Sometimes the best part of witnessing a sporting event is that the venue adds a special and unique quality to the experience. It can be the design, the crowd, or even the tradition and history. But whatever the case, a great venue can make for an unforgettable experience, and for that reason sports fans who enjoy travelling should consider putting the following venues on their lists.
5. Fenway Park
Whether or not you are a fan of baseball, Fenway Park has become one of the truly iconic sports venues in the United States, in any sport. Opened in 1912, it’s the oldest ballpark still being used in the MLB. While it’s naturally been updated and renovated over the years, it maintains a pleasantly historic atmosphere.
Red Sox fans are generally among the most passionate in baseball, and the stadium’s placement in the middle of Boston makes for a great experience around the stadium before and after games, too. Any one of the venues listed by Thrillist for eating and drinking near Fenway makes for an awesome game day experience, though Cask ‘n Flagon is probably the most well-known.
4. Cheltenham Race Grounds
As mentioned, sometimes it’s tradition or fan atmosphere that makes for a special venue, and these factors are indeed what make the Cheltenham Racecourse so unique. There are races held at the Cheltenham grounds throughout the year, but the best time to check out the venue is during the Cheltenham Festival in March, which is by far the biggest event staged there.
Given that this year’s Festival is getting quite close, Betbright’s horse racing blog has posted an outstanding preview of the four days of racing, and reading through this gives you a good feel for just what makes it special. Each day has unique themes and a fresh atmosphere along with its own marquee race. Additionally, the crowds at Cheltenham are typically filled with fun-loving enthusiasts who dive right into the atmosphere. It all makes for a joyous, carefree vibe.
3. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is the lengthy name for the grounds of the U.S. Open of tennis. While each of professional tennis’ grand slam events takes place at a large venue, there’s nothing quite like this one. Located in Queens, N.Y.—just a 30-minute subway ride from Midtown Manhattan—the grounds are beautiful and packed with hospitality. Most would agree that centre court, Arthur Ashe Stadium, is actually not as pleasant as some other centre courts, simply because it’s massive and loses some of the intimate feeling that tennis fans love.
The grounds as a whole, however, are breathtaking. Virtually all of the side courts and smaller stadium courts offer spectacular close-up tennis. Also, a seemingly endless array of covered spots offer fans the chance to get out of the sun and watch matches on TV screens while enjoying a fantastic selection of gourmet concessions. The Tennis Center is now undergoing construction and will look different in a few years, but if anything it may just be even more special.
2. The Bernabeu
Generally speaking, I’d give the slight edge to English fans in terms of football passion, but that being said, it’s hard to match the energy that you can enjoy at a good match at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. The home venue for Real Madrid, it was built in 1947 but now seats over 80,000 people in a strategically designed, enclosed, and sharply vertical layout that makes for incredible noise at the height of a match.
Bleacher Report named it third in its list of the world’s greatest football venues, but I’d put it second. It’s just behind my top choice for a sports venue worth travelling to see, which is…
1. Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium is an unrivalled football venue in London that hosts some of the greatest matches in the sport. As a stadium, Wembley is simply breathtaking. Its state-of-the-art design is as beautiful as athletic venues come, and even a tour of it while empty is an incredible experience. But when you factor in that it’s in London and naturally attracts the greatest football fans in the world to some of the sport’s biggest games, you can imagine the sort of atmosphere often seen at Wembley.
Really, most major English football stadiums are worth a trip to see, but it’s fitting that the country’s best venue isn’t attached to any one team in particular. It belongs instead to English and European football as a whole. It doesn’t hurt that the city around it is one of the most fascinating in the world!
Each of these five venues combines tradition, top events in its sport, beautiful grounds, and a surrounding city or area that makes for fascinating travel. Boston, New York, the English countryside, Madrid, and London are already spectacular destinations. And for sports fans, they’re all the more incredible for these venues and the events that take place at them.