NBA Road Trip: Discovering Family Fun With the NBA

NBA road trip

Our family with Grizz, at Colby’s 7th birthday party.

I’ve written about my love of baseball travel, and my son’s growing passion for all things related to the games we watch, particularly basketball. With that passion to watch sports in person in mind, our family is off on a mini-sports road trip this basketball season. Beginning in Atlanta, we will visit three Southern cities that are all home to NBA franchises. We will watch the game we love, experience arenas, taste the food and drink of the home teams, and see what fun we can discover. It’s our own NBA road trip and I hope you’ll follow along in the fun.

I’ve always loved taking baseball road trips, visiting new ballparks, trying the unusual concession options and checking out a new city. Living in Memphis, we’re big fans of our hometown Grizzlies. And now that my son has become a partner in crime of sorts in sharing his love of travel on Trips By Lance, I decided it was time we hit the road to enjoy his favorite sport in a couple of unique cities.

NBA road trip

Over the next couple of months, we will visit Atlanta and New Orleans and be hometown visitors in Memphis. It’s our NBA road trip, and beginning Feb. 7 in Atlanta, we will visit these three uniquely Southern U.S. cities to get a taste of what they have in store for NBA fans. We’ll check out a game, enjoy the pregame festivities, and dive right into how local fans cheer on their team.

But in addition to the NBA action, the series will be about exploring these cities, discovering the unique local food and drink, and visiting some cool attractions that aren’t too far from the arena.

Atlanta

My wife and I have visited Atlanta many times, but have never experienced the world’s largest aquarium or the World of Coca-Cola and CNN Studio Tour. All three of those attractions are within walking distance of Phillips Arena and our hotel, Omni Hotel at CNN Center.

I’m excited about checking out the Omni Hotel at CNN Center. We only recently started staying with Omni Hotels, but so far we’ve really liked what we’ve experienced at the Omni Severin Hotel in Indianapolis and the brand new Omni Nashville Hotel. This is a brand that prides itself on being family friendly, and we’re going to see how they live up to the reputation in Downtown Atlanta.

Atlanta is a great food and shopping city, so we will dive into plenty of great local restaurants and hit a bit of the shopping scene. But this is a family trip, and our 7-year-old son hates shopping. So he and I might check out Zoo Atlanta while Stacey visits Ikea and some of the cool thrifts and boutiques in Little Five Points. This trip will be about making everyone happy. We believe a child is never too young to experience art, so we plan to also visit the outstanding High Museum of Art. I just hope a three-night visit is long enough to explore these awesome attractions, visit all the great restaurants we have in mind, and do a little shopping, all while experiencing the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks.

New Orleans

We will visit New Orleans a few weeks after the madness of Mardi Gras, over the weekend of March 28-30. In New Orleans, we have spent plenty of time walking the streets of the French Quarter, but never with our son. Attending the University of Memphis, my wife and I made plenty of “social” visits to the Crescent City during our college years. We spent our one-year wedding anniversary in New Orleans.

But we’ve never really visited for the cultural side of things, unless culture means great food, lots of drinks and all the fun the French Quarter has to offer. So in addition to experiencing a New Orleans Pelicans game and all the fun that comes with being a sports fan in the city, we’ll confirm how family friendly New Orleans and the French Quarter are. I’m confident we can find just as much fun as a family as we did in our younger days before becoming parents.

Before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, we visited what was then known as the National D-Day Museum. I loved it. I’m excited about visiting what’s now known as the National World War II Museum. In addition, back when we visited the city on all those college trips, Stacey and I visited the city’s Aquarium of the Americas two or three times. I think our son would love it. We might visit the zoo, will definitely stop in at all the galleries on Magazine Street, have our share of po boys, and just in general discover what makes New Orleans so original.

If I’m counting correctly, I’ve visited New Orleans seven times. Of those visits, I’ve stayed in hotels on the fringes of the French Quarter four times. This visit will see us calling the Omni Royal Orleans home, getting us deep in the heart of the Quarter. What has me excited about this property, other than its cool historic building, is its great location. Just a couple blocks west of St. Louis Cathedral, I can’t think of a better spot to be located for some French Quarter fun. I’m excited about proving New Orleans is a great destination for a family getaway, and I believe the Omni Royal Orleans will be a good base of operation.

Memphis

NBA road trip

Yes, we live in Memphis. My son and I have a mini-season ticket package to the Memphis Grizzlies. So we’re well aware of how fun the Bluff City is for basketball fans. In fact, Memphis might just be the best basketball city in the country with the amazing high school ball, Top 25 college action with the University of Memphis and the 2013 Western Conference Finalists Memphis Grizzlies.

NBA road trip

The Westin Memphis Beale Street is in a great location to enjoy an NBA weekend in the city.

But with help of the Westin Memphis Beale Street hotel, we’re going to experience our hometown as visitors. In all the years I’ve called Memphis home (at least 22), I’ve never stayed even one night in a hotel in Downtown Memphis. So I’m really excited about the weekend we are planning at the Westin. The only Westin property in Tennessee, it’s located perfectly for a weekend of NBA fun. The hotel is across the street from FedExForum, and it’s the home away from home for all but two of the league’s teams when they play in Memphis.

There also are plenty of attractions nearby to keep us busy. The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Gibson Guitar Factory are across the street, historic Beale Street is one block away, and the National Civil Rights Museum and Sun Studio are within walking distance. And who knows, maybe we can get away to catch a Broadway show at the nearby Orpheum Theatre, too.

We’ll be heading out on this awesome trip on Feb. 7. Please follow along on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #NBARoadTrip for all the family fun. And after the Atlanta action in early February, check back later this season for our fun in Memphis and New Orleans.

29 thoughts on “NBA Road Trip: Discovering Family Fun With the NBA

  1. So fun! You’re right about Omni: their hotels are incredibly family-friendly. I haven’t been to any of the cities you’ll be visiting (well, I’ve been to Atlanta but it shouldn’t count; I was there for just about 24 hours – oh, and it was a sports trip! 2003 NLDS, Cubs vs. Braves), so I’ll be interested in your dispatches from the field 🙂
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted…Does Your Hotel Have a Carbon Monoxide Detector?My Profile

  2. Mary Anne, I think I’m in denial. I’ve been telling people for years that I’m not as big of a sports fan as I used to be. And while that actually is true, I think it shows that I was absolutely obsessed from childhood until probably having our son seven years ago. Now I’ve just passed it to him.

  3. Mrs. O, it will be great. I need to get over to England and do a sports weekend. We’ve been to a Premier League game. I need to experience a proper British sporting weekend.

  4. Francesca, you attended a sporting event. That definitely counts as a visit. I hope that game was a win for you. I remember that series and what happened next for the Cubs against the Marlins, but I’ll try not to rehash those memories for you.

  5. Lance, what a great way to tour – through sports. I love the idea, and what a better way to bond with family too… I’ve attended many sports games (mostly Hockey and Baseball) with my father and can only hope to pass it on to the next generation.

    Of course, Memphis as the best basketball city surprises me some, but are the N’awlins pro team really called the Pelicans? – i need to look that up.

    stay a sports fan, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted…Is Visiting Lakeshore Beaches in Autumn Really Visiting the Beach? – A Trip to Glimmerglass State ParkMy Profile

  6. Craig, I’ve done lots of sports trips with friends. I took my son along for a quick day trip from Memphis to St. Louis last summer for a baseball game. I decided it’s time. Memphis as the best basketball city? Well, everyone has their opinions about the best anything. But Memphis is a great city for basketball. There is so much great high school ball here. The University of Memphis has a rich history and the Grizzlies were named the best franchise in all of North American sports by ESPN last summer. As far as the Pelicans, yeah, they renamed the Hornets to the Pelicans. It’s a mean-looking mascot.

  7. The good news, Lance, is that the game I attended was game 5 and, yes, the Cubs won. The bad news is… well, we know how it went against the Marlins 🙁

    Craig, so funny that you asked about the Pelicans. I don’t follow the NBA much at all but when I heard of a team called the Pelicans, I was all, “Whaaaa?? When did that happen?” It has to be the most unusual name for a sports team I’ve ever heard. Well, maybe the Mighty Ducks, but that’s another story….

  8. Mighty Ducks wins most unusual name in my opinion. Last summer they decided to give the New Orleans NBA team a name that made more sense for the location instead of Hornets. So they came up with Pelicans, which I guess is in abundance in Louisiana. The Charlotte Bobcats are taking the name Hornets back (the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans then Charlotte was awarded an expansion team, which was named the Bobcats). And the Memphis Grizzlies? The only Grizzlies in Tennessee are at the Memphis Zoo. I should do a post on sports mascots and names.

  9. I remember going to a Chicago Bulls game with my dad to see Michael Jordan. A memory that will live forever as I know this trip will for your son.

    I saw an interview with the new NBA Commissioner last night, and one of the questions posed to him was what he wanted to do to keep the ball rolling with the success the sport has had under David Stern. The first thing out of Adam Silver’s mouth was working with social media. You could become the NBA family travel blogger.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Bako National Park photo essayMy Profile

  10. Some of my best memories as a kid were at Orlando Magic games during the early days of the franchise. I’ll never forget shaking Shaq’s hand and it coming up to my elbow! Hopefully your son creates more than a few memories on the road trip. Hope you enjoyed Atlanta…one of my favorite cities, and your mention of Little Five has me craving Flying Biscuit!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted…Mandarin Bar Las Vegas – Cocktails with a ViewMy Profile

  11. Ted, I’d be interested in doing family travel blogging for the NBA. You might be on to something. He loved the Atlanta game. Not sure it will be possible to top or even equal, but we’ll try in March in Memphis and New Orleans.

  12. D.J., those Magic teams were fun. Living in Memphis, everyone was a Magic fan because of Penny. Too bad Shaq’s move to LA and Penny’s knees kept them from greatness in Orlando.

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  14. Something tells me you’d enjoy the dining and shopping that also happens. There is no way my wife would agree to sports travel if she didn’t get to do a little shopping, lots of eating and little bit of beverage tasting.

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  16. For some reason I get a tingle when people say “I’m not a sports fan but…”. In my travel experience, Sports has been a great uniter whenever I’m meeting new people or am in unfamiliar places. Bonding with people over sports transcends the language barrier. A little bit of coordination and a spirit of play is all you need to make a new friend. You can’t welcome yourself over to dinner or into someone’s life/home but with sports its a bridge of contact. Whether its joining a game in play or chatting about a jersey someone’s wearing. Its often been the pretext for my best travel experiences.
    I’m a curious guy and consider myself well cultured but Sports has the broadest appeal and has served me well around the world and with people from all over.
    Looking forward to this NBA series, Memphis are my team. Noticed you’re son has jerseys of all the coolest Grizz players.
    30 Home Games recently posted…NBA Postcards: Greetings from Atlanta, Georgia and Salt Lake City, UtahMy Profile

  17. Memphis is such a black and white town but the Grizzlies have really brought people together. People from different neighborhoods, economic status, race; we’re all the same when we are in FedExForum. Sports really can unite a community, and that has happened in Memphis.

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