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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Special Edition: Philips Arena (Downtown Atlanta)

We are not just avid Atlanta food enthusiasts.  We are also native Atlantans and huge supporters of all Atlanta sports teams.  We feel especially lucky when Daddy and Mommy take us to see Atlanta sporting events.  Yummy food, happy people, huge TVs, energetic music, no requirement to talk in an "inside voice," balls flying everywhere while people cheer - is there anything to not like about a sporting event when you're a toddler? 

One sport we really enjoy is basketball.  Since it's basketball season right now, and we've had the good fortune of seeing our ATL Hawks win a couple games recently, we decided to write a special edition post about visiting and eating your way through Philips Arena with little ones.  In addition to our usual descriptions and Gummy Bear Ratings of a few Philips Arena eateries (see "Eating" section below), we've included tried-and-true tips for getting tickets, figuring out where you want to sit, parking (cars and strollers), and surviving pre-game and post-game traffic.  Hope y'all find this post useful the next time you decide to visit the arena!

Let's go HAWKS!

Toddler Foodies + Atlanta Hawks cheerleaders


The official Philips Arena policy for Hawks games is that children under 2 do not need tickets.  Mommy always purchases tickets in advance because it's just too much trouble to try to get them the day of the game.  You can purchase tickets in advance through Ticketmaster or third-party sellers like StubHub (if you're willing to pay more than face value).  Mommy and Daddy usually get our tickets from an authorized ticket broker whom they trust so they can have more control over where we sit and the price of the tickets they buy.  You can contact him at

As for seating, here are some tips:
~100 level seats are the most expensive, but are ideal for children under 5.  Lots of action happens in these sections.  Harry the Hawk seems to spend the most time in Sections 107, 108, 112, and 113.  The "6th Man" cheering section sits in Section 117.  They are a fun, funny, and loud bunch, which we toddlers find entertaining.  (The 6th Men are also loud enough to drown us out if we throw a tantrum during the game.) 

View from Section 108, Hawks v. Brooklyn Nets.
Mommy got these great seats on Living Social.
~200 level is next best in terms of pricing, but try to avoid sitting above the entryways.  When we saw the Hawks beat the Cavaliers, we sat in the first row right above an entryway... and ended up throwing a foam finger over the rail and onto someone's head as he walked in.
~300/400 level seats are economically priced, and the views from those levels are fine; but they're not ideal for anyone who is uncomfortable with heights.  Mommy is afraid to sit up there with us while we're so young because she knows how much we love to jump off things.

~For parents who are crowd-averse, our source has told us that Club Level is more spacious and less crowded than the other sections.

Restrooms are located all around the arena, but for easy access we recommend getting aisle seats.  Aisles are narrow, and it's difficult to get to the restroom quickly if you're stuck in the middle of a row and have to climb over people (while Mommy says to you frantically, "Please hold it.  Please HOLD IT!").

Getting to the Game/Parking Your Car & Stroller

MARTA is always an option if it's convenient for you to get to a station, and you are willing to walk a little. 

Prepare to encounter heavy traffic on the way to the arena due to congestion and closed streets all around the arena.  Have lots of snacks and distractions in the car.   
There are paid lots and parking decks all around the arena with prices ranging from $10-$25.  (Note:  members of the State Bar of Georgia get to park in the SBOG headquarters deck for free. It is a short walk from the arena.)

Philips Arena allows strollers inside the building.  However, once you are inside, you have to park your stroller at Guest Services near the main entrance/across from the main gift shop.  The folks at Guest Services are super nice and will give you a ticket for your stroller for easy pick-up after the game.  Note that backpacks are not allowed in the arena, either, and must be checked.


The food court in CNN Center, is an inexpensive, quick dining option next to the arena with lots of variety and seating space.

CNN Center food court.

Inside the arena, there are lots of food options ranging from high-end to run-of-the-mill concession stand.  The sit-and-eat situation in the concessions area is not ideal for toddlers – the only seats are high-top counters with bar stools.  Of course, you can also bring your food to your seats if you think your little ones won't be too distracted to eat.  (We have tried both options, and neither was perfect.)

Yesterday we attended the Hawks v. Brooklyn Nets game.  We started our adventure by grabbing food at Taco Mac, one of the dine-in options inside the arena.  One of our sources advised us to order in advance, pick up our food, and take it into arena because Taco Mac would be crowded, and we weren't going to have time to do a full dine-in meal.  His advice was great!  Mommy ordered Sweet Chili Sesame Roasted Wings and sweet potato fries online.  We got to the arena around 6:45 and were immediately able to get our food.  We were then able to enter the arena straight from Taco Mac, without having to wait in any lines.  #WINNING

Sweet Chili Sesame Roasted Wings from Taco Mac.  These wings were not too spicy for kids.
Toddler Foodie Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Gummy Bears.
:) = Easy access to arena.  Standard American/Tex-Mex cuisine that most kids should enjoy.
:( = The restaurant itself is more of a sports bar scene on game nights.  It's best to order to-go.
"Real men eat wings with a fork."
"Nope, not sharing."
After grabbing our appetizers at Taco Mac, we went into the arena and headed to Nava Taqueria (in the main concessions area) for our entree.  We ordered the brisket quesadilla, which we would not recommend for toddlers.  The brisket was long and stringy and overcooked - definitely a choking hazard.  Next time we'll just get chicken or cheese tacos or quesadillas, or stick to our normal fare (pizza, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken fingers).  Toddler Foodie Rating of Nava:  2 out of 5 Gummy Bears.
Finally, we checked out Gluten Free Portable, a concession stand near Portal 12 that offers  yummy options such as pumpkin seeds, sweet potato chips, and gluten-free nachos.  We aren't allergic to gluten, but we have some friends who are.  We're glad Philips Arena has been considerate toward their eating needs!

Gluten Free Portable, located near Portal 12.
Toddler Foodie Rating:  5 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

After the Game

The arena has a great gift shop where you can buy reasonably-priced souvenirs for your little ones.  It even has a whole section of Hawks gear for tiny humans, including onesies, bibs, T-shirts, jerseys, and hats.  One word of caution from our Mommy: beware of all the toddler-accessible basketballs scattered around the shop!  The last time we visited the gift shop, Mommy and the shop employees had to chase us and stray basketballs all over the store. 

If you leave the game after the 4th quarter, there's a lot of traffic around the arena.  But we are usually so hyped up about our fun outing that we don't mind it - or we're so exhausted from all the excitement that we immediately fall asleep.  Score one for Daddy and Mommy.   

Until next time, friends!

Thunder Sticks!

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