entire league. The Detroit Institute of Arts also houses one of the more underrated and diverse collections on this continent (including Italian and Dutch masters, as well as contemporary and American works).

A fun night out can also be found in Greektown, where the casino is a popular draw. Downtown Detroit also has a surprisingly strong food scene, as does suburban Dearborn, home to The Henry Ford, an eclectic museum complex and living village where you could spend a full day or two exploring. Music fans should carve out some time at the Motown Museum, which is on my list the next time I'm there.

29. Jacksonville

Previously: 26

Stadium Grade: C-

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

A fairly forgettable stadium (unless you can worm your way into the wading pool in the upper deck) in an area that doesn't offer much culturally, other than Orsay, one of the best French restaurants this side of the Atlantic. Yes, Jacksonville has a beach scene, but I'd make your home base in either St. Augustine (an hour south) or Daytona Beach (about a half-hour further than that). Both are more interesting coastal communities where you can enjoy a casual week or long weekend and just make the short drive north for the day to see the game in Jacksonville. If you have a chance, take a tour of Daytona International Speedway.

NASA's Johnson Space Center.
NASA's Johnson Space Center.

28. Houston

Previously: 24

Stadium Grade: B+

Locale: Below Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

Yes, Houston, we do have a problem: Your city is too darn big! This is Texas, though, so, one shouldn't be surprised by that. It's just that everywhere you want to go always seems to be 45 minutes away. So, of course, having a car is a prerequisite. You'll also need it to get down to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where you definitely want to book a full-day tour of the campus. For my money, this is the best attraction Houston has to offer.

Given its vastness, Houston enjoys a varied, global food scene. Among the best restaurants I'd recommend is Kiran’s for fantastic Indian cuisine. But whatever kind of food you're craving, you'll find it in this town (somewhere). NRG Stadium, home to the Texans, is south of the geographic center of Houston, meaning you'll almost certainly need to drive or get a ride there on game day.

27. Carolina

Previously: 25

Stadium Grade: B

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

You'll eat well here, for sure. The corporate headquarters of the second-most popular, creamy and crispy donut shop chain in the U.S. (America runs on Dunkin', after all), Charlotte also has renowned barbecue joints, where even non-carnivores can fill up on mac-and-cheese, cornbread, and coleslaw (as I've done). It's a nice little city, and very walkable. You can amuse yourself at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, located right downtown, then amble over to Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.

The convenience factor of being able to stay right in the heart of the city and not need a car to get around is wonderful. However, I'd recommend staying two hours west, in the gorgeous, more bucolic city of Asheville. Tag on a few extra days there either at the beginning or the end of your football road trip.

A general, overall view of the exterior of the main entrance to the Mall of America.
A general, overall view of the exterior of the main entrance to the Mall of America.

26. Minnesota

Previously: Unranked

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

I've been to Minneapolis-St. Paul twice for football games – once was an overnight stay, and the other, a weeklong sojourn in the dead of winter for Super Bowl LII. Neither occasion offered much time to explore, and in the latter instance, the weather was, let's just say, not conducive to being outdoors. Perhaps if I had been able to get out and about in warmer weather to see such sites as the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, I'd bump this up a little higher, especially considering how world-class the Vikings’ downtown stadium is.

For a quick trip of your own, just fly in, grab a room at one of the hotels attached to Mall of America (which is right next to the airport), spend a full day or two shopping there, then catch a short ride to Minneapolis for the game.

25. Indianapolis

Previously: 21

Stadium Grade: A-

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

There's a reason Indy is a coveted convention city. It's relatively small and, with grid-patterned streets, the Circle City is easy to navigate on foot. Everything worth seeing is within walking distance. Problem is, there's not much to see (best place to see it all, though, quite literally, is atop the observation deck at Monument Circle). History buffs might like to stop by the historic home of President Benjamin Harrison, on the north end of town.

Nice hotels and great restaurants abound on almost every corner, including the renowned St. Elmo Steak House. But if you happen to be in the mood for an all-day breakfast, hit up Café Patachou, Indy's best, anytime. Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts play, is one of the league's nicest facilities and just a 15-minute stroll south from the middle of downtown.

Before you leave town, make the short drive west (going the speed limit, naturally) to tour and maybe kiss the bricks of the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the annual Indy 500 race.

A view of Niagra Falls.
A view of Niagra Falls.

24. Buffalo

Previously: 22

Stadium Grade: C-

Locale: Below Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

I've been to Western New York more than a dozen times now, and I must admit, the place has grown on me. The downtrodden city of Buffalo has a certain charm that's difficult to ascertain at first. Along Lake Erie, you'll find a stretch of underutilized waterfront that would be ideal for a new stadium. In fact, there's talk of such a project, but it sounds like it's planned for the current Bills hometown of residential Orchard Park, on the outskirts of Buffalo. A new stadium is long overdue, however, wherever it ends up. Fair warning: Bills fans can be a rowdy bunch once they start tailgating.

Nevertheless, if I had my choice, I'd stay further afield in either the more scenic Finger Lakes region of New York (a two-hour drive east) or north of the border, across Lake Ontario in bustling Toronto (also two hours' drive away). Either is worth at least a long weekend, if not longer to combine the two.

Buffalo itself is only deserving of a day trip for the game, but let's say you get there on a Saturday for a Sunday game. Niagara Falls must be on your itinerary, no matter where you stay or for how long. It's about a half-hour drive from downtown Buffalo, but pack your passport no matter what, because all the action's on the Canadian side of the falls.

Buffalo's most beautiful venue is perhaps the Albright-Knox, a wonderful art museum where you can spend an entire afternoon. And when you get hungry – Buffalo's famous chicken wings, right? I'm a vegetarian, but if I weren't, I'd avoid the touristy Anchor Bar and go to Duff’s instead.

A general overall view of the interior of Heinz Field.
A general overall view of the interior of Heinz Field.

23. Pittsburgh

Previously: 12

Stadium Grade: A

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Overnight or Day Trip

Listen up, lovers of tapas and pintxos: At Pittsburgh's cozy Morcilla, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more authentic Spanish food experience outside of San Sebastián. Splurge a little to reserve a table here (if you can). Far less sophisticated, yet equally challenging to get into and definitely worth the wait (the line snakes out the door, but moves fast) is another Steel City staple, particularly on game days. Breakfast at DeLuca’s will give you not only a full and happy stomach, but a flavor of what you'll experience shortly thereafter at Heinz Field. In this gritty part of town, the crowd inside and out of DeLuca's will drown you in their sea of black and gold Steeler garb, giving you a true feel for the passionate nature of fans in this working-class community.

The home crowd at Heinz really makes this a great place to watch a game in person, especially when they have their Terrible Towels waving in the air. Here, you can also say you've not only been to a game, but also a movie set. Portions of the Batman flick "The Dark Knight Rises" were shot in Pittsburgh, and the memorable football field scenes took place at Heinz.

The location also comes at one of the most picturesque spots in the city, at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers, with Pittsburgh's skyline as backdrop. For an iconic, scenic photo op of all three Pittsburgh rivers converging, head to the Duquesne Incline.

The façade of Kansas City's famous Public Library.
The façade of Kansas City's famous Public Library.

22. Kansas City

Previously: Unranked

Stadium Grade: A

Locale: Below Average

Suggested Stay: Overnight or Day Trip

We'll close out the Third String category with one of the best homefield advantage stadiums in the league. For an old structure (Arrowhead Stadium turns 50 in 2022), it has aged very well, and Chiefs fans make it one of the loudest in the NFL, despite it being an outdoor venue (about a 15-minute drive in normal traffic from the city center).

As far as things to do in town, options are limited, but you'll want an Instagram-worthy photo in front of the Kansas City Public Library, with is gigantic book spines serving as a unique architectural façade.

Either the night of or night before the game, make sure to book a table at Garozzo’s, one of the most atmospheric (and delicious!) Italian restaurants in America. For a phenomenal game day breakfast, sit down at Succotash, which serves big portions in an artsy space. And if you're a sucker for their greeting cards and sappy TV movies, visit the Hallmark headquarters for an only-in-Kansas-City experience.

Backups (21-11)

21. Atlanta

Previously: 18

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

The greatest aspect of Atlanta's gorgeous Mercedes Benz Stadium might be its convenient downtown location, which allows you to book a hotel in the city and not have to venture too far to see and do what you need. You could potentially even walk to the game and other attractions, depending where you stay.

First, fuel up with a fantastic breakfast either at Atlanta Breakfast Club or Joy Café, then, for fun, head to the College Football Hall of Fame, just a couple blocks north of the stadium, and if you're a fan of the Animal Planet series The Aquarium, you can actually see the real thing by visiting the Georgia Aquarium, where the show is filmed. For a more thought-provoking experience, visit Martin Luther King Jr.’s home, a national historic site, or The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library (regardless of whether or not you agree with his politics). To inspire the entire family, I personally recommend the High Museum of Art.

20. Dallas

Previously: 20

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

Separated by a 50-minute drive, the twin cities of Dallas and Fort Worth are conveniently linked on a nearly straight line, running almost perfectly east to west, by Interstate 30. Sitting precisely smack-dab in the middle, the city of Arlington, where the Cowboys play their home games at AT&T Stadium, one of the absolute best and most awe-inspiring venues the NFL has to offer.

It always struck me as ironic that Big D should be the city that gets to identify itself with the pro football team, because I find Fort Worth to be the far more evocative and charming cow town. I recommend making this your home base when visiting DFW. You'll feel more like you're in the old west over here than in Dallas, which offers little other than skyscrapers.

Try, if you can, to plan your stay to coincide with the State Fair of Texas, a three-week autumnal event on the east side Dallas that celebrates all things Lone Star State (and hosts the annual Red River Showdown college football rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma). Rent a car to get from Fort Worth to the game, the fair, and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, which will definitely give you the creeps. However, any visit to this area would be incomplete without paying a visit to contemplate the enduring mystery surrounding JFK's final moments.

A general view of the Tampa skyline is seen.
A general view of the Tampa skyline is seen.

19. Tampa Bay

Previously: 15

Stadium Grade: B+

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend or More

The pirate ship in the end zone was a cool novelty when Raymond James Stadium first opened nearly a quarter century ago, and it still holds up as a unique feature. Aside from that, the stadium is nothing special, particularly when juxtaposed with the brand new places around the league (which we'll get to shortly). The main draw in this part of the country, though, is the beach scene, naturally.

My advice would be to stay in twin city St. Petersburg, on the western side of the causeway and along the Gulf of Mexico. Go there, do nothing for a few days or more, and love it. If you want a truly surreal experience, however, visit the Salvador Dalí Museum. And enjoy world-class dining at Columbia Restaurant in the Ybor City Historic District of Tampa.

18. Baltimore

Previously: 16

Stadium Grade: B+

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend or More

Anyone who's watched "The Wire" knows that Baltimore's got its fair share of rough neighborhoods, but it also developed a gorgeous Inner Harbor for visitors to enjoy and provides plenty of nearby American history to devour, which is why a weeklong stay is not out of the question here. Particularly if you have school-aged kids and want an excuse to teach them something in a fun way.

First, find a hotel in or around Inner Harbor (plenty of options) and you'll be able to walk around comfortably to great restaurants, activities, and the game at M&T Bank Stadium just a block or so away. It's also neighbors with Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the MLB team plays. So, sports fans could conceivably time their trip to see both a football and baseball game in the same weekend.

Once you've had your fill of Inner Harbor's offerings, drive less than 10 minutes to Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem, or about five minutes away to Edgar Allen Poe’s House & Museum. Don't be fooled by the latter's proximity. Speaking from experience, take a car; DO NOT walk there, for safety's sake.

Depending on how long you have, you could then make a day trip north to Gettysburg (less than 90 minutes by car) to commemorate the fallen from the Civil War, or spend a few days exploring Maryland's charming capital city, Annapolis, a half-hour drive from Baltimore.

Before you leave Baltimore, though, make sure to have breakfast at Spoons and treat yourself to the cinnamon roll pancakes. Yes, they are what you think they are, and they're tremendous!

A general view outside of the Pro Football Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio.
A general view outside of the Pro Football Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio.

17. Cleveland

Previously: 15

Stadium Grade: B+

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

I'm putting this slightly ahead of Baltimore only because it has one attraction that no other NFL city can offer: the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a simple hour's drive south in Canton, Ohio. Every fan of the game should make a pilgrimage here at least once. And music lovers can enjoy the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a next-door neighbor of the Browns' home stadium on the shores of Lake Erie. Cleveland is an easily walkable city that got a bad rap for a long time, but it has cleaned itself up nicely and deserves a second look.

16. Mexico City

Previously: Unranked

Stadium Grade: C-

Locale: World Class

Suggested Stay: Week or More

The first of our international destinations came onto the NFL scene on a regular basis just a few years ago, offering the perfect excuse to turn a road trip into a full-blown vacation – even if your favorite team isn't one of the two playing in this annual contest.

Unfortunately for CDMX (short for Ciudad de México), historic Estadio Azteca, on the southern outskirts of the city center, has seen much better days. Fans who've been to games in some of the gleaming new structures here north of the border might be a bit culture-shocked by the stark contrast in this overworked facility's amenities, such as they are. Otherwise, the Mexican capital would be even higher up on this list.

Nevertheless, Mexico City has everything you'd want in a road trip: some of the best restaurants on the planet, ancient historical sites like the pyramid complex at Teotihuacán (just over an hour to the northeast of the city center), unique cultural experiences such as the Frida Kahlo Museum (a.k.a. The Blue House), and diverse, colorful neighborhoods to explore. You could easily spend an entire week just in Mexico City, or just make it a stopover on a longer Mexico-wide vacation.

15. Los Angeles

Previously: Unranked

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Week or More

Full disclosure, this is the only NFL city I haven't yet visited (thanks a lot, pandemic). However, my colleagues who've been to SoFi Stadium the past couple of seasons rave about its jaw-dropping design and amenities. Plus, depending on who the Rams or Chargers are playing, there's usually a large contingent of visiting fans, so, you probably won't feel alone in the crowd if you're coming from out of town.

Clearly, L.A. has world-renowned attractions on offer – Hollywood, the beaches, people-watching galore. Yet, I'm only putting this in the middle of my list because I can't say from personal experience just how great a place it is to visit. And I know plenty of folks who've been and aren't that impressed. Plus, I dread getting stuck in its legendary traffic jams if I ever get to go.

L.A. might not be for everyone, but everyone should get there at least once and decide for themselves. If you find it's not quite your style, hop in the car and head south to San Diego or north via the Pacific Coast Highway.

14. Chicago

Previously: 11

Stadium Grade: B

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

Let's get the most important detail out of the way first. Once you get off the plane and check into your hotel, take an “L” train to Bonci, a modest-looking pizza place that nonetheless serves up THE BEST slices in a city that prides itself on pie. As someone who could eat pizza every day, trust me on this. Chicago's deep-dish joints have nothing on Bonci's various flavors. And its Roman-style "a taglio" format allows you to choose several different ones to create your own bespoke pizza. Please, just go. I'm getting hunger pangs just writing this.

Now, don't bother renting a car because, even though Chicago's a big city, you can get around without one. You'll want to walk the Magnificent Mile and spend plenty of time in Grant Park, both hugging Lake Michigan. There, you can explore the Field Museum (next door to Soldier Field) before taking your obligatory Instagram photo in front of Cloud Gate (the official name of the mirror-like statue that most people call "The Bean").

Call me a traditionalist (okay, I'm old), but I loved the look of Soldier Field, which will turn 100 in 2024, before the Bears renovated it in 2002. I was fortunate to see a game there in 2000 and felt like I'd traveled back to ancient Rome. In the near future, fans might have to travel to the suburbs to see a Bears game. Word is the team is looking to construct a modern structure in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

13. New Orleans

Previously: 19

Stadium Grade: B-

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

Food and music. What New Orleans does best, right? First, take your quick walk down Bourbon Street just to say you've done it, but frankly, it's a filthy, smelly amateur hour there. The "rue" you'll actually enjoy is Magazine Street, jammed with quirky shops and mouth-watering restaurants like Shaya, which celebrates the blending of Israeli, Mediterranean, and Southern cuisines.

Grab one of the world's best desserts, Bananas Foster, at Brennan’s (my famous sweet tooth promises you'll love this way more than Café du Monde's boring beignets). Then, go hear world-class live jazz at Preservation Hall. After a late night out on the town, regain your strength at THE breakfast place in New Orleans, a cozy, welcoming place called Mother’s (naturally).

On game day, the Superdome doesn't quite live up to its self-professed billing, but you won't mind after having your fill of food and music. My first impression of this city wasn't the greatest, but after several return visits, the place has grown on me, so I moved it up several spots.

12. Philadelphia

Previously: 8

Stadium Grade: B

Locale: Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

One of our country's original cities (and one of its first capitals), Philly has become one of my favorites, particularly if you only have a few days of vacation time to allocate. Modern city planner took the town's passion for sports into consideration when they decided to lump all the major athletic venues in one area. The football stadium, hockey and basketball arena, and baseball ballpark can all be conveniently found on the same giant footprint of land south of the city center. Philly sports fans are notoriously tough on out-of-towners, however, so, you will be forgiven if you plan on leaving immediately after the game. If so, the airport's only a quick 15-minute drive away.

Till then, to make the most of your time in Philadelphia, book your hotel in the historic district, so you can walk to all the important Revolutionary War-era sites, like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I've not yet had a chance to explore the Museum of the American Revolution, but it's tops on my list next time I go. Less than a half-hour drive northwest will take you out of the city to Valley Forge, where George Washington and his troops spent a pivotal winter during the struggle for independence.

Obviously, you'll want a picture with the statue of Rocky Balboa, now located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, just to the right of the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, made famous in the original, Oscar-winning "Rocky" film. But don't stop there. Definitely do the touristy thing and jog up those steps like Sylvester Stallone's character did, exulting at the top and taking in the fantastic view of the Philly skyline. But then go inside the museum for a wonderful cultural experience. Afterward, stroll 10 minutes down the parkway to the Barnes Foundation for even more world-class art.

You're hungry now, right? Non-vegetarians will clearly want a Philly cheesesteak to cross off their Wander List, but trust me, plenty of better ones can be had in the city than those served up at dueling shops Geno's and Pat's (just ask a local for their recommendations).

For a truly unique dining experience unlike any other in the world, head to Rocky's neighborhood of South Philly and grab a table at the Victor Café for dinner and a show. Every 15 minutes or so, the wait staff, who are all classically trained vocalists, serenade the entire restaurant with solos or duets. Rocky fans will also recognize this as the location of Adrian's restaurant, which is featured in several scenes throughout the movie franchise.

If pizza's more your thing, the folks at Pizzeria Beddia are making some of the most delicious and creative pies in the country. Fair warning, though, they're doing their best to hide themselves. The restaurant is on a ridiculously narrow street that your ride share driver might balk at venturing down, but have them drop you off if that's the case. The food inside is very much worth the effort to find this place. Just look for the image of a disembodied hand flashing a peace sign and you're there.

Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon National Park.

11. Arizona

Previously: 7

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Week or More

To be fair, Phoenix did nothing at all to deserve this demotion. It just fell victim to a competing desert town being added to the mix since the last ranking (more on that to come).

The desert climate might not be for everyone, but the national parks in the vicinity make this a destination worth investing extra time in seeing. If you've always dreamt of visiting the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the petroglyphs of Sedona, and other U.S. parks out west, football season is a great time to go, and Phoenix offers the ideal location either to begin or end your journey to the Desert Southwest.

Once you get to Arizona's capital, you'll need a car for the highway 101 system that loops you around to explore neighboring towns like evocative Scottsdale and more modern Glendale, where the Cardinals play their home games at State Farm Stadium, one of the NFL's best venues. And yes, I'm going to give you yet another top-notch pizza recommendation. Pizzeria Bianco has two Phoenix locations serving more than just pies (but definitely order one to share with the table – the light dough allows you to eat a lot and not feel full). Cool off with dessert at Frost Gelato or Churn ice cream shop.

Starters (10-1)

10. Miami

Previously: 14

Stadium Grade: B+

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Week or More

The Dolphins have gone to great lengths to give their home stadium a necessary upgrade. Now that they don't have to share it with Major League Baseball's Marlins, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida is football-only, so, fans don't have to endure the eyesore – and players are spared the indignity – of football being played on a dirt infield. That's just one of the improvements made to this venue, which has been around since the late 1980s (and changed names a bunch). Only problem is that it's still inland and nowhere near the beach. The drive from either Miami (to the south) or Fort Lauderdale (to the north) is an easy one, though, no more than 40 minutes or so in either direction.

You've come here for fun in the sun, so, don't worry too much about getting to the stadium. Your biggest decision will be which beach to settle on. Personally, I like those to the north a bit better, but have not yet visited the Florida Keys & Key West all the way south. If I were to make this trip as a fan, that's where I'd focus my week of lounging around. Once there, if you're feeling truly adventurous, take a boat out to Dry Tortugas National Park.

9. Washington

Previously: 9

Stadium Grade: B-

Locale: World Class

Suggested Stay: Week or More

You've got to spend a good amount of time in one of the world's most majestic national capitals. As Super Bowl Champions, we at the Patriots have had the honor of being invited to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on several occasions. Now, you can, too! After being off-limits recently, White House tours are once again open to the general public as of April 15, 2022 (foreign residents should check for availability by contacting their country's embassy in Washington, D.C.).

Consider a visit to the White House the cherry on top of your visit to D.C., where your entire family can enjoy the many museums of the Smithsonian, magnificent monuments and memorials aplenty, the U.S. Capitol Building (call your Senator or Congressman first for details), the Library of Congress, and the overall grandeur of the most influential seat of political power on Earth.

Cross the Potomac to pay your respects at Arlington National Cemetery, and before you head back into town, stick around Arlington and splurge on an authentic French meal at La Côte D’Or. If you have enough vacation days, carve out time in your itinerary to take the 35-minute drive south to George Washington's home estate of Mount Vernon. Another two hour-drive southwest from there takes you to Charlottesville, Virginia, where third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson called Monticello home.

On game day, keep in mind that it takes about as long to drive east from downtown D.C. to FedEx Field, home stadium of the newly-renamed Washington Commanders, as it does to reach Mount Vernon. Nothing extraordinary or unique about this stadium, but it has plenty of room outside to tailgate, so, plan accordingly.

8. Denver

Previously: 4

Stadium Grade: A

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Week or More

Before we go any further, know this about Mile High (the Denver stadium's official name is Empower Field at Mile High): It is one of the loudest and most intense places to watch an NFL game. Broncos fans make it so, with their relentless and indefatigable chorus of cheers. Also be forewarned that the Mile High crowd's unique "In … Com … Plete!" taunting chant when the opposing QB throws an errant pass will ring in your ears for at least a day or so afterward.

The stadium is conveniently just a few minutes' drive outside the city center, right off the highway, so, you could stay downtown and get a ride to the game, unless you plan on tailgating. Just be prepared that some Bronco fans are more vocal to the opposing team's supporters than others.

The altitude shouldn't be shrugged off, either, particularly if you plan on doing anything strenuous or athletic. Even a normal walk down the street might make you lose your breath quicker than normal, so, give yourself at least a couple of days to get adjusted. It helps to stay well hydrated, too. A hearty breakfast helps as well, and you won't find much better in downtown Denver than at Sam’s No. 3. The diner serves great food at reasonable prices all day long.

Breathing challenges aside, Denver's a fairly easy city to walk around and see the sites. You might find that you spend a lot of your time strolling around Larimer Square for excellent shopping, dining, and people-watching options. Whether you ski or not, though, the Rocky Mountains are the place to be on any visit to Denver. Great for hiking or taking a leisurely drive to enjoy the spectacular views.

A Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour boat passes by the Statue of Liberty.
A Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour boat passes by the Statue of Liberty.

7. New York

Previously: 3

Stadium Grade: A-

Locale: World Class

Suggested Stay: Week or More

Frankly, the only reason the Big Apple fell a few spots has to do with the recent uptick in seemingly random, violent crimes throughout the city. Nevertheless, I still heart NY. How can you not, what with all the world-class food and art and music and theater and history and shopping and on and on and on to absorb … there never seems to be enough time to enjoy it all.

I'd still recommend staying in the city if you can, and doing whatever it is that interests you most, but a more affordable option might be to get a hotel just over the Hudson in Jersey City, New Jersey. The Newport area is especially well developed these days, with a convenient PATH station whose relatively inexpensive trains will zip you under the river and into the city in just a few minutes.

Jersey City's also a prime spot to base yourself if you plan to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. For a modest fee, ferries depart from nearby Liberty State Park on a regular basis.

When you get hungry, hunker down for breakfast at Tops Diner in nearby Harrison, N.J. There's a good reason why it's called Tops, because it is by far THE best diner in which I've ever eaten. They serve breakfast all day, as well as other scrumptious lunchtime and dinner items. If you just want a great slice of pizza, get some at Razza, back in Jersey City.

You'll also find some of the most breathtaking skyline views of Manhattan from here. And since the Giants and Jets both play at immense and impersonal MetLife Stadium, just a few minutes' drive away in East Rutherford, staying in New Jersey makes a lot of sense.

6. Tennessee

Previously: 5

Stadium Grade: B

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Long Weekend

Country music is an American original. Drawing on the popularity of the genre, Nashville has grown into one of the more attractive party cities in recent years. When the NFL held its annual player draft there a few years back, it proved a natural draw for football fans, with crowds of folks packing Broadway, the main thoroughfare.

Getting around downtown Nashville couldn't be easier, either. By foot or rental car, you can see all the necessary sites in a long weekend. Plus, Nissan Stadium sits right on and just across the Cumberland River from the heart of downtown Nashville. Patriots fans in particular might feel like they're back in Foxborough when they sit down at Nissan, because it's practically a carbon copy of Gillette, minus the iconic lighthouse (the same architectural firm designed both venues).

Tailgating on game day is fun, but the real party, of course, is happening in Music City itself. Head to any one of the authentic Honky-Tonks on and around Broadway to hear great live country music and give line dancing a try. Pay a visit to the famous Ryman Auditorium and maybe see a show there, check out the creatively designed Country Music Hall of Fame, take a paddleboat ride on the General Jackson, and stroll Centennial Park and see a modern reconstruction of the Greek Parthenon.

Nashville has great eats, too. Start your days with a memorable breakfast at the Pancake Pantry (its menu is big and creative) and finish off your night with either a traditional Southern meal at Monell’s (you'll feel like you're in someone's home dining room) or a more modern menu at Folk.

5. New England

Previously: 6

Stadium Grade: B+

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Week or More

Yes, I'm a native New Englander, which is why I can say with authority that whatever you like to do, you can do it here in this part of the country – and all throughout the NFL season.

Let's say you're a beach person or just want to enjoy an authentic New England summertime vacation. Great! Come in August or September and spend a week on Cape Cod, the Islands (Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts or the more affordable Block Island) or down in Newport and Rhode Island's South County enviable beach scene (after all there's a reason why Little Rhody is nicknamed The Ocean State).

Alternately, you could go north to Portland, Maine to get your lobster fix. Patriots training camp (free parking and admission!) and preseason games are in full swing in August, while September regular season games are always a popular draw because the weather's still comfortable.

Want to experience the best fall foliage anywhere? Then come visit in October and head north to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Maybe skiing is your thing. We've got that, too, in several New England states, so, head here in November, December, or January for a game and stay a while longer.

Gillette Stadium, which is just about to turn 20 in August 2022, is in the midst of some fantastic aesthetic upgrades, including a bigger lighthouse and an enormous video board, so, pardon our appearance in the meantime (work isn't expected to be finished till the '23 NFL season). It's also perfectly positioned in Foxborough, Massachusetts between Boston (45 minutes north) and Providence (half an hour south), allowing you to base yourself in either historic city, both of which are famous for their restaurants.

Or, if you want a truly painless game day experience, stay at one of the two hotels located at Patriot Place, the shopping, dining, and entertainment venue adjacent to Gillette. Wake up on game day and walk downstairs to the parking lot to tailgate with fellow fans before entering the stadium. No car necessary – a crucial benefit to avoid sitting in Route 1 traffic.

A detail view of the famous Las Vegas welcome sign at sunrise,
A detail view of the famous Las Vegas welcome sign at sunrise,

4. Las Vegas

Previously: Unranked

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Week or More

Vegas, Baby! Need I say more? Okay, maybe just a few extra words. I've been to fabulous Las Vegas, but not yet seen a game at the sparkling new Allegiant Stadium. However, just by looking at pictures and videos of it, I can confidently say that the Raiders have gone from the NFL's worst stadium (when they played in Oakland, and it wasn't even close) to one of the most spectacular – entirely befitting of one of the world's most entertaining cities.

Located at the southernmost end of the Las Vegas Strip, the stadium sits literally just across the street from Harry Reid (formerly McCarran) International Airport, meaning you could arrive, trip off the jetway, and find yourself at the starting point to one of the most fun adult weeks of your life.

3. San Francisco

Previously: 10

Stadium Grade: A-

Locale: World Class

Suggested Stay: Week or More

The Niners once had a terrible, half-baseball stadium, but Candlestick Park's location right on the water, within sight of downtown, was prime real estate. Today, Levi’s Stadium in suburban Santa Clara is certainly a much more impressive facility, but it's about an hour south of San Francisco. However, you'll need a car when visiting this part of the country anyway, because whichever direction you're heading, there's plenty to see and do.

With its cable car system, hilly and colorful neighborhoods, proximity to the water, and brightly hued suspension bridge, San Francisco feels very much like a European city – in fact, it could be considered twins with Lisbon, Portugal in that regard.

Want that classic photo of San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge in the foreground? Then take the car north across the bridge, take the first exit on the other side, and head up the Marin Headlands. You won't need the car to get to Alcatraz, of course, nor to visit Wine Country. Ferries take you to the former and the Napa Valley Wine Train will whisk you up to the vineyards so you can drink to your delight without having to worry about getting behind the wheel.

If you're traveling with kids, though (and Peanuts fans of any age, for that matter), you'll want to drive to Santa Rosa, where you'll spend a fun day exploring the Charles Schulz Museum (I'm a proud charter member), about an hour north of San Francisco in the Russian River Valley, a gorgeous, if under-the-radar section of the Bay Area.

2. London

Previously: 2

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: World Class

Suggested Stay: Week or More

If you've long dreamt of venturing outside the U.S. but remain skeptical about it, London, England might be the ideal place to dip your toe into international waters. For starters, there's no language barrier – well, English accents and phrases can be tough on the uninitiated, but nothing insurmountable. Plus, the United Kingdom has warmly embraced American football, as evidenced by the many passionate U.K.-based fan clubs dedicated to NFL teams. So, if you link up with one of them, you'll immediately have friends overseas that you can visit and keep in touch with before and after your trip.

In addition, with regular season games being hosted in London on a yearly basis, chances are your favorite team will be playing there sooner or later. And even if they aren't, just get hold of tickets to any of the several NFL games that take place at either the sparkling new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium or the reborn Wembley Stadium, both magnificent places to watch a game. You'll probably need to take the Tube (London's subway system) to get to either, as they're on the outskirts of central London, but it's efficient and easy to navigate and you'll get to interact with local citizens who just might tease you about your funny accent.

First-timers to the city might consider boarding a double-decker tour bus to get their bearings while seeing London's most noteworthy sites at the same time. Driving on the other side of the road might be off-putting to some American visitors, so, perhaps treat yourself to renting a local driver/guide to take you out to Oxford, Cambridge, or Stonehenge for the day.

Obviously, one could spend an entire week in London alone, or make it a more wide-ranging visit to England. Either way, what could be better for football fans than spending an autumn week in Europe AND watching an NFL game in person at the same time?

Mount Baker is seen some 85 miles distant behind the Space Needle in Seattle.
Mount Baker is seen some 85 miles distant behind the Space Needle in Seattle.

1. Seattle

Previously: 1

Stadium Grade: A+

Locale: Above Average

Suggested Stay: Week or More

The big cities of the Pacific Northwest experienced their share of recent unrest, particularly in 2020, but this part of the country remains one of America's most alluring, which is why Seattle retains its top spot on my list. Here, when life is calm, there's a comfy/artsy relaxed vibe and easy-to-navigate (though surprisingly hilly!) streets that make this a lovely city to explore on foot. The surrounding Puget Sound lends an atmospheric quality to the city, and if the weather cooperates, head to Kerry Park for your very own postcard-worthy photo of the Seattle skyline backed by Mount Rainier. It will leave you searching for adjectives.

Seahawks game days are great not only because Lumen Field fits snugly within the city center and you can walk there with the thousands of other fans, you'll also be among the noisiest and most passionate crowds in the NFL, with a fabulous view of the city as well.

Either before or afterward, see Puget Sound up close by hopping on a ferry to laidback Bainbridge Island. Back in the city, of course get up to the Space Needle and over to the Pike Place Market, but also experience the ecclectic Chinatown-International District. Further out from downtown, a walk or a picnic in Gas Works Park might be a good way to wind down your visit. Depending how adventurous you feel, bring your passport to grab a plane or train to Vancouver, British Columbia to make your Pacific Northwest trip a truly international one.

Where to next?

I still lament that I never got to cover a Pro Bowl – the NFL's ostensible "all-star" game – when it took place in its traditional Honolulu location, because Hawaii no longer hosts the annual event. If it did, it would surely capture the top spot.

Nevertheless, this list will grow by one later this year, when the NFL plays its first game in Munich, Germany (the Patriots are strong contenders to play there in 2023). Layover city Frankfurt will also host some German-based games in the future.

Because COVID restrictions limited the number of people in the Patriots' travel party, I've been unable to go to any road games the past two seasons. Hopefully, this coming fall will see a return to travel normalcy for all of us, and that this list inspires football fans everywhere to get out of town and see a game someplace new in 2022. Travel well, everyone.

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