How Was the NFL Experience?

On Saturday morning, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on some clothes, and made the hour-long drive to Dolphin Stadium. My wife and I had company in town, and we wanted to be among the very first people through the gates for the NFL experience. For those of you who don’t know, the NFL Experience is an interactive theme park offering football fans the chance to buy merchandise, participate in football-related games, attend free autograph sessions, and browse the largest football card show ever. For true football fans, this was nirvana.

Entry cost us $15 each, which I thought was steep until I saw all the booths and events inside.

The first hall we passed through was for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a mobile museum showcasing jerseys and other memorabilia. Small children stared, transfixed, as grown men whimpered nearby.

While some of the event was a bit cheesy, it really gave visitors a sense of what being a football player felt like. It sure seems like returning a kick for a touchdown is easy.

In addition to the “silly stuff,” there was also a lot of tradition involved. I seriously felt as though I were participating in something sacred.

The first “fun” thing we did was participate in the Field Goal Kick.

Essentially, you try to kick a field goal while large rubber defenders rush at you. Unfortunately, this photo makes it look like we were playing inside a spider web. However, all that rigging was necessary to support the safety nets and lights. See the uprights?

Although I made a valiant effort…

…I didn’t get the ball through the uprights. See my disappointment?

My friend nailed the kick, though. He didn’t win anything, although we did get a Snickers bar for waiting in line. (Don’t tell anybody, but I grabbed two candy bars!)

The NFL Experience was very kid-friendly.

They had special sections set up for kids, which included timed races and other games.

Later, under cover, we strolled among the memorabilia and checked out the goods. These framed, signed prints ran from several hundred dollars to several thousand. Jeez, I thought the $15 entry fee was hefty.

These hand-painted designer helmets were beautiful, although they looked a little small to me — but I’m no expert. They cost $595 apiece.

There were also reasonably-priced souvenirs on site. Select figurines were only $5. Moreover, Topps was there, and they were giving trading cards away by the hands-full.

My favorite bit of memorabilia was the full-sized helmets, signed by all the members of each of the teams.

It was a fun time. However, after kicking the field goals — er, trying to kick the field goals — buying some caps, and chilling with the Silver Bullet girls (sorry, no photos of that!), it was time to leave the NFL Experience. After all, it was time to see what was going on at South Beach.

It was easy to find our car, as we were parked near the world’s largest football.

In summary, the NFL Experience was a lot of fun, and I’m glad we went. When the Superbowl is in your hometown, I highly recommend swinging by. Be sure to get there early, though, because when we left, the parking lots were full, and the lines were loooong.