Whether you're attending your first game or just your first game in a new stadium, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your experience.
Contrary to Rogue Belief, the Best Seats Are Not On Your Couch
Search the Internet for the phrase "Where's the best place to sit for a football game" and you're bound to get a wide array of answers. Not surprisingly, the folks over at Reddit have a thread dedicated to this topic. And the typical response is a sarcastic "on my couch". Yahoo! Answers has many questions devoted to this query and the answers are the typical one-line response. Quora, a more thoughtful Q&A site - and one that I regularly contribute to - also has a bevy of opinions. I considered offering an answer to one of those, but figured I would provide a more detailed response on our own blog.
Are Football Stadiums All That Different?
Unlike baseball, the size of a football field is standardized. Because of this, football stadiums tend to be more similar to one another and are a little easier to generalize. Now having said that, the recommendations below apply to MOST stadiums, but certainly not all. Experiences at college football games largely depend on stadium size, opponent, where the students/band/visitor sections are, etc. I try to offer exceptions/alternatives when available, but if you need help for a specific game or stadium, please contact us.
We also recommend searching for your event and relying on our SeatScore® algorithm. We have star ratings available for more than 5 million seats at professional and college football stadiums. More than 90% of the football tickets we show come with a SeatScore® so you can easily compare different seats.
I've visited 46 football stadiums in the past year - large and small - and here are my recommendations on where to sit:
Best Seats For Seeing the Field: Lower Level Between the 30s, Row 30
Cost: $$ (expensive)
Best For: Big budgets, big games and true football aficionados
Just remember the 30/30 rule and you'll be golden. That is, sit between the 30 yardlines close to row 30 and you won't have any complaints.
The between the 30s part is probably fairly straightforward - being close to midfield is a blessing. But why row 30?
First, in most stadiums this is the best elevation for seeing endzone to endzone without turning your neck or body to see.
Second, at most NFL stadiums, this is close to the last row in the lower level which typically means being near the concourse tunnel. This means beating crowds to the restrooms at halftime, to concessions between quarters and to the parking lot after the game.
College football stadiums tend to have more rows in their lower levels, but many of the newer (and better) stadiums offer concourse access near row 30.
Best Budget Seats in the Lower Level: Corner Sections Rows 40+
Best For: Quality sightlines, impressing a guest with lower level seats
Finding inexpensive seats anywhere on the lower level at a football game is near impossible. But your best bets are going to be in the higher rows of corner and endzone sections. Between these two options, corner seats offer a superior view of the field. When I'm walking through stadiums, my favorite place to rest is always in these seats. They almost always come with a comfortable view of the whole field because you never have to look side-to-side.
As a small bonus, the player tunnels are usually located near these sections (the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium is one exception). Not only will you have the best views of player entrances and exits, these are fun spots to be during pre-game when the players are warming up. They tend to crowd around the corners and interact with fans there.
Not all stadiums have 40+ rows in the lower level so this might mean sitting as high as you can. I don't like anything lower than row 25 in the corner unless I want to be really close to the field.
Best Overall Seats at an NFL Game: Club Level, First Row
Best for: Impressing clients and guests, escaping the elements, watching other games
Not surprisingly, club seats make the list of best places to sit. Most NFL stadiums feature a club level on the second deck of seating, just above the lower level. If you recall, sitting near row 30 in the lower level is the perfect height. So if you're just above that in the club level, you're also getting a top-notch view.
I didn't specify a location (sideline, corner, etc.) for this recommendation because I think it really depends on who you're going with. If you're really intent on watching the action, choose seats closer to midfield. Otherwise, choose a corner section where you'll get the same club amenities at a fraction of the price of sideline seats.
Speaking of amenities, this is what separates club seats from the rest. Most commonly, club amenities in NFL stadiums include access to an indoor club lounge which will keep you cool in the late summer and warm in early winter. The lounges typically include comfortable seating, sit-down food options, bars and plenty of televisions for watching the rest of the NFL schedule.
Club seat ticketholders almost always get early access to the stadium as well. This allows you to beat traffic and enjoy the early slate of games if you're attending a late afternoon kickoff.
Some stadiums, like MetLife (Giants/Jets) and AT&T (Cowboys) offer club seating on the lower level. These are obviously going to be great seats (especially if they adhere to the 30/30 rule). There just aren't enough examples to make it onto the list separately.
Most college football stadiums nowadays also include some form of club seating, but they're tough to generalize. Some offer all-inclusive food and drink ( Auburn Beckwith Club); others are located in some of the worst spots in the stadium (Davis Wade Scoreboard Club); and some are called club seats with very little added benefit (Stanford Buck and Cardinal Club) without making an extra donation to the school. Be sure to read through your team/stadium's club page on our site before buying tickets to understand the benefits you'll be entitled to.
Best Seats in the Upper Deck: Between the 20s, Row 3
Best For: Budget seekers, die-hard fans and families
Most fans looking for single-game tickets quickly learn that their budget relegates them to upper level seating. When this is the case, there are four things you should aim for:
1) Equitable views of both endzones
You're already going to be high enough up there - don't put yourself even farther away from either endzone. Sit between the 20s for comfortable and equal views of both ends.
2) Avoiding railings
Fan safety is important. Railings typically obstruct the sightlines in row 1 and in rows closest to the section tunnel (varies by stadium). Row 3 is usually a safe bet.
3) Lower rows
Simple math here - the lower the row, the closer you'll be to the field. And in the upper deck, there's no such thing as being too close (except for railings as mentioned in #3).
4) Sitting close to the section tunnel
This one is so under-rated but also tough to determine (though it is part of our SeatScore® algorithm for many venues). Fewer stairs + quick trips to amenities = totally worth it.
We offer tunnel information for millions of seats. When browsing ticket listings on our site, pay attention to the notes that describe how close to a tunnel your seats will be.
I didn't discuss any of the ultra-cheap upper deck seats because, generally speaking, they're not that great. Most of these seats have a SeatScore® of less than 2.5 stars, making them below average. It doesn't mean you shouldn't buy them. But they're just not in the same realm as some of the other recommendations. Never-the-less, here are some key aspects I look for when buying budget seats (along with some examples).
Almost all seats at NFL stadiums are stadium-style with a chairback. Lambeau Field comes to mind as one where the majority of seats are bench-style. But in a college stadium, chairback seats are a bonus. Finding them in the upper level cheap seats like at Bryant-Denny and Tiger Stadium? Double bonus.
Sitting Close to the Tunnel
Have I beaten a dead horse by now? Can you tell this is my number one go-to when buying tickets? But practically speaking, it is really, really important. If you're bringing the very young, very old or very inebriated, bathroom breaks are usually plentiful. Sitting close to the tunnel gets you there in record time.
Shade and Cover
Fans often cite comfort as a main reason for not attending outdoor sporting events. Rain, snow, wind and sun have a lot to do with this. More than half of the stadiums I've been to have a significant amount of covered and shaded seats. Some stadiums, like Husky Stadium in Washington (think lots of rain) and Sun Life Stadium in Miami have significant overhead protection for a lot of the worst seats in the stadium. Is it better to be dry in the last row (for $30) or soaked in the first row (for $150)?
Gameday Experiences That Make Up For a Bad Seat
Bad seat, bad schmeat. Most fans would give anything to visit the following stadiums. So even if your tickets have a low SeatScore®, you'll probably have a good time.
LSU/Tiger Stadium - A Saturday night game will make you forget that you have the 102,321st best seat in the stadium.
AT&T/Cowboys Stadium - Your upper deck seat will have a better view of Jerry's Jumbotron than the guy who paid four times as much to sit on the lower level.
Lambeau Field - The Frozen Tundra, Lambeau Leaps and more than 50 years of history make even the worst seats seem OK.
Nebraska/Memorial Stadium - There's obstructed seating and an impossibly high upper deck - oh and a recent home winning percentage of near 90%. Bad seats are a distant memory when you're winning.
Baylor/McLane Stadium - Doesn't quite fit with the rest, but this
might be America's most beautiful football stadium and it's brand spanking new.