21 Sports Events You Should Put on Your Bucket List
Imagine if you could attend any major sporting event in the world. Which one would you choose? What if you could attend more than one?
We’ve put together a list of the 21 best sporting events that should be at the top of your sports bucket list. While most of these events are very important — a world championship on the line or an opportunity to see history made — many of them have cool atmospheres and sideshows to keep you entertained.
Some of these events are the most popular in the world, while others simply will bring memories to last a lifetime.
Here’s our list of the sporting events you can’t miss.
The Olympics (Summer and Winter)
Hands down, the events of a lifetime. Just the opening ceremonies alone will blow you away, but there are so many venues and so many events to watch. Two weeks is not enough time to capture everything depending on what ticket packages you purchase. This is not a sprint for fans. It is a marathon, and you better be ready for the long haul.
It starts with the opening ceremonies and witnessing something never done before. This is a must-see for your bucket list. Then as the games begin, you’re mesmerized by such riveting competition in every event. OK, you like the big sports — basketball, hockey, figure skating or gymnastics. You can hang out there most of the time. Or maybe you want to see something on the edge, such as the luge, or as epic as track and field.
Bottom line: The Olympics are a sports fan’s version of Disneyland.
There’s more than just the events to take in. Typically, the games bring out the best in host cities. Think about it. They’ve paid millions of dollars just to earn the right to host the Olympics, build stadiums and arenas, so you know they’re rolling out the red carpet for fans traveling from all over the world. Go see some sights, experience the cuisine, go shopping and get some souvenirs.
If you’re looking for No. 1 on the sports bucket list, or any bucket list, you have to take a ride to the Summer or Winter Olympics. It’s going to be pricey, but if you can pull it off, it will be well worth the adventure of a lifetime.
If you’re looking for the most popular sporting event in the world, you better put the World Cup high on your bucket list. Fans everywhere dream of going to this event. The World Cup is important to nearly every country that has a national soccer team, and believe us, soccer fans are among the most crazy, loyal, intense fans on the planet. And they definitely bring those qualities to the World Cup.
If you’re lucky enough to get tickets and hotel reservations for the World Cup, and maybe you find a country to root for (not the U.S., maybe an underdog?), you will have the time of your life. Let’s say this is one of those events that you must see live — the TV coverage far from gives it justice.
The game of soccer is a rugged, intense display of great defense and amazing talent. Add frenzied fan support, and you have plenty to watch. It’s one of those events where understanding what’s really going on means being there to soak it all in. For example, what fans saw at the recent World Cup in Russia was quite a display of fan-mania. Groups packed the local trains, chanting and singing, hours before the games started. Mini-concerts greeted fans as they arrived. One fan described it as "a giant party."
One note, some countries are under heavy security, so keep that in mind. For instance, Russia required fans to carry a separate ID along with the ticket. If you only had one or the other, you’re out. So make sure you check what host countries require for security clearance. After that, enjoy a memorable international party.
You’ve probably been to a Super Bowl party or two in your lifetime. That’s great, but if you really want to have the best Super Bowl party ever, you have to go to the game itself. There’s nothing like it in all professional sports.
Of course, it would be great if your team was in the Super Bowl, and you managed to score a ticket for the game. But even if your team doesn’t reach the NFL’s championship showcase, go ahead and get tickets for you, family and/or friends, because it will be a week like no other.
Things get going the Tuesday before the game as the host cities go all out (especially our favorite venue, New Orleans). They show off their best food and restaurants, and shuttle you to their best sites. You also can take tours to see the best spots. There are parties all over the place, hosted by major sponsors. And do not pass up the NFL Experience. This is a football fan’s dream. You can play games, go out and be a receiver or punt returner, check out live games between former players, and meet former players, too. Don’t forget Media Day is now open to fans on Tuesday as well. See what that show is all about.
Super Sunday finally arrives. You can tailgate if space is available, or go in the stadium early and take in all the pageantry. You can see recording stars perform the national anthem. Then, it’s time for kickoff, and you can see history unfolding before your eyes. Don’t leave your seat at halftime. There’s the big show that brings out the greatest entertainers.
So who wants a boring party that lasts for a few hours when you can go to the game and party for six days.
Tour de France
Who wouldn’t want to go on vacation to France? How about doing so when the country’s greatest sporting event of the year is taking place.
The Tour de France has become one of the premier sporting spectacles in the world. The event itself is incredible to see. The endurance these riders display and the rough terrain covering 3,351 kilometers (2,082 miles) is a wonder to witness. Fans by the thousands line up along the route, and riders often have to navigate through bunches of competitors on the narrow streets. One bad move can be disastrous.
Fans need to do a lot of planning, such as what to bring with you, which stage to watch and where to watch it. Once you find a place, the Freewheeling France website recommends you get there two hours early before the gendarmes close the roads in preparation. And then get ready for some intense competition.
One of the big attractions for fans is the publicity caravan made up of many of France’s major brands in vehicles. This is where you get your freebies from sweet chocolates to race caps, and much more. Watch out for the crowds who love freebies, too. Then, go do some sightseeing or enjoy the cuisine. Have a blast in France.
There aren’t many sporting events where you can base an entire vacation, but a three-week event such as the Tour de France is a great idea and one to definitely put on your bucket list.
Monaco Grand Prix
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the oldest sporting events in the world, beginning back in 1929, and considered the best in auto racing. You have the mix of a grueling auto race winding through the streets of Monaco mixed with prestige and glamour. Put this on your bucket list if you have the bucks.
First, let’s step away from the race itself for a moment to take in the beautiful sites of Monaco with the breathtaking coastline, gorgeous beaches, magnificent weather and plush hotels. This event draws the rich and famous with their yachts lining up in Monte Carlo harbor. If you can hook up with someone’s yacht, that is a really cool spot to watch the race.
If not, no big deal. While there’s portable stands (OK, but not the greatest), make plans to have your hotel somewhere near the course with a good vantage point, and watch everything unfold from your own balcony. Then, experience the nightlife in Monte Carlo, be it in the world-famous casinos or just take in the sights.
This is a bucket list item that might cost a pretty penny depending on the ticket/hotel packages you choose. After experiencing the race and the gorgeous venue, it’s well worth it.
The Grand National of England
Here’s a race you won’t see every day, particularly if you’re an American horse racing fan. The Grand National of England has been running since 1839, and it’s a grueling steeplechase race that covers more than eight miles with horses jumping over 30 — yes, 30 — fences over two laps. Just that alone is worth seeing this race live.
For one day, Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool is the center of attention among horse racing venues. It is the richest jumping race in Europe and is as deep in tradition in England as the country’s royalty. You want to see something really cool and really unique? Add this to your bucket list.
Like the Kentucky Derby, women wear unique hats that they would never wear on any other day of the year. There’s the partying at local pubs, such as The Queens located near Aintree where, according to the London Telegraph website, you will be served with marquees, barbecue and music. Better yet, the pub is just one minute from the track.
And don’t forget to put a small wager on this race. But there’s one catch. There’s usually 40 horses entered in the Grand National, so your chances of making some cash aren’t very good unless you can find some savvy locals who can help. Nevertheless, hanging out with the locals at a great sporting event definitely fits into your bucket list.
CBS Sports commentator Jim Nantz calls it "a tradition like no other," and we couldn’t agree more. If The Masters is not on your sports bucket list, you might as well throw the list in the trash can. This is a must-see for golf fans and anyone else who can admire one of the most prestigious events in all of sports.
Walking around Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia is an experience only a fortunate few can enjoy. It is one of the most beautiful courses in the world with great vantage points in many areas. Sit back and watch as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson try to catch old glory, the young guns such as Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth try to tame Augusta, or maybe Brooks Koepka has another major to add to his belt.
There are plenty of good eating places near Augusta, but if you want to venture off course, there’s Hooters, where John Daly usually parks his bus, and the Waffle House where Bubba Watson ate after winning the 2014 Masters.
On the PGA website, it recommends you take many photos between Monday and Wednesday — no cameras are allowed during tournament play. Take photos of the famous clubhouse, the many plaques or Amen Corner. Even visit the Par 3 competition where players are loose and shoot for a hole-in-one. Then the tournament begins, and it doesn’t take much time for you to realize that this is a bucket list item like no other.
We are talking about one of the world’s premier sporting events. Is there any doubt that the NBA Finals should be on your bucket list? Even if you attend one game, three or four from one city or the entire series, mark this down as one of your highest bucket list priorities.
Picture yourself with great seats watching the greats of the game fight it out on the NBA’s greatest stage. A packed house is going nuts, Steph Curry swishes a three from deep, LeBron James drives to the hoop and throws down a thunderous dunk, and there you are watching all of this unfold. Even if your team isn’t involved, going to the NBA Finals is a dream come true not just for basketball fans, but any sports fan.
Think about those lucky fans in the past who witnessed the basketball greats taking their games to the next level. Jordan, Kobe, Duncan, Bird vs. Magic, Dr. J, Moses, Kareem, Wilt, Havlicek and Cousy — we can go on. You can be part of history.
Since the NBA has gone international, the Finals are seen or heard in 215 countries. That’s a lot of people wanting to go to the NBA Finals. Don’t you want to be amid the intensity of the competitors and the festivities with that valuable ticket to the NBA Finals? Oh, and if your team is in the Finals and wins, go online to find the best seat for the parade.
Unlike any of the mentioned best sporting events, March Madness is sort of a multiple choice for a sports fan’s bucket list. You have the choice of purchasing tickets for the first two rounds, the Sweet 16, the regional semifinals and finals (Elite Eight), or the Final Four. This is the greatest of all dilemmas, because there’s insanity in every round and you can’t lose with any decision.
On a personal note, I believe March Madness is one of the greatest playoffs in sports. Teams don’t have the luxury of playing in a five- or seven-game series. You have 68 teams. If you lose, you’re out. This is the time when a little, unknown college can stand on the greatest stage. This is the time when a team like UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County), a 16-seed, beats top-seed Virginia. UMBC? Yep, in the 2018 tournament.
The atmosphere is insane. Multiple bands are playing at once, cheerleaders are performing spectacular routines, and the fans are out of their minds. It’s a college sports atmosphere at its finest. You can feel the intensity as you hold on to your seat for one crazy finish after another.
When you’re making out your bucket list, you have to add March Madness, or you’ll be missing something special.
Stanley Cup Finals
For months, players in the National Hockey League have been banging each other into the boards, hitting one another with sticks, taking elbows to the head, throwing their bodies in front of 100 mph-plus pucks to the body, getting stitched up, losing teeth and suffering a wide assortment of injuries just to reach this spot in the season.
Hockey players are a different breed, but when they go after something, you better get out of their way. The Stanley Cup Finals is what these players dream about and they’re going all-out to win the oldest trophy in professional sports. You need to be there to see it.
Hockey can be a complex sport for those who want the ins and outs, but even if you don’t quite know why there is a blue line, or what cross-checking means, the Stanley Cup Finals is the place to be. Just take in the nonstop action, the brutal hits, the graceful skating and the rowdy fans on the edge of their seats. There is no atmosphere in sports like professional hockey, and this experience is a major-league must for fans.
If that doesn’t entice you, here’s what Pete Blackburn of CBS recalled reading from a fan of the Stanley Cup Finals: "One time a guy on Twitter said it was like snorting cocaine and riding a motorcycle out of a helicopter." If your team isn’t in it, so what. Even if you just go to one game, the experience is well worth it. Add the Stanley Cup Finals to your bucket list, and go crazy.
Needless to say, this is the dream spot for anyone who loves auto racing. The Daytona 500 is the main attraction for blue-collar sports fans. Who wouldn’t want to feel the experience of those thunderous engines going around the track. We are talking about the most awesome muscle cars — times 10.
OK, the top race in NASCAR is the first race. Big deal. The Daytona 500 stands on its own as a great American tradition. It’s one of the finest showdowns on four wheels, and if you don’t put this on your bucket list, turn in your card as a sports fan.
Of all of our bucket list choices, tickets for the Daytona 500 perhaps are among the cheapest. They can go for under $100, and you can bring in your own food and drink. You must purchase tickets for the Fanzone to get the best experience. With a Fanzone ticket, you can ask drivers questions on the main stage, there’s the pre-race show where some of the best in music perform, and you’re front and center for the drivers' introductions.
Before all of that, make reservations to walk the pits before the races, and check out how drivers and their crews prepare for the race. Here’s one more thing: Kids 12 and under get in free. Talk about the ultimate family experience. Start your engine, and head for Daytona Beach for this fantastic bucket-list experience.
The Kentucky Derby is known as the finest two minutes in sports, and it’s a lock for your bucket list. Imagine telling your friends that you’re going to the Kentucky Derby. Yeah, that’s right, you’re going to the greatest horse race in the world that’s been running since 1875.
What you may not know is there’s much more than watching the greatest thoroughbreds in the country thundering around Churchill Downs. If you really want to go all out, you can make this a vacation destination, or an extended weekend getaway. What might work best is to choose the right ticket package that fits your budget and schedule.
You can attend the Kentucky Derby Festival that lasts for two weeks. It has so many activities we cannot list them all here. There are also places to go to around Louisville.
On race day, the ladies can break out the fancy hats and wine spritzers will be flowing. Try to find yourself good seats and witness something only a few have experienced.
For those of you who have a sports bucket list, raise your hands if you don’t have the World Series on your list. Right, that would be nobody. The World Series sells itself, so there’s no debate whether to have this on your bucket list.
Perhaps the only sticking point here is if your team doesn’t reach the series. We understand if you’re a Red Sox fan and the Yankees are playing, or if the Giants make it and you’re a die-hard Dodgers fan. There does seem to be more rivalries in baseball than other sports.
Maybe you’re an Indians fan who has waited 69 years for your team to win a World Series, or you’re just someone who wants to see what the series is all about. Put some money down and go. There’s nothing like it. If you’ve been to a regular-season baseball game, you will notice a big change in atmosphere and pregame entertainment. Before the game, take a walk around, get a feel for the intensity, and buy some cool souvenirs. Soak it all in.
The World Series has featured the greatest players and teams of all time. It has captured the hearts of Americans for more than a century. Someday, you need to be a part of this to complete your bucket list. How long can you wait on the Indians to make a return trip?
Polo at Palermo
Polo for a sports fan’s bucket list? Really? Absolutely, positively, yes. You’ve been sitting around watching football, baseball, or basketball, perhaps an auto race or golf tournament. Maybe it’s time to branch out a little bit and see something that you can tell your friends about. It’s called the Argentine Open Polo Championship, but polo fans know it as "Palermo," the biggest polo match in the world.
So you head down to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and check out why this is called the "sport of kings," and see the greatest polo players in the world on world-class thoroughbreds. Why not add this to your bucket list? Buenos Aires — that says it all about what kind of venue is offered. Like, one of the world’s greatest places for hotels, sightseeing, shopping, food and drink.
The website Trillionaire explains the event best: "Stepping into a magical 'Great Gatsby' world, you are immediately swept up in the passion and glamour of a sport that seems foreign to even the most veteran of travelers; yet, it is a world that has endured for centuries." And, while you're there, you can learn about the sport.
On game day, they have team tents with chairs and couches, and if the players are not playing, you can meet some of them. Then, you check out the best polo has to offer, and who knows, you might become one of the sport’s newest fans with a greater appreciation seeing it live.
Cricket World Cup
You may not realize this, but cricket is very important to a lot of people, so you need to find out what all of the fuss is about. The Cricket World Cup is considered one of the most popular international events, just behind the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup as far as attendance and viewership.
The event takes place every four years. The next iteration is being held in England and Wales in 2019, with an expected 10 teams competing. If you’re thinking outside of the box, this is definitely a bucket-list consideration for the drama surrounding such an event that features the greatest cricket players and teams. Better yet, experience what England and Wales have to offer for sightseeing, food and pubs. Sounds like an awesome vacation idea.
The Cricket World Cup is relatively new, starting in 1975, and it rose quickly in popularity. International fans love cricket, and this event is one way to settle on the field who is the best team in the world. Take some time to learn about the sport and what makes it so popular.
As a fan, you will marvel at these athletes and what they can do on the field. Off the field, you will see fans from different countries ascend on London and Wales with plenty of energy and spirit that’s contagious. Once you see the Cricket World Cup, you will have a better appreciation for the sport. Add this to you bucket list, and have some fun.
Rugby World Cup
Let’s be honest here. Who really wouldn’t love rugby? Even if you’re not totally familiar with the rules and players, just watching a rugby game grabs your attention. Bleacher Report said of the event when ranking the most popular sporting events in the world, "the Rugby World Cup offers crushing hits and pad-less warriors who feast on rival blood."
Now that’s what we call a selling point. Here’s more: Like the Cricket World Cup, the Rugby World Cup is held every four years. But here is the bonus, the Rugby World Cup will be held at different sites in Japan in 2019. So you get to see the best rugby matches in the world and you travel to Japan. This has bucket list written all over it.
There will be 12 venues used across Japan, with Tokyo hosting the first match and the final match in Kanagawa. In between, you plan which matches you want to attend, experience some grueling matches and the atmosphere Japan has to offer, perhaps the nightlife in Tokyo or the beautiful gardens and temples of Kyoto.
This trip will definitely keep you busy, but with this event played every four years and the next stop in Japan in 2019, opportunity has come knocking. Make your plans and add the best of rugby — and Japan — to your bucket list.
UEFA Champions League final
If you’re ready for some rowdy soccer, here’s the event to add to your bucket list. Passionate only mildly describes the fans who follow the Champions League, and to be a part of that crowd for the final match is one of the most intense events you’ll ever see.
While Real Madrid has dominated this event, the Champions League final still catches the attention of worldwide sports fans and is worth strong consideration for your bucket list. What will make the 2019 Champions League final special is Madrid will have home-field advantage. Next June 1, the final will be held at Wanda Metropollitano Stadium in Madrid.
So you have one of the great destinations in Europe in Madrid, and you get to hang out with rowdy soccer fans. What’s not to like here?
But if you’re thinking about going, you need to act quickly. Tickets are hard to come by, and they might get pretty expensive. Hotel accommodations are going quickly as well, and at the recent Champions League final, some hotel owners in Kiev were charging as much as 100 times the normal price, forcing some fans to give up their tickets and head home. So if you want to add this to your bucket list, decide soon, put down the cash, and get ready for an amazing ride.
If you’re an avid golf fan, it’s pretty obvious where this ranks on your bucket list. However, the British Open is one event that can attract all kinds of fans.
The links-style event is played on some of the most surreal settings in the United Kingdom. Fans who step on the course can feel the history of this event — along with the whipping winds — that dates back to 1860 when the Open began. Imagine the greats of golf walking these courses over the years, such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones and so many others.
The next Open will be held in Northern Ireland in 2019, and having good times with the Irish can be extra special. Besides watching history being made on the golf course, maybe you can change it up a little and take some scenic tours to visit historic sites or gorgeous forests. What’s wrong with doing some sightseeing away from the links? And you must visit some of the most historical pubs you will ever see, and order a pint.
Soak in the tradition and the atmosphere. Take a vacation to next year’s British Open. The event promises to be special on and off the course, and a definite must for your bucket list.
College Football Playoff
For those of you who enjoy the passion of collegiate athletics, especially football, the College Football Playoff is the ultimate event, and very worthy to add to your bucket list.
The system itself has done some quick evolving. Not too long ago, the college football champion was decided by the BCS National Championship Game. Before that, it often was decided through an assortment of polls. Then, when the BCS was created in 1999, a funky formula was used to decide which two teams would play for the national championship.
Still, that system was not perfect and often got criticized by fans and the media. So, in 2014, a four-team playoff format was created (not without controversy) where the final two play for the national championship. Now it’s starting to feel like a title being decided on the field.
Enough about that, let’s talk about the game itself. Anyone who’s attended a major college football game on a Saturday afternoon has felt the passion and intensity from the fans in the stands to the players on the field. The bands and cheerleaders are pumping up the crowds, and the players are going nuts. Now you throw in the top prize, the national championship, and you’re talking about an event that’s as big as it gets.
Oh, don’t forget about the pregame tailgating outside of the stadium.The cities hosting the next three national championship games are Santa Clara (Calif.), New Orleans and Miami Gardens. Bring your best eats over a grill, and get the party started. Throw the football around, tell some tall sports stories, and get ready for the time of your life.
Wimbledon is the oldest and greatest tennis event in the world, with the finest atmosphere you will find at any tennis event on the planet. Good reasons to put this on your bucket list? If not, here’s more.
This is a great excuse to take a two-week trip to England. In London, just 10 miles from Wimbledon, you can go sightseeing, take in Big Ben or Buckingham Palace, then tennis. Or you can go on a tour bus, stop by some of the famous pubs, then tennis. You can even learn how to ride a horse, then tennis. Make some plans ahead of time and marry tennis with some fun stuff to do. (Be careful, your phone will go into crisis mode with all the photos you’ll be taking.)
Now let’s talk about Wimbledon. How cool is it to watch tennis played on grass? It’s a given that the finest tennis players in the world are here, but at least in the early going of the tournament, there are many courts to watch some great action. On Centre Court, the world’s most famous tennis court, you can take a gander at the Royal Box to witness royalty. You’ll notice a lot of people dressed very nice — those of royal patronage — but you don’t have to be one of those people. Also, strawberries and cream are the traditional delight so you must partake.
Here is the downside. Buying tickets can be challenging, so you need to apply as soon as possible. There are some restrictions and a few hurdles to clear. It will take some work, but if you can pull it off, a vacation to England to watch Wimbledon sounds like a great idea.
You won’t find another auto race that has the tradition of the Indianapolis 500. Maybe you don’t know all of the drivers' names by heart, but to witness what is called "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" should entice any sports fan to put this grand event on your bucket list.
This race dates back to 1911 and has been on the world stage for many decades. If you count the patrons sitting in the infield and those in the permanent stands, this race has been known to draw as many as 300,000 fans. Hopefully, you don’t mind crowds. Go online to see the many events and attractions taking place adjacent to the Indy 500, and there’s also many traditions and festivities to take in.
To be a part of this tradition is something special. The greatest Formula One drivers in history, such as Foyt, Unser and Mears, have competed on The Brickyard, and some of the most memorable moments in auto racing have taken place here. Get there early so you can walk around and admire Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the finest venues in sports. There are many events surrounding the race.
Once you hear, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines," you know you made the right bucket list choice.