Wipe that late night Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl-watching blurriness out of your eyes. It’s time to really get focused now:
College football’s National Championship Game in Atlanta is right around the corner!
The game kicks off at 8 p.m. on Monday, January 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With longtime rivals Alabama and Georgia vying for national bragging rights, along with the usual Southern ones, there’s no telling how high emotions and ticket prices will go.
But one thing we already know for sure: On Game Day and the two days leading up to it, downtown Atlanta will be packed with hundreds of thousands of people taking in free concerts, Playoff Fan Central, the “Extra Yard 5K” run and the rest of the related pigskinpalooza
If you’re one of them, you doubtless have lots of questions. Like: Is there public transportation to events? Are coolers allowed? Can I really go to Media Day if I’m not a member of the media?
Yes, but only if you want to see how glamorous our jobs really are, cough, cough!
Here’s your complete Survival Guide to the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship weekend:
When: Saturday, January 6 - Monday, January 8, 2018.
Where: Atlanta. Everything takes place on “Championship Campus,” a walkable area bordered by Northside Drive, Ivan Allen Junior Blvd. and Ted Turner Drive (see map here). Besides most major hotels and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, venues located on “campus” include Centennial Olympic Park (site of the nightly AT&T Playoff Live! concert series and fireworks shows), the Georgia Aquarium (Taste of the Championship) and the Georgia World Congress Center (Playoff Fan Central).
Driving and Parking: There are more than 20,000 parking spaces within a 20-minute walk of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which offers offers maps and links to pre-purchase parking for most stadium events on its web site (But not yet for the CFP Championship game, so keep checking back). Here’s a comprehensive list of nearby parking facilities, although you’ll want to double check on availability. Another game day option is StubHub, where you can pre-purchase parking only. VividSeats (vividseats.com) also lets you purchase parking near the stadium in advance. If you’re driving to the stadium, use its formal address -- 1 AMB Drive, Atlanta, 30313 -- to navigate via smartphone technology. Or better, yet, download the WAZE app, which is the only GPS program for the stadium with event-day traffic plans and street closures built in. For parking near Championship Campus activities and events, Central Atlanta Progress offers this searchable guide to downtown parking, complete with an interactive map.
Taking MARTA: Atlanta’s public transit system has rail stops located near all events/venues and hotels on the Championship Campus. And its Red and Gold lines originate at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, so you can skip the driving entirely if you’re flying in and out of town for the football festivities. A one-way fare is $2.50. Vending machines in MARTA stations sell one-ride passes and day-passes (Read the AJC’s smart guide for first-time MARTA riders here.)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is handily located across the street from MARTA’s GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center Station on the Blue and Green lines. If you’re coming from the north or south, take a Red or Gold line train in the direction of Five Points station. Get off there, and transfer (it’s free) onto westbound trains on either the Blue line (headed toward H.E. Holmes) or the Green line (headed toward Bankhead). Get off at GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center and follow signs for Mercedes-Benz. Or you can ride to the Vine City station on the Blue/Green lines and walk a few hundred feet to the stadium (this station offers better accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers).
The GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center Station also will let you off very near Playoff Fan Central at the Georgia World Congress Center, Media Day at Philips Arena, or -- right by the stadium -- Championship Tailgate Plaza and the Extra Yard 5K. For free concerts and other events at Centennial Olympic Park and Taste of the Championship at the Georgia Aquarium take the Red or Gold line to Peachtree Center or the Blue or Green lines to GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center; the park is approximately a 10-minute walk from both stations.
Tailgating: Championship Tailgate Plaza will serve as a gathering place for fans all three days. Located at International Plaza, an expansive greenspace that’s essentially Mercedes-Benz’s Stadium’s “front yard,” it’s being described as an “extreme tailgating” experience with zip lining and other outdoor activities. Additionally, check out this Atlanta Journal-Constitution guide to tailgating sites near the stadium.
Security: If you’re attending the National Championship game on January 8, be aware that a number of items are prohibited at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. These include laser pointers, knives and firearms, selfie sticks, bottles and cans, chairs and more. The complete list can be found here.
In addition, a strict bag policy will be enforced throughout the Championship Campus, as well as at the game itself:
Approved Bags: Clear tote(made from plastic, vinyl or PVC) no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches; one gallon clear, resealable plastic storage bag; small clutch bag or purse, no larger than 4-1/2 inches by 6-1/2 inches; diaper bag, no larger than 4-1/2 inches by 6-1/2 inches. Note: Exceptions will be made for medically approved items following a proper inspection.
Prohibited Bags: Camera case, binoculars case, backpack, clear backpack, cooler, briefcase, fanny pack, cinch bag, luggage, oversized tote bag, seat cushion with pocket, printed pattern bag, mesh bag, tinted plastic bag, purse (other than on approved list), diaper bag (other than on approved list).
Complimentary Bags: In need of an approved bag? Free, clear CFP-branded bags will be distributed at the following locations: Downtown hotels; outside of the GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center and Vine City MARTA stations; parking lots on Championship Campus; from volunteers stationed throughout the downtown hotel district and Championship Campus.
The bags are also available at these “Bag Valet” locations: Georgia World Congress Center main lobby (from 9:30 a.m. to Midnight, January 6 and 7; from 9:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. January 8); Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Marietta entrances to AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! (2:30 p.m. - Midnight, January 6 and 7; 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. January 8); International Plaza at Philips Drive (3:30 p.m. - 1 a.m. January 8) and North of Gate 1 on Northside Drive (3:30 p.m. - 1 a.m. January 8). Note: You can also leave prohibited bags/items at the Bag Valet locations, although you’re much better off not even bringing them to the stadium or campus to start with.
Additional Information: Find more information on the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship at www.collegefootballplayoff.com and the Atlanta Football Host Committee’s web site at www.atlchampgame.com. Visit mercedesbenzstadium.com for complete information about the site of the championship game. And check out this full range of coverage from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.