Best US Cities for Sports Lovers

31 Jan

What makes a city a great sports city? It could be the rabid, loyal fans who sell out every home game, the presence of pro teams in all four major sports, the historic stadium that is a must-see on every out-of-towner’s agenda or it could even be that the city hosts a variety of sporting events throughout the year, from the Super Bowl to an international marathon to the national curling championships.

The best U.S. cities for sports lovers arguably have any or all of the above and debates on which cities are the best could be endless. While others are certainly worthy of consideration, here are ten American cities that no sports lover should miss:

1. Chicago

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field. Photo credit: Michael Lehet via Flickr.

The United States’ most recent candidate to host the Summer Olympics, Chicago was named the Best Sports City in the country by the Sporting News in 1993, 2006 and 2010 for good reason. Home of the “lovable loser” Cubs (who make their home in historic Wrigley Field) and the 2005 World Champion White Sox, Chicago has been the only city with 2 Major League Baseball teams since 1901. The Blackhawks are one of the Original Six hockey franchises and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2010 and the Chicago Bulls claimed six NBA championships in the 1990s. One of the five World Marathon Majors, the Chicago Marathon welcomes over 40,000 runners and more than a million spectators each October, while the Race to Mackinac, a 330 mile offshore sailboat race, is the longest annual freshwater sailing distance race in the world. And Chicago residents don’t just love to watch, they join the fun as well, playing in hundreds of volleyball, softball, basketball and soccer leagues throughout the year.

2. Boston

Fenway Park

Fenway Park

Boston has been a city of championships in recent years, with the Boston Celtics winning an NBA championship, the Red Sox twice winning the World Series, the Bruins claiming the Stanley Cup and the nearby New England Patriots grabbing three Super Bowl rings. But Beantown has much more than just pro sports on the lineup. The Head of the Charles Regatta rowing competition takes place each year on the Charles River. Four NCAA Division 1 schools play in the city so visitors can find entertaining collegiate competition in dozens of sports, including the Beanpot Tournament – a hockey tournament held by the four schools every year. Boston has its history as well; Fenway Park is the oldest professional sports stadium in the country and the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest marathon. And like Chicago, Bostonians love to play sports almost as much as they love to watch them.

3. Philadelphia

Penn Relays

Penn Relays. Photo credit: mrloke via Flickr.

The City of Brotherly Love may offer the most variety of any city on this list. It hosts the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track & field competition in the United States, as well as the Philadelphia International Championship, one of the most prestigious one-day cycling races outside of Europe.  Philly also hosted the 2012 U.S. Curling Championships and will do so again in 2014. The city is home to five Division I college basketball programs known as the “Big Five” and the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, held on the Schuylkill River, is the largest regular intercollegiate rowing event in the country. Not only does Philadelphia have teams in all four major professional sports (the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and 76ers), it has pro teams in sports like lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee as well.

4. Indianapolis

Considered by some to be the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World,” Indianapolis is home to the NCAA Hall of Champions, a great museum for any collegiate sports fan to visit. In recent years, Indy has hosted the Big Ten basketball tournament and football championship game, as well as the Super Bowl. The Indiana Fever were WNBA champions in 2012 and the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl several years earlier. Car racing fans flock to the city for the Indy 500, Brickyard 400 and the Indianapolis Grand Prix each year while baseball lovers can check out the Indianapolis Indians, the second oldest minor league baseball team, playing since 1902. Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis may be one of the most iconic sites in sports movie history. Today home to the Butler University Bulldogs, it was where the championship game was played that inspired the movie “Hoosiers.”

5. Las Vegas

Boxing in Vegas

Boxing in Vegas. Photo credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas via Flickr.

Las Vegas may not have any major professional teams, but it still has a lot to offer casual and serious sports fans alike. It hosts college football’s Las Vegas Bowl and the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament, as well as the USA Sevens, the largest rugby tournament in the USA. NASCAR, rodeo, bull riding, mixed martial arts, golf and boxing are all on the calendar, not to mention minor league teams in baseball and hockey. The Ironman 70.3 World Championships take place in the Las Vegas metro area and law enforcement officials from around the country participate in the 120 mile Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay. And of course, there are the dozens of sportsbooks at the casinos, great for cheering on your favorite team while perhaps placing a bet or two.

6. Minneapolis/St. Paul

More than anything, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are all about hockey. The University of Minnesota men’s and women’s hockey teams are national powerhouses and Minneapolis plays host to the US Pond Hockey Championships each year. The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is the largest state sports tournament in the country, with over 100,000 attending every year. Aside from hockey, the Metrodome in Minneapolis has the distinction of being the only stadium in the country to have hosted a World Series, Final Four, Super Bowl and MLB All-Star Game. Runners pound the pavement twice a year for the Minneapolis Marathon and the Twin Cities Marathon, the latter sometimes called the “Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.”

7. New York

Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden

The Big Apple is a professional sports lover’s dream, with two baseball teams (Yankees and Mets), two basketball teams (Knicks and Nets) and a hockey team (Rangers) playing within the city limits. It is also home to the New York City Marathon, one of the largest marathons in the world, and the US Open, one of tennis’ Grand Slams. Arthur Ashe Stadium at the National Tennis Center is by far the largest tennis-only venue in the world. The National Invitational Tournament was the first national college basketball tournament and has been held in the city since 1938 and Madison Square Garden may be one of the most popular arenas in the country.

8. Phoenix

If you’re a baseball fan, Phoenix is the place to be each spring, when no less than 15 Major League Baseball teams hold spring training in the metro area. The city is also home to the Phoenix Suns (NBA), Arizona Cardinals (NFL), Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) and Phoenix Coyotes (NHL). It hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2009 and the University of Phoenix stadium in suburban Glendale is the site of college football’s Fiesta Bowl each year. The Phoenix International Raceway hosts two major NASCAR events and the two-time champion Phoenix Mercury was one of the original eight WNBA teams.

9. Oklahoma City

Remington Park

Horse racing at Remington Park. Photo credit: katsrcool via Flickr.

Long neglected by major professional franchises, Oklahoma City has embraced the relocated Thunder, who advanced to the NBA Finals in 2012. The city has a strong collegiate focus, with the nearby University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University occasionally playing home games in the city. It also hosts the Big 12 Baseball Tournament, the World Cup of Softball and the Women’s College World Series, as well as the Bricktown Showdown AAA Baseball Championship Game. Horse racing at Remington Park and minor league baseball and hockey teams are also popular with residents.

10. Atlanta

When it comes to sports, Atlanta may be best known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics, the history of which is showcased in the Centennial Olympic Games Museum at the Atlanta History Center. The Atlanta Braves are perennial contenders in Major League Baseball and won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005. The city hosts the Atlanta Open tennis tournament each summer and will soon be home to the College Football Hall of Fame, scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.

Best US Cities for Sports Lovers ,

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