There's more to life than sports. Okay, many will disagree with that statement, but face it, when the games are over, the competitions are decided and the athletes have given their best for the day, you want to be at a destination that offers more than a bed and TV to fill the remaining hours.
The best sports event planners uncover sports event destinations that also provide rich choices of activities, entertainment, dining and more to make the group's overall experience memorable and their down time uplifting.
To do this, many resort to randomly scouring the Internet to find locations that fit this bill, which (a) can be time-consuming and (b) can produce sketchy results. Instead of leaving this important task to chance, consider the following locations. We've made it easy by including descriptions of what they have to offer in addition to their sports venues, providing you some dynamic choices for the location of your next sports event.
Branson/ Lakes area, Missouri
Branson, Missouri, nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains, has played host to numerous exciting sports events with large numbers of participants and even larger numbers of spectators. These have included dance and cheer competitions and the USSSA Taekwondo Championship, not to mention golf events as well as volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball tournaments.
In addition to Branson's sports facilities and Convention Center, groups are attracted to Branson's three mountain lakes where they can rent a boat, personal watercraft or kayak in their leisure time. They can also enjoy bass fishing, trout fishing or journeying through the canyon floor past towering bluffs and waterfalls while mingling with herds of American bison, elk, white tail deer and Texas Longhorns. Other recreation options include hiking, geocaching, mountain biking, backpacking, horseback riding or cave exploration.
Competing with those attractions for event participants' attention are a variety of really fun theme parks, three new ziplines, a new Heavy Metal High Rise (over four stories) at the Track Family Fun Parks, golfing at 12 championship courses and shopping at 300-plus retail stores in historic downtown, on the strip, at three outlet malls and at the new Branson Landing. Visit ExploreBransonSports.com to learn more.
Daytona Beach, Florida
When people think of Daytona Beach, its spectacular beaches, the Daytona 500 and enviable climate immediately come to mind. Now, however, it is becoming known as an exceptional venue for sporting events as well.
For sports conventions, Daytona Beach offers more than 200,000 square feet of flex meeting and exhibit space. For indoor sports competitions, games and other sports activities, Daytona's convention and sports complex hosts many indoor events such as cheer, dance, gymnastics, volleyball, hockey and figure skating, motocross, rodeo and basketball.
Great outdoors activities abound as well. Home of NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and the Ladies Professional Golf Association, Daytona offers dozens of great golf courses and excellent facilities at the USTA Florida Tennis Center.
The area is served by Daytona Beach International Airport with nonstop service from Charlotte and Atlanta and convenient connections. There are 12,000 guestrooms in the area, with Florida's favorite beach as a backdrop and plenty of museums, galleries and unique restaurants. Some of the many area attractions include water activities such as personal watercraft, pontoon and kayak tours, as well as cultural draws like the African American Museum of the Arts and the Art League of Daytona Beach. For more information, visit sportsdaytonabeach.com.
Delaware communities love sports events and welcome all visiting officials, athletes and their families. Delaware is well known for its diverse offerings, tax-free shopping, dining, entertainment and a wide array of leisure activities, making it a prime travel destination that is more affordable than surrounding metropolitan areas.
When the event concludes, participants and spectators will find they can purchase more with less at Delaware's brand-name outlets, boutique shops and shopping malls. Groups and individuals can enjoy the sumptuous fare of casual or fine dining, or take a tour and taste award-winning wines and signature craft brews on the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail. Adults may also want to check out one of the state's racinos (facilities combining racetracks with casino betting opportunities).
The First State is also rich in history, art and culture and has some of the finest museums, mansions and gardens on the East Coast. Embark on an outdoor adventure at Delaware's pristine beaches, picturesque wildlife preserves and scenic state parks. Another great way to discover Delaware is through of the sport of geocaching, a sophisticated treasure hunt using GPS technology. Search for the cache at 75 sites along the Delaware Geocaching Trail. To learn more, visit http://www.delawaresports.org.
Edmond, Oklahoma, located near Oklahoma City, is a premier sports site for regional, national and international tournaments and events. Recognized as a golf destination with a history of championship PGA events, Edmond's Oak Tree National is slated to host the 2014 USGA Senior Open. Edmond's University of Central Oklahoma, the official home of the Endeavor Games, is a designated US Olympic/Paralympics training site and hosted the 2010 Sitting Volleyball World Championship. UCO has great facilities for sports planners. The newest is the Center for Outdoor Adventure Recreation (OAR) on the shores of Arcadia Lake featuring a "living classroom," boat storage and equipment for kayaking, canoeing, rowing, archery, mountain biking and backpacking. Youth sports are big in Edmond as well. Many soccer, softball, baseball, basketball and other governing bodies select Edmond to host their competitions.
Edmond offers outstanding hotels, conveniently located attractions and nostalgic shopping areas featuring the unique and antique, with the added pleasure of beautiful public art on almost every corner. Choosing Edmond as a sports destination places puts you minutes from international attractions such as the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Remington Park horse racing, the Lazy E Arena and historic Guthrie. For more information, see VisitEdmondOK.com.
Highlands County, Florida
The folks in Highlands County, Florida, like to say that the area is custom-made naturally for sporting events. That's because it boasts more than 95 freshwater lakes which include Florida's fifth largest lake, Lake Istokpoga, making Highlands County a fisherman's paradise when it comes to tournament and recreational fishing.
Highlands County is located in south central Florida -- close to, but just far enough from, the hustle and bustle of Orlando and Tampa.
Nestled among the rolling orange grove hills is the Highlands County Sports Complex. The multi-field complex contains five softball fields, plus football and soccer practice fields, all of which have full concession stands in a park-like setting.
Built around the natural scenic beauty of the county are over 17 extraordinary golf courses alluring to those with downtime -- or those seeking a golf venue. Wet, dry, sandy and woodsy conditions combine to create unique challenges for all skill levels.
Sports event planners may want to schedule their event so participants can experience a world-class triathlon in a hometown setting. More than 500 athletes participate in the Heartland Triathlon every June featuring world-renowned triathletes as both guest speakers and participants. Learn more at www.VisitHighlandsCounty.com.
Well known for the Martinsville Speedway and NASCAR racing, Martinsville, Virginia, is equally inviting for outdoor recreation activities, sports, natural history, the arts and just plain relaxation.
Martinsville is an excellent choice for a wide variety of sports events. Its Smith River Sports Complex boasts six world-class athletic fields for soccer, field hockey, football, lacrosse and more. If you're looking for indoor space for gymnastics or other arena sports, Martinsville has ample gymnasium and warehouse space.
When the official sporting events are over, participants and spectators can take in historic sites and scenic landscapes or do some serious discount furniture shopping in any of Martinsville's numerous outlets.
Martinsville offers tremendous outdoor leisure-time options, including six beaches, eight boat launches and more than 3,000 acres of open water on Philpott Lake and 175 acres of open water, trails and boat launch at Beaver Creek Reservoir. Prefer dry land over water? The Smith River Trail System offers more than 20 miles of trails for running, hiking and biking as well as 45 miles of river with class I/II rapids. Whatever you do after the competitions, keep in mind Martinsville's motto: "to enjoy at a pace all your own." Learn more at www.VisitMartinsville.com.
The new Monroeville Convention Center is turning this Pittsburgh suburb into a great sports convention destination. The Convention Center boasts over 100,000 square feet of meeting space, "green" features, state-of-the-art sound system, and more than 1,000 square feet in kitchen and concession space, making this fresh new space just right for any event. Situated on a campus-like setting with the newly renovated Doubletree hotel, the Monroeville Convention Center provides pedestrian-friendly landscaping, free parking and shuttle service to accommodate needs of event participants, spectators and guests alike.
The area, located 12 miles east of Pittsburgh, is dotted with popular hotels providing more than 1,000 sleeping rooms and an abundance of restaurants in addition to bustling shopping districts. In fact, Monroeville is Southwestern Pennsylvania's second-largest retail location. Monroeville also offers miles of rolling hills, diverse neighborhoods and (something that can provide peace of mind) world-class health care, should any emergencies arise. From amusement parks to water slides to children's museums, nearby Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands offer all kinds of family fun all year round. Among the many things you'll want to check out are Kennywood Park, its neighbor Sandcastle Waterpark or the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Learn more at http://www.visitmonroeville.com/index.aspx.
Ocean Center / Daytona Beach, Florida
After completion of an $80 million expansion effort, the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach is showing up on more and more schedules of sporting events. This is due to the allure of one of America's favorite beach destinations, the location of the complex and its state-of-the-art facilities. With 23 miles of wide, smooth, sandy beaches and exceptional weather, Daytona Beach is high on the wish list of competitors and their families. With unique shops, colorful restaurants, family attractions and great sports facilities throughout the area, this is way more than a beach.
The Ocean Center is located in the heart of it all, just minutes from the intersection of Interstate 95 and Interstate 4, just minutes from Daytona Beach International Airport, just 400 feet from the beach and within driving distance of Walt Disney World.
As for the new facilities at the Ocean Center, exhibit space totals 164,000 square feet indoors and another 100,000 square feet outdoors. There is parking for 2,500 vehicles and there are 12,000 guest rooms in the area. For more information, visit oceancenter.com.
Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island's sports scene - like the state itself - is steeped in tradition, but unique, cutting-edge and exciting. Providence is an ideal destination for sporting events and features plenty of down-time diversions.
The 13,000-seat Dunkin' Donuts Center (Dunk), a modern indoor sports and entertainment venue, is part of the Rhode Island Convention & Entertainment Complex. With 31,000 square feet of arena space, the Dunk is home-ice for the AHL Providence Bruins and home-court for the Big East Providence College Men's Basketball Team. Additional venues for skating, basketball and other athletic facilities are located just minutes from downtown.
The Dunk is within walking distance of attractions, accommodations and premier restaurants. Providence, nationally known for its dining, once again scored big in Travel + Leisure magazine's annual "America's Favorite Cities" poll. The city earned top marks in culinary- and arts-related categories, and was hailed as one of the top-three food cities in the country. There are dozens of restaurants to suit every taste many featuring a multitude of HD TVs.
Nearby Warwick, Rhode Island, offers ample athletic fields and lush golf courses, and offshore, the waters of Narragansett Bay are the perfect setting for sailing and boating pursuits. Visit www.GoProvidence.com to learn more.
With its unique perspective on hospitality and sports, Quincy, Illinois, offers an exceptional range of sports venues including standout soccer facilities (both indoor and out), premier TeraFlexed basketball and volleyball courts, as well as year-round aquatic facilities. Home to D.A. Weibring and the internationally acclaimed Pepsi Little People's Golf Championships for 38 years, Quincy knows golf. Golfing gurus will love the area's generous and affordable greens.
Quincy's hotels, venues and restaurants strive to offer the best in Midwestern hospitality at the best possible cost to groups in the tri-state area.
Between games, teams can enjoy local Midwestern cuisine with a twist, sea kayaking on the back waters of the Mississippi and free blues in historic Washington Park. Players (and parents) can enjoy navigating through a fog-filled maze during a game of Space Quest Laser Tag at Scottie's Fun Spot, Quincy's hottest new facility with bumper cars and interactive Ballocity, the first of its kind in Illinois. Participants and spectators will also want to explore Quincy's German Historic District, take in the breathtaking Prairie Gardens or even arrange a tour of private homes. Leave time to visit Quincy Art Center or the 1930s Agriculture Museum. For more information, visit seequincy.com.
Sainte Genevieve, Missouri
Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, located just one hour south of St. Louis off Interstate 55, is the oldest European settlement in Missouri and offers up-to-date sport facilities for tournaments and sports events. This quaint French Colonial town is best known for its history, events, shopping, wineries, arts and antiques. However, Sainte Genevieve has a lot to offer as a sports venue: affordable lodging, complimentary itinerary planning and facilities for golf, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and martial arts.
There is plenty to do in town. Every month brings family-friendly weekend events, antique and boutique shopping and the opportunity to visit working art galleries. Sainte Genevieve serves up a romantic ambiance with charming bed-and-breakfast inns. In fact, the downtown area has been designated a national historic district and has more than 100 landmark homes.
This region is also known for its wine and recreation. Adult sports participants and spectators can sit back, enjoy the view and relax at six award-winning wineries throughout Sainte Genevieve County when the main events have concluded. Event planners looking to set up an event where adventure abounds will find the state and national parks near Sainte Genevieve offer hiking, biking and equestrian trails. For more information, visit www.VisitSteGen.com.
San Diego, California
Home to the San Diego Padres and Chargers and countless professional tournaments, from the United States Open Championship to the Super Bowl, San Diego can be inspiring, uplifting and can provide attendees with an endorphin boost so big, it'll stay with them long after the event concludes. Athletes and spectators alike benefit from 70 miles of Pacific coastline, scenic mountain ranges and a mild year-round climate ideal for outdoor pursuits.
San Diego is a golfer's paradise: many of its over 90 courses are attached to resorts with expansive meeting facilities. Further south is yet another golf course near affordable conference hotels.
Not far from East County's resorts and casinos, rocky foothills and sage- and chaparral-lined canyons provide a scenic backdrop for adventures in hiking, rock climbing, ATVing, backpacking and mountain biking.
Extreme sports aficionados from around the world gather at San Diego's beaches, bays and boardwalks. Known for SeaWorld and its family-friendly resorts, the 4,600-acre Mission Bay is the largest aquatic park in North America. Sail, swim, water ski, kayak, powerboat and, or walk the historic Gaslamp Quarter near major conference venues and chic urban boutiques, with more than 150 restaurants, shops and vibrant nightlife. For more information, see sandiego.org/positive results.
Given the vast array of enticing options offered by these sports destinations, event planners need only contact the above locations to be sure they can secure an open slot on the destination's schedule.