Some of the world’s best cultural experiences are sporting events. And for that reason, these events can make for some of the most impactful travel experiences in the world – even for those who don’t have a base love of sports. We might even go as far as to say that if you’re looking for inspiration for your next big trip, considering a famous tournament or major contest can spark some ideas. Attending an event like one of the ones described below, for instance, you’ll be able to mingle with locals, enjoy a thrilling spectacle, and have one of the most memorable experiences you’re likely to find on any trip.
1. The Royal Ascot – United Kingdom
The history behind this race is extensive, given that it’s been run since 1711, when Queen Anne first offered a prize purse to the winner of a seven-horse race. Today, the Ascot Racecourse hosts numerous races over the course of a summer season, with Royal Ascot week being the highlight. It’s a towering occasion, as beautiful as it is exciting. It requires a dress code among spectators (which speaks to the high-class vibe of the races), and members of the royal family, as well as other British celebrities, are frequently in attendance. The headline races are among the most prestigious in Europe, but at this event it really is the total spectacle that’s the main attraction. Just remember that dress code, and take general style guidelines into account as well.
2. U.S. Open – United States
Professional tennis tournaments all over the world make for some of the best sporting events for people who are looking for culture and festivity as much as sport. They typically take place in gorgeous settings, the grounds are often packed with better concessions that you get at just about any other sports venues, the crowds are happy and friendly, and you can often migrate from match to match, rather than plant yourself in one seat to watch a single contest. This is to say, any number of tournaments could make this list. But the U.S. Open, held annually in Queens, New York, may be the biggest and best of them all.
3. Melbourne Cup – Australia
Another important horse race, this 3200-metre competition stops the Australian nation on the second Tuesday of each November, with all eyes turning toward
the action. As described in a general overview of the competition (and its active betting scene), the Melbourne Cup is the biggest prize in Australian thoroughbred racing (at A$8 million for 2019). It’s more laid back than, say, the Royal Ascot, but it has a lot of the same perks as a cultural attraction rather than just a sporting event. There’s fashion, food and drink, and general festivity, all lending a holiday atmosphere to the races, and making them a blast for anyone to visit – racing fan or otherwise.
4. North West Derby – United Kingdom
To offer up one more event in the UK (truth be told there are many that would suit a list like this), the North West Derby is one of the best rivalry occasions in the sports world. Specifically, this is the rivalry between perennial Premier League football (or soccer) contenders Manchester United and Liverpool FC. The two cities have been at odds essentially since the Industrial Revolution, when legitimate labor and economic conditions planted seeds for the rivalry we see today. And the modern matches between the two clubs carry that history – not so much in the form of animosity, but in pure excitement. The Derby occurs twice a year – once in Liverpool and once in Manchester – and those matches are always among the most thrilling on the international football calendar. It’s hard not to get caught up in it all, even if you’re not an everyday fan.
5. Tour de France – France
Unquestionably the most prestigious and challenging cycling race on Earth, the Tour de France consists of 21 different stages (each one basically a race in itself) over the course of 23 days in July. This makes it a very unusual sporting event, but actually a fairly easy one for travelers to manage. Given that the Tour takes up nearly a whole month, and covers many different parts of the country (from Paris to the Alps), you’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch some of the action. And in the meantime, certain parts of France treat the event like a holiday, meaning you’ll be in one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world during a particularly festive time. Just be sure to stake out the route and plan your trip well in advance.