Carolina Panthers Game
Yeah we totally did this. With our kid. Crazy? Just crazy for some football!
You see, we love this area for all the fantastic sports that are here (like the Hurricanes and those wonderful Rollergirls to name just a few!). And we also love watching NFL games and cheering for a certain team that hails from the DC area. When that particular team was in town playing the Panthers, we headed up for a day trip with a very excited little boy.
Right off I am going to let you know the biggest problem you will have with this outing: it is so expensive. If you want to do this you have to plan in advance (both getting tickets early and budgeting). Yet in our opinion it is so worth it! We sat in the seats that are almost as high as you can get and still had great view of the action. Plus the Bank of America stadium is just really cool, with a view of the Charlotte skyline in the distance. (And, by the by, isn't too far from Discovery Place!)
We did the entire trip up and back in one day. From Chapel Hill it was between 2.5 to 3 hours of a drive for us, but very easy. There is a train, too, that goes from Raleigh to Charlotte that a lot of folks take for game day. I am not sure how crazy it might get since there is, apparently, some pre- and post- game tailgating that happens on the train. If we try it some day, I'll let you know.
When you get to the stadium area, you can pay up to $30 to park your car in one of the numerous lots. Or you can drive around like we did until you find a lot that is $10 off of Mint and Graham street. Get there early to get the cheaper parking since it fills up fast! (There is much more detailed and official information at the Panthers' website, see below.)
Outside the stadium is just an experience itself before games. People tailgating everywhere, live music everywhere. At a church on Mint Street just blocks from the stadium a large, very good, and rambunctious brass band plays. C loved that!
To get in the stadium as a parent you will need to know a few things:
1. Bags can not be too large. I took our diaper bag in and that's not tiny, but do pack small if possible. This is also nice simply because when you get to your seat you will want all the foot room you can get.
2. No strollers. Infant carriers such as Bjorns and Ergos are fine.
3. No booster seats of any kid. You probably won't even need them. Our son is a toddler and he could see just fine.
4. Technically no food or drinks allowed into the stadium. They do check your bag but it wasn't a thorough search for us. I brought some "back up" snacks for C just in case we had a food-induced meltdown mid-game and had no problems getting them in in plain sight. Just be prudent.
5. Kids over 12 months must have a ticket to get in. Kids under 12 months without a ticket must sit on someone's lap.
Once inside, there are, of course, plenty of concessions to be had. It is standard stadium food - meaning we found it to be fairly overpriced and not all that great to our grown-up tastebuds but our son was quite content with some chicken fingers.
There are changing tables in pretty much all of the bathrooms. You just might have to wait in line for a toilet (especially if you get up during halftime).
Other things that were a surprise yet good to know with a kid: he LOVED the sound of the Panther roaring (which could potentially lead to your child rooting for the Carolina Panthers if you are rooting for the away team), the halftime show changes but is usually full of music and dancing. Despite football being a relatively slow-moving game, there was plenty here to keep a kid occupied beyond the field.
If your child still is restless and can't hack it anymore, there is a kids area at the stadium. It is called Sir Purr's playden and is located by Section 138. It has astroturf and a football field as well as fun activities such as dressing like a Panther and comparing your weight to the football players' (recommended you do this pre-chicken fingers). We didn't go there ourselves since we didn't need it so I can't tell you whether it cost extra or not. They do offer birthday party packages in Sir Purr's playden, too, if you have a die-hard little fan on your hands.
Overall, this is something that is going to require some planning, commitment, and can make for a long day but will create fabulous memories that nothing else can really provide. Even if your team doesn't win, you will remember the experience!
NFL Football Games
Bank of America Stadium
800 South Mint Street