Travel for sporting events has existed as long as sporting events have existed. When the Persians invaded Greece in 480 B.C., the Greeks delayed raising an army to defend their city-states because so many people were away attending the Olympic Games.
Today, sports travel packages are available to assist travelers in making travel arrangements and scoring tickets. Within the U.S., five cities are home to teams from the four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL): Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. However, eight additional cities, including Washington, D.C., join the list when considering entire metropolitan areas. The options for Major League Baseball and National League Football games expands even further when including Baltimore, only 35 miles (or one hour by car or train) from DC. Here are five places for sports fans to visit in the DC-Baltimore metro area:
Like all sporting events in the U.S., we start with the national anthem. Fort McHenry was constructed between 1799 and 1802 on a peninsula at the opening of Baltimore harbor to guard the city and port of Baltimore. During the War of 1812, ships from the British navy attempted to land troops to take the city of Baltimore. The fort's artillery forced the British ships to retreat just out of their range. The British ships bombarded Fort McHenry for over 24 hours. However, the distance of British ships combined with the recent structural improvements to the fort, allowed Fort McHenry to withstand around 1,800 cannonballs, rockets, and mortar shells.
An American lawyer, Francis Scott Key, observed the battle from a British ship where he had been negotiating the release of an American doctor held prisoner by the British. The British bombed the fort through the early morning of September 14, 1814. When dawn broke, the garrison at Fort McHenry raised "The Great Garrison Flag," which measured over 30 feet high and 42 feet long. Upon seeing the Stars and Stripes flying over the fort, Key was inspired to write the poem "The Defence of Fort M'Henry" with a well-known tune from the time in the back of his mind. This tune, with Key's lyrics, is familiar to all sports fans, since it was later named "The Star Spangled Banner." Listen closely to the anthem at your next Major League Baseball game and you will hear Key's description of the Battle of Baltimore and his feeling of pride at seeing the U.S. triumph.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Oriole Park at Camden Yards hosts Baltimore Orioles home games. The Orioles are one of two Major League Baseball teams in the area, with the other being the Washington Nationals in DC. Oriole Park was completed in 1992 and was the first retro-classic ballpark built. Retro-classic ballparks re-adopted the classic diamond or jewel shape after decades of rectangular or oblong fields that could accommodate both baseball and football games. Oriole Park also has its place in Major League Baseball history as the place where Cal Ripkin, Jr. played his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking Lou Gehrig's record.
Nationals Park hosts Washington Nationals home games. Nationals Park was completed in 2008 and was the first major professional sports stadium in the U.S. certified to be green. The U.S. Capitol building, Washington Memorial, and National Cathedral can be seen from the upper decks of Nationals Park.
While FedExField (all one word) is technically in Landover, Maryland, it plays host to Washington Redskins home games. FedExField was completed in 1997 and was originally named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. The stadium had the largest seating capacity in the NFL from 2004 to 2010 at 91,000 seats. Subsequent renovations have reduced the seating capacity to 82,000, which puts it in second place. In addition to NFL games, FedExField has hosted club soccer exhibition matches for Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea F.C., and F.C. Barcelona.
National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History is a Smithsonian Museum. The Great Garrison Flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired Key to write the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner is on display here. The museum also exhibits Chris Evert's tennis racket, Hank Aaron's bat and glove, and a Jackie Robinson autographed baseball.