Sports,  Travel

Final Four Experience – New Orleans 2022

If you are a fan of college basketball, the Final Four must be on your bucket list.

As graduates of UNC, we spent four years of our lives dedicated to cheering for our beloved Tar Heels. UNC Basketball has been very successful in recent decades, but we never thought we would have the chance to actually experience the Final Four in person, but boy are we happy that we did! 

The unpredictability of March Madness makes it very difficult to plan. For us, we honestly didn’t think UNC would make it very far in the tournament. So as they continued to win, thoughts started to run through our mind – could we actually win? Should we try to go? How much would that cost? The Wednesday night before the Final Four, we found ourselves impulsively buying tickets to the Saturday night games. Why this year? Mainly because UNC and Duke would be playing each other in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. And to top it off, it could be the final game for Duke’s legendary Coach K. How could we not go?

Friday after work, we left Charlotte, NC to make the 11 hour drive to New Orleans. After a pit stop in Alabama for the night, we arrived in New Orleans late Saturday morning. We spent the rest of the day taking it all in. From visiting all the team hotels, to shopping at all the merch stands throughout the city. We even had time to do a little sightseeing which included trying some famous New Orleans beignets from Café Du Monde.

The highlight of the day for us (pre-game) was taking a selfie with UNC’s former coach, Roy Williams, outside of the team hotel. After cheering for the Tar Heels as they left the hotel, we made our way to the Superdome. The Final Four weekend is full of free events for the fans to enjoy – concerts, giveaways, games and more. But the best part is the fans. You can feel the pride and love for their schools, and everyone is hoping that it’s their team that is crowned National Champions on Monday Night. 

Watching a basketball game in a football arena is an experience in and of itself. The first game was between Kansas and Villanova. Since UNC wasn’t playing until the second game, it felt like we were truly able to enjoy the experience and excitement of the Final Four. Soon enough, it was time for UNC to play Duke. We watched our Tar Heels play their biggest rival (in the biggest game of their storied rivalry) and come out victorious. In the final few minutes of the game, we felt every emotion imaginable. But at the end of the night, we were proud of our team, proud of our school and proud to be Tar Heels. After the game, we sat outside the Superdome for what seemed like days, mainly in shock, looking for tickets for Monday night’s Championship game.

On Sunday, we decided to take a day trip to Laurel, Mississippi. If you’re a fan of HGTV, you probably know what’s in Laurel. But if not, it’s the ‘hometown’ of Ben and Erin Napier. We shopped at their General Store and Ben’s Workshop, took some cute pictures and had a delicious southern lunch. Just the break we needed before watching our Tar Heels play in the National Championship game on Monday.

Monday morning came – we were excited, we were nervous, we were anxious, but most of all, we were grateful. Grateful that our team made it to the National Championship game and grateful that we made the trip to see it. The atmosphere at the Superdome was unreal. We met some of the nicest Kansas fans, bonded with fellow Tar Heels, cheered our hearts out and even shed a few tears. The game did not end in our favor, but the experience and memories we made that weekend will last us a lifetime. 

What we learned from our experience:

  1. Plan ahead for future years, it’s never too early to look. Book a hotel room for next year now – you can always cancel.
  2. Flights will be expensive and probably full, so drive if possible – make it a road trip. The price will depend on how far you have to drive and how many people are riding together. Either way, it’s a lot less stressful.
  3. Hotels will be booked and if not, they will be very expensive. Look at staying in a nearby city if you want to save money.
  4. Buy hotel rooms that are refundable and on separate reservations. If your team loses, you might want to go home early.
  5. Don’t buy the National Championship game ticket until after both Final Four games have been played. More people will be selling tickets after their team loses, and the price will go down.
  6. Just do it! Make the trip and enjoy the experience. 

Cost breakdown per person based on two people splitting hotels and gas: 

  • Tickets: Final Four – 2 games (UNC vs Duke, Kansas vs Villanova) $200 
  • National Championship (UNC vs Kansas)- $75 
  • Hotels: 4 nights – $225 
  • Gas: $88
  • Experience: PRICELESS