Many of us would love to take off on an extended trip around the US, checking out all those places that we have heard about but never actually seen. Unfortunately, vague notions of spending a summer drifting across the states almost never actually come to fruition, often because we simply can’t decide what it is we want to do and see. What many of us need is some focus; in other words, before we decide on the where, we need to decide on the why.
Focus on sports
One idea is to focus the trip on following a favorite sport, or sports teams; travelling around the country to catch the best games in the most famous locations.
With many iconic stadiums and other venues spread across the United States, the opportunities for enjoying great sports at some fine locations are almost endless. Famous names such as Madison Square Garden in New York City, Wrigley Field in Chicago, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Fenway Park in Boston, and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in LA are all out there waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Those wishing to see where the history of American sports has been played out have a wide choice of teams and cities to choose from.
Some people stick with following just one team around the country, while others like to watch a variety of different teams – and sometimes different sports – to mix things up. In order to get the most out of a sports trip of a lifetime it is usually essential to be a super-fan, and open to pretty much anything when it comes to sports. Having a broad appreciation of different sports helps to ensure never missing out on a great game or sporting event.
Major League Baseball
Let’s first touch base with baseball, the “Great American Pastime.” While the West Coast has some fabulous baseball stadiums, for those who only have a week or two to devote to their sports trip of a lifetime, a road trip starting in the Midwest and heading east will bring the baseball fan to a number of great parks located within relatively easy reach of one another. Traveling between cities such as Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York is a great way of combining a sports vacation with exploration.
If you start out in the “Windy City,” catching a game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field is a must. Famous for Babe Ruth’s legendary ‘called shot,’ among other things, Wrigley Field is home to the Chicago Cubs. This quintessentially American ballpark was built in 1914, and sitting in the crowd here watching a game certainly feels like stepping back in time. For a more modern experience, make your way to Chicago’s South Side and take in a White Sox game at US Cellular Field, which opened in 1991.
Heading due east, the next stop on the road trip should be Cleveland, Ohio to watch the Cleveland Indians play at Progressive Field Park. Located near the center of the city, Progressive Field Park is referred to as “The Jake,” by the locals, and was ranked as the best Major League Ballpark in a 2008 poll.
Next up is Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies – the oldest name in American sports history. Dating back to 1883, the Phillies are the oldest franchise to have continued with one name in one city in all of professional American sports. With a new stadium built in 2009 and some of the best field-side snacks on the East Coast (make sure to try the hoagies, cheesesteaks, and soft pretzels). Philadelphia Phillies tickets are sure to admit one to a great time.
Heading north for a couple of hours will bring you to New York City and the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to catch a Yankees game in this rebuilt beauty. Next, head across town to Flushing Meadows and catch a New York Mets game in the recently opened $900 million Citi Field. Heading a little further north will bring you to the oldest baseball park in the US, where you can to see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park. With its unique atmosphere and passionate spectators, this grand old dame of baseball demands respect.
Other East Coast ballparks worthy of a visit include Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, and Nationals Park in Washington DC, home of the Washington Nationals.
Some individuals get more of a kick out of NFL football, and the US has a wealth of excellent teams based in great stadiums in beautiful cities – so many that it is hard to know where to start. For those interested in sports history, Candlestick Park – home to the San Francisco 49ers – is definitely worth a visit; you will have to hurry, however, as the 49ers are scheduled to move to their new home at Levi’s Stadium in nearby Santa Clara, California soon.
While you are on the West Coast, stop by Century Link Field in Seattle, Washington, home to the current Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. If you are heading east, be sure to stop off at Soldier Field in Chicago, home to the Chicago Bears; Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, home to the Green Bay Packers; and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, home to the New England Patriots .
For those who prefer hoops, any basketball-themed trip should start at Madison Square Garden, located in the heart of Manhattan, New York City. The noise of the crowd, the skill of the New York Knicks, and the amazing location in the heart of the Big Apple makes this an experience not to be missed. If you are closer to the middle of the country, check out the Chicago Bulls at the United Center, then catch a plane south to marvel at the skills of currently red hot San Antonio Spurs, or west to watch the Los Angeles Lakers compete in the iconic Staples Center.
How to travel
Sports is found everywhere in the USA; it is a part of the fabric of modern American culture, and so separating it from everyday life is virtually impossible. Making a journey of discovery and taking in different sports in cities far and wide is the dream of almost every fan, and a sports odyssey taken with family or friends is a great bonding opportunity.
In most cases, the mode of transport chosen will depend on the time and funds available. The centrally located travel hub of Chicago is a good place to start any sports-themed trip; starting off in Chicago offers travelers the choice of the Bulls, Bears, Cubs, or White Sox depending on the time of year. Renting a car will allow you to take a leisurely trip east towards Cleveland, Pittsburg, Washington, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston – all of which are great sports towns. Flying west from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport – where LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Phoenix await – is also a convenient option.
Any sports trip taking in multiple games requires great planning and organization. Tickets for big games get snapped up quickly, so you should buy them well in advance to ensure you get the best seats. Often, the availability of tickets for events such as a World Series game or the Super Bowl dictates the route of the trip, offering solid destinations in an otherwise fluid itinerary. You will also want to book hotel accommodations early, as big games create a big demand for rooms.
When the plans are complete, the route is decided upon, and the tickets are bought, you can sit back and anticipate your sports trip of a lifetime – which is a big part of the fun.