Start with a list of the “Most Exciting Incidental Things To Happen At A Sporting Event,” and pretty soon you’re down the rabbit hole.
Just on Deadspin, you can get rankings for soccer announcer cliches, times of day for fireworks, all 102 Winter Olympics medal events and “It’s A Wonderful Life” characters, among others.
So I decided to do a ranking of my own, specifically of places I’ve seen in my travels.
This is by no means a complete list of places I’ve been, and on a different day, several of these may have been different or in a different order.
I also set two rules for myself in making the list.
1. It has to be part of a trip, not the trip itself. For example, my wife and I spent our honeymoon and 10th anniversary at Jekyll Island Club in Georgia, and we love the place, but the trip was to Jekyll (pictured immediately above).
2. Only one site per trip.
15, National Constitution Center, Philadelphia
A useful reminder that we have one.
14. The Newseum, Washington, D.C.
13. Sea to Sky Highway, Vancouver
Gastown? The harbor? Stanley Park? I wanted to get my trip to Vancouver on this list somewhere, and decided to pick the epic mountain drive from Vancouver to Whistler.
12. Yonge Street, Toronto
The spine of one of the world’s great, and rapidly growing, cities.
From Yonge Street, it’s a short distance to the University of Toronto, Eaton Centre, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CBC, Scotiabank Arena, CN Tower, Rogers Centre and the waterfront — several of which I could have chosen as my favorite thing about Toronto.
Plus you might run into a random Mountie.
11. San Antonio missions
You’ll have to drive through what looked to be some pretty poor areas when we went, and they’re not fancy, at least on the outside (the inside of a mission is at the top of this post) , but on a quiet day, they’re striking in their own way.
10. The French Quarter, New Orleans
It was my wife Suzi’s idea to stay in the French Quarter when we went to New Orleans seven years ago.
Good call … neither of us are drinkers or partiers, but there was so much action, especially the first weekend we were there, it was endlessly entertaining.
A word of advice — be sure you have a camera with you at all times, which is probably easy now with smartphones. You never known when you might run across a marching band practicing for Mardi Gras while you’re walking back from dinner.
9. Oracle Park, San Francisco
San Francisco was a bit overrated.
What was then called AT&T Park was spectacular.
8. Parliament Hill, Ottawa
After a disappointing visit to Montreal, Ottawa literally saved our vacation. We could literally see Parliament from our hotel room, took a tour before it closed for renovations, and the area around it was glorious.
7. Wrigley Field, Chicago
I’ve gone to a lot of baseball stadiums, some great, some meh. I have never had an experience at the ballpark as perfect as Wrigley Field.
Plus, Giordano’s Pizza rules.
And yes, that’s me.
6. Ryman Auditorium, Nashville
We went because it was something you’re supposed to do when you go to Nashville.
We left amazed, wishing we could get to a show there someday.
5. The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Start at the top. See Edinburgh Castle.
Then start walking down.
If you’re into tartan or whisky, you’ll have all the choices you want anytime you want to stop.
Do that if you want, but keep walking once you’re done.
Peer down the alleyways.
Breathe in the sights and sounds of Old Town.
Keep walking until you get to the bottom, to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament. They’re across the street from each other.
It will be quite a day.
4. Santa Monica Pier
Between the beach, the amusement park, the sun, the Pacific Ocean, the palm trees and the view from the overlook, I’m pretty sure it’s what paradise looks like.
One night, Suzi and I walked down after dinner. We stopped at the overlook, and I found myself watching cars coming into the parking lot or leaving for the night. By themselves, the comings and goings felt like a story of their own.
3. Crater Lake, Oregon
I could have picked Bend. It would have been easy to pick Bend.
So why did I pick Crater Lake? Because of the sensation when, after driving all the way up the mountain, you get out of your car, walk past the building and see around the trees what’s in front of you.
Call it the “Holy S&*t” factor.
2. Gloucester Road station, London
No, a London Underground station is not my favorite thing in London.
But aside from a few restaurants near our hotel and the Victoria and Albert Museum, it’s the portal to all we find awesome about London — the West End, Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the life, the vibrancy … and so on, and so on, and so on — a short walk from the back door of the hotel.
1. Times Square, New York City
It was always going to be Times Square.
Yes, I know it’s basic and touristy, but the lights, the sounds, the people, the rush … the pure sensory overload of it all … does something to me.