With the Super Bowl bringing an end to another frenetic NFL season, the prospect of waiting until September for the next one to begin can be a little depressing for the average football fan. However, pro football never really sleeps and some of the best travel opportunities to explore the traditions, sights and sounds of the NFL can be found in the off-season. With great weather, teams more willing to provide fan access and other sports to take in at the same time, there’s no reason why spring and summer can’t provide you with a great football-themed holiday.
The NFL Draft 2017 – Philadelphia, 27-29 April
After 50 years in New York, the NFL now take their marquee off-season event on the road and after two years in Chicago are hitting the City of Brotherly Love in 2017. The Philly Draft promises to be a spectacular event for fans to attend – with an NFL fan fest set up downtown even if you don’t have a ticket for the auditorium itself. Using the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as a platform, draftees will be ascending the famous Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on their way to picking up their jersey and cap from the Commish! Philadelphia is less than a seven hour flight from the UK and in addition to the draft, also offers a tonne of things for the British sports tourist to see and do, including a trip to see the Phillies play (their ball park is next to the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field) as well as visiting Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – not to mention the huge amount of quality restaurants and bars in the city’s various neighbourhoods.
Team Training Camps – Country-wide, July/August
You’ve seen it on Hard Knocks, now experience it in person! Many NFL teams open up a large number of their training camp practices to the general public, giving fans the opportunity to really get up close and personal with their favourite players (autograph sessions are commonplace after a practice) as well as checking out the progress of the new batch of rookies and fringe players vying to make the squad. Because of the time of year when training camp occurs, it coincides with the school summer holidays and provides football-mad parents the perfect excuse to get the young ones out in the open air, giving them a taste of football fundamentals at the same time. From early August, there is also the opportunity to take in a pre-season game or two – often the perfect introduction to the game for younger fans where tickets are more readily available and the atmosphere is not necessarily as intense as a regular season game.
Hall of Fame Weekend – Canton, 3-6 August
Kicking off the season in style, the Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton is a fantastic experience for anyone truly passionate about the game. The Hall itself is full of stunning memorabilia from the very best in pro football and the weekend provides the opportunity to witness the induction ceremony of some true greats – then there’s the Hall of Fame game which takes place the following night (provided they get the field sorted this year)! Staying in nearby Cleveland is a good choice for those looking to make the most of their time on a HOF trip, with the rejuvenated Ohioan city providing lots to do, such as taking in an Indians game or a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Fans regard their team’s home turf as hallowed ground and teams in the NFL realise this, with most of them offering comprehensive stadium tours. While in the regular season the teams can be a bit more guarded with access due to planning around games, the off season provides ample opportunity for them to show off their facilities. A summer trip to Texas for a Cowboys fan is
completed by a visit to Jerry World – and the AT&T Stadium staff do a great job of showing folks around the entire huge facility, including press box and locker room (players and cheerleaders!), not to mention the opportunity to walk the field and pose on the famous midfield star. Green Bay offer fantastic tours of Lambeau, including access to the Packers Hall of Fame. And like the other NFL summer activities, the option to mix in a baseball game or theme park visit makes such a summer trip an appealing prospect.
At Touchdown Trips, we can sort out all a tailored off-season, ATOL protected package, including flights from the UK, great hotels and tickets to any and all of the off-season events. If you’re a football fan and fancy something a little different this summer, then give us a shout!
This article first appeared in the February 2017 issue of Gridiron Magazine, which we’d heartily recommend you check out for the most in-depth NFL articles from the UK’s premier football publication.