Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A trip into heritage: America for sports fans

People travel for many reasons, and an interest in sports can make the perfect springboard for the trip of a lifetime. Where better to make that trip than in America, with its rich and colorful history of sport? From Indianapolis to Chicago, here is a list of some of the best cities and venues to head to in order to explore America's great sporting heritage, as well as some of the most popular and interesting routes to take for your road trip – just don't forget to include a few sports tickets in your budget.

Famed for its speedway, Indianapolis should be a must for any sport fan planning a road trip. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the venue for the world's most famous speedway race, the Indy 500, which has been hosted here since 1911. The three-foot row of bricks at the start/finish line has earned it the nickname “the Brickyard”, and fans as well as winners come here to “kiss the bricks.” With a current capacity of around 400,000 spectators, this place is awe-inspiringly vast. Indianapolis is less well-known for basketball, but Hinkle Fieldhouse, a 10,000-seat hall in Butler University, was the site of a famed 1954 victory dubbed “the Milan Miracle” in the Indiana state basketball championships. The Cinderella-style triumph of the tiny school was immortalized in the film Hoosiers, which was also filmed here.

Philadelphia is credited as being one of the most sports-crazed cities in the US, and it's not just because it provided the setting for the series of Rocky films. There's even a bronze statue of Mr. Balboa at the foot of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps, where you won't be able to resist punching the air. Fiction aside, you could visit real-life boxing legend Joe Frazier's gym, now on the National Register of Historic Places. The University of Pennsylvania's Palestra Stadium, meanwhile, has been called the Cathedral of Basketball – it was one of the largest arenas in the world at the time of its opening in 1927. Aside from the monumental architecture, it's seen some great games in its more than 80 years of existence. The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte is just one reason to visit this pleasant and picturesque state. Another is the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, which presents the story of one of the most successful families in stock car racing. It also gives you the opportunity to take one of the most scenic drives in the US, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from Virginia to the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina.

Pasadena's Rose Bowl
California is road trip territory, and cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, with its giant redwood trees and surfing towns, is a real treat. However, the destination here for sport fans must surely be the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, the venue for the oldest bowl game in college football and a staple of US culture. It has also hosted five Super Bowls and three BCS National Championship games.

From Ohio to Chicago Take a baseball road trip across the mid-west, from Ohio to Illinois. First, head up to Canton, in northeast Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame; then take time out from the sporting arena to check out Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, before making the drive west to Chicago. One of baseball's oldest and best-loved ballparks, Wrigley Field, opened in 1914 and became home to the Chicago Cubs two years later. Babe Ruth may have referred to it as a “dump” back then, but it's precisely because it's so rickety and old-fashioned that makes it so loved and treasured. Other important sites for baseball fans include Babe Ruth's birthplace, Baltimore, and Wisconsin, where fans can make a pilgrimage to Green Bay's Lambeau Field.

Upstate New York and Massachusetts - baseball and ice hockey
Baseball fans should take another road trip down the Eastern Seaboard, starting with visiting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA – it was here that the game was created in 1891 by James Naismith. Boston itself is possibly the baseball city in the US, and home to the “Green Monster” itself, Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in major league baseball. The Boston Red Sox moved in there in 1912. In Cooperstown in upstate New York, the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the oldest hall of fame in the US, and while you're here, don't miss a tour of the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum. Then travel further north to Lake Placid to relive the legendary ice hockey match of the 1980 Winter Olympics, when the US – with a team made up of amateurs and collegiate players, defeated the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice” – named the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated.

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