Growing up, my family were road-warriors. We went on day trips almost every weekend.
For example, when we lived in Richmond, Virginia, we’d tour Civil War sites within a few hours drive of our house. We’d visit other places too, like a random free concert a few towns away that my parents heard about.
Now that I have kids of my own, I want them to see as much as they can of the world. Like my parents before me, we have to plan free- or low-cost day trips. I’m lucky to have some like-minded friends, who give us the tools necessary to have some of the more extravagant trips.
I want to talk about the college football game experience. Every family should try to go to at least one sporting or musical event. If your enthusiasm is contagious, the kids may end up finding something new to enjoy. It’s also a great opportunity to teach them about navigating crowds. Maybe you won’t go as a fan. Maybe you’ll be a volunteer. Or maybe your stadium is the local high school bleachers in your town.
Being with a group of people, who are all excited about what they see in front of them, is a magical experience.
We attended the N.C. State vs. East Carolina University football game on Aug. 31 at Carter-Finlay Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a sell-out crowd, with 60,000 spectators.
Being in a crowd of 60,000-people is just … wow! You know something amazing is coming when you can feel the vibrations from the music, screaming, etc., throughout your body. Literally, it moves you. At the N.C. State vs. East Carolina University football game we attended, the bass was on 11 and it was like everything was pulsing.
This is a great time to let your kids yell. They’re supposed to yell at a game or concert. Let them be in awe of the band or sports team (my older kids were into the band, youngest loved the football). Unless they do something that puts themselves or others into potential danger, let them be kids and enjoy the moment.
When you go somewhere new, try the local cuisine. For example, when Pittsburgh, go to a place that specializes in pierogies or maybe Primanti Brothers, which puts french fries in their sandwiches.
If you get a chance to talk to the chef, like I did when trying some coffee-encrusted beef brisket, ask him what he recommends as a sauce. The chef can make your mind and taste buds explode.
At NC State, you have to try the Howling Cow ice cream. It’s made there at the university and available in several places. It’s creamy and wonderful. Add a salted caramel brownie to regular Howling Cow vanilla ice cream, and it will be the most divine ice cream ever. At least if you like ice cream and brownie together.
Stadium food is expensive. You can tailgate before the game to save money, or maybe eat somewhere prior to trekking through the stadium traffic. Just be prepared because your kids will be tempted by all the boothes.
If you do pay an arm and a leg for a soda, that’s OK. Remember, many booths are manned by volunteers. That soda will help a school or church group get funding for one of their activities. And be courteous, they’re working the best they can. This is also a chance to teach your kids some patience.
Let’s face it, kids get bored easy. To help break that boredom, ask questions or see if they notice certain things.
For us, the football game pitted Mom’s team (Go Wolfpack!!) against Dad’s team (Go, Pirates?). We were able to tell them stories about the schools and how football games in our day (mostly dad’s day because I didn’t go to football games while I was a State student). We also pointed out things going on in the field.
We asked every kid who they thought would win. Since the older kids are in band, they had to find their instruments in the formations. We also considered whether they’d be able to make those formations one day.
We also walked around some and kept some entertainment (such as coloring a program book or looking at the posters we picked up) handy.
During warm weather activities, it’s important to remember kids can get dehydrated just like adults do, something quicker. Depending on the kid’s age, they don’t know what’s going on. So, water is a must. If you have to go with soda, go with something without caffeine in it. Caffeine can dehydrate you faster.
We stayed in the shade and went to cooler areas when the heat got to be too much.
Each kids enjoyed the college sports experience. They each took away something different from the event — an appreciation of music, a love of football, a hatred of the announcer saying “TTTTTTHIRDDDDDDD DOWN” whenever the opposition was working on their third down.
It was an exhausting day, but so, so worth it. We had an amazing time.
What kind of adventures do you think children should take? Let me know in the comments, and we’ll try to put something together for a future blog post.