Recap - Giants 27, 49ers 23
This morning we hit the road at sunrise heading north out of the City of Angels destined for Silicon Valley and the Niners new gigs in Santa Clara. But rather than taking the five and a half hour drive up I-5, we took the long, slow, scenic route up iconic California State Route 1 (CA-1) making pit stops along the way in Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Monterey. Both the weather and the car for the ride were ideal – clear sunny skies in the mid-70s and a really sweet 2018 white Camaro convertible that we rented back in San Diego.
The first stop was in picturesque Santa Barbara, aka the ‘American Riviera’. After having breakfast at the only remaining legendary Sambo's Restaurant, we drove up through the hilly terrain of CA State Route 154 (a 32 mile rural two lane road that used to be an old stagecoach route) across the San Marcos Pass and eventually caught CA-1 down at San Luis Obispo. From there, it was 135 miles of scenic road up through the mountains with stunning views of the Pacific on our left – past Hearst Castle, over the iconic Bixby Bridge, through the glorious Redwoods of Big Sur and eventually to Monterey. Along the way, there were no gas stations, no cell service and only one bathroom – but that was hardly an issue.
By the time we got to Monterey, it was already 3:30 and we were pressed for time since Santa Clara was still over an hour away with the local kickoff time 5:20 – so we limited our time walking around to only a half hour, then we drove like hell up the 101 praying for no rush hour delays. We got to the hotel around 5 PM, I did a super fast check in then I grabbed an Uber to Levi’s Stadium.
The write up for the hotel on Expedia said that it was ‘walking distance’ to the stadium. This was true, if you consider ‘walking distance’ to be two and a half miles on a busy highway with no shoulder in the dark. The Uber driver got me as close as he could given the heavy traffic. I got out and walked the last half mile which included climbing up a steep dirt embankment and under a guard rail to a pedestrian bridge littered with empty beer cans which led to the stadium.
My first impression of the stadium was very positive – beautiful and sleek – especially all lit up for the night game. Getting into the park was easy and fast despite the large crowd.
By the time I got to my seat, it was already 5 minutes into the first quarter – so I missed the whole pre-game experience. From what I was told, this experience starts early for a 49ers game. Parking lots start to fill up as early as 3.5 hours before kick-off. The 49ers Official Tailgate Party, the Faithful Mile, is a 60,000 square foot interactive pre-game area with enough room to entertain 4,000 fans and is free to access for all ticket holders. It includes two Bud Light bars, each with 20+ flat-screen HDTVs showing all the NFL action, the Pepsi Stage showcasing live music and entertainment, an authentic synthetic turf surface , a food-truck 'village' and the occasional celeb appearance and meet and greet with the 49ers 'Gold Rush' cheerleaders. Sorry I missed it.
Another thing I missed was getting to see the team museum, which for some reason is only open from Thursday through Sunday. At $15 for adult admission, the series of exhibits details the 70-year team history and is supposed to be pretty impressive.
In the seating area, the sight-lines are exceptional as is the PA system and video boards. Levi’s boasts what they consider to be the best technology of any NFL stadium. It is the first stadium to carry 40 gigabytes of internet capacity and many amenities and functions are accessible through an app you can download.
There are many points of congregation throughout the stadium concourse that offer full views of the field including two large bar areas. Getting from level to level is also fast and easy. There are also lots of nice displays acknowledging the team’s rich history (which includes 5 Super Bowl championships) throughout the stadium as well as a really nice art collection, featuring local artists, which adds a softer touch to beautifying the venue while adding to the branding of the team.
There are a significant number of nice food options from the very basic to the borderline extravagant. Pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, clam chowder, gumbo, bay shrimp rolls, etc. But since I was having dinner after the game in downtown Palo Alto with my sweetie, I didn’t want to spoil my appetite. Besides, all of the lines to the concessions and bathrooms were long as hell. The premiere dining option in Levi’s is the Bourbon Steak Restaurant on the main level. There are also a few exclusive members only club rooms.
The game was a contest between two of the NFL's worst teams this season (they had a combined record of 3-14 entering the game) so the game had number one draft pick implications. There were actually a considerable number of NY Giant blue jersey wearing fans in attendance. Maybe East coast transplants? It was a close contest throughout with the Niners leading at the half 13-10. A 3rd quarter TD pass from QB Nick Mullens to Matt Breida (his 2nd on the day) padded the lead to 20-10, but the G-Men fought back with an Odell Beckham Jr TD grab and a FG to tie it up. A Robbie Gould FG put the Niners back on top by 3, but with under 2 minutes left in the game, Eli Manning hit Sterling Shepard with a short TD pass to give the Giants the lead - which they held onto for the win.
While the new stadium is a huge upgrade over the team’s old digs at Candlestick Park, its remote location (approximately 40 miles south of San Francisco, in the heart of Silicon Valley) is a downgrade.
Getting into and out of the stadium is a bit of a chore - Parking at Levi’s Stadium is $50 and the lines in and out of the lots are long and slow. The congestion in the area is worse than what you find at most venues and being that it shares a parking lot with a Six Flags Amusement Park, it probably adds to the challenge on day games. To get an Uber after the game you need to walk to Lot number 7 (the designated ride share area) which is about a billion miles from the main gate and a real pain in the ass for the drivers to get in and out of. Despite it being a close game, I headed for the exit mid-way through the 4th quarter to get a jump on the crowd so I can get to dinner before the restaurants closed.
Overall, the night at Levi’s was a very nice experience. Tomorrow AM we are driving north for about an hour and spending the next two days in the beautiful city by the bay. Then after that, sadly, it’s back to NJ.
Fans - C - Actually louder and a bit ruder than what I would have expected. LA fans were much nicer on Sunday. The exact opposite of what I experienced in baseball
Features - A - The 'Faithful Mile' tailgate zone, The museum, the art work and displays, the high-tech features, the numerous congregation areas - all really nice
Location - C - Really tough to get to and get out of. The nearest cities with pre/post game activities are Palo Alto and San Jose - both a reasonable drive away
Food - B - Nice variety and quality - but expensive and long lines
Game - B+ - Two 'not so good' teams actually delivered a well played competitive game
Overall Experience - B