"Are you ready for some football?"
Well, no, I am not. There's nothing I hate more than watching the Redskins, Ravens or (insert any college team here) butting heads all weekend long.. Clogged highways delay football shunners like me from getting to the mall, the movies, maybe a museum. Family members (brother-in-law, I'm talkin' to you) get goggle-eyed and distracted, rambling about team standings and passing stats. Even my husband starts wearing a blindingly tacky Redskins sweatshirt. I wish someone would drop-kick me out of town, away from gridiron mania. I know there'll be legions of volunteers.
An Orlando resort currently offers a "football widow's revenge" package with spa treatments and chocolate martinis. That sounds divine, but I can't head to Florida for the next nine weekends. Instead, here are some closer-to-home ways to escape the 10 things I hate most about everyone else's favorite sport.
-- Jennifer Barger
Instead of another pregame picnic of cold hamburgers and warm potato salad (food poisoning, anyone?), take a walking tour/cooking class around New York City's famed Union Square Greenmarket. Cookbook author Richard Ruben leads what he calls "a culinary adventure dictated by nature," helping gastronauts tackle the veggie stands, meat purveyors and fruit sellers of this foodie nirvana. Seasonal delicacies -- perhaps kuri squash, honeycrisp apples or pheasant sausage -- dictate a multi-course lunch menu back at the Institute of Culinary Education. Potentially on the menu: Concord grape sangria, trout stuffed with purslane and gooseberries. Nov. 5 and 19, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; $95. 212-847-0700, www.iceculinary.com.
Watching flat-abbed, overly made up cheerleaders say "rah" makes me say "bah." I'd rather hang out with folks who say "om" at the Yogaville ashram, or retreat, 40 miles south of Charlottesville. Set on 750 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, the hippie-trippy center offers yoga classes, meditation sessions and an otherworldly are-we-in-Oz? Light of Universal Truth Shrine. Overnight stays in the Lotus Guest House ($85-$98) or a bare-bones dorm ($60-$75) include three vegetarian meals a day and a guarantee that no one will be tuned into the big game. Buckingham, Va., 800-858-9642, www.yogaville.org.
3. Goofy Team Names
Since Baltimore named its NFL franchise after Edgar Allan Poe's poem, you'd think Ravens die-hards would flock to Charm City's Poe landmarks. Not so, says Jeff Jerome, curator of the tiny Poe House and Museum (203 Amity St., 410-396-7932, www.eapoe.org/balt/poehse.htm). "We got worldwide publicity at first, but it died down. We never get football fans." The rowhouse where Poe lived from 1833 through 1835 offers self-guided tours ($3) Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 3:45 p.m. The horror/mystery writer is buried at Westminster Cemetery (Fayette and Greene streets), which holds tours ($5; reserve at 410-706-2072) of its atmospheric graveyard and creepy catacombs Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. and Nov. 5 at 10 a.m.
4. Small-Screen Overload
My brother-in-law's house holds enough TVs to fill a Circuit City, all tuned to you-know-what. Give me an artsy movie fest (subtitles! angsty love!). Nov. 3 through 17, Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Film Festival unreels dozens of full-length flicks and shorts at venues like downtown's funky Harris Theater. Some boast live music, such as the B-movie classic "X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes" with avant-garde rockers Pere Ubu (Nov. 5 at 11 p.m., Regent Square Theater) and Hitchcock's "Blackmail" set to the synth sounds of the Alloy Orchestra (Nov. 17 at 8 p.m., Regent Square Theater). Tickets $7 to $15. 412-681-5449, http://3rff.com.
5. Gridiron Gridlock
Fighting traffic to get to FedEx Field? No thanks! Folks who take flat-water kayaking trips from All Earth Eco Tours ply the quiet, motorboat-free Savage River Reservoir near Western Maryland's Deep Creek Lake. "We see bald eagles flying and deer drinking from the water -- it's incredibly peaceful," says co-owner Carol Calhoun. Four-hour trips, including picnic lunch, start with a crash course in Paddling 101, then head into the placid, five-mile-long reservoir for views of autumn leaves, mountains and wildlife. Trips available Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through early November (weather dependent); $55 per person, including lunch. Friendsville, Md., 800-446-7554, www.allearthecotours.com.
6. Fight Song Fatigue
Note to whoever wrote the lyrics for "Hail to the Redskins": Did you really think that "victory" and "D.C." made a brilliant rhyme? Me, I'd rather be in Philly, skipping Eagles home games and listening to the Philadelphia Orchestra under the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (260 S. Broad St., 215-893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org). Hot tickets: Beethoven's monumental "Emperor" piano concerto (Nov. 3-5; $10-$122) and Mahler's emotional Sixth Symphony (Nov. 10-12; $10-$122). Hear less highbrow sounds at the delightfully dive-y Khyber in Old City (56 S. Second St., 215-238-5888, www.thekhyber.com). In an apartment-size room, the likes of Brit post punker Tom Vek (Nov. 5) and dark folk powers Okkervil River (Nov. 13) rock until the wee hours. Tickets $10.
7. Scoreboards, Ads Ad Nauseam, Electronic Overload
At a game I was recently dragged to, banner ads, fans on cell phones and Jumbotrons telling us when to cheer nearly gave me an info-glut seizure. New Castle, Del., erases such modern noise. Founded by the Dutch in 1651, the Delaware River-front burg south of Wilmington is a Colonial-era time warp, with cobblestone streets, a village green and 17th- through 19th-century houses. Some buildings host tours, including the grand 1730s Amstel House (2 E. Fourth St., 302-322-2794) and the cupola'd 1732 courthouse (211 Delaware St., 302-323-4453); other aged structures offer such pleasures as shepherd's pie and ale (the circa-1724 Jessop's Tavern, 114 Delaware St., 302-322-6111) or overnight stays (Terry House, 130 Delaware St., 302-322-2505; $90-$110, including breakfast). Info: www.newcastle city.net.
8. Holy PETA! Pigskins!
I still can't get past the fact that footballs were once made of, ick, pig bladders. And rather than watching grown men hurl a stuffed piece of cow leather around, I'd rather take a timeout with the 13 rescued potbellied porkers at the four-room White Pig Bed & Breakfast (5120 Irish Rd., Schuyler, Va., 434-831-1416, www.thewhitepig.com; $150-$175 a night). "They're in a pen, and they'll come right up to you," says Washingtonian Leslie Oakey, who hosted her recent wedding there. A 30-minute drive south of Charlottesville, the bucolic pig sanctuary and inn dishes up gourmet vegan breakfasts such as Belgian waffles with strawberries, scrambled tofu or banana-cinnamon pancakes. P.S.: That "bacon" is soy.
9. Rude Fans
Why does that stranger in front of me at the game insist on high-fiving me every time his team scores? And what's with the yellers and drunks two seats over? West Virginia's polite-yet-groovy Greenbrier hosts an antidote to the most offensive linemen Nov. 11-13, when Southern Living Weekends by Design features seminars on "Effortless Entertaining," haute cooking demos, and a wine, cheese and schmoozing reception. $400 per person double, based on a two-night stay. White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., 800-453-4858, www.greenbrier.com.
10. Bad Brews
Does anyone really think Bud tastes better in "stadium-friendly" plastic bottles? Dozens of microbreweries -- Delaware's Dogfish Head, Oregon's Rogue Ales, Louisiana's Abita -- show off flavorful handcrafted beer at the Great Brews of America Beerfest Nov. 19-20 at the Resort at Split Rock in Pennsylvania's Poconos (Lake Drive, Lake Harmony, Pa., 800-255-7625, www.splitrockresort.com). Hopheads can come for a day ($25) to sip, hear music and attend seminars on beer and food; weekend packages ($450-$590) include lodging within stumbling distance, a beer-themed dinner and a Sunday hangover cure, er, breakfast.