Best Cities in America for Football Fans
If you love football, you get it.
When assessing cities where you might relocate to, “How’s the football scene?” is as important a question as “Where are the best schools?” or “How good is public transportation?”
With 32 NFL teams and 252 NCAA football teams to choose from, there’s good football nearly everywhere. But some cities simply rise above the rest. Here are some of the best cities for football fans – both college and pro – in the nation.
The best football cities in the East
Philadelphia, PA | Team: Eagles (NFL)
Photo by Casey Murphy on Unsplash
If you thought Philadelphia was a rabid football town before the Eagles won the Super Bowl, you should see it now. More than three million fans lined the streets for the championship parade in 2018.
Its Sports Complex in South Philly has sprawling parking lots tailor-made for partying, giving rise to the best NFL pre-game tailgates in the Northeast. Away from the stadium, it’s not uncommon to hear E-A-G-L-E-S chants break out at weddings and funerals alike.
Buffalo, NY | Team: Bills (NFL)
When you live in the fourth-snowiest city in America and you still pack your outdoor stadium (often shirtless), you know you’re a fervent football town.
But even if you aren’t up for braving the bitter temperatures, Buffalo is chock full of blue-collar sports bars serving up Genesee Cream Ale and plates of famous wings, invented at downtown Buffalo’s Anchor Bar.
State College, PA | Team: Penn State (NCAA)
Let’s be honest – the northeast isn’t a hotbed of college football. But the one glaring exception is Penn State. Located smack dab in the center of Pennsylvania, State College is a college town in the truest sense.
With a metro area population of 160,000 and a stadium capacity of 106,000 (the third largest in the world), you can be assured that most of your neighbors will be at the game every Saturday.
New York, NY | Teams: Giants (NFL), Jets (NFL) and everyone else
Yes, New Yorkers are aloof about many things. Yes, their NFL teams play in a different state. But what makes New York a great football town is that there are thousands of people from every other great football town living there.
No matter what college or NFL team you root for, you can find a group of fans gathered to watch the game every week at a designated sports bar filled with your team’s memorabilia.
The best football cities in the Midwest
Green Bay, WI | Team: Packers (NFL)
If football had a holy land, it would Green Bay.
By far the smallest city in the U.S. to possess a major pro sports team, Green Bay’s 104,000 residents share a special bond with their beloved Packers. In fact, the Packers are owned by those residents through five million shares of stock held by 360,000 fans. It’s that close tie that connects the people of Green Bay with their team like no other town.
Oh, and their cheese heads.
Kansas City, MO | Teams: Chiefs (NFL), Kansas (NCAA), Missouri (NCAA)
What if an NFL team played in a college town? Well, that’s what going to a game at Arrowhead Stadium is like. The atmosphere around a Chiefs game is one big party filled with face paint, marching bands and parking lot tailgate parties starting in the wee hours.
And if college football is your thing, Kansas City is ground zero for the heated “Border War” rivalry between the University of Kansas (45 minutes to the west) and the University of Missouri (two hours to the east).
Columbus, OH | Team: Ohio State (NCAA)
Photo by Dana Lewin on Unsplash
When you think of college football in the Midwest – the chill in the air, tents and grills, cornhole and marching bands – you’re most likely thinking of Ohio State. With its famed horseshoe-shaped stadium, Columbus is a big city with a small-town feel.
Take a stroll through downtown and find a citizenry donned in equal parts Bengals jerseys and Browns caps. Just don’t get caught wearing Michigan Blue.
The best football cities in the South
Atlanta, GA | Teams: Falcons (NFL), Georgia Tech (NCAA), Georgia State (NCAA)
Photo courtesy of Brian Carberry
There are a lot of worthy football towns in the South, both of the college and the NFL varieties, but only one combines a raucous college town with a metropolitan pro city.
Atlanta is unofficially the epicenter of college football – you're less than three hours away from a handful of traditional powerhouses and the city is home to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Plus, Atlanta recently opened one of the best new stadiums in the world. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is where the Falcons play and has already hosted the Peach Bowl, the NCAA Football National Championship and will be the site of Super Bowl LIII.
Tuscaloosa, AL | Teams: Alabama (NCAA)
Photo courtesy of Brian Carberry
Home to the defending NCAA national champions, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa offers one of the best college football atmospheres in the country.
It's not uncommon to see RVs and tailgates set up around campus days before games, and you'll hear "Roll Tide" used as a greeting more often than "hello." It doesn't hurt that the Crimson Tide is one of the most successful college programs in recent years and are once again one of the favorites to take home the title this year.
Austin, TX | Team: Texas (NCAA)
Hipsters. South by Southwest. Austin City Limits. Keep Austin Weird. That may be the alternative reputation of liberal ATX, but at its core, Austin is a Texas college town and boy, do they love some football.
The 100,000 seat stadium sits at the heart of the UT campus, across the street from the LBJ Presidential Library. Games days are a loud and celebratory affair, but if tailgate and stadium food excite you more than gridiron action, the Tex Mex, beef ribs and Lone Star beer are worth the price of admission for any Austin resident.
The best football cities in the West
Denver, CO | Teams: Broncos (NFL), Colorado (NCAA)
Denver loves its sports. Walking through downtown, you might think residents are issued a John Elway or Peyton Manning jersey free with their drivers’ license.
And with Boulder – home to the University of Colorado – just down the street, even the trendiest craft brewpubs turn into sports bars every college Saturday and NFL Sunday.
Eugene, OR | Team: Oregon (NCAA)
Photo by Jake weirick on Unsplash
The University of Oregon is set in one of the lushest and leafy towns in America. In fact, walking from campus to Autzen Stadium takes you quite literally over the river and through the woods.
While the program has come a bit down to earth in recent years, Eugene offers one of the best classic college football fan experiences and atmosphere on the West Coast.
Los Angeles, CA | Teams: Rams (NFL), Chargers (NFL), UCLA (NCAA), USC (NCAA)
Derided for years as a football wasteland, Los Angeles is now the only city in the country with two NFL teams and two major NCAA teams. (Despite what Bay Area fans will tell you, the Niners and Raiders play 40 miles apart.)
USC and UCLA fans are as passionate as any in the nation and stoke a very fiery rivalry. And come 2020, both the Rams and Chargers will move into the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, just minutes from downtown and the beach.
And who doesn't love the famous Rose Bowl game and parade held annually around New Year's Day?