Four major sports leagues. Countless cities. So many options. If you’re a professional sports fan, how do you pick the perfect sports weekend? With a lot of planning and a little bit of luck.
Travelling to sports games has always been high on my family’s priority list. The NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB schedules often dictate our holidays, long weekends and school breaks. Usually, it is one game in one city, but one year all the stars aligned, allowing us to see three major sports – and two of our favourite teams – in 24 hours.
A number of U.S. cities offer all four of the major sports – some with even two teams – making a sports weekend possible. For us, the schedules aligned during a November trip to California to see the Calgary Flames take on the Los Angeles Kings; the Carolina Panthers versus the Los Angeles Rams; and the Phoenix Suns battle the L.A. Lakers.
Arriving on Saturday morning, we chose to stay in the L.A. Live district – a pedestrian promenade boasting restaurants and bars – giving us easy access to Staples Center for both the hockey and basketball game. As many of the visiting teams stay in this newer entertainment district, it is a good place to player watch. We encountered many Phoenix Suns wandering the pedestrian mall and even had a chance to take a photo with upcoming NBA star Devin Booker.
First up: the Saturday night hockey game. As the entire weekend was focused around sports, we arrived early for the warm-up, providing a more inclusive experience. As with most rinks, Staples Center allows ticket holders to watch the pre-game skate, so we took a spot close to the visitor’s bench. Wearing our hometown Calgary Flames’ attire, the players were generous with throwing pucks over the glass to fans. They were also generous to the L.A. Kings, allowing five goals while scoring none. We left Staples Center that night down 0-1.
The next day we donned our Carolina Panthers’ gear for the Sunday afternoon football game. As the Memorial Coliseum is a bit of a jaunt from LA Live, we took the Metro. Learning the TAP card system, we made a vital error – one of our sons boarded the train alone while the rest of us were still scanning our passes. The doors closed and off he went by himself, one Panthers fan in a sea of Rams. Luckily, he knew to get off at the stadium and was waiting patiently for us to attend the pre-game warm-up. As with the Staples Center, we were allowed into the lower bowl, providing good photo opportunities with star quarterback Cam Newton. This time our team took the win with the Panthers edging out the Rams 13-10. We were 1-1.
It was a quick phone-booth change following the football game to make it back to Staples for the Sunday night basketball game. Unlike the hockey and football games, only lower-bowl ticket holders were allowed by the court during warm-up, so we were relegated to watching from the balcony. After meeting Devin Booker the previous day and not having a favourite team to cheer for (our Raptors were on a homestand in Toronto), we decided to once again root for the visiting team. Despite a loss, we were excited to see Booker score a career-high 39 points – which we took partial credit for.
We might have come home from the trip 1-2, but to us, it was a winning sports weekend.
Tips for booking a successful multi-sports weekend:
- Plan to attend in a city where the stadiums and arenas are located in close proximity to save on driving time.
- Try to find a city with a lively sports district, providing hotels and restaurants close to arenas in a safe environment. Keep in mind that not all sports arenas are located in the best areas of the city.
- If not staying close to the venue, consider how you will travel to the games. Traffic, parking and transit options are often cumbersome, pricey and crowded before and after games.
- Don’t be worried if your team is not playing as you may come home with a new favourite team or player.
- Start your research early when the schedules are released to coordinate which cities will work and to get the best travel deals for airlines and hotels.
- Some arenas and stadiums offer free admission to practices so call ahead to see if that is an option. Many players will sign autographs following practice in the parking lot.
- Take part in the pre-game activities and warm-ups as player interaction is often greater at that time.