“Which Packers game would you most want to travel to this season?” is an interesting question. Do you want to see a high-pressure game? Do you want to escape the cold? Does travel time matter?
One memory that is burned into my brain for life is traveling to Las Vegas for Super Bowl XLIX and seeing thousands of Seahawks fans in McCarran International Airport. Some of them were connecting flights to Phoenix, where their upcoming matchup with the Patriots was set to take place, while others were making the five-hour drive from Vegas to the game, as local flights had already booked up for the week.
While I went to pick up my luggage, the typical people watching and eavesdropping that naturally occurs when you’re around that volume of people in the same building ensued. One conversation I overheard was a family, dressed in matching “12th Man” jerseys, claiming that they had spent $50,000 per ticket for admission to the game. Absolutely absurd. All I could think was “How bad can that ruin a week to spend that much money and travel to potentially see your team lose in a massive game?”
Two days later Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson at the goal line. Me and two of my buddies rejoiced in a casino watch party as our collective wallets swung dramatically. Thank you forever, Malcolm Butler.
By the time we hit the casino floor, though, you could see the visible frustration of gamblers who got the short end of the stick that day. My mind wandered until I remembered the 12th Man jerseys. Goodness, how bad they must have felt.
Since then, my thoughts about traveling to games have changed dramatically. The last thing I’m going to do is drop money on a game where I can’t promise myself I’m not going to come away happy more than half of the time.
Sure, away games at San Francisco, Kansas City, and Baltimore are the “best games” on the Packers’ schedule, but I don’t want to put myself in a position where I could watch Kyle Shanahan call another perfect game against Green Bay just to have to haul my broken self through an airport within hours. Add in maybe having to catch a redeye flight to get back home to work on Monday and that’s gonna be a big no from me.
If you’re going to make a trip to a Packers road game this season, I highly suggest you think about traveling to Arizona in Week 8. The Cardinals are a good enough team that the game should be a good watch, but not good enough where you’re likely to pay to leave the weekend frustrated.
On top of the opponent, the Arizona game gives you two big benefits. First, you can escape the cold in late October. Thousands of snowbirds do it every year. Let’s do the same for a week. Second, it’s a Thursday Night Football game, which means that you don’t need to take an immediate Uber from the game to the airport so you can get back to work by 9 AM the next day. BIG positive.
Want to spend the weekend in a West Coast city that’s a quick flight away? The Cardinals game is the only Packers game west of Kansas City that doesn’t involve Kyle Shanahan this season. If you want to stick around the Phoenix area for the weekend, which I would suggest doing, there’s plenty to do in the area at that time of year.
You might not need to fly to Vegas to place some bets, as the state just recently legalized sports gambling if you’re into that. Want to eat some good Mexican food? You don’t need to make a second flight to Los Angeles or San Diego for it.
I’d eat Mexican food for every meal of the day if I could. Try menudo! It’s better than it may seem at first glance, especially if you’re battling a hangover. Try mole! You don’t just have to order tacos and burritos at Mexican joints. You’re in a desert; get out of your comfort zone a little.
If you’re into the outdoors, Echo Canyon Trail on the Camelback Mountains gives you a challenging hike or a rock climbing opportunity. If you want to avoid the heat, a two-hour drive to Sedona is an alternative. Since the game is on a Thursday, you should have plenty of time to make the drive before you fly back home.
You’re bringing the kids? Take them to the Phoenix Zoo, run by the Arizona Center of Nature Conservation. It’s a non-profit that hosts 3,000 animals of 400 species. There’s also plenty of water parks in the area, including Six Flags, to no one’s surprise.
Do you want to go out on the town? Old Town Scottsdale has more bars than you could ever visit in a week. Talking Stick Resort can scratch that casino itch and comes with a massive pool for hot days. There’s a Top Golf across the street if you decide you want to knock some balls.
Maybe you’re more of a low-key type of traveler. Spend a couple of hours in the Heard Museum. It’s a non-profit museum that sees a quarter-million visitors a year. Its focus is to preserve American Indian art and tell American Indian stories from American Indian perspectives. Established in 1929, it has grown into a big enough walkthrough that it takes two or three hours to get through.
Packers fans absolutely love taking over West Coast away games. Phoenix is a great American city that isn’t the easiest to get to in a car, but a Packers game flight gives you the excuse to explore the desert and all it has to offer. The late-work week scheduling of the game means you can take two days off and get four days in Arizona.
Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, there’s no chance of boy genius Kyle Shanahan stealing the game with a weird motion or Patrick Mahomes making some cross-body throw that ruins your weekend. Do you want to watch the Packers defend the option against Lamar Jackson live? Really? REALLY? Bring me the Cardinals and the desert as this year’s top away game option.