Become an ACC superfan on the road to the conference championship game
Why is Georgia Tech playing in North Carolina while there is another conference championship going on in its backyard?
Bank of America Stadium is the site for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game between undefeated Florida State and Georgia Tech.
Last season, FSU dominated Duke in this building that sits just 140 miles from Cameron Indoor Arena, where (let’s face it) most if not all of the campus’ attention deserves to be in early December.
This year, the Blue Devils remembered they’re a basketball school, the Jackets ran a triple-option all the way to the top of the ACC Coastal, Florida State still doesn’t feel like losing (although the Noles love flirting with the idea) and the ACC championship will bring relevant football to the Carolinas -- even though the Panthers are firmly in playoff contention with a 3-8-1 record.
So let’s hit the road and explore the Old North.
One of the places you have to visit in North Carolina -- especially if you’re coming to Charlotte from the west -- is Asheville.
Although Asheville is set aside in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is a cultural hub, especially for music and the arts. Asheville is a lot of fun but quaint enough for a presidential getaway.
There is a lot of beautiful country so this is one of those places where you’re going to enjoy simply seeing things in nature that you don’t normally see. So if you’re into it, hike up into the Blue Ridge Mountains or cast a reel out into the lakes along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
If you have the means, you can stay at the historic Grove Park Inn, complete with a spa and a round of golf. It’s an incredibly nice hotel but it’s easy to keep your nose from being stuck in the air in Asheville.
Come nightfall, head downtown to the shops, bars, restaurants and clubs that are plentiful in downtown Asheville. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to hit up a local microbrewery; Asheville claims the most microbreweries per capita in the United States.
I mentioned the terrific college basketball tradition in North Carolina that sits east of Charlotte. So if you’re coming from the northeast, you have to stop at the cluster of college campuses on Tobacco Road.
NC State’s PNC Arena in Raleigh (also home to the Carolina Hurricanes -- who are playing home games, Thursday, Sunday and Monday #canes) is about a half hour from Cameron Indoor in Durham, which sits about 20 minutes from the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill and then from Chapel Hill -- as you start to head west toward Charlotte -- take a little northern detour and see the Wake Forest campus in Winston-Salem.
If you’re lucky enough to get to a basketball game, you are probably having the best college sports weekend of all time and the ACC should recognize you as some sort of super fan. A Tobacco Road basketball trip is a great idea for someone looking to bulk up his or her bucket list.
From Tobacco Road we go to our destination in Charlotte.
If you’re looking to hit a theme park or are traveling with children that are antsy from the long car ride, there is an interactive museum with an IMAX theater called Discovery Place. It’s a science, technology and learning museum that pretty much brings the Discovery Channel to life.
If you enjoyed the outdoors in North Carolina, there is no need to abandon that lifestyle now that you’re in the “big city.” The United States National Whitewater Center in Charlotte has plenty of outdoor activities. If you come back in the right season they have what they call “adventure dining.” So try and make it back between April and October for the Micro Brews Cruise or the Zip Line & Dine.
There’s a historic arts district in Charlotte NOrth of DAvidson Street called NoDa. It’s filled with small businesses, pop-up art and if you were thinking about becoming a greener person after falling in love with the sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is an unavoidable eco-friendly lifestyle.
A little bit of a change of pace from NoDa, the EpiCentre has more of an uptown feel. Similar to Fourth Street Live! in Louisville, or the Power and Lights District in Kansas City, the EpiCentre is an outdoor mall-type atmosphere that’s also full of interesting nightlife.
On Friday, the EpiCentre is hosting a “Fan Central” event for folks going to the ACC championship game, complete with both of the school’s cheerleaders, outdoor bars, marching bands, mascots and some other provided entertainment right in the outdoor plaza.
If you’re looking for a late night out, there is a strip of bars, clubs and restaurants on Montford Drive -- a good place to go out, if you’re the type that likes to duck in and out of a couple different places during a night out.
This should guide you all the way to Bank of America Stadium. I hope the game is as much fun as the road and you can enjoy it all in the little bit of season we have left.
Next week, we will go to Baltimore to experience on of the best traditions in sports -- the Army-Navy game.