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NFL Experience brings a slice of Super Bowl hype to NYC

Commentary: NFL fan Scott Stein visits New York's first NFL theme park-museum.

NFL Experience opens in Times Square

We tried.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My family has had a New York Jets season ticket since I was 8 years old. I've been going to live games since the team played in Shea Stadium. I've been to one Super Bowl, and I've driven to the Football Hall of Fame and gone to the Hall of Fame Game. I've been on a stadium sideline

Simply put, I've had many memorable NFL experiences. That's why I was intrigued to try out the NFL Experience, the four-floor, 40,000-square-foot entertainment destination in New York's Times Square. I was able to visit shortly before the attraction -- a joint production of the National Football League and Cirque du Soleil (!) -- opened to the public last December. 

Spoiler alert: I was underwhelmed by my initial pass. The motion simulator chairs in the movie theater experience seemed amped up to "intimidation" level, and I found the stadium "food court" overpriced and not even up to the level of MetLife Stadium snacks (a low bar). Overall, I would've preferred more interactivity, more league history and more for kids to do.

On the other hand, maybe the entire experience was soured by the fact that I've been lucky enough to go to actual NFL games, and the Hall of Fame, and a Super Bowl. If you haven't, and want a slice of that type of experience... maybe this is it. It's certainly a lot less expensive than a plane flight and tickets. But keep your expectations in check. It's hard to see where the Cirque du Soleil element kicks in (I'm still baffled). But it's not a bad way to play around for an hour.

The hands-on training stations -- try your strength on padded blocking sleds, pass the ball to your favorite team's wide receiver -- were kinda fun. And reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp skew very positive. If you and your family are killing time between an early morning visit to Madame Tussaud's and a midafternoon Broadway matinee, perhaps the NFL Experience is exactly the sort of amped-up Americana that you're looking for. At the right price, that is.

It's all about grabbing a discount ticket. Avoid the default $29-a-head price, and be on the lookout for more reasonable $19 admission prices -- like the ones that are currently being offered between now and Feb. 11. Group discounts are available, too. At that rate, maybe it's a fine one-time thing to try. I just can't help thinking about the experiences that could have been. The NFL Experience is part museum, part theme park. But it missed an opportunity to be a lot more of both. 

Check out my NFL Experience photo tour for a hands-on look.

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