If it’s late July, chances are that means it’s vacation time for you.
It also means that vacation time is over for NFL players—which could be another good thing for you and other pro football fans in your family.
Every year, players on every team in the National Football League go back to work full time in late July, the traditional starting time for preseason training camps.
Every year, more and more spectators come to watch their favorite players grunt and sweat through drills and practices, in an out of their protective pads.
And every year, most teams go to greater and greater extents to make the experience fan-friendly during the three-week period before practices become private. Most teams not only allow fans to watch practices for free, they also sell food, beverages and team souvenirs, and provide informal access to players after practice for autographs. Some even schedule formal autograph and photo-op sessions and treat fans to interactive games and displays.
All of that makes visits to an NFL training camp well worth incorporating in your summer vacation. And as it turns out, more than 20 Bluegreen Vacations resorts are within 20-minute to 3-hour drives of NFL training sites. Seven teams train less than an hour from our resorts. Another three are based 1 to 2 hours away. And three more train 2½ hours to 2 hours, 50 minutes away—not short drives, for sure, but trips eagerly made by many a fan in support of a favorite team. The farther you drive, the more it makes sense to maximize your trip by selecting a date on which the team has two practices scheduled, with a break in between ideal for a family meal or extra sightseeing. Regularly consult your team’s website for updates, as daily practice schedules can change.
Where teams conduct NFL training camps
Teams train in a variety of settings. Some work out at in-season facilities adjacent to their home stadiums. Some have their own facilities in regional proximity to their home city. Several still follow a long NFL tradition and train on nearby college campuses. The Green Bay Packers, for example, have trained at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, since 1958, the year before Vince Lombardi became their coach. (De Pere, by the way, is a tad closer than Green Bay if you’re driving from Bluegreen Odyssey Dells and Christmas Mountain Village.) And then there are teams like the Dallas Cowboys who train all the way in Oxnard, California. (Take note, prospective Bonus Time guests of the Club at Big Bear Village.)
Teams like the Packers and Cowboys shift practices to their main facilities about halfway through the preseason, when all teams begin closing practice to the public. Again, it’s imperative to consult team websites and be aware of the cutoff dates. Most teams haven’t posted exact schedules to their websites yet, but count on your favorites being in camp the last week of July and stay on top of the sites for all pertinent announcements.
But whatever your favorite team—or if you’re simply scouting fantasy players—you’ll find an NFL team of interest practicing close enough to a Bluegreen Vacations resort to get you excited for the upcoming season.
Here alphabetically are the teams we’re recommending based on proximity, along with their websites and special notes.
The Atlanta Falcons train at their own facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, 46 miles or just over an hour from Golf Club and Petite Crest Villas at Big Canoe in Marble Hill.
The Arizona Cardinals train at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, 131 miles from Cibola Vista Resort and Spa just north of Phoenix.
The Carolina Panthers train at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. That’s 45 miles or 1 hour from Fox Run Townhouses in Lake Lure, North Carolina.
The Dallas Cowboys train at River Ridge Playing Fields in Oxnard, California. That’s about 150 miles from the Club at Big Bear Village. That’s a hike, but Cowboys fans are especially passionate about their team.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers’ base in De Pere, Wisconsin is 127 miles from Bluegreen Odyssey Dells and just a little farther from Christmas Mountain Village. Again: Not the shortest drive, but then, the Packers have one of the broadest and most intense fan bases in the NFL. Fans have been known to drive to De Pere from throughout the entire Midwest.
The Jacksonville Jaguars work out at their own practice facility in Jacksonville, Florida, adjacent to their home stadium, EverBank Field. It’s 31 miles from Grande Villas at World Golf Village; less than 90 miles from Outrigger Beach Club in Ormand Beach and slightly longer from Daytona Seabreeze, Dolphin Beach Club and Fantasy Island Resort II, all in Daytona Beach Shores.
The Miami Dolphins train at their own facility, the Doctors Hospital Training Facility in Davie, Florida, 23 miles or 35 minutes from Solara Surfside. In addition to obtaining player autographs after open practices, fans can get photos taken with Dolphins cheerleaders. There also are interactive games, giveaways and special auction items to benefit the Miami Dolphins Foundation.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots train on a field adjacent to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. It’s 81 miles from The Soundings Seaside Resort and The Breakers Resort. In addition to the website, once camp begins you can get up-to-the-minute information on the training camp hotline at 508.549.0001, including information on whether possible inclement weather is forcing practice to move indoors out of public view. Additionally, ADA information is available at 508.384.9191 and TTD/TYT information at 508.384.4389.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints train in Metairie, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans. The site is 9 miles from Club La Pension.
The Philadelphia Eagles are opening their own facility this year, the NovaCare Center in Philadelphia across the street from their home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, where most of the free, public practices will take place. The closest Bluegreen Vacations resort actually is across the state line in Atlantic City, New Jersey—Bluegreen at Atlantic Palace, 58 miles away. The only in-state resort, the Suites at Hershey, is 100 miles away. Ironically, the Eagles trained in Hershey from 1951 to 1967.
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers train at Chargers Park in San Diego, a few miles from QualComm Stadium. It’s about 140 miles from the Club at Big Bear Village.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers train in their facility at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa), 31 miles from Bluegreen at TradeWinds; 54 miles from Via Roma Resort; 55 miles from Resort Sixty-Six. Eight to 10 practices will be public. In addition to the website, you can find updated information at facebook.com/tampabaybuccaneers and by following @TBBuccaneers on Twitter. Seating is covered, a benefit in the hot July sun. Fans can obtain autographs after practices, visit the merchandise tent and buy discounted concessions. In addition, the team’s cheerleaders and mascot, Captain Fear, will make appearances. The camp highlight, though, is a special night practice at Raymond James Stadium. It includes extended autograph opportunities, narration of practice by coaches, heavily discounted food and drink and a fireworks show.
The Washington Redskins also relocated their training camp this year—to the benefit of owners at all three resorts in Virginia. The previous camp location was almost 2 hours from Shenandoah Crossing and more than 3 from the two Williamsburg properties. Now it’s at the brand new, state-of-the-art Bons Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, just over 60 miles from Shenandoah Crossing and 55 miles from Bluegreen Patrick Henry Square and Parkside Williamsburg Resort. And not only that, the new facility might be the one of the best in the NFL. It includes a drill field and side-by-side full-size playing fields. It also includes a 2.5-acre park for fans featuring a vital course and walking/running trail, a 500-seat amphitheater, a children’s music garden and a water wall. You can read more at the facility’s official website, where the practice schedule already is posted.
So there’s a glimpse of NFL training camp experiences you might be able to work into your summer trip. Some of the players you watch might not make the cut, but this sports vacation adventure surely will.