Can you imagine being present when Michael Jordan hit “The Shot” in 1989 to help the Chicago Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the playoffs? Or how about watching Liverpool fight back from 3-0 down against AC Milan in the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final? We both LOVE sport so both of these scenarios sounds appealing, and what better way to watch them than by combining sport with our love of travel. Sporting events can be the ultimate thrill of a lifetime and everywhere we travel we look forward to experiencing such an attraction.
But we are not alone in our love of sports! We are delighted to share a list of top sporting events around the world that you need to experience at least once in your lifetime. Beware, once you have experienced them once…you will likely want to return.
Why Pay for Sporting Events?
The drama, the atmosphere, the nerves and the tension. All of these characteristics are what make sporting events an unbelievable experience. Forget the outrageous ticket prices that many of us have to pay because if you are fortunate enough to experience a once in a lifetime moment, such as the amazing European fightback during the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in the 2012 Ryder Cup which is still one of the greatest events I have been present at, you will quickly realize that those prices are worth every penny.
Combining sport and travel is a great way to see the world. I am an avid golfer and although Heather is not quite as interested, she has enjoyed experiencing several golf tournaments around the world that we have visited.
We have also been fortunate to watch the Wimbledon Championships in London, Brisbane International tennis event ‘Down Under’, “20/20” cricket at the GABBA in Brisbane along with countless sporting events around the United States (plus many more!)
Let’s take a look at some of the top events you won’t want to miss, many of which you can watch live in 2016!
ANZAC Day Australian Rules Football
Sport – Australian Rules Football
Location – Melbourne, Australia
ANZAC Day (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) commemorates the Gallipoli landing during World War I. In Australia, it’s a day of reflection and a time to give thanks to our service men and women. Dawn remembrance services are held across the nation to mark our entry into war.
Since 1995 another tradition on ANZAC Day is the AFL game between Essendon and Collingwood. These two popular teams often draw a crowd of 90,000+ for this match. To show comradery like the troops, the teams walk out onto the ground together (not typical for AFL). Everyone then stands for the last post, a minutes silence, and our national anthem in respect for the troops. The pre-game ceremonies are enough to give you goosebumps as you can hear a pin drop amongst all those people packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The game is always exciting and usually close no matter where the teams are sitting on the ladder during the season. I can highly recommend watching the last five minutes of the 2009 game. Essendon was down by 14 points – the game was over – or so everyone thought. Miraculously they kicked three goals in a short space of time to win the game.
Although Essendon isn’t my team, this game is still the most exciting AFL game I have watched so far. There is an extra incentive to get the job done on this day with the spirit of the Anzacs on the players side.
Thanks to Sarah O’Farrell from Fit Travels for this feature on Aussie Rules Football!
Sport – Golf
Location – Pebble Beach in Monterey, California, USA
Not everyone is a golf lover, but even if it’s not your favorite sport, a must-see event in Northern California is the AT&T Pro-Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach in Monterey, CA. It takes place in February of each year and is set on the breathtaking cliffs of Monterey.
This Professional – Amateur match brings the top golfers from around the world and some of your favorite celebrities. You can get up close and personal with stars from Bill Murray to Justin Timberlake to Wayne Gretzky.
The best trick is finding that “off the beaten path” spot where you regularly find players hitting a poor shot. You can set up without the crowds and stand just a few feet away from them when they take their next shot. I had the opportunity to chat with Kid Rock this way a few years back.
Overall, it’s a unique event that is different from any other tournament you’ll have a chance to attend.
Thanks to Megan MacNee from Traveling Nine to Fiver for this feature on the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach! As an avid golfer, this is one I am really excited about attending in the near future.
Big Bash 20/20 League
Sport – Cricket
Location – Melbourne, Australia
We attended the Big Bash League 20/20 cricket match in Melbourne in December. It was held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground or the “G” as its known. For those of you who don’t know cricket, just think baseball but much more exciting and fast paced.
The BBL is an amazing spectacle featuring fireworks, flamethrowers, dancers, mascots and music – you name it they have it!
The BBL is geared towards families, it has giveaways outside the ground and interactive exhibits all geared towards getting the kids interested in the sport. The game goes for roughly three hours with each batting team facing 20 overs from the opposition where they try to smash the ball to all corners of the stadium. The 20/20 version of cricket has opened up this age old sport to a new generation of fans.
Thanks to Mark Wyld from Wyld Family Travel for this feature on the Big Bash League in Australia. We attended a BBL 20/20 game in 2012 in Brisbane which was awesome so thanks Mark for recommending this event.
Sport – College Football
Location – Varies (Review on Florida Gators)
The music can be heard around ‘The Swamp’ as 90,000 people wait for the moment the University of Florida Gator football team burst on the field. The team emerges from the tunnel and the entire stadium breaks out in the Gator Chomp. Everywhere I look, people are doing the Gator Chomp among the sea of blue and orange shirts.
I was born and raised a Florida Gator fan and yet at the age of 18, and this was my first ever Florida football game and my first time in the stadium named ‘The Swamp’. I hadn’t planned on going to the 2009 match against Troy University but a row 8 ticket for 20 bucks was impossible to turn down.
The cheering is ratcheted up when the stadium breaks out into the Orange and Blue chat. Each side of The Swamp is trying to be louder than the other and cheer the team to victory. The atmosphere in The Swamp is addictive and I can’t wait until the next game.
Thanks to Jennifer Melroy from Made all the Difference for this feature on the Florida Gators college football experience at “The Swamp”.
Sport – Ice Hockey
Location – Belarus
The only thing I knew about Belarus before visiting was Ice Hockey was the national sport of Belarus so I was determined to see a game if possible. The matchup was the Molodechno Dinamo vs. HK Mogliev in the Belarusian Extraleague, the top domestic competition.
It took a while to reach the Molodechno Ice Palace from Belarus and on arrival, I instantly noticed a lack of atmosphere with no retailers outside the stadium, no music booming and other ‘game-day’ events you associate at a sporting arena to generate atmosphere among the fans. The queue for the tickets meant I missed the first few minutes of the game as I made my way to my premium seats ($2.25USD!).
Interestingly, very few supporters were wearing the home team kit despite the merchandise being cheap but it was clear everyone was supporting the home side. Unlike watching ice hockey in Vancouver, advertising was nearly non-existent, with very few security staff, TV cameras few and far between and food and drink prices weren’t inflated. There wasn’t any alcohol for sale either which was a little surprising.
It really felt like I was watching an amateur game which has benefits, but I would have liked more atmosphere, especially given ice hockey is the national sport of Belarus. It’s possible I was the only non-Belarusian in the crowd and given I speak none of the language maybe this removed me from being ‘a part’ of the whole event. Regardless, I had a blast at the game and would recommend everyone watch a game of Ice Hockey if you head to Belarus. Talk about cultural immersion!
The final result? 10-2 to the home side and no fights!
Thanks to Jub Bryant from Tiki Touring Kiwi for this feature on Ice Hockey in Belarus.
Indian Premier League
Sport – Cricket
Location – Mumbai, India
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is a professional cricket league in India, with 11 teams representing various Indian cities. The league is relatively new, only beginning in 2008. Matches are scheduled during the Indian summer months of April and May for a short season.
While in India, I had the opportunity to see the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium. On a hot and humid evening in May, the atmosphere at Wankhede was lit up like the day, loud with music blaring overhead and full of excitement. Fans (mostly men) cheering and booing while waving their teams flags worked themselves into a frenzy for every hit or missed shot, sending electric currents through the crowd.
Having only ever seen cricket on TV (where I thought it was terribly boring), watching an IPL game live was a totally different experience. There was not a single dull moment during the entire game. Even though I only know some cricket legends by name, it was pretty spectacular to see them play live.
Attending an IPL match is an extremely unique experience, providing a great insight into modern Indian culture. Sport is one of the few things that can create instant connections and bonds between people. You will spend the game with your bench neighbors giving you the ins and outs of the game, who to cheer for and who to boo! When you leave an IPL match, you will do so with many local friends!
I would definitely recommend making the effort to see an IPL game live if you are in India during April or May. It’s a priceless experience that just can’t be matched anywhere else.
Thanks to Karilyn Owen from No Back Home for this feature on the Indian Premier League in Mumbai, India.
Sport – Horse Racing
Location – Melbourne, Australia
The Melbourne Cup, famously known as ‘The Race That Stops A Nation’, is held on the first Tuesday in November every year during horse racing’s Spring Carnival. The Carnival runs over 3 weeks during October and November and covers many race meetings but the main events are during Cup Week which starts with Derby Day, Cup Day, Oaks Day and Stakes Day (otherwise known as family day). These race meetings all attract crowds of up to 120,000 per day.
People come from all over the world to attend the Melbourne Cup and it is declared a public holiday here in Melbourne. The Monday before Cup Day is taken by many as an unofficial public holiday as well, therefore making it a 4-day break for most of us.
The media focuses on the human ‘fillies’ as much if not more than it does on the horses! Celebrities from all over the world come to be seen at the Melbourne Cup and to get an invitation to the Bird Cage Celebrity Marque is an invite well sort after. Melbourne Cup is as much about being seen as it is about backing a winner!
Thanks to Sally Lucas from Our 3 Kids v The World for this feature on the Melbourne Cup.
Red Bull Crashed Ice
Sport – Ice Cross Downhill
Location – Varies (Review on Quebec City, Canada)
Red Bull Crashed Ice is an extreme winter sport, also known as ice cross downhill. It is a race to the finish line. Four participants, wearing ice skates and padding like a hockey player, speed down steep hills and sharp turns. It’s the world’s fastest sport on skates. In its 16th season, the Red Bull Crashed Ice event happens in several locations around the world.
We attended the event in Quebec City this past November, and it was thrilling to watch in person. The athletes fly at a quick pace down the ice. We positioned ourselves at the finish line. Once the participants cross the finish line, the only way to stop was to slam into the padded boards at the end. Even though it was a chilly winter evening, the crowd was so energetic.
It was awesome to attend such a fast-paced sporting event. I recommend checking it out if you get the chance.
Thanks to Lauren Elizabeth from Justin Plus Lauren for this feature on the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in Quebec City, Canada.
Sport – Surfing
Location – Santa Barbara in Southern California, USA
You have to be a local or a little lucky to attend the Rincon Classic Surfing Contest which takes place at Rincon Beach in Southern California’s Santa Barbara County sometime in January or February. The exact date is decided upon depending on the surf forecast over an 8-week waiting period beginning in January.
Contestants at the Rincon Classic are all locals – residing within the 805 area code, with exceptions made for those who lived in the area 10+ years but moved away. Of course, anyone is welcome to claim a spot on the beach to attend the event as a spectator.
Rincon Classic surf contest includes various categories from professionals all the way down to the young kids. I was lucky enough to have chosen Carpinteria as my nomad home for the month of January and my sister was lucky enough to be invited down for a long weekend escape from winter in Calgary.
El Nino delivered storms in early January but the contest was announced 6 days prior to the weekend event dates of January 16 – 17th. I found out about the event during my stay in Carpinteria. Parking at the event is scarce but we took advantage of the free parking and shuttle bus service from Mark Avenue in Carpinteria.
If you are lucky enough to be in the area during the Rincon Classic bring a blanket or chair and grab your spot on the beach to watch the best surfers in the area and enjoy a classic California event.
Thanks to Susan Moore from Solo Trips and Tips for this feature on the Rincon Classic surfing event in California.
Sport – Rugby 7s
Location – HSBC Sevens World Series in Sydney, Australia
I’m going to be upfront and state that I’m not much of a rugby fan. The rules are complicated, so I find it hard to stay engaged for a full 80-minute match. But that’s not the only form of rugby union. There’s also the Rugby 7s, where there are only seven players per team on the field, and each of the halves is a quick seven minutes! It’s fast and action-packed, and a lot of fun to watch!
If you attend one of the HSBC Sevens World Series events, it’s more than just the rugby that makes for an entertaining event. At the Sydney 7s event that I attended, in between the 24 games in the pool section of the tournament, video cameras roved the crowd, encouraging people to dance, play air-guitar and take part in stadium-wide karaoke sessions. Spectators are also encouraged to wear fancy dress, and a lot of beer drinking takes place!
There are ten events held around the globe each year, everywhere from Las Vegas to Hong Kong to Paris, and the sport will also be part of the Summer Olympics for the first time in 2016, where I’m sure the crazy-fun will continue!
Thanks to Shandos Cleaver from Travelnuity for this feature on the HSBC Rugby Sevens in Sydney.
Sport – Golf
Location – Alternates every 2 years between Europe and USA
We attended the Ryder Cup for the first time in 2012 at the so-called ‘Miracle at Medinah’. What an amazing experience this was, watching the European team fight back to secure an unlikely victory over the American team. For any non-golfers out there, the Ryder Cup is held every two years alternating between American and European soil, and pits 12 of the top golfers from both continents against each other (I say continent though it’s technically USA vs the European continent).
Having experienced an amazing atmosphere in 2012, we literally caught the Ryder Cup bug and attended the 2014 event at Gleneagles in Scotland, again witnessing a European victory though this was much more convincing. If you have never attended a golf tournament and are fortunate enough to pick up tickets for a Ryder Cup, I strongly encourage you to attend this event because it really is an awesome experience.
Golf is stereotypically a quiet sport, but the raucuos, lively crowds are certainly present at the Ryder Cup. It’s an unbelieavable experience and certainly one that you will remember!
Sport – Summer Sports
Location – Varies every 4 years (Review on London 2012 Summer Olympics)
The first time I ever visited London was during the 2012 Olympic Games. I was a sports journalist covering primarily swimming and athletics (“track and field” to Americans), and to watch Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt compete in person night after night was an incredible experience.
There’s so much more to an Olympics than what you see on the television! Beyond that, the atmosphere in the city was infectiously joyful and to see the Brits in such a good mood left a wonderful impression of London on me that continues to this day.
Thanks to Edna Zhou from Expat Edna for this feature on the 2012 London Olympics.
Tour de France
Sport – Cycling
Location – France (Review on stage starting in England)
I was lucky enough that in the summer of 2014 instead of having to head over to France to see this spectacular and legendary race, it would instead be starting in England. Not only that but even more special than ever it would be passing through a section of the village I grew up in, up on the hills as it borders Yorkshire! This would be something I knew I would never get to do again…to watch the Tour De France come through my very own village!!
The build-up was huge, the whole town was dressed up in bunting representing the colorful winner’s jerseys and yellow bikes could be seen in every tiny village the race would pass through. Our normally quiet northern village on the outskirts of Manchester was descended on by thousands of people, something I have never seen before. The streets were grounds to a halt as a sea of people made their way up onto the moors above Littleborough.
After hours of trepidation rumors of the impending arrival of the peloton spread through the crowds. I was a little nervous as I knew how fast they would be going and didn’t want to miss it! A roar began to build as they approached and the road narrowed as everyone leaned in for a closer view. At great speeds and with a rush of wind they flew past in the blink of an eye – absolutely amazing!
Thanks to Nic Hilditch-Short from The Roaming Renegades for this feature on the Tour de France.
Sport – Tennis
Location – All England Club in London, England
I started playing tennis as soon as I was big enough to pick up a racket. My grandfather was a tennis coach and my parents’ avid casual players so it’s always been in my blood. For as long as I can remember I’d wanted to visit Wimbledon, the unofficial home of tennis. It wasn’t until 2011 when I was living in London that I finally got the chance to attend, and not just once but twice in one week!
Walking through the gate on the first day was probably one of the most exciting days of my life. There was an excited buzz in the crowd as everyone walked through the beautifully manicured gardens and onto the all too familiar (from years of watching on TV) grass courts.
We had center court tickets on both days and were lucky enough to see a lot of the big name players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Serena Williams and my personal lifetime favorite, Lleyton Hewitt. The whole experience was a dream come true.
Thanks to Jen Seligmann from The Trusted Traveller for this feature on Wimbledon.
Sport – Winter Sports
Location – Varies every 4 years (Review on Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics)
It seems like all we heard leading up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi were variations of, “Don’t go! It’s not safe!” It’s true, there was a lot of media hype over the potential for trouble at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. When the focus wasn’t on personal safety, it was on substandard, hastily finished accommodations and insufficient infrastructure.
At times prior to our arrival, we questioned whether we were doing the right thing, but once we got to Sochi, we were amazed and delighted. It seemed as though Russia was going all out to dispel the long-held mythology and to protect against predicted disasters.
The seaside venue in town made for balmy, enjoyable temperatures, and the mountain cluster was a marvelous feat of engineering and planning. Having chosen to stay away from the Disneyland atmosphere in a neighborhood popular with Russians on Black Sea holiday, we had a marvelous, authentic experience.
Don’t let fear keep you from the experience of a lifetime. Be smart, informed, and aware, and attend!
Thanks to Betsy Wuebker from Passing Thru for this feature on the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
15 awesome sporting events and many more waiting to be experienced! There are so many sports played around the world and what better way to see the world than by experiencing a live sporting events popular to that location.
We want to thank our friends for sharing their thoughts about attending each of these awesome events, even though we are a little jealous of them all! This will just inspire us to keep traveling and be sure to check out which sporting events are taking place in each destination.