ALL POSTS IN [Sports]

Most seasoned travelers have probably heard of (and dreamt about) the amazing train ride through the Tijuca Rainforest to see the 125-foot Christ the Redeemer statue high atop Corcovado Mountain. And who hasn’t heard the gossip about the Brazilians’ buff beach bodies and the droves of scantily-clad women who sunbathe on the world-famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.

Well now, you can get your chance to see Rio de Janeiro – free of charge! Enter to win a trip for 2 to the Marvelous City and see why it’s such a hot vacation destination. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that tourists are flocking to the tropical city not only for its beaches, but also because it will host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

See Rio for yourself! Explore this Brazilian city and its secret treasures like Leblon, Rio’s most affluent neighborhood with a beautiful beach that’s known for being much quieter than Ipanema or Copacabana. See Rio from above and go hang-gliding off Sugarloaf Mountain, or just lay low and spend the day on Paqueta Island, where it’s not uncommon to see a horse-drawn carriage.

There’s something for everyone in this Brazilian city, so take the first step and enter to win a free trip — your next adventure awaits you in Rio de Janeiro!

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Golf fans, rejoice, it’s that time of year again! The US Open starts tomorrow and for the first time in 32 years it will return to the legendary Merion Golf Club, a private golf club located just outside Philadelphia in Ardmore, PA. Designed by golf course architect Hugh Wilson, this club’s courses have hosted the US Open 5 times, with the last in 1981 when David Graham won.

Other things to know about this year’s Open? Merion will be the shortest US Open course in the past 9 years. Also, it has been 5 years since Tiger Woods has won a major; he won his 14th major in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines. Even though Woods returned to No. 1 this year, the world is waiting to see if he will stay on top at this year’s Open.

If you don’t have tickets to this year’s Open, plan your next golf getaway with our picks for the World’s Best Golf Courses, from Scotland to Dubai. Don’t want to leave the country to tee off? Check out our Best US Golf Courses.

And don’t forget about this Sunday… if Dad’s a golf fanatic, there’s nothing he’d like more than a little Father’s Day bonding on the green.

 

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With some of the highest peaks east of the Rocky Mountains, Beech Mountain Resort has long been one of North Carolina’s most popular places to go skiing. It’s now carving out an identity as a year-round sports destination with a new program that allows mountain bikers to hook their bikes to a high-speed quad chairlift and ride to the top of the mountain’s 5,506-foot summit. From there it’s an adrenaline-pumping ride down a series of trails with rock gardens, jumps, berms and wooded sections. Don’t have a mountain bike? A full line of rentals will be available. The new trails will be open every weekend from June 7 until Sept. 29. After your ride, grab a cold drink and a bite to eat (pizza, burgers, sandwiches, etc.) at the resort’s Beech Tree Bar and Grill.

Elsewhere in tiny Beech Mountain (population: 320), you’ll find the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park. This 8-mile network of single track ranges in elevation from 4,700 to 5,400 feet and provides unparalleled mountain vistas and overlooks. The park’s second and third phases are scheduled to open in 2014 and will encompass more than 25 miles of trails. Cycle 4 Life Bike Shop in nearby Banner Elk offers rentals and guided bike trips of the park.

After a day on the trails, reward yourself with some delicious grub at Alpen Restaurant and Bar, which features an open stone fireplace and an outdoor patio and deck where you can enjoy menu items such as burgers, sandwiches, grilled salmon, steaks and pasta dishes. For more casual fare, there’s Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, which also has wings, sandwiches and salads. Also be sure to stop by Fred’s General Mercantile, an old-school country store that’s famous for having a little of everything, from clothes to outdoor gear, toys, tools, beer and wine. Fred’s also has downstairs deli that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bed down for the night at The Beech Alpen Inn, which has 24 hotel rooms, some of which have fireplaces and private balconies. Archer’s Mountain Inn has 15 lodge guest rooms that feature panoramic views, rustic décor and wood-burning fireplaces. There’s also Pinnacle Inn Resort, which features one- and two-bedroom condos, as well as an indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, arcade, sauna and pool table.

- Sam Boykin

Few things in life are free, particularly when it comes to leisure. But this summer travelers interested in outdoors and adventure can enjoy one of the most popular outdoor activities while taking part in a weeklong celebration of a fun sport free of charge.

This coming weekend marks the start of National Fishing & Boating Week (NFBW). Across the country, state agencies will roll out free fishing days in which no license is required to fish in area lakes, streams and rivers. Also on tap will be special events such as fishing derbies and boating shows, and plenty of kid-focused events.

And with 90% of Americans living within an hour of navigable water, enjoying these events and fishing in general is easy and accessible. It is also affordable, with the average-annual license going for around $15. Best of all, these funds go toward conservation and sustainability efforts such as fish stocking and habitat management.

As we hit the lull between Memorial Day and July 4, this is an ideal way to enjoy summer weather and perhaps do something different. Folks can visit TakeMeFishing.org to plan their NFBW adventure, as well as access how-to-fish and where-to-fish information.

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Is your bike collecting more dust than dirt these days? Now is the perfect time to take it for a spin since it’s National Bike Month. From the best cities for cycling to bike-friendly hotels, here are ways to get your wheels rolling this month.

See a City By Bike

Avid cyclist and adventure traveler Ryan Van Duzer shares with us his top 10 US cities for cycling, from Boulder, CO, to Austin, TX.  With 300 days of sunshine and a picturesque mountain backdrop, biking in Boulder is at the top of Van Duzer’s list. You won’t be able to tell if that Rocky Mountain high is from the altitude or the endorphin rush after a ride here. Quirky Austin makes Van Duzer’s list for its unique Bike Zoo, where you can see a pedal-powered 80-foot rattlesnake, and the 6-mile-long Lance Armstrong bikeway, which opened in 2009 and runs through this Texas capital city. (You can see the rest of his picks here.)

Stay at a Bike-Friendly Hotel

Kimpton Hotels is celebrating National Bike Month with its national “Bike Like a Local” program. Travelers staying in Kimpton Hotels in cities like Chicago, San Francisco or New York can take advantage of complimentary bike rentals and bike promotions during May.

If you’re a cycling history buff, pedal back into Alexandria, Virginia’s history with the Civil War Bike Tour package at Monaco Alexandria. This Kimpton Hotel is offering complimentary bikes for guests to explore the Alexandria Civil War Defenses of Washington Bike Trail. Take in the history while getting a workout stopping at historic sites throughout Alexandria like Fort Ward and Alexandria National Cemetery.

At the Hotel Palomar in Phoenix, guests can explore Downtown Phoenix’s must-see spots on the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Guests can also pick up the hotel’s pocket-sized maps of Phoenix, themed for “foodies, artsy types, style lovers and mental flossers.” Each themed map highlights the best spots in the city to eat and drink and what to see and do  — all with a bike rack conveniently nearby.

Borrow a Bike for Few Hours

Don’t have a bike? That’s no excuse! Bike-sharing programs are popping up all over the county — from Washington, DC to Long Beach, CA. The much-anticipated bike share program in NYC opened for registration just last month, and had over 5,000 people sign up within 30 hours. On Memorial Day, the NYC bike share program officially opens, making it country’s largest bike share program with over 6,000 bikes and 330 stations. Another popular bike share program is Washington DC’s Capital Bikeshare, which has over 1,800 bikes at over 200 stations across the metropolitan area. Whether you are a tourist or a local, borrowing a bike in these bustling cities helps you avoid traffic frustrations and parking meltdowns … and burn calories while you’re at it.

 

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Two years ago, on Marathon Monday, I was sitting on the sun-drenched front steps of a house party in Boston’s Kenmore neighborhood, when someone stole my boyfriend’s brand-new Canon camera right from under my nose. At the time, we were particularly horrified that someone would have the audacity to do something so mean and so brazen on Marathon Monday! Call me naive, but we thought that was just about the worst thing that someone could ever do on such a celebratory day.

Boy, were we wrong. On Monday at 2:50 p.m., 2 bombs exploded within seconds of each other as runners made their way across the finish line. That act of violence claimed 3 lives, injured dozens more and forever changed how the world viewed my hometown’s very best holiday. For the first time in the race’s 117-year history, Bostonians have to adjust to hearing words like “explosion,” “bombing” and “tragedy” uttered alongside “Boston Marathon.”

It’s just not how Marathon Monday was supposed to be.

What many out-of-towners may not realize is that the Boston Marathon is not just a race, it’s so much more. It’s a day of city pride, a day typically filled with stories of love and support and incredible accomplishment, all celebrated against a backdrop of Patriots’ Day, a state holiday commemorating the opening battles of the American Revolutionary War. School kids and government workers enjoy the day off, Sox fans flock to Fenway Park to see our team host the only morning game on the entire Major League Baseball schedule, and more than 20,000 people from dozens of countries come to compete in the marathon.

It’s a day that runners work toward for months, even years, forgoing hungover brunches with friends to spend their Sunday mornings on 14-mile runs, dreaming of making it over Heartbreak Hill.

On what seems to always be the first sunny, spring day in the city, thousands of spectators head out for the event. Moms and dads pack picnics, grandpas plop down in foldy chairs, and the city’s droves of college kids embark on a marathon of their own — typically, a day-long booze-filled party, all in good fun. Thousands line the 26.2-mile route, at times 10 to 15 people deep, and spend hours rooting and cheering on friends, family and total strangers. Among them this year was 8-year-old Martin Richard, watching from the sidelines in Copley Square as runners made their final strides across the finish line. By Martin’s side were his parents, his 11-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister.

While a few run to compete, many more Boston marathoners run to raise money for charity. Some even run for those who no longer can. The runners write their names on their T-shirts, arms and legs, ensuring 26.2 miles of feeling like a rockstar as adoring Bostonians shout out personalized words of encouragement.

That’s how it’s supposed to be.

This time was different. This time, the spectators weren’t cheering words of encouragement, they were yelling at the runners. They were telling them to stop, to turn around, to run away from the finish line that they’d spent months training to run toward.

This time, Bostonians at marathon-watch parties shied away from their balconies overlooking Beacon Street and instead sat silently around TVs, watching in shock as Copley Square erupted in smoke and horrified screams.

And now we have learned the cost in lives. On Monday, we lost 3 of our own: Martin Richard, the 8-year-old Dorchester boy; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old woman from Arlington, MA, who had been waiting on Boylston Street for a friend to cross the finish line; and a Boston University graduate student from China, watching the race with 2 friends.

Now comes the investigation and the questions of who and why? But here’s the hardest question of all: Will Marathon Monday ever be our very best day again? Anyone who knows Boston knows the answer. The city of Boston is a city of fighters, from its earliest patriots up until today. Next year, make it a point to experience the Boston Marathon the way that it was supposed to be celebrated this year, the way that it’s been celebrated all of my life — as a joyous, loving and supportive celebration of incredible strength, determination and will.

To help those most affected by Monday’s bombings, please visit The One Fund Boston.

Photo by Reuters/Mike Segar

Finally! In a victory that previous Aussie golfers Jim Ferrier, Bruce Crampton, Jack Newton and 3-time runner-up Greg Norman could only dream of, Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters Tournament this past Sunday and cast a renewed spotlight on golf Down Under.

For travelers looking to combine their love of faraway places with their love of the sport, Australia offers enticing options: golf courses spread across inland settings, some at really affordable prices. Among them is the recently opened Barnbougle Dunes resort. Located on Tasmania’s shores, the 200-acre resort offers all-day unlimited to its 36-hole course for around $130.

For a world-class golf experience, head to Royal Melbourne Golf Club, a 36-hole course near Melbourne that routinely makes US Golf Digest’s list of the world’s top golf courses. Since its founding in 1891, Royal Melbourne has gone on to become the oldest continually operating golf club in Australia — and if the media buzz is correct, Adam Scott will play at the club from Nov. 14-17 to defend the title he won last November at Kingston Heath.

This other premier golf club, located in Melbourne’s southeast suburbs, is the No. 2 course in Australia, and has hosted the Australian Golf Open 7 times. Several years ago, Kingston Heath also hosted the Australian Masters tournament. Looking to hit the green? Visiting golfers must be members of interstate or overseas golf clubs in order to arrange a booking.

For more memorable golf moments Down Under, head to Australia’s Dent Island. There you’ll find Hamilton Island Golf Club, home to the country’s only 18-hole championship course on an island. Designed by British Open championship golfer Peter Thompson, the par-71 course of broad fairways and steep valleys offers 360-degree views of the Coral Sea off Australia’s northeast coast.

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Photo by Reuters

Fans attending the Masters Tournament face 2 very big questions this weekend: Will this be the year of Tiger Woods’ return (do you think his relationship with Lindsey Vonn will last?), and where can we get some good food around here, anyway?

(Guess that was 3.)

With the 77th Masters in Augusta, GA, now in full swing, thousands of fans will find there’s plenty to do this weekend in addition to watching great golfers vie for the coveted green jacket — so long as you venture off the main strip of Washington Road, located just beyond the gates of Augusta National Golf Club.

Turns out, this is one fun town — for golf, of course, and so much more. Located along the Savannah River, Augusta is Georgia’s second-oldest (and second-largest) city, behind Atlanta. As home to nearly 200,000 people, Augusta offers visitors no shortage of attractions, from shopping and nightlife to sports and museums. I mean, you can hardly go wrong in a town where the godfather of soul, James Brown, once lived and where Hulk Hogan was born, right?

But first thing’s first: Getting a good burger. Once you leave the gates of Augusta National Golf Club, make it your personal mission this weekend to try something a little off the beaten path … it’ll be so worth the effort. Your first stop: Farmhaus Burger. This restaurant supports local farms, which means the burgers that come to your table are sourced from nearby Southeastern Angus beef.

If that doesn’t sate your appetite – or you’re ready for a binge weekend — there’s more eclectic farm-to-table fare to be had elsewhere: Head to Frog Hollow Tavern for a menu that features local and regionally-grown seasonal ingredients like savory greens in dishes such as grilled boneless quail. Another locally-minded kitchen, Rooster’s Beak also showcases regional ingredients and beers. Or for an interesting take on Spanish tapas, head to Bee’s Knees Tapas, a restaurant that puts an international spin on tapas with dishes like the “Sesame Leaf Roll.”

Speaking of eclectic, you’ll want to check out the James Brown Exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History. And don’t forget to celebrate what brought you to Augusta in the first place — the grand tradition of golf – at this museum, where you’ll also find life-size bronze statues of golf greats like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Reaching the museum in downtown Augusta is easy – just take the Saturday trolley tour, which departs from the Augusta Visitor Center (that’s about a 7-minute ride from the Augusta Golf Club). Also worth checking out on Saturday – in case, for some reason, all the Masters action leaves you needing time to decompress — is the Augusta Market for local crafts and foods and a Moonlight Music Cruise along the Augusta Canal.

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Photo by Getty Images

The Hollywood buzz has started for the new movie 42, a look into the life of American baseball player Jackie Robinson — the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. And in just a few days, April 15 will mark the 64th anniversary of Jackie’s first MLB game at Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger, breaking the color barrier.

Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, GA, but he lived most of his childhood in Pasadena, CA, at 121 Pepper Street. At an early age, Jackie was a competitive athlete, achieving 4-letterman status in football, basketball, baseball and track at John Muir Technical High School and later, at UCLA, where he won the NCAA broad jump title at 25′ 6 1/2 “.

In 1941, Jackie moved to Honolulu, where he played football for the semi-professional Honolulu Bears. Shortly after, he was drafted into the US Army during World War II. Jackie was stationed at Fort Riley, KS, and then Fort Hood, TX. He became a second lieutenant, but his military career took a sharp turn when he was court-martialed in connection to his objections to incidents involving racial discrimination.

Photography by Ronny Jaques/Library and Archives Canada

After a dishonorable discharge from the military, Jackie dived back into the sports, accepting a position as athletic director and basketball coach at Samuel Huston College in Austin, TX, and playing one season in the Negro Baseball League for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. It was this same year that Branch Rickey, club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, scouted the Negro leagues for a possible addition to the Dodgers. Branch chose Jackie and soon after, in 1946, the young player was signed to play for the all-white Montreal Royals of the Class AAA International League, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The very next year  Jackie was suited up as a Dodger, becoming the first African-American player since the league’s inception in 1875 to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier. African-American fans flocked to see the Dodgers play, finding, for the first time, a chance to root for more than just Negro league teams.

Although he struggled with racial discrimination throughout his career (he routinely faced racial slurs shouted from the stands), Jackie would be named the National League Rookie of the Year (1947) and National League’s Most Valuable Player of the Year (1949). He would also win the 1949 batting title, with a .342 average — a great percentage for any pro baseball player.

During the mid-1950s, Jackie’s batting average was on the decline, but oddly enough, it was one of the “highs” in his career. In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees to clinch the 1955 World Series championship. In all, Jackie had a career batting average of .311 with the Dodgers, and in 1962, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, becoming the first African-American player to achieve such distinction.

Photo by Getty Images

After his baseball career, Jackie starred as himself in The Jackie Robinson Story, continued as a civil rights activist, and took a new career as a successful businessman and sports commentator. In addition to these career achievements and changes, he remained a devoted husband to his wife Rachel and a hands-on father to his 3 children.

In 1972, Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack in Stamford, CT, but his legacy lives on through the Jackie Robinson Foundation and at popular attractions, including the Jackie Robinson Field in Pasadena’s Brookside Park, the Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA and the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, located at the main entrance to the New York Mets Citi Field.

Photo by Getty Images

In 1997, 9-foot busts were erected across from Pasadena City Hall to commemorate Jackie and his older brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson, who set the world record for broad jump and won a silver medal at the 1936 Olympic Summer Games.  And today, every few years, MLB players remember Jackie Robinson in special ceremonies and by wearing his jersey number 42, which was retired from Major League Baseball on April 15, 1997.

Plans are underway to open a Jackie Robinson Museum and Learning Center at One Hudson Square in Manhattan in 2015.

Want to get in on the Spring Fling action, but having a hard time since you’re … you know … single? Then grab a buddy, and fling about the nation’s ballparks!

Baseball season is in full swing, which means you’ve got one more thing to add to your sightseeing list while on vacation: rooting for the home team. While there are plenty of people who have “visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in the country” on their bucket list, you don’t have to be quite so ambitious to make your trip ballin’.

Tips for Navigating the Wilds of Baseball Travel:

1.     Download the MLB’s At The Ballpark app. With it, you have access to every team’s full schedule, the ability to buy tickets and find promotions, as well as a map and a full A to Z guide of anything and everything you could need while at the park.

2.    Call the team’s front office ahead of time.  On the team’s website, search for an employee directory and contact the person who has something “community”-related in their title. They’ll be able to tell you if tours are offered or they might be able to hook you up with a special experience of some kind. (One-on-one time with the mascot, maybe?) Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Just let them know how big of a fan you are.

3.     Explore the city! Keep a few days available, just in case your game gets rained out. But while you’re there, check out the landmarks, search for an awesome restaurant, find a baseball museum (chances are pretty good there’s one nearby).

4.     Don’t make a beeline to the first hotdog stand you see. Walk the entire perimeter of the park and survey all your options. In fact, ballpark food is more varied now than ever. At Camden Yards in Baltimore, keep an eye out for the Jack Daniel’s Grill and their slab of whiskey-glazed, thick-cut bacon on a stick. Or how about some frozen custard from the Shake Shack at Citi Field in New York? You never know what you might find!

5.     Speaking of things you never knew you’d find, a few parks have unexpected perks. A pool and Jacuzzi at Chase Field in Phoenix? Sure, why not? An aquarium at Tropicana Park in Tampa Bay? Lead the way!

If you’re having trouble narrowing down your list of must-see ballparks, let our picks for Baseball’s Greatest Stadiums help you out!

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