For those of us who love sports, nothing beats seeing an exciting, major event in a new place. Most major sports industries and leagues are growing pretty steadily, and as this happens sports tourism is becoming a greater activity by the year. A lot of sports fans even have “bucket list”-style countdowns of stadiums they want to visit or games they want to see.
The trouble is that a lot of major sporting events can be prohibitively expensive for the average traveler. Heading across the country for the Super Bowl or flying to London for the Wimbledon final, for example, can cost a few months’ salary for many of us! Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that sports tourism in general has to be so pricey as to be avoided. With some of the tools we’ve previously written about on hand, a strategic list of destinations, and a little bit of research, you can actually see some of the world’s most exciting sporting events without breaking the bank.
These four events and destinations in particular can be surprisingly accessible.
1. Monaco Grand Prix
I’m starting off with a bang here, because from the outside looking in, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the richest, most high class sporting events on the planet. But it’s also the pinnacle of Formula 1 racing, it takes place in a stunningly beautiful location, and it can be enjoyed on the cheap pretty easily. How, you ask? Well, for one you can get up close to some of the best drivers in the world during the practice trials before the actual race. But as for seating for the competition, check out Drivecult’s write-up on visiting Monaco on a budget; there are multiple options for standing room and loosely defined seating that allow you to go about your day while viewing the race almost from overhead. Getting to Monaco can still be pricey, of course, but don’t assume the event is out of reach!
2. Tennis Grand Slams
Whether or not you happen to love tennis, the four grand slams on the professional tour—the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open—are some of the best events to consider for any sports tourist. This is largely because they happen to take place in four completely different but equally fascinating destinations: Melbourne, Paris, London, and New York City, respectively. But it’s also because a major tennis event offers some of the best value you can find for your money at any sporting occasion. Tennis Mind Game does a thorough job of explaining how you can make a Grand Slam visit cheap. However, the most important underlying point is that some of the available tickets function as grounds passes, allowing you to move from one court to another throughout a day. These can often be had for less than $100, and can allow you to take in about six-to-eight hours of tennis. You won’t necessarily run into the top few players facing off with one another, but you’ll see a great deal.
3. The UK Horse Festivals
The UK has a lot of high-end horse racing competitions, and like the Monaco Grand Prix, some of them (particularly the Royal Ascot) come across as somewhat rich in nature. Indeed, it’s easy to spend quite a bit at these events on prime seating, champagne and gourmet food, and first class accommodations. But most major races also invite plenty of more modest spectators, and the races have a festival-like feel to them. If you happen to be a horse racing fan, or you’re curious about the sport from a tourism perspective, I do think the UK’s top races are more worth targeting than those in the U.S. or elsewhere. This is because the betting culture attached to UK races is hugely entertaining (it’s really part of the sport), and so accessible that it can be enjoyed cheaply.Betfair’s horse racing sections include up-to-date odds and tips in addition to tons of betting options that any visitor can enjoy with simplicity and convenience. This is important in that most anyone who’s gone to a race with a bet on the line will argue it’s more fun than simply watching the race from a neutral perspective—not unlike how a lot of Americans enjoy NFL football more when they have fantasy teams to root for.
4. U.S. College Sports Meccas
The United States has an incredible college sports scene, and within it are dozens of strong rivalries, legendary programs, and famous stadiums. Seeing the very best rivalries in action can be really expensive. However, seeing the best teams at their home arenas is often easier than you might think, simply because college programs cater to local fans who attend games fairly casually. Through various ticket exchange and resale programs, it’s usually easier than you might imagine to find affordable tickets to stadiums counted among the best sports destinations in the world. Any of Bleacher Report’s top-25 college football stadiums are worth targeting, as are a few hallowed basketball arenas like Kansas’s Allen Fieldhouse, Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, or Indiana’s Assembly Hall.
Crossing off some of these events and destinations can be a great start to any sports tourism checklist. And with a little bit of research and preparation, you can do it for a lot less than you may think.