After we started dating, Sean and I developed a mutual love for traveling together and drinking wine. However, the mutual love came after we dated for a bit – those things were mainly just a Kelly love beforehand. The one major thing we already had in common when we met was sports. I grew up playing sports and loved going to baseball games in the summer, Navy football games in the fall, and ice hockey games in the winter. When I reached high school, I attended every single American football game, home or away. When I went to college in Boston, I started going to every single BU hockey game.
For Sean, it was football (the soccer kind). He has played every sport imaginable at some point (well, almost…) but football was always his favorite. Whether playing or supporting, he was always involved in some way. Being a natural sports fan, it was easy for me to get into it when we started dating (though he does have me supporting a questionable team). Now, we go to football matches together (domestically and abroad), watch other sports on TV whenever we have the chance, and try to attend sporting events while traveling.
When Sean visited the U.S. earlier this year, we attended a baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.
I might just be the girliest girl ever, so people are always surprised to find out that I am such a big sports fan. But I love sports, especially attending live events. The atmosphere is incredible, it’s a great excuse to eat overpriced unhealthy food, and I am usually accompanied by people I love to be around, making it an all around incredible experience. Now that we have these experiences together, I love them even more.
Traveling affords you the opportunity to attend many local and cultural events, including sporting events. From remote control sailboat races in a local park to international level sporting events such as the Olympics, sports bring people of all likes together to celebrate something they are jointly passionate about. We think this is something that every sports lover (and non sports lover, in my opinion) should experience at some time during their travels, so we have compiled a list of 15 bucket list-worthy sporting events around the world. These are the majors, but there are so many more!
1. The Olympics
The Olympics are on at the moment and this is probably the first event that people think about when they hear the words “International Sporting Event” so it has to be included. These games take place every two years, alternating between summer and winter, never in the same city twice within at least a decade. There are hundreds of events that you can attend and support your country in (or another country if you prefer!). If you’re planning on attending, I recommend reading our safety tips – expect masses of people, tons of police, and a constant threat of pickpockets everywhere you go.
2. The World Cup (or a regional equivalent)
Like the Olympics, both the World Cup and its regional equivalents (Euro Cup, Copa America) put national teams up against each other, except only for football/soccer. The mens events alternate every two years and, like the Olympics, have a different host each time. A round robin group stage spread over two weeks is followed by two weeks of knockout games, making the whole tournament last about a month. This is a must see for any football lover, especially if your team is playing! We attended Euro2016 in France this year in Marseille and St. Etienne and are already looking forward to Euro2020.
3. Tour de France
One of the best things about the Tour de France is that you don’t need to be in France to have a front row seat as the cyclists come whizzing by. The race passes through so many locations and, while it would be incredible to witness it from the finish line on Champs-Elysees, I bet it’s still really cool to just see the race in general. Imagine all those times when you were cycling and thought maybe you were going a bit too fast, or when you were attending that spin class and cried a bit when you were asked to increase your rpm. Well, these guys have way more speed and stamina than you! Keep an eye out for the coveted yellow jersey and be sure to snap a picture if it goes past you.
For tennis lovers, Wimbledon is the holy grail. Not necessarily in that it’s the hardest or best competition, but because it’s Wimbledon! From the all-white outfit requirement to the uniformed ball boys to the purple and green logo donned all over the place. Wimbledon is a classic event steeped in so much tradition. If you can’t get tickets to Centre Court, aim for the grounds and take a seat with a picnic on Henman Hill while you wait for return tickets to become available. Alternatively, London offers a wealth of pop up screens for watching around the city – during big matches, there’s such an incredible atmosphere that you feel like you’re actually at Wimbledon.
5. Red Sox Game at Fenway Park
Fenway Park itself is an experience – the actual baseball game is just a bonus. From stopping at a bar on Yawkey Way or Lansdowne Street before the game to picking up a Fenway Frank on the way in to singing along to Sweet Caroline with a beer in the stands, the whole night is a party. If you are lucky and can catch a Red Sox v. Yankees game, then you’re in for a real treat! Bostonians really love your team, so be prepared to mingle with some of the best and most dedicated fans in baseball.
6. Army-Navy Football Game
Speaking of rivalries, Army vs. Navy football is one of the biggest in the U.S. when it comes to colleges. The Army-Navy game is nicknamed “America’s Game”, and rightly so – it pulls together the United States’ two biggest military academies and all of their alumni for a massive day of reunions, tailgating, and football. The game takes place on the East Coast in December, so it is usually bitter cold and sometimes sleeting, but still manages to sell out. Wrap up, bring extra layers and a blanket, and just stick it out – it’s worth it!
7. A Cricket Match in the West Indies
Cricket isn’t hugely popular throughout the entire world, so it would be great to experience it in a place where people love it. Cricket is the number one sport in the West Indies and they really are obsessed. Even school games get a great crowd and it is the people that make this sporting event a must do. They play test cricket as well (those games that last for days); however, it’s the one day games that are really fun. Everyone will be drinking a lot and getting very excited at everything that happens. It may all seem a little crazy at first but after a couple hours you will be dancing along with all the locals.
8. March Madness
March Madness – the month when every American you know is either raving about or complaining about their bracket for their office pool. The best college basketball teams are brought together in one of the best formatted and most popular tournaments in the United States. Every sports fan at every participating school, every alumni, and every local will be watching the games, in addition to people who don’t even care during the rest of the year. Making and following your bracket is half the fun; the atmosphere at the actual games is the other half.
9. Beanpot Ice Hockey
Like March Madness, the Beanpot is a college sports tournament. This one takes place in Boston between the four Boston ice hockey teams – Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University, and Harvard University. This tournament pulls the entire city of Boston in, and it’s all you will hear about if you are visiting during it. The tournament is held in February at TD Garden, the major indoor arena in Boston. As I mentioned with the Red Sox, Boston has incredible sports fans, and this is another great opportunity to witness them!
10. All Blacks Rugby Game
Nobody does rugby quite like Australia and New Zealand – from the talent to the fans, it’s a huge deal. At the moment, the All Blacks are the best in the world – and why not see the best of the best if you have the opportunity? If witnessing the haka (war chant) done by the All Blacks before the match isn’t enough of an experience for you, the match itself will likely be brilliant. If you cannot make an All Blacks match, The British & Irish Lions are also worth seeing; the team is compiled of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
11. A Triple Crown Horse Race
Everyone should attend a proper horse race at some point in their life. Getting dressed up, mixed with a signature drink and a bit of cheeky betting, makes for a great afternoon spent with good friends. In the U.S., the big three are all part of the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. A horse who wins all three is crowned; it rarely happens these days! In the U.K., there is the Grand National, Ascot series, Glorious Goodwood, and many more. Races happen all around the world, but these (in our opinion) are the best experiences.
12. GAA Hurling Match
Most people who travel to Ireland want a real “Irish” experience. Well, this is it. I discovered GAA Hurling when I was living in Dublin and it has since become one of my favorite sports to watch. The action is non-stop, the atmosphere is lively, and it’s a ton of fun! Hurling can best be described as lacrosse, but without a net on the end; the ball is just balanced on a flat surface. The game is extremely fast paced and can sometimes be hard to follow, but seeing an actual goal is so rewarding. 1 point is awarded for the ball, called a sliotar, going through the goal posts, 3 points for it actually going into the goal. Find a local pub to visit before and after – that’s an experience in itself.
13. The Masters
If you are fortunate enough to get tickets to The Masters, you need to go. Or give them to my dad – either one works. I say this because I know plenty of “die hard” golfers that apply for tickets every single year like clockwork, and have yet to actually get anything out of it. The Masters is one of the top golf tournaments, and probably the most traditional of the majors (very old school, old money). It’s a rare opportunity to wander around Augusta National, let alone during The Masters. Leave your phone off or behind, practice your golf clap before you go and don’t wear a green jacket – those are for the winner!
14. Monaco Grand Prix
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of those events that spans far beyond the actual race and doubles as a status symbol. The opulence and beauty of Monaco are worth a trip alone. Then, you throw in the crowds and atmosphere of the Grand Prix. Add the colorful and (very) expensive F1 cars, and the after parties, and you have an unforgettable experience. It’s a hefty price tag to attend the race itself, but we have heard that it’s also very worth it.
15. Calcio Storico
Saving the best for last! This is probably the least known event on this list, but it’s definitely one for the memory books. Sean and I learned about Calcio Storico from our Airbnb host in Florence and immediately bought tickets. It’s a historic event that takes place in Florence where basically no rules apply. Imagine rugby mixed with football mixed with boxing, but crazier! The event takes place in June every year between four teams (from the four different major churches in the area). If you want to have an experience you literally will not have anywhere else, this is the one.
A panoramic shot of Wembley Stadium, which is also worth visiting during your travels if you have the chance! The Euro2020 finals will be held at Wembley if you’d like to kill two birds with one stone.
This list is just a tiny portion of sporting events around the world that we think are worth attending. We have been lucky enough to experience a few, but look forward to experiencing the rest. More “normal” events like a premier league football game or any American baseball game or some intense rivalry in whatever country you are visiting also make for incredible experiences, so we recommend you take the opportunity to go if you come across it.
x Kelly (& a bit of Sean)
Do you like to combine sports with travel? If so, what sporting events do you recommend?
Let us know in the comments below!
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