There’s no denying the positive impacts of youth sports—they foster teamwork and promote physical and mental health, Plus, they’re fun to play! These benefits only increase when youth sports combine with travel—whether that’s the team traveling together to play in tournaments or going on a tour to promote team bonding. Destinations throughout the United States and Canada have a lot to offer youth sports travelers—from youth sports complexes that nurture healthy competition to museums and attractions that celebrate sports legends.
Some of these attractions add in an educational component, too, to connect classroom skills to the court or field. For instance, in Ohio, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum’s Extra Innings educational programs illustrate how baseball plays a role in history, math, and science curriculums. In the Build a Baseball Team program, students use budgets and statistics from Major League Baseball to compare players’ strengths, weaknesses, and salaries to assemble a nine-man team, while the Marketing and the Cincinnati Reds program introduces curious students to sponsorship, advertising, and promotional elements associated with a professional sports franchise.
Young sports fans also enjoy visiting iconic sports venues, like Boston’s Fenway Park—the oldest ballpark in the country. Fans have flocked to the ballpark since 1912 to watch the beloved Red Sox play in the heart of Boston. Students can take in the magnificent view atop the fabled Green Monster, standing more than 35 feet tall and overlooking left field, and follow tour guides through the historic park while discovering the sport’s legendary moments. Gather your team and plan your next sports tour to one of these youth-friendly destinations.
This region is a hotbed for sports enthusiasts and is filled with sports cities and destinations perfect for youth itineraries. Begin your Midwest tour in Chicago, home to seven teams covering all professional sports. Students can grab tickets to cheer on the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Bears at famous venues throughout the city, including the almost century-old Wrigley Field, the home of Chicago Cubs baseball. Guided, behind-the-scenes Wrigley Field tours showcase the beauty, charm, and historic features that fans have come to know and love, and students gain access to areas like the press box, indoor batting cage, and dugouts.
Head to Dyersville, Iowa, for another world-renowned baseball field straight out of Hollywood. There, the Field of Dreams Movie Site from the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” welcomes students with tours led by one of the legendary “Ghost Players.” Students can sit in the best seats in the house (the original set of bleachers along the first baseline), play catch on the field, and tour the on-site farmhouse. Selfie and group photo ops are plentiful and a true testament to the famous quote “If you build it, they will come.”
Meanwhile in Ohio, another sport takes center stage at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, where student groups learn about professional football legends. Groups can marvel at the 350-plus bronze busts in the Hall of Fame Gallery, play in the Madden EA Sports video game suite, watch an immersive holographic theater presentation, and more.
In Indianapolis, Indiana, the Hoosier sports spirit is alive at the city’s sports venues and attractions. Of course, there’s the infamous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which attracts more than 300,000 fans annually to watch the fast-paced sport of auto racing. Student groups can participate in guided speedway tours and visit the on-site museum. Then there’s Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, where guided tours take students to the stadium’s press box, field, locker rooms, and suites. Another huge attraction in town is the 30,000-square-foot NCAA Hall of Champions, with two dramatic levels of interactive exhibits.
Also in Indiana, the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting is a unique attraction offering STEAM education principles combined with sports mascot entertainment. The 2023 inductees, Slugger of the Portland Sea Dogs and Otto the Orange of Syracuse University, join past hall of famers like Yuppie (Montreal Canadians), Southpaw (Chicago White Sox), and Smokey (University of Tennessee). Toronto, Canada, has long been famed for exciting hockey games and outstanding hockey players, so it’s no wonder that the city’s Hockey Hall of Fame has the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world, including the original Stanley Cup.
Baseball is the name of the game in the Northeast. Beyond the famed Fenway Park, another not-to-miss ballpark is New York City’s Yankee Stadium. During stadium tours, students can visit Monument Park, which pays homage to Yankees heroes with plaques, monuments, and retired numbers, as well as the New York Yankees Museum. The museum includes the Baseball Wall, which seeks to collect one autographed baseball from each player, manager, coach, and broadcaster in Yankees history; a World Series ring display; and more.
In Baltimore, Maryland, students can learn about one of the 20th century’s greatest sports heroes at the Babe Ruth Birthplace &
Museum, located in the row house where the “Sultan of Swat” was born in 1895. George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. became America’s first sports celebrity and an international icon, and the attraction features exhibits on Ruth’s life, his career, and what the world was like during the early 1900s.
Meanwhile in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the World of Little League Museum is a great stop for youth baseball and softball teams, as it shares the history of Little League and relates it to world events and other engaging activities.
Other sports favorites in the Northeast include the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts—in the city where James Naismith invented basketball in 1891—and Lake Placid Legacy Sites in Lake Placid, New York—the home of two Olympic Games. There, students can fly down the bobsled track, observe the ins and outs of curling, and even learn how to luge.
Begin a Southeast sports tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, where students find full-throttle experiences at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Groups explore interactive and thematic exhibit galleries, watch an introductory film, and see hundreds of artifacts representing NASCAR, its technology, and its people. Many of the exhibits have been enhanced to celebrate NASCAR’s 75th anniversary this year. Educational programs include staff-facilitated workshops and experiential career activities—like learning what it’s like to be a pit crew member or a sports broadcaster.
Students find more racing fun at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida—known as the “World Center of Racing.” Students venture behind the scenes and ride through the speedway’s infield, see the 31-degree high banks, and pass through the garages while learning about the venue’s history. When traveling along Pit Road, students discover how NASCAR’s top drivers prep for the largest motorsports event of the year before concluding at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Meanwhile in Louisville, Kentucky, sports attractions are varied and plentiful. First, there’s the iconic Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby Museum, which pay homage to the thoroughbred horse. At the museum, every day is derby day! Students get the inside track on the “greatest two minutes in sports” through two floors of interactive exhibits, a 360-degree media experience, and hands-on activities like creating elaborate Kentucky Derby hats. Walking tours of Churchill Downs can be added, too.
Another Louisville icon is the Louisville Slugger, the bat used by most Major League Baseball teams. At the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, a 120-foot bat greets students at the entrance before they embark on a tour through the factory production line. Round out a Louisville sports trip at Muhammad Ali Center, honoring the city’s native son. There, students journey into the heart of a champion, where three levels of exhibits and galleries invite guests to explore Ali’s legendary life and reflect upon one’s own individual values and strengths. Students will love the “Train With Ali” exhibit, a re-creation of his Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, training camp, where they can try their hand at shadow boxing with the champion, feel the power of an Ali punch, and learn the techniques of the sport from champion boxer (and Muhammad’s daughter) Laila Ali.
For traveling sports teams, the southeast is full of youth sports venues and complexes, including in Lake Charles, Louisiana, known as the “Youth Sports Capital of Louisiana.” Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana host close to 100 different sporting events annually at its 60-plus baseball fields, 50 basketball courts, 25 football fields, eight 18-hole golf courses, 45 soccer fields, and nearly 60 softball fields. There are also top-notch swimming and wrestling facilities, tennis and volleyball courts, and track and field stadiums to appeal to athletes of all disciplines.
This region is popular for traveling sports teams, too. In Round Rock, Texas, known as the “Youth Sports Capital of Texas,” student athletes are welcomed with open arms. With a tier-one lineup of sports venues and entertainment, including Triple-A baseball at Dell Diamond, America’s largest indoor water park, nature and green space, and walking and biking trails, Round Rock tops the list of world-class destinations for youth and student sports teams in the country. Fans and athletes travel from across the nation to cheer on and compete among youth sports teams. The Round Rock Sports Center and Round Rock Multipurpose Complex showcase state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor fields, courts, and stadiums for year-round tournaments.
Student athletes who dream of competing in the Olympics will love a visit to Utah Olympic Park in Park City, the site of the 2002 Olympic Games. The nearly 400-acre venue houses one of only four sliding tracks in North America, six Nordic ski jumps, the Spence Eccles Olympic Freestyle Pool, a 2002 Olympic Games museum, and a multitude of adventure activities. On guided tours aboard the park’s shuttle bus (or with a step-on guide), students learn about the amazing stories of Olympic achievement and ride to the top of one of the world’s highest Nordic ski jumps and one of the fastest sliding tracks in the world. Students can also enjoy activities like zip lines, ropes courses, bobsledding, airbag jumps, and more.
Meanwhile in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum uses artifacts and technology to tell the compelling stories of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The highly accessible and interactive museum provides STEAM-related classroom lessons customized to meet national and state standards. Tour of Champions, a field trip activity, helps young people make the most of their time at the museum by highlighting content they might not otherwise see or read. In the Winning Chemistry lesson plan, students explore the metals used in the Olympic and Paralympic medals by discovering their unique properties, identifying their places in the Periodic Table, and designing a medal that represents and celebrates their own community.
In Oceanside, California, students can learn the history of surfing at the California Surf Museum. By blending history and science, the museum’s newest exhibit, “The Science of Surfing,” covers a wide variety of information designed to engage all visitors, regardless of their familiarity with surfing.
Written by Courtney Birchmeier
Main Image: Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Credit: Visit Indy