Pro Football Hall of Fame Trip
I recently went to Ohio to visit a world-class amusement park, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and to visit the birthplace of modern-day American football. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is somewhere I’ve been thinking about visiting since I was a kid and I finally got to see it. Located just an hour south of Cleveland in Canton, Ohio it’s a worthwhile stop for any NFL football fan!
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About the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio, is an excellent museum that pays homage to pro football’s greatest legends. It officially opened in 1963 and has grown considerably over the years. Being a bucket list destination for football fans, more than ten million have visited from the United States and around the world.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023
By coincidence, I happened to visit during Hall of Fame induction week. I didn’t go to the game or induction ceremony, but I saw the exhibit for the 2023 class and it was epic!
As of 2023, there are 371 Hall of Famers. Below is a list of the latest inductees.
- DeMarcus Ware, DEN/DAL linebacker/defensive end
- Ronde Barber, TB cornerback/safety
- Joe Thomas, CLE offensive tackle
- Chuck Howley, DAL linebacker
- Darrelle Revis, NYJ cornerback
- Joe Klecko, NYJ defensive lineman
- Ken Riley, CIN cornerback
- Zach Thomas, MIA linebacker
- Don Coryell, SD coach
Being a diehard Broncos fan, it was awesome to see the Demarcus Ware tribute including a few items from Super Bowl 50. My buddy Matt had his Ware jersey on and we were hoping to run into him, but sadly it wasn’t meant to be.
Why is the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio?
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio because the American Professional Football Association, which later became the NFL, was founded in Canton in 1920 inside a car dealership owned by Ralph Hay the owner of the Canton Bulldogs.
The Canton Bulldogs were a pro football team that found early success, winning a record 25 straight games, led by Jim Thorpe. Thorpe was essentially the first big-name pro football player. His nickname fittingly is “The Legend”.
The Bulldogs were the first back-to-back NFL champion in 1922 and 1923. Citizens of Canton, Ohio later launched a campaign in the 1960s to earn the site designation for the city. That campaign was supported by Chicago Bears owner George Halas and Cleveland’s Paul Brown. It came to life a few years later.
The NFL’s First Century
This two-floor chronological exhibit was really interesting. It’s brimming with factoids, tidbits, photos, videos, equipment, and stories. I was fascinated by the history of the older teams that helped influence the game.
The focus on guys like Ernie Nevers, Jim Thorpe, and Red Grange was a high point. There’s a section on several NFL dynasties, like the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns. Yep, you read that right. Cleveland has won eight championships: four in the AAFC, and four in the NFL. That was news to me!
Any football fan these days knows all about Tom Brady, but there was also a fella by the name of Otto Graham who went to 10 straight championship games and won 7 with the Browns. Many believe he has a legit case for being the goat.
You can read other stories about the first NFL draft, the first championship game in 1933 at Wrigley Field, and Reggie White being the NFL’s first free agent.
There’s a Road to Equality section about the color barrier, Black players, and the difficulties they have faced. On the contrary, you’ll see blurbs about every league commissioner over the years (boo Roger Goodell).
You’ll find several interactive displays including molds of the player’s arms and legs. You can put on a helmet and hear play calls as a quarterback does on game day. Those are fun!
Hall of Fame Gallery
Walking into the Hall of Fame Gallery feels surreal. It’s where the legends live! This is where the bronze busts of each player are placed on pedestals. Legends like Walter Payton, Bronko Nagurski, Peyton Manning, Curly Lambeau, Joe Montana, and who could forget OJ Simpson? Enjoy walking around and take it all in.
My only complaint is that it’s dimly lit and not always easy to read the plaques on each bust. But this is still the most impressive part of the complex. Just outside of the gallery, you’ll find a custom chopper motorcycle made by Evel Knievel for former Bills QB Jim Kelly. Who knew that was a thing?
A Game For Life Theater
This theater shows a film every 20 minutes given by a hologram of Joe Namath. It’s a quick movie with a good message. Especially for kids! It takes place inside a recreation of a locker room complete with lockers of various former players. Afterward, you’ll exit to see a tribute to super fans.
Pro Football Today Gallery
Next is Pro Football Today. Inside you’ll see things like the Mahomes jersey from scoring 10 TD’s in two weeks, Peyton Manning’s Favre 509 TD record-breaking football, Gronkowski’s Covid-19 tracker, and a pair of huge Josh Allen shoes. All stuff from football in the current era.
There’s a mention of the first female coaches and referees. Surprisingly, they even paid tribute to the Pro Bowl and the World League of American Football. No stone is left unturned.
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Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery
The Super Bowl era. That’s the theme of this segment. It all began with the Green Bay Packers defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I in 1967. After featuring items, stories, and quotes from the first few Super Bowls this area is divided up by decades.
Highlighting the 49ers, Cowboys, Steelers, and so on. I was happy to see that my Denver Broncos were well-represented in the 90’s after our back-to-back SB wins!
Seeing a case displaying the Vince Lombardi trophy was pretty sweet. Now’s your chance to look at it up close and get a picture of it. I didn’t realize the trophy is made by Tiffany & Co. You’ll also get the opportunity to see rings from every Super Bowl champion.
The progression of bling over the years is mind-boggling! The Rams and Bucs recent rings even pop open revealing replicas of their home stadiums inside of them.
Super Bowl Theater
Inside the Super Bowl Gallery is the Super Bowl Theater which shows a movie every 16 minutes. The film is called “The Road to the Super Bowl”. It’s an immersive experience featuring a very large screen and surround sound that allows fans to experience football like never before.
The theater itself even rotates. It’s a nice place to nestle in after walking around for hours. Because you’ll need a break.
Black College Football Hall of Fame
The Black College Football Hall of Fame was founded in 2009 to honor the greatest football players and coaches from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Roughly 10% of the players enshrined in Canton attended an HBCU.
Notable entries include Shannon Sharpe, Art Shell, Doug Williams, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and Eddie Robinson. There’s also an annual Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic Game.
Madden Football Game
Around the corner, there’s a tribute to John Madden Football where you can play the legendary video game and see all of the Madden game covers. If you grew up playing, you’ll remember a lot of them. You can play the latest Madden too.
Down the hall, there’s a section about the XFL and a Sunday Night Football display. Including a Carrie Underwood gown, she wore while singing “Waitin’ All Day for Sundaaayy Niiigghhht“.
Cafe and Gift Shop
Be sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out. They have an impressive assortment of NFL gear and memorabilia from every team. Keychains, coasters, t-shirts, hoodies, you name it. They also sell autographed items like helmets and pennants. If you’re unable to visit you can also access the gift shop online.
We didn’t stop in the cafe, but it’s an option if you’re hungry after spending hours wandering the hall.
How Much are Tickets to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton?
$43 per adult and $36 per child aged 6-12. Alternatively, you can buy a combo ticket including the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for $60. Which is a great deal if you plan on visiting both!
How Long Does it Take to Walk Through the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
3-4 hours. Tours are self-guided. There are volunteers that help answer questions and can point you in the right direction. We stayed for 5 hours and the time seemed to breeze by. You can easily spend half a day there.
Do You Need to Buy Tickets Ahead of Time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
No, you can easily purchase tickets upon arrival at the door. Unless there’s a major event happening. However, if you’re also visiting the Rock Hall of Fame getting a combo ticket is recommended.
Is the Pro Football Hall of Fame Worth it?
Yes absolutely! If you’re a fan of pro football and history it’s an incredible place to visit. It’s clean, the staff and volunteers are friendly and informative, and there’s plenty to see and learn.
Above all, it was a dream come true to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I hope to return someday and do it all over again. We still didn’t have time to visit the Hall of Fame Village.
The village is a 100-acre entertainment complex that has a Ferris wheel, concerts and special events, food, and shopping. Maybe next time. Anyway, be sure to stop by the Hall of Fame if you’re taking a trip to northeast Ohio. As always, thanks for reading!
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