The start of every calendar year allows you to plan great sports fan travel. Turning the page to 2016 is no different as there’s a great year ahead. There are some special events in 2016 that don’t occur on U.S. soil every year and one of them makes its first appearance on the calendar. The order of what is the best changes every year because some events change location and other events don’t occur every year, but there’s never a lack of something to travel for. Included here is a list of the 14 best sporting events to travel for in 2016. I chose not to include events that won’t have a location decided well in advance, such as the NBA Finals or World Series, because those are harder to plan for. You’ll get so excited reading about what lays ahead in 2016 that you won’t even that they’re missing.
The Boston Marathon provides you with the opportunity of seeing one of America’s best cities. Boston is wonderful for a long weekend because it has plenty of sights and good food as well as being easy to get around. On no day is the city more electric than on Patriot’s Day as it comes alive to host the annual marathon. Patriot’s Day, set for April 18th of 2016, is a holiday for most people in the Boston area, so the masses fill the streets to cheer on the runners. The city has even more life in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings with locals showing their Boston pride. You can even fit in the Red Sox baseball game, which begins at 11:05 a.m. before taking to the streets to enjoy the race. There’s no day more fun in the city of Boston than Patriot’s Day and it’s all because of the Boston Marathon.
The Brickyard isn’t what it used to be since Americans don’t seem to care as much about IndyCar racing, but it’s still one of the epic venues in American sports and worldwide auto racing. Taking place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend in May, the 500 miles taking place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway draws an epic crowd. Some of the best NASCAR and Formula One drivers come out to contest for the crown against those racing in the Indy Car series. The history associated with the event still makes it one of the nation’s best to attend.
The streets of New York City come alive on the first Sunday in November when it hosts the Marathon. The New York City Marathon allows over 50,000 runners to cruise 26.2 miles of the greatest city in the world. Given that it’s one of the most prestigious marathons, arguably the most prestigious, over 2 million people like to watch the festivities as well. The event provides the perfect excuse for folks to travel to New York or for locals to see something that doesn't normally occur on the streets. Many a party is centered around the event, either in people's apartments or in bars and restaurants on the route. Given its place on the calendar, you’ll also be able to fit in another sporting event like a Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks game or some NFL action featuring the New York Giants or New York Jets.
No course has hosted the U.S. Open more than Oakmont Country Club and the second major of the year will return for its ninth time in 2016. Located about 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, Oakmont has seen great U.S. Opens in the past and has legendary winners to its credit like Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Ernie Els. Players will have to raise their game to the next level over Father’s Day weekend (June 16-19). Oakmont always ends up in the rankings of top 5 golf courses in America and its design with 200+ bunkers and no trees or water makes it unique for an U.S. Open. We’d be remiss to not mention the golfers themselves as Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy create the best threesome of young golfers the sport has had in a while. It will be a pleasure to watch them duke it out, a pleasure always enjoyed better in person.
Little League World Series
You would likely have no reason to go to Williamsport, Pennsylvania if not for the Little League World Series unless you were from there or had family there. That’s what makes the event so special. The Little League World Series is baseball in its purest form as kids aged 11 and 12 play for the love of the game. The 11 days of the event, taking place from August 18-28, provide a platform for these young kids to become stars for the week. The emotion is very apparent as these kids cry upon defeat and celebrate victory with youthful enthusiasm. Located three hours from Philadelphia, Williamsport is in the middle of nowhere, but it will always be the home for this country’s greatest youth sporting event in America.
If you prefer New York in warmer weather and tennis is more your thing than marathons, then the U.S. Open provides a sports travel opportunity. The U.S. Open has changed over the years, but it still holds its own as the loudest and most energetic Grand Slam tennis tournament. It takes place during the week before and after Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Easily reachable from Manhattan, the U.S. Open brings in a large number of fans from all states and countries to fill the seats and the surrounding grounds. Fans can choose between going early in the tournament to enjoy a day on the side courts seeing less heralded players, a boisterous night match with one of the tournament's stars pushing forward in the draw, or two of best players in the world challenging each other in the tournament's final few days. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to squeeze in a New York Yankees or New York Mets game as well.
It’s odd for a sport’s season to begin with its biggest event, but that’s exactly what you get in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the Daytona 500. Opening the season with a bang is part of what creates the fans’ energy for the race as they’ve been waiting all winter for the start of the season. This year’s race takes place one week later than usual as it kicks off the NASCAR season on Sunday, February 21st. The crowd is your typical NASCAR crowd with slightly more newcomers on hand to witness NASCAR’s Super Bowl. It helps that you can create a beach or golf weekend around the event at Daytona International Speedway as there are plenty of options 15 minutes or more away.
The Ryder Cup takes place every other year and only hits every U.S. soil once every four years. The match-up of America’s best golfers against Europe’s best returns to the States in 2016 as the Americans look to win for the first time in their last four Ryder Cups. The U.S. have as strong a group as they’ve had in recent years and will look to take it to the Europeans at Hazeltine National Golf Club, located 30 minutes outside of Minneapolis. The historic golf course in Minnesota has hosted two PGA Championships in the last 13 years and a U.S. Open back in 1991, so it’s familiar to golfers and fans. The comradery and patriotism on display at the Ryder Cup is great to watch and it seems as if the players are more enthusiastic about each shot since they play as a team. It might be time for you to be a part of that excitement.
It may seem odd that March Madness concludes in April, but there’s nothing odd about the excitement that surrounds the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Maybe it’s the office pools or maybe it’s enjoying basketball in a more pure form than the NBA, but March Madness captures the nation for a full three weeks. It all comes to a head on Saturday, April 2nd as the four surviving schools advance to the Final Four. While the quality of play has decreased slightly since the NCAA moved the tournament’s end from a basketball arena to a football stadium, the move allows more fans to enjoy the moment. That one shining moment sees one lucky team lift the trophy in the final on Monday, April 4th. This year’s tournament looks to be wide open, so any one of a number of teams could end up playing at NRG Stadium in Houston. Houston has one of the country’s biggest airports so getting to the event should be rather easy.
2016 marks a special year for soccer. The Copa America usually pits South America’s ten nations and two invitees against each other in the world’s third best International soccer tournament, but the 100-year anniversary has a special twist. The United States will host the Copa America Centennial and the field will be expanded to 16 teams. It’s the biggest soccer tournament the U.S. has hosted since the 1994 World Cup and it’s also the best chance the U.S. has of testing its soccer team against the world best outside of the World Cup itself. 10 cities around the U.S. will host games as the Copa America moves around from June 3rd to the 26th. South American countries bring so much passion as soccer fans, so the atmosphere at every game should be electric.
The first Saturday in May is synonymous with the Kentucky Derby. The 142nd edition of “The Run for the Roses” will be a special one as the 160,000+ fans remember that last year’s group cheered on American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. What makes the Derby great is not just that it’s the first of horse racing’s Triple Crown, but the upscale party atmosphere that surrounds the grounds. Between women in big hats, celebrities in classy attire, and a few mint julips, the Kentucky Derby will always have an aura about it unlike any other sporting event. Don’t blink or you’ll miss “the most exciting two minutes in sports” at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. You don’t have to experience it at an extreme cost, however, as you can fly into close by Cincinnati, drive to Kentucky, stay in the suburbs of Louisville, and enjoy the race from the infield. Whether you want to gaze at the crowd in the grandstand or enjoy the party in the infield, there’s a place for you to take in one of America’s great traditions.
Last year’s initial College Football Playoff worked out like a charm and this year’s event should be no different. All eyes will be fixed on University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Fans will show up in masses in the greater Phoenix area for the title game on Monday, January 11th between one of the University of Alabama, Clemson University, Michigan State University, and University of Oklahoma. Tickets aren’t cheap, but you’d expect that for a true big event. There’s been 11 days since both teams played their semifinal game, so not only will the teams be prepared, but the fan bases will have time to get there. There are plenty of hotels and house rentals in the greater Phoenix area, so it’s easy to find a roof for a few days. The College Football Playoff National Championship (and before that the BCS National Championship Game) has become one of the best events of the year, so you need to get to one sooner rather than later.
It’s quite amazing that we’ve only had 50 Super Bowls as the event seems like it’s been around for ages. The 2016 version at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Sunday, February 7th will mark the half-century for the NFL’s championship event. It should be a great attend to attend as the NFL pulls out all the stops to make the Super Bowl even more special in its 50th anniversary. The location close to San Francisco, one of America’s greatest major cities, adds a little extra punch. The parties surrounding the weekend are always great events, featuring some of the best musical acts around. The teams setting up to be in this year’s NFL Playoffs insure that the Super Bowl will be contested by two great teams. The main knock around the Super Bowl is that the crowd is slightly too corporate, but you won’t care whether you’re going to cheer on your favorite team or enjoying the extravagance of the weekend.
Every golf fan needs to experience the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia at some point in their life. Every sports fan should experience it for that matter. It’s so glorious that even the practice rounds and the Par 3 contest draw great crowds. Part of that reason is the exclusivity and the price of tickets to attend the rounds between Thursday, April 9th and Sunday, April 12th. You’ll likely never get to play the course, but walking around places like Amen Corner or the 18th hole are memories you’ll remember for a lifetime. In a down year for Super Bowl and Final Four location, why not make the two-hour journey from easily accessible Atlanta to experience a pimento cheese sandwich at America’s greatest golf venue.