Week 3 NFL 2015 Travel Guide

Five NFL fan bases are still waiting for their first home games, which take place this week. If you’re planning to be at one of those games, or any other in Week 3 NFL season, here’s our latest effort to help you turn game trips into well-rounded weekend vacations. Check back here every week for more ideas.

Thursday, September 24

Redskins (1-1) at Giants (0-2)

8:30 p.m., MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Storyline: Rookie Redskins RB Matt Jones’ big game last week against the Rams shows he’s a dangerous complement to RB Alfred Morris. But those two will get little mention in pregame narratives focused on amateurish late-game misplays by QB Eli Manning and others that squandered two almost-certain Giants wins.

Stadium tip: The parking lots usually open 5 hours before kickoff and close 2 hours after the game. Drivers who normally depart the game via the New Jersey Turnpike 16W interchange should plan an alternate route to avoid postgame delays caused by road construction specific go that interchange.

Making a weekend of it? If you’re going to stick around for a day or two after the game, why not think about a Broadway show? Among newer shows, Aladdin, based on the Disney movie plot, has been getting outstanding reviews. If you’re looking for an authentic New York deli experience, head to Houston Street for the unforgettably thick pastrami cuts at Katz’s Delicatessen, almost 130 years old and going strong.

If you’re in the Bluegreen Vacation Club: The Manhattan Club in Midtown is about an hour subway-bus commute to the New Jersey Meadowlands.

week-3-nfl-ravens-stadiumSunday, September 27

Bengals (2-0) at Ravens (0-2)

1 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

Storyline: The Ravens sorely missed injured LB Terrell Suggs last week while being shredded for 447 yards and failing to protect a late three-point lead against the Raiders. The emotion surrounding a home opener could help this week against in theory an even tougher challenge, led by QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green.

Stadium tip: All stadium lot parking spots are sold in advance. If you’re driving, get traffic updates on Twitter by following @MDSHA, @BmoreCityDOT and @The MDTA. Depending on where you’re staying consider the Ravens Ride bus service.

Making a weekend of it? Spend Saturday visiting the myriad shops, museums and historic attractions of Inner Harbor, from Fort McHenry to the American Visionary Art Museum. For dinner, enjoy fresh seafood Mid-Atlantic and New England style at Thames Street Oyster House in the 250-year-old Fells Point neighborhood.

Saints (0-2) at Panthers (2-0)

1 p.m., Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Storyline: The Saints wobble into Charlotte, winless and now without QB Drew Brees, to face QB Cam Newton and an opportunistic Panthers defense strengthened by the probable return of star LB Luke Kuechly.

Stadium tip: If you’re bringing children, take note of the Tag-A-Kid Program. Registered children are given wristbands with their seat locations. Register on the lower concourse.

Making a weekend of it? See the city and learn its history in a memorable manner with Charlotte Center City Carriage Tours. Then enjoy fine French and Italian cuisine at Fig Tree in the historic Elizabeth neighborhood.

jaguars-patriots-week-3-nflJaguars (1-1) at Patriots (2-0)

8:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts

Storyline: WR Allen Robinson had a breakout game and the Jags scored a nice win last week over the Dolphins, but the Patriots—now with RB Dion Lewis balancing off the offense—probably will be too much for them.

Stadium tip: Before your trip, find and download a local traffic app. Boston driving always requires patience and planning.

Making a weekend of it? Tour Plimoth Plantation, the living history museum on the South Shore between Boston and Cape Cod that depicts Pilgrim life. Bonus for September 26: “Pint with a Pilgrim,” wherein Captain Miles Standish himself explains the role of role that beer played in community morale (and you get to enjoy the Mayflower Brewing Company’s new craft label, Standish). While in Plymouth, try one of the burgers at KKatie’s Burger Bar—the KKatie’s KKrunch, topped with bacon, cheese, caramelized onions, roasted garlic and shallot dip, and house-made potato chips.

If you’re in the Bluegreen Vacation Club: The stadium is 90 miles from adjacent resorts in Dennis Port on Cape Cod, The Soundings Seaside Resort and the Breakers Resort. Expect a best-case 2-hour drive to Foxboro if traffic is average. The return trip should be shorter.

eagles-week-3-nflEagles (0-2) at Jets (2-0)

8:30 p.m., MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Storyline: The Eagles are sticking with struggling QB Sam Bradford and RB DeMarco Murray. The Jets defense, led by rookie DE Leonard Williams and vets like LB David Harris and CB Antonio Cromartie, can’t wait.

Stadium tip: The parking lots usually open 5 hours before kickoff and close 2 hours after the game. Drivers who normally depart the game via the New Jersey Turnpike 16W interchange should plan an alternate route to avoid postgame delays caused by road construction specific go that interchange.

Making a weekend of it? Spend a day in Manhattan. Focus on free activities like admiring the public statues at Rockefeller Center or strolling the High Line. Save you money for a nice dinner at someplace that oozes New York like the Palm in Tribeca.

If you’re in the Bluegreen Vacation Club: The Manhattan Club in Midtown is about an hour subway-bus commute to the New Jersey Meadowlands.

Raiders (1-1) at Browns (1-1)

1 p.m., FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

Storyline: Buoyed by their late comeback win against the Ravens at home, the Raiders and their “Triplets”—second-year QB Derek Carr, second-year RB Latavius Murray and rookie WR Amari Cooper—head east to take on QB Johnny Manziel and another team that built confidence last weekend.

Stadium tip: Dress appropriately for season but bring extra layers. The stadium chills with winds off Lake Erie.

Making a weekend of it? The No. 1 must-see attraction is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Then enjoy an exceptional farm- and earth-to-table experience at The Flying Fig. Try the New Creations Chicken & Pork Crepinette (with farro risotto, roasted asparagus and oyster mushrooms).

at-t-stadium-week-3-nflFalcons (2-0) at Cowboys (2-0)

1 p.m. (noon local), AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Storyline: The Falcons will be without injured RB Tevin Coleman, a promising rookie. Waaah, say the Cowboys, who are now without injured star QB Tony Romo at least several weeks as well as injured star WR Dez Bryant, and possibly even injured star TE Jason Witten.

Stadium tip: Have your Uber app ready. No public transportation routes serve the stadium.

Making a weekend of it? If you’re staying in Arlington, as opposed to Dallas or Fort Worth, take in Six Flags Over Texas, open Saturdays in September (but not weekdays). The first Six Flags Theme Park, it opened in 1961, but it’s kept up with the times. In June 2015, the park introduced Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, a new interactive dark ride themed after the mega-popular comic book. For dinner, enjoy modestly priced authentic Turkish cuisine at Istanbul Grill.

Colts (0-2) at Titans (1-1)

1 p.m. (noon local), Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Storyline: Rookie QB Marcus Mariota plays his first home game. The visiting QB, Andrew Luck, has struggled more than expected, as have the Colts—thanks to failure in the off-season to address glaring deficiencies on the offensive line.

Stadium tip: Prescription drugs and items such as special dietary foods and beverages are prohibited inside the seating area. If you must bring such an item, notify a gate security associate who will store and retrieve it.

Making a weekend of it? If you’ll be in Nashville the entire weekend (as opposed to, say, driving in on Sunday after mini-vacationing in the Smokies), make sure to tour historic Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry. For dinner, discover that there’s more to Nashville than country cookin’ when you visit Etch, home of contemporary fine dining but with a variety of proteins.

If you’re in the Bluegreen Vacation Club: If you don’t mind a 3½-hour early Sunday morning drive, enjoy the tranquility of Laurel Crest in Pigeon Forge or MountainLoft in Gatlinburg.

vikings-week-3-nflChargers (1-1) at Vikings (1-1)

1 p.m. (noon local), TCF Bank Stadium, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Storyline: QB Philip Rivers and the high-powered Chargers should provide a clue to whether the RB Adrian Peterson, QB Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings will settle in closer to the performance level of their sad Week 1 loss to the 49ers or impressive Week 2 win over the Lions.

Stadium tip: Remember that Vikings home games are being played on a college campus while a new stadium is being built. Expect heavy congestion on campus streets. Arrive super early, park, and if it’s too early to tailgate or enter the stadium, enjoy thee campus on foot.

Making a weekend of it? Visit Mall of America to explore Star Trek: The Exhibition. It’s one of the world’s largest collections of artifacts from one of the most popular, enduring and influential franchises in Western science fiction if not all of Western pop culture. Then for dinner, enjoy classic fine dining upstairs or downstairs at 112 Eatery.

Steelers (1-1) at Rams (1-1)

1 p.m. (noon local), Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri

Storyline: Will one of the better home field edges in the NFL, influential in Week 1 when QB Nick Foles rallied the Rams against the Seahawks, come into play once more against the Steelers? They’ll need it, because QB Ben Roesthlisberger & Co. scored 43 on the 49ers last week, averaging a ridiculous 8.7 yards and almost a full point per offensive play. And the Rams struggled in a road loss at Washington.

Stadium tip: Download a local traffic app, such as TrafficStL. Tourist activity and traffic along the riverfront might be heavier than normal thanks to renewed, 50th-anniversary interest in the Gateway Arch a major construction project linking the arch with down via a pedestrian park being built over Interstate 70.

Making a weekend of it? If you’ve never ridden the enclosed tram to the 630-foot-high apex of the arch, go for it. As for a meal, don’t bother dressing up—just sit down and salivate over a half slab of BBQ at Pappy’s Smokehouse in midtown.

49ers-week-3-nfl

49ers (1-1) at Cardinals (2-0)

4:05 p.m. (1:05 p.m. local), University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Storyline: Controlling time and possession accomplished nothing for QB Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers in their 43-18 loss to the Steelers. In a division road game, they now face another quick-strike offense, led by QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald, which actually scored five more points last week than Pittsburgh.

Stadium tip: The Cardinals provide free shuttle service to an inexpensive remote parking lot.

Making a weekend of it? Make a day trip Saturday to Sedona—less than 2 hours each way—via State Road 179, also known as Red Rock Scenic Byway. State Road 179 is a stunning, 7.5-mile stretch of road through the famous red rock formations. Accessible an hour north of Phoenix, it’s been honored with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s highest designation, “All-American Road.” Along the way, take in the majesty of Cathedral Rock and the nondenominational spirituality of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Just outside Sedona, leisure-shop for unique artisan keepsakes at the Tiaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. And while in Sedona, enjoy Smoked Pork Cheeks, Corn Crusted Scallops or some other gourmet delicacy at Elote Café—laidback and casual and yet maybe the closest thing anywhere in the United States to a “destination” Mexican restaurant.

If you’re in the Bluegreen Vacation Club: The area resort, Cibola Vista Resort and Spa in Peoria, is an 30-minute drive in moderate traffic drive from University of Phoenix Stadium. If you set out enough, the drive takes barely 20 minutes.

bills-dolphins-week-3-nflBills (1-1) at Dolphins (1-1)

4:25 p.m., Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Storyline: Did star Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh really freelance on defense in an upset loss to the Jaguars, as alleged? Either way, the Dolphins’ season has been tarnished before they play their first home game. Defensive discipline will be paramount against mobile and deceptive Bills QB Tyrod Taylor.

Stadium tip: The stadium is in the process of major renovation. Don’t count on finding your way based on familiar gate names A through H used in the past. Gate names now are based on direction—North, South, and so on.

Making a weekend of it? Spend an afternoon browsing stunning modern art in all forms at Perez Art Museum Miami, 2 minutes north of AmericanAirlines Arena on Biscayne Boulevard. Then enjoy a memorable meal in South Beach at Barton G., where the food is outstanding—and the presentation is even better.

If you’re in the Bluegreen Vacation Club: Bluegreen has a resort on the barrier island 8 miles north of South Beach, Solara Surfside. Depending on whether you prefer to drive north on State Road A1A and then west, or west across the Broad Causeway and then north up Interstate 95, it’s 35 to 45 minutes in game-day traffic.

seahawks-week-3-nflBears (0-2) at Seahawks (0-2)

4:25 p.m. (1:25 local time), CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington

Storyline: The two-time defending NFC-champ Seahawks have yet to figure out how to use prized offseason acquisition TE Jimmy Graham (7 total receptions, 62 yards, 1 TD) among other issues in need of sorting out. Look for every issue to get sorted itself out quickly this week. The Bears will start Jimmy Clausen at QB in place of injured Jay Cutler and, having been eviscerated by QBs Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer at home in Weeks 1 and 2, should be no match in the home opener for both the refocused Seahawks and their out-for-blood “12th Man” fans.

Stadium tip: Postgame AAA service is available in the CenturyLink North lot, CenturyLink Events Center garage or Union Station garage if you return to a flat tire, dead battery or keys locked inside your car,

Making a weekend of it? Ride to the top of the Space Needle. It’s the most recognizable feature on the Emerald City skyline and, to many, the symbol of the city itself. See spectacular views of the Cascades including Mount Rainer and the volcanic Mount Baker. Depending what time of day you visit the Space Needle, enjoy lunch or dinner at SkyCity Restaurant, one level below the observation deck.

Broncos (2-0) at Lions (0-2)

8:30 p.m., Ford Field, Detroit Michigan

Storyline: WR Golden Tate, whose great speed creates quick separation downfield, could have his first big day of the season if strong-armed QB Dan Orlovsky starts the Lions home opener in place of injured Matthew Stafford. Then again, the Broncos defense led by LB Von Miller could have the biggest day of all.

Stadium tip: Download the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Mi Drive mobile app for game-day traffic updates.

Making a weekend of it? Spend an enthralling day at Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, housed in the same complex in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan. The Henry Ford Museum chronicles American industrial and scientific progress. Greenfield Village is a living history museum. Back in Detroit, enjoy dinner in Midtown at Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, where the menu is as light and cheery as the chartreuse-walled and high-windowed dining room.

Monday, September 28

packers-chiefs-week-3-nflChiefs (1-1) at Packers (2-0)

8:25 p.m., Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Storyline: The Chiefs’ 11 days off since last Thursday provide extra healing time from a traumatic home loss, when the Broncos returned RB Jamaal Charles’ fumble for a touchdown in the final seconds. The Packers, banged up physically, are happy to have one extra day off. One edge for them: QB Aaron Rodgers is healthy.

Stadium tip: Consult the Wisconsin Department on Transportation site for the latest and best traffic advice. Otherwise a variety of road construction projects near the stadium could cause undue delays.

Making a weekend of it? Since the game is Monday, sneak in a weekend at Wisconsin Dells. Some of the tour season attractions are closed, making for smaller crowds but no less beautiful scenery—including during a round of golf amid fall color on a challenging course like the Oaks at Christmas Mountain Village. If you’re with the kids, take the to an indoor water park. Before your 2½-hour drive to Green Bay with an all-you-can eat breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty.

If you’re in the Bluegreen Vacation Club: Bluegreen has two resorts in Wisconsin Dells—Christmas Mountain Village and Bluegreen Odyssey Dells. Avoid crowded Green Bay motels and make the leisurely 2½-hour drive Monday morning.

Photo Credits: Chris BickhamKevin GalensMatthew StraubmullerLauraPeter McCarthyBob B. Brown and Mike Morbeck via cc