30 Parks in 30 years

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Bristol Motor Speedway *****

Bristol, Tennessee

Built in 1961, Bristol is one of the most iconic racetracks in the United States. It stands like an ancient castle in the hills of Eastern Tennessee. The town of Bristol has a population of under 26,000 people but twice a year the Speedway opens up its 162,000 seat stadium and invites the best in NASCAR to race around its 1 mile track.

This is the best sporting event I have ever attended. It was unanimous with our family that this was an amazing sporting event. The small town all comes out to charge for parking in their front yards. But it’s within the hallowed grounds of car racing that the awesomeness of the event comes through.

NASCAR is such a great spectator sport. It is the type of sport that is so much better live than on television. The sound of the cars, the speed and the closeness you can get to the drivers is amazing. Tickets into the event are expensive but once you get in there, it a sports fan dream. You can get so close to the drivers with various tickets. Some of those tickets allow you to go under the track, yes UNDER the race track while cars are racing 100 miles an hour above you. Because of the angle of the track, when watching the race from within the oval it is an experience unlike any in the world of sport. It is terrifying, amazing and awe-inspiring. You can watch the pit crews up close and see the athleticism that goes into that. But it’s the speed of the cars that hits you most impactfully, I promise, television just does not do it justice.

Bristol Motor Speedway should be on every sports fans list of must go to.

Texas Motor Speedway ****

No Limits, Texas

Halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth this mile and half race track allows the fans and drivers to see how fast stock cars and Indy cars can go. Built in 1996, Texas Motor Speedway has the 9th largest seating capacity in the world. It seats a casual 212,585.

Watching NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway was my conversion to NASCAR. Like any good yuppie, I regularly mocked NASCAR and exploited its stereotypes for my own enjoyment. When I was taken to No Limits, everything changed.

NASCAR is a sport that must be seen live to be fully appreciated. I will never forget the first lap as I watched the NASCAR stock cars coming down the backstretch starting up for the start. The speed. The noise. It was awesome!

You cannot fully understand how fast they go until you see it live. You cannot appreciate how close they are until your sitting there watching them bump each other going as fast as you go on a tollway.

American Airlines Center **1/2

Dallas, Texas

Home of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars

American Airlines (built in 2001) is, in contrast to Globe Life and AT&T Stadium, the only Dallas team the competes in Dallas. It is a downtown arena that hosts concerts and other special events in Dallas. We have gone to both a Stars and Mavs game at AA Center.

As with most downtown stadiums, parking is not fun. The food has always been disappointing as well. But Dallas downtown, in contrast to other downtown stadiums, is very clean and has a very safe feel to it.

When we had first moved to Dallas and we were young and poor, for Christmas I bought my husband tickets to a Mavericks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers game. At the time we hadn’t fully embraced the local teams but wanted to see the greatest player, LeBron James. Tickets were $100 a piece, parking another $20. Our seats were so far up that neither of us could pick out which one was LeBron James. Quick reminder, I write a sports blog, I know quite a bit about basketball, and I couldn’t tell which one was James.

This experience really soured my opinion of the NBA. We had put down good money for tickets to not have a good experience at all. We swore off buying tickets for Mavericks games. We have been back since but only because we were either given tickets or my husbands company bought a suit.

We have also attended Dallas Stars games at American Airlines Center. Hockey is such a great sport with much more affordable tickets than the Mavericks. The high seats are as impossible to enjoy in hockey as in basketball.

AT&T Stadium

Arlington, Texas

Home of the Dallas Cowboys

I get it now. The cult following, the rabid fanbase that is the Dallas Cowboys, I get it. After attending a home game at the opulent AT&T Stadium, I drank the Kool-Aid and became one of them.

Outside of Bristol, this is the best sporting event we have attended. The history and the involvement of the fans was everything one wants in a sporting event. The atmosphere was amazing. There are so many greats of football that have played for the Cowboys, and almost all of them make an appearance during the game.

This is an experience any football fan should have. Even non-football fans will enjoy this if you love a spectacle.

We have also seen a concert here which was terrible. The acoustics that make the sporting atmosphere so intoxicating also ruins your favorite musical groups. Say “No” to concerts there and “How bout them Cowboys!”

Pebble Beach Golf Links ***

Monterrey, California

The United States Open

It is one of the most iconic golf courses in the world. From a purely sports perspective, this was an amazing experience. But if one doesn’t like golf, well this is not the event for you.

Going to golfing events isn’t like going to a NASCAR races or a football games where you can join the fan base and learn the game as you experience it. The best way to learn to appreciate golf is through television broadcasts. Going there live, that is for the already converted fans.

With golfing events there are so many options of how to watch the event. Some (me) prefer to find a hole that is interesting and watch all the players come through. For this event I sat on #8, one of the most iconic holes on the course where players have to hit their tee shot short of a giant cliff and from the green the spectators watch them hit their 2nd shot over said cliff to your green. Its one of the hardest holes on the course and full of drama. I sat there an entire day and watched everybody come through. I watched Dustin Johnson and Jason Day get up and down from impossible positions. I saw Jason Dufner birdie the hole and saw the pairing of Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

However, others in my group experienced the event differently. One followed his favorite player through their whole round. He saw every shot and walked 18 holes. Others had no strategic plan and wandered where they would. Sometimes they would follow an interesting group a few holes then they would find a tee box to watch a few groups come through.

The options for how to watch a golf tournament are many, but it takes knowing golf to fully enjoy it.

Pebble itself is a lot of walking with the 9th and 10th holes being as far from the club house as it gets. But the views are worth it. It sits right on Monterrey Bay where you can watch sea otters, seals and other marine life living their life while golf drama occurs on their shores.

The weather was beautiful while the tournament went on, which is unusual for Monterrey. The U.S. Open has the reputation of being particularly hard, every year there is some number of players complaining about the conditions. But that’s what makes the U.S. Open thrilling for the fans. One gets to watch the best in the world look like you out there hacking away at a golf course. But this tournament, with its good weather, didn’t live up to its reputation, the course played fairly easy.

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