“The thing about football – the most important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.”
– Terry Pratchett –
Football. A game of yards and 4th downs, interceptions and intensity. It’s the power behind a defensive tackle, the beauty of a perfect spiral and the heartbreak of a field goal attempt as it hits the post. But at it’s deepest level, football is about so much more than playbooks, strategy and a ball with laces. In a world of differences and disconnect, it is a welcome moment to unite over a common bond deeply rooted in passion and culture.
“Football fans share a universal language that cuts across many cultures and many personality types. A serious football fan is never alone. We are legion, and football is often the only thing we have in common.” – Hunter S. Thompson –
Our family does not come from a long line of football Sundays, but as with all tradition, roots are planted and grow. For us, it is about donning our red and blue, learning as we go and sharing time as a family. It’s bearing witness to hopes and dreams, following the journey of a fresh new face or the career of a legend. It’s a live broadcast of heroes and villains and controversial tales, an understanding that mere seconds can be enough time to change history and define champions. Like so many others, we simply enjoy being a part of an energy that is bigger than ourselves, a sea of strangers collectively united by numbers and names, riding the ebbs and flows of this incredible empire known as the NFL.
So, what did our NFL bucket list experience look like? It was a dream to experience a New England Patriots game, and to see names like Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski take the field. THE field. It was the generosity and kindness of a Patriots staff member offering to help secure tickets, igniting the fires of possibility. It was months of planning in secrecy that resulted in a 4 am surprise wake up call for a flight to Boston. Our football bucket was made for kicking.
GETTING TO A NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS GAME
One of the most unique aspects of Gillette Stadium is that it is not located in the heart of a major city. The stadium is located in Foxborough, MA, 29 miles from downtown Boston and 25 miles from Providence, RI. There are several ways to arrive from Boston:
MBTA Commuter Train: The train only provides service to the stadium on event day, arriving half an hour prior to kickoff and departing half an hour post game. Round-trip tickets are $20 US, are available 1 week prior to the event and sell out quickly. For detailed information, visit HERE.
Personal Vehicle: While we didn’t experience it ourselves, traffic for game day is known to be a huge issue. Parking onsite is $40 US for a car. For detailed maps and prices, visit HERE.
Uber/Lyft App: We chose to go direct from Logan International Airport via Uber XL (to accommodate our family of four and luggage). This was extremely simply and efficient, cost just over $100 US (a Tuesday, late evening) and took approximately 45 minutes.
PATRIOT PLACE: IS IT WORTH THE STAY?
Staying onsite at a Patriot Place hotel for the game takes you out of Boston, and game nights come at a costly premium, so is it worth it? In our experience, absolutely.
Patriot Place is an experience in itself, and there is no greater New England moment than waking up to a view of Gillette Stadium. There is also the ease of stepping outside the doors of the hotel to be met with a plethora of activities, shopping and dining without the crowds that arrive prior to kickoff. It is a relaxed lunch on the patio of the CBS Sporting Club or sharing a breakfast croissant in rocking chairs, soaking up the views in the peace of a pre-game morning. It is the kids relaxing in the room while Mom and Dad head over for a beer at Toby Keith’s, and having the Hall of Fame and Patriots Pro Shop nearly to yourself. For us, staying onsite was an investment in convenience and our experience as a whole. It allowed us plenty of time to explore freely and unencumbered by the masses, as well as the ease of having all of our personal items and space in close proximity.
PATRIOT PLACE HOTELS
We spent our arrival night at the Holiday Garden Inn and an additional two nights, including game night, at the Renaissance Patriot Place. Both hotels had exceptional service, were incredibly comfortable and I would highly recommend either. We stayed at both based on the availability of a Stadium View Room, and cost of specific nights. The hotels are next door to each other, so location choice is a non issue.
Built in 2002, Gillette Stadium sets the bar for major venues at a whole new high. With 89 luxury suites among the largest in the NFL, and a capacity of 65,878, Gillette Stadium is a feat of engineering genius that encompasses 1.9 million square feet over a footprint of 17.3 acres. Standing at 16 stories in height and employing 5,000 staff members per game, the stadium features communal social spaces, 500+ concession stands, a southern stadium screen that would take 1,700 37″ TV’s to fill and unobstructed, midfield focused views for each and every fan in attendance.
STEPPING ONTO GILLETTE FIELD
I am a strong believer that the universe brings people together, that we are meant to experience specific moments and have certain people cross our paths. After all, that is how this entire trip came together. It was a random statement that was met with the kindness of a stranger, a genuine offer to help with a dream, and the catalyst moment to this entire journey.
We were thrilled to finally be able to connect with Erik in person, a man who won us over with his philosophy of doing at least one kind thing per day, giving selflessly and whole heartedly to NUTMEG, the inspirational global Animal Welfare Organization that he founded. He hand delivered the tickets to our very first game, and we chatted away excitedly. On a tight schedule of his own pre-game duties, we prepared to say our goodbyes, but not without a huge surprise. In a stadium that doesn’t offer tours, it turned out Erik would be our very own Willy Wonka.
I’m not sure there are words for those few moments, that precious slice of time after security allowed us to pass beyond the gates. For Erik, this is his every day. For us, this was one of the single greatest moments our family has had the privilege of experiencing. We walked toward the field, following the same path that our favorite players would run out on. We ran our fingers through the turf. Littlest B did a heel stretch, and Miss Teenage B shed some tears. A moment like this is the very reason a journey is worth taking. It is not only sheer fortune to share in such a rare and privileged experience, but it is the ability to truly feel humbled, connected and grateful, allowing the spontaneity and generosity of people and places to completely fill you.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: PRE-GAME CHEER
A major advantage of staying onsite is the freedom to experience everything outside of the game. TNF puts on a fantastic, family friendly experience that offered some very pleasant, unexpected moments, including Littlest B getting to meet members of the Patriots Cheer Squad. As a competitive cheerleader herself, this was something she had dreamed of, and this spontaneous wish list moment happened without crowds or lineups. A huge thank you to these beautiful ladies for making a little girl feel so special!
Other exciting highlights of TNF were getting to pose with official team mascot, Pat Patriot, live music and signing a message of support to the Pats. We spontaneously became part of a lineup of excited fans as a FOX cameraman took his wide angle shots, running through the centre of cheering faces ready for kickoff. This led into the FOX Network broadcast segment, with an appearance by Mr. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. All of these activities were free to attend and the crowds were minimal.
THE NEW ENLGLAND PATRIOTS GAME EXPERIENCE
We stepped into the stadium early, excited to soak up as much of the game experience as possible, standing in awe at the fact that this was really happening. As with any live event, it has a palpable energy that radiates from the field, an anticipation of greatness and possibility. We took our time exploring, reveling in the opportunity to head down into the lower bowl to watch some of the warm-up before heading up to our seats.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- There is a strict enforcement of what you are able to bring into the game, including a policy on bags, packages and containers allowed. We purchased a re-usable, clear vinyl bag that met regulations from the pro-shop. For more information, see HERE.
- No GoPro or video cameras. No selfie sticks. No seat cushions, strollers or baby seats.
- Umbrellas are a NO, so if it looks like rain, pack a poncho.
- Getting to your seat may take some time, especially sitting near the top, but it is incredibly efficient. Walking at 3 mph it will take about 10 minutes. The northeast ramp is 1,820 feet long and rises 180 feet.
- The Patriots do come out for a pre-game warmup, so arrive early to catch it.
- There truly is not a bad seat in the house, so if you are on a ticket budget, don’t worry!
“It’s home, so the louder they get, the more fired up you get. You live off the crowd. So, all the people out there in Foxborough, get ready…..”
– Julian Edelman –
We often talk about the fact that we couldn’t have picked a better game to call our first. After intermittent rain the previous couple days, the clouds parted and we soaked up the warmth of a beautiful New England fall day. Among injuries and headlines, it was a game where all of our favorites took the field, the crowd roaring as Julian Edleman made his first appearance of the season after a four game suspension. In the following hours we witnessed our first touchdown, drank beer with strangers, apologized for being the loud, overly excited Canadians, shared in the kids excitement over huge passes and the cheer squad performance, and we celebrated a huge 38-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts. It was a night, an entire experience, that cannot possibly be duplicated. But we cannot wait to try. GO PATS!!!
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