6 sensational sports vacations
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
If you happen to be a sports fan, you've got plenty of company. According to the latest ESPN Sports Poll, 219 million Americans profess to be a fan of at least one sport. But here's an even more amazing statistic: Of that number, 31 percent (or nearly 68 million) are classified as avid fans, actively following five to eight sports.
If you line up in the latter category, you probably have spent or wish to spend some vacation time following your favorite teams or players in action. Should that be the case, read on — because I’ve discovered a way to make planning a sports vacation as easy as a Steph Curry 3-pointer or an Adam Vinatieri extra point.
This is really good news for anyone who's ever endured the hassle of arranging tickets, lodging and other services, such as a rental car or sightseeing tours, surrounding any kind of major sports event.
I've used the services of travel agencies in the past but had no idea there was a company out there like Sports Travel and Tours (ST&T) specializing exclusively in organizing sports vacations. It's the brainchild of Jay Smith, who founded ST&T in 1996 in Hatfield, Massachusetts.
Owing to his inside connections and long working relationships with organizers of a multitude of sports events — baseball, football, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, hockey, auto racing, horse racing, rodeos and multisport events — Smith can get you tickets and rooms that in some cases you couldn't possibly arrange yourself. Most packages include local tours and activities, and custom arrangements and upgrades can always be made to suit your interests.
Here's a sampling of six sports vacations currently on offer from Sports Travel and Tours:
Rose Bowl — Dec. 30 to Jan. 2, Pasadena, California
There are dozens of college football bowl games, but none like the Rose Bowl for tradition, pageantry and hard-hitting football action when No. 5 Iowa takes on No. 6 Stanford in this New Year's Day classic. ST&T offers a four-day package that gets you tickets to the Tournament of Roses Parade (along with a pre-parade float barns tour), upper-level end zone seats for the game, three nights of lodging at Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, and a scenic coastal tour with stops in Santa Monica and at the famed Getty Center art museum.
Price: $1,590 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare.
Farmers Insurance Open — Jan. 28-31, Torrey Pines, San Diego
Here's a great getaway for golf enthusiasts as the PGA Tour's "West Coast Swing" unfolds at the impossibly beautiful seaside Torrey Pines course in San Diego's cliff-lined North County. This tour package includes general admission to second, third and final rounds of the Farmers Open, daily admission to the Surf Club hospitality venue overlooking the scenic 18th tee, accommodations for three nights at Hilton San Diego Del Mar hotel and a rental car for the four-day stay.
Price: $2,030 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare.
NBA All-Star Game — Feb. 12-15, Toronto
This will be the 65th edition of pro basketball's premier exhibition game, providing an in-person, up-close opportunity to witness the greats of today and tomorrow lighting up the scoreboard in Toronto's spectacular Air Canada Centre. ST&T's package for this event features reserved seat tickets to the NBA's popular Three Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest along with reserved seat tickets to the All-Star game. Also included is a three-night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Toronto City Centre.
Price: $3,085 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare.
Men's College Basketball Championship — April 1-5, Houston
Perhaps the most climactic and competitive sports event of any season, the Division I basketball tournament pits 68 teams playing in a single-elimination tourney to decide the national champion. Play starts March 15 and runs through the first week of April. ST&T's package includes reserved upper-level seats for the semifinal and final games and admission to Fan Fest for a chance to meet legendary coaches and college stars at exclusive autograph sessions. Tour members are accommodated for four nights at Embassy Suites Houston, adjacent the landmark Galleria shopping and entertainment complex.
Price: $2,290 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare.
Kentucky Derby — May 5-8, Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky
America's premier horse racing event needs no introduction, and if you've always yearned to be there in person for the "most exciting two minutes in sports," here's your best chance. ST&T offers both Value and Premium Packages that will land you at the Derby in style. The latter adds reserved tickets to the Kentucky Oaks, but the less pricey Value Package for the Derby only might be the best deal. It includes first-floor grandstand tickets for the big race, lots of schmoozing and mint juleps at Derby receptions, horse farm and distillery tours and three nights lodging at the Hyatt Regency Louisville.
Price: $2,520 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare.
Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend — July 22-24, Cooperstown, New York
ST&T is the official travel company for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and one of Smith's pet projects is bringing together individuals and small groups of baseball enthusiasts to join the annual Induction Weekend ceremonies in Cooperstown. Fans can choose from five packages — Base Hit, Extra Innings, Infield, Home Run and Grand Slam — offering progressively enhanced features and, of course, prices. The mid-range four-day/three-night Extra Innings package offers plenty of bang for the buck, including daily admission to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and reserved tickets to the Induction Ceremony and Legends of the Game Roundtable, a special event that brings fans face to face with new inductees for an intimate roundtable discussion. Guests also are invited to the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends and a ceremony for presentation of the annual Ford C. Frick and J.G. Taylor Spink Awards. Included as well is a three-night stay at the Radisson Hotel in nearby Albany, New York.
Price: $1,425 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare.
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