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NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the United States, Autumn means American football and the fans who pack the NFL stadiums will likely fortify themselves for games at traditional pre-game "tailgate" parties held in the parking lot.
Whether it's just cold chicken and a soda or a full-on gourmet barbecue with beer, wine, salads and desserts out of the back (tailgate) of your car, football fans will enjoy different traditions at each of the many stadiums around the country. Online travel adviser Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.com) offers its top 10 list of the best tailgate destinations. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Gillette Stadium - Foxborough, Mass.
If there's one thing New England Patriots fans understand about tailgating, it's food. We're not talking hamburgers and hot dogs; we're talking about stick-to-your-ribs clam chowder, fresh lobsters and juicy steaks. Fans travel from all over New England to Foxborough, situated between Boston and Providence, and partake in the tailgating experience every Sunday morning of the season. While it's common knowledge that New England fans are boisterous no matter which sport is playing, if you're looking for a quiet place before a Pats game, you probably won't find it at Gillette Stadium.
2. Cleveland Browns Stadium - Cleveland, Ohio
It's no secret that what's happening on the football field isn't the only competition brewing. Fans love to pull out all the stops and secretly compete for the legendary status as tailgater; and at Cleveland's Dawg Pound it's no different. Browns fans get the party started at 7 a.m., and, within no time, the smell of grilled brats (sausages) fills the air and beer cans get passed around. If you haven't had the luxury of trying Beer-can chicken (a Brown's tailgating classic in which chicken is literally stuffed with a full can of beer), there's no better place than the parking lots of Cleveland's stadium.
3. Arrowhead Stadium - Kansas City, Mo.
For football fans who know a thing or two about tailgating, it's no surprise that Kansas City makes this list. While other stadiums work hard to crack down on tailgating-mania by limiting parking lot hours, Chiefs' fans light up the smokers a day early and camp out overnight to ensure they are raring to go Sunday morning. It's rare for many NFL stadiums to reach the sort of status of college tailgating, but Arrowhead attendees do it weekly. Part of their secret to success is a mastery of a tailgating menu, and Chief's fans have mastered their barbecue.
4. Paul Brown Stadium - Cincinnati, Ohio
Team Spirit rules the parking lots of Paul Brown Stadium as orange and black cover everything from old RVs to painted bare bellies (which won't be the strangest thing you see). Cincy fans love to chow down their beloved Cincinnati chili, which is usually made up of cheese, spaghetti and the occasional addition of oyster crackers. Who Dey Nation takes great pride and ownership in the tailgating experience - its intense energy keeps the party going all day long.
5. Lambeau Field - Green Bay, Wis.
Insanely passionate fans decked out in their Sunday best - meaning comedy hats in the shape of a wedge of cheese and other costumes poking fun at the "cheesehead" epithet thrown at folks from Wisconsin - pour in and around the momentous Lambeau field and set the stage for an unforgettable tailgating experience. Football and tailgating aren't just for the sports junkies in Green Bay - it's a community event and everyone participates whether they have tickets to the game or not. Packers fans are some of the nicest people around, and asking a neighbor to use their restroom is no less commonplace than chowing down a bratwurst or sipping (chugging) schnapps. Whatever you do while you're hanging out at Lambeau, you'll want to dress warm - it's not called the Frozen Tundra for nothing.
6. Sports Authority Field at Mile High - Denver, Colo.
The Mile High City is more than just a medley of high altitude and great beer - it's also home to some of the nation's wildest fans. The tailgating experience at Sports Authority Field (which was recently renamed from Invesco Field) is filled with local microbrews and tasty Mexican fare. Don't forget to chant "IN-COM-PLETE" when the visiting quarterback incompletes a pass. Also, be sure to check out the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, located right at Gate 1, dedicated to the state's most prized athletes. Plus, around the stadium are plenty of top-rated restaurants to hit after the tailgating festivities and the game, of course.
7. Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia, Pa.
It's common knowledge that Philadelphia fans love to talk about their team to anyone who's listening, but, unless you've experienced an Eagles' tailgate firsthand, you might not know that they can also throw a great party. Loud chanting may echo through your brain long after the game is over, but you'll have a newfound respect for Eagles' fans - as long as you don't sport the garb of the opposing team. The lots at Lincoln Financial Field are usually decked out with some of the wildest looking Eagles' automobiles, covered in the team's intimidating logo of the fierce eagle head. And what's a trip to Philly without a cheesesteak? There are plenty of those at the park, and other flavorsome foods to be had.
8. Heinz Field - Pittsburgh, Pa.
Towering over the Ohio River's edge is Heinz Field, home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fervent fans. The view of the river is enjoyable, the pierogies are delectable, the fans are wild and the colors are black and gold - need we say more? Get yourself acquainted with the "Steeler Polka" because you'll hear it blasting from other trucks in the lot, as well as plenty of "Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go" chanting. Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Heinz Field is the Coca-Cola Great Hall, endowed with a vast collection of Steeler memorabilia.
9. Sun Life Stadium - Miami Gardens, Fla.
While many dedicated fans often wrestle with inclement weather, Miami is usually basking in the sun and donning Dolphins gear that's typically lighter weight. Good weather combined with tasty Cuban cuisine is a bit of a novelty to other football fans, but at Sun Life Stadium it's just a regular Sunday afternoon. And if that's not enticing enough, check out games, prizes and live music to be had on the south side of the stadium, as well a few statues of the Dolphin's great football legends.
10. Reliant Stadium - Houston, Texas
While recent regulations have made it a bit more difficult to tailgate at the Texans' Reliant Stadium, it doesn't stop Houston fans from throwing a great party. Years back, when the Oiler's were still around, there was no tailgating allowed at the Astrodome; so Texans' fans have worked hard to create a thriving tailgate community for their beloved team. And to keep the competitive spirit alive, every year the top tailgaters of the season are crowned. Surrounded by enthusiastic fans and famed Texas barbecue, there's no doubt that tailgating at Reliant is among the best.
Edited by Paul Casciato