Not all College Football bowl stadiums are created equal. The majority are held in NFL stadiums, in the south, and in stadiums not primarily built to house college football. In fact, just 12 bowl games are played in stadiums that primarily are home to FBS programs. Which bowl game venues are the best? The worst?
Note: Perception on best and worst bowl stadiums are totally subjective. My reasoning for placing a bowl stadium higher or lower may not be congruent with your thoughts. So be sure to comment what you think, or let me know your favorite bowl stadium on social media.
College Football Bowl Stadiums Ranked
Tier One: The Best
Rose Bowl Stadium, Rose Bowl: I mean, duh. This isn’t really up for discussion. The Rose Bowl is the original bowl game and Rose Bowl Stadium has gone un-sponsored for 100 years. There’s no competition at the top– Rose Bowl Stadium is the best bowl venue and one of the best college football venues, period.
Sun Bowl Stadium, Sun Bowl: The Sun Bowl existed before this stadium was built, but to exist for 60 years without a sponsor slapped on it is iconic. The setting for the Sun Bowl makes it one of the best stadiums in college football, so it’s apt for this tier. The host venue from 1938-1963 still exists right next door and you can visit it! Currently, Kidd Field hosts track & field.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Military Bowl: Navy’s home football stadium is a living museum. From commemorative plaques to decommissioned Blue Angel jets outside, it’s a must-visit and not just during bowl season. A plus for fans: the stadium has individual seats rather than benches. Annapolis is a wonderful town, as well.
Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, Liberty Bowl: Liberty Bowl Stadium was constructed as a pitch to bring the Liberty Bowl to Memphis after it spent three years in Philadelphia (hence the name “Liberty” Bowl) and a year in Atlantic City. As a bonus, the Memphis football program got a new venue. Its historic prominence cements its spot here and incoming upgrades will help hold its spot in Tier One.
Independence Bowl, Independence Stadium: There’s not many of them left, but Independence Stadium’s primary existence is to house the Independence Bowl. Shreveport isn’t a destination city, but it’s also not home to an FBS program. This stadium exists solely for this bowl game and you have to respect that.
Tier Two: The Best College Football Bowl Stadiums You’re Not Considering
Toyota Stadium, Frisco Bowl: Okay hear me out. Toyota Stadium is a quaint, but well-thought-out stadium in North Dallas that’s home to the Soccer Hall of Fame and Dallas FC. It’s also a terrific bowl venue thanks to its capacity and propensity to host high-level bowl games. Despite making its bowl debut in 2019, it’s become one of the best venues in a destination city. Downtown Frisco itself offers a ton to visitors.
PetCo Park, Holiday Bowl: You’ll find most of the MLB parks below, but PetCo consistently ranks in the top 10 as far as MLB venues go. Add in the pristine weather and destination city that San Diego is, and there’s far worse places to play a bowl game. However, this is based on speculation, as 2022 is the first year the Holiday Bowl is actually played at PetCo. Maybe it’ll be a disaster.
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Armed Forces Bowl: Only two Power Five venues also house a bowl game (excluding NFL stadiums) and this one’s located in the better city. Recent renovations to TCU’s home field make it among the best in the Big 12 and if you’re among the best in your conference, you’re among the best in Bowl Season.
Tier Two and a half: NFL Stadiums
SoFi Stadium, LA Bowl: According to the nearly $5 billion price tag and everyone who’s been there– including for the 2022 Super Bowl– SoFi Stadium is a marvel of modern architecture. The indoor-outdoor setup is ideal for winter in Los Angeles and the college programs who’ve played here the past two years have raved about it.
Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas Bowl: Like SoFi, Allegiant Stadium received raving reviews for its technological and architectural innovation. This state-of-the-art facility is the home to UNLV and cost a cool $1.9 billion to build. Despite it looking like a giant Roomba, it’s located in a destination city and it belongs near the top of the NFL facilities. It even offers marble floors in its concourses.
AT&T Stadium, Cotton Bowl: Before SoFi and Allegiant Stadiums opened up, Jerry’s World was the standard in the NFL. It sits a monstrous 80,000 fans– by far the largest of indoor venues in the US. It also boasts the NFL’s largest video board, spanning nearly the entire length of the field. For those of you who have seen a game here, NFL or otherwise, it’s a terrific venue in a great city. It still holds up.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Celebration & Peach Bowls: The shutter roof is a cool feature, but like AT&T Stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a terrific venue in a terrific city. The seating is excellent– there’s no bad seats in the house. There’s a reason Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the home to both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta FC and has been named the host to the National Championship.
TIAA Bank Field, Gator Bowl: This NFL stadium offers swimming pool seating. That’s honestly why it’s up here. Florida weather, swimming pools. Bam. (Side note: It’s also continued to be the annual host for the Georgia-Florida rivalry for a reason.)
Ford Field, Quick Lane Bowl: Ford Field is really a nice surprise among NFL stadiums. Walking around the concourses feels more like a mall than a football stadium and it’s clear there’s been serious upgrades to the venue. Buried in the heart of downtown Detroit, it’s within walking distance to the food and cultural center of the city. However, bundle up for a late-December bowl game in Detroit.
State Farm Stadium, Fiesta Bowl: Reviews for State Farm Stadium are… fine. It’s not awful, but it’s not among the elite NFL venues. A cool quirk for it: it’s a rare indoor stadium with a grass field. One end of the stadium opens up and the grass field is wheeled in and out to receive sun.
Hard Rock Stadium, Orange Bowl: When you’re located in Miami, you don’t really need a roof on your stadium. The design is quirky and unique with the square shape and blocky overhang. However, it’s outdone by all the other stadiums above it.
NRG Stadium, Texas Bowl.: NRG Stadium is a lot better a venue for the Houston Rodeo, when it’s surrounded by fairgrounds. When the rodeo isn’t in town, NRG’s only neighbor is the vacant Astrodome. The stadium is perfectly average in terms of roofed NFL stadiums.
Raymond James Stadium, Gasparilla & ReliaQuest Bowls: Aside from its location in Tampa and its pirate ship in the end zone, Raymond James doesn’t have a ton going for it. In terms of design, it’s pretty nondescript and the home of the Buccaneers usually lands in the middle or lower tier of NFL stadiums.
Bank of America Stadium, Duke’s Mayo Bowl: This isn’t to say Bank of America Stadium is a bad venue or that Charlotte is a bad city– in fact, Charlotte is a wonderful city with awesome food options. But when going against coastal Florida cities or newer indoor facilities, this is where the home of the Mayo Bowl falls.
Caesars Superdome, New Orleans & Sugar Bowls: Originally the Mercedes Superdome, this venue has just fallen out of vogue. The design is dated and the stadium itself is supposedly on its last legs despite efforts to modernize it.
Tier Three: The Weird But Wonderful College Football Bowl Stadiums
Fenway Park, Fenway Bowl: Ideally, teams only score going one way at Fenway. Why? The outfield wall is inches outside of the out of bounds line in the back. Why else this is a weird choice for a bowl venue is that hosting an outdoor sporting event in Boston in December is a real gamble and likely won’t be both sunny and warm, and most likely neither. A bonus quirk: teams share a sideline.
Yankee Stadium, Pinstripe Bowl: All of the same reasons as above, but Yankee Stadium doesn’t have the Green Monster.
Chase Field, Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Chase Field was once one of the best venues in the MLB, but that was back in 1998. Reviews of this stadium say it’s outdated. Also, despite having a roof, stadium operators left it open and allowed a downpour to soak everyone and everything inside before the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
Thomas Robinson Stadium, Bahamas Bowl: The only international bowl site has a track around it and some ridiculous details surrounding game day. Bonus points for being located in a Caribbean paradise.
Brooks Stadium, Myrtle Beach Bowl: Colored turf automatically earns a spot here on the list, but the nod is given to Brooks Stadium for being located in a more favorable December climate than Boise.
Albertsons Stadium, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: The original colored turf is truly weird. So is everything else surrounding this bowl game right down to its participants, but Idaho in winter can be dicy weather-wise.
Arizona Stadium, Arizona Bowl: Wait a minute! Why is one Power Five venue all the way up in Tier Two while this one falls to the end of Tier Three? Location. Tucson is a great college town, but it’s difficult to get to and not much of a holiday destination. Amon G. Carter Stadium is just an overall nicer facility, too.
Tier Four: The Weather’s Nice
FAU Stadium, Boca Raton Bowl.: One of the 12 bowl stadiums primarily home to an FBS team (any guesses to who?), FAU Stadium’s best feature is its location in Boca Raton. The venue itself is perfectly serviceable but nothing special and it doesn’t fill up all that much. But then again, Boca!
Camping World Stadium, Cheez-It & Citrus Bowls: Camping World Stadium is a venue filled with corporate meddling. The money to build the facility came from Disney World and was built solely to keep a couple bowl games in Orlando. It lacks the character or history of the Orange Bowl and is so nondescript that it borrows 100 different features from other stadiums. It feels like a venue built to be a generic placeholder for a football stadium in a movie.
Gerald J. Ford Stadium, First Responder Bowl.: It’s a nice profit boost for SMU to host a bowl game, but really who cares? Gerald J. Ford Stadium is totally fine as a home for SMU but it never really fills all that fully for the bowl game. Being located in Dallas is a saving grace, but Dallas’ best tourist attraction is Fort Worth anyway.
Ching Complex, Hawaii Bowl.: Aside from its location in Hawaii, the temporary home to both the Hawaii football team and the Hawaii Bowl, Ching Complex isn’t a college-level facility. It holds under 10,000 fans and has a track around it. The worst part is– there’s no timeline for the new Aloha Stadium.
Tier Five: The Bottom College Football Bowl Stadiums
Nissan Stadium, Music City Bowl: Nissan Stadium is kind of a crap NFL Stadium. Currently, Nashville is looking to replace it with a better venue. It’s not surprising to see it fall this low on the list. However, it’s bailed out by being within walking distance to Broadway and downtown Nashville.
Exploria Stadium, Cure Bowl: Exploria Stadium is a new addition to bowl venues in 2022 after it opened in 2017. Primarily home to two pro soccer teams– men’s and women’s– it’s not perfectly apt to housing football. The purple invasion from the stands and the pink logo of the Cure Bowl at midfield just don’t work. The Cure Bowl moved from Camping World Stadium to here and it’s really a slight downgrade.
Hancock Whitney Stadium, LendingTree Bowl (& Senior Bowl): Mobile isn’t what you’d call a “destination city” and Hancock Whitney Stadium– new though it is– is a low-level FBS stadium. The Senior Bowl being hosted here is mostly due to tradition. The LendingTree Bowl in itself is entirely forgettable and the stadium doesn’t make it any more memorable.
Protective Stadium, Birmingham Bowl: For opening in 2021, Protective Stadium being as boring as it is is entirely inexcusable. There’s no color. There’s no unique features. No twists or changes that sets it apart. Outside of the stadium, Birmingham is far from a destination city. The weather isn’t even all that nice all the time.
Alamodome, Alamo Bowl: I’ve expressed my feelings about the Alamodome before. It was deemed unfit to host an NBA team and remains a deserted facility that really doesn’t need its own bowl. The lone saving grace for the Alamadome is that San Antonio is a severely underrated city.
University Stadium, New Mexico Bowl: University Stadium isn’t a great FBS stadium to begin with. Albuquerque is a cool city to visit– not sure I’d go as far as to call it “destination”– but it can get pretty awfully cold in December at elevation.
Cramton Bowl, Camellia Bowl: I’ll be frank– the Cramton Bowl kinda sucks. It’s in a rundown part of Montgomery and there’s a better stadium right down the road that houses Alabama State football. I’m sure there’s plenty of history in the Cramton Bowl, but it doesn’t really hold its history in its walls. The Camellia Bowl is the most forgettable bowl game held in a historic city that’s not really a destination.