Visit Orlando: Sports lovers' dream
Special to The Weather Network
Sunday, January 21, 2018, 8:00 AM - Fun is the main objective of any family trip but finding a destination that appeals to everyone can be a big hurdle. It has to offer activities that all family members will enjoy. Not everyone is into roller coasters, princesses and Harry Potter.
Sure you can always split up the kids and take off in different directions, but the whole point of a family vacation is making memories together. So picking the perfect destination, along with an accommodating and flexible agenda, will make for cherished memories long after you’ve unpacked your bags.
Orlando offers something for everyone, from the thrill-seeker and fairytale fan to the shopper and adventurous gastronome. Now add sports fan to the list. If you’ve got a sports fanatic in the family, you’ll definitely make a touchdown with a trip to Orlando, and even score big with the non-sports fans you bring along.
Orlando has been named the No. 1 city for soccer fans by Wallethub.com. In 2015, Orlando debuted the Orlando City Soccer Club as the first Major League Soccer team in the city’s history. The team is led by world-renowned Brazilian player and former FIFA World Player of the Year, Kaká. In March of 2017, the team moved to their new stadium, a $110 million, 25,500-seat facility in downtown Orlando.
Sharing the new stadium is the Orlando Pride, Orlando’s women’s soccer team, featuring forward Alex Morgan.
For football and international soccer fans, the new $207 million, 75,000-seat Camping World Stadium in downtown gives visitors a superb spectator experience with three high-definition video boards, suite seating and a 15,000-square-foot (1393.5-square-meter) deck overlooking the north end zone. The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, The Florida Blue Florida Classic, the Orlando Kickoff and The Russell Athletic Bowl are all played at the Camping World Stadium. The Camping World Bowl, originally known as the Blockbuster Bowl, features teams from the ACC & Big 12 conferences.
In 2016, a collaboration between Florida Citrus Sports and ESPN Events called the Orlando Kickoff was launched, now played annually on the opening weekend of college football season. Orlando also hosted the NFL's Pro Bowl Week in 2017, a week-long series of festivities ending with the Pro Bowl Game at Camping World Stadium, and will continue to host the event in 2018 and 2019.
Basketball and Hockey
The NBA’s Orlando Magic is the city’s most famous sports team. Fans can find them at home games in the amenity-loaded Amway Center, an 18,846-seat venue, and one of the most technologically advanced in the world. Offering VIP appointments like mid-level luxury and club seating, a stunning art collection, massive scoreboard and several restaurants and bars, the flexible venue is an inviting space for diehard fans and celebrities alike to cheer for Orlando teams. In addition to the Magic, the Amway Center is home to the Orlando Solar Bears, a mid-level professional ice hockey team.
A key feature of Orlando’s sports profile is the destination’s multifaceted connections to the game of golf. With a long history of golf lovers choosing the area for their retreats, vacations and retirement homes, it’s unsurprising that Arnold Palmer – one of the world’s most beloved golfers – not only started his own resort and golf course in Orlando, but founded the Golf Channel here. In 2015, the Orlando-based cable network celebrated its 20th year of offering 24-hour golf coverage, now airing in 83 countries. Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge is just one of more than 150 golf courses in the Orlando area, many from celebrated course designers, and some featuring academies helmed by nationally-recognized instructors.
Soon, golf fans won’t even need to leave the tourism district to indulge in their favorite pastime. Top Golf Orlando, a state-of-the-art golf range facility, was slated to be built near International Drive in 2017. The three-level location will be 65,000 square feet and offer 102 climate-controlled hitting bays for up to six players each.
In 2017, Orlando became the new home of American tennis, when the United States Tennis Association (USTA) opened a campus in the Lake Nona area of Orlando. The 63-acre (25.5-hectare) complex encompasses more than 100 courts (hard and clay) and a multi-use building with a pro shop, fitness center, locker rooms, cafeteria and players’ lounge.
For intercollegiate sports enthusiasts, the University of Central Florida, members of the American Athletic Conference, and Rollins College, an NCAA Division II school in Winter Park, offer a full slate of athletic event spectator opportunities at top-notch arenas and stadiums.
A number of sports events offer visitors more opportunities enjoy games and even get in on the action themselves. From running to golf, football and beyond, enthusiasts can participate or cheer on others at these exciting events.
• runDisney hosts an array of nine different races including 5ks, 10ks and full marathons. Participants of the races run through the Disney parks and celebrate at the end with a Disney vacation.
• Atlanta Braves returned to Orlando for their 19th Spring Training Season at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex. Orlando is a perfect home base for spring training fanatics with 15 teams within a 90-minute drive.
• Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament benefits the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. The 2018 tournament will be March 12-18, bringing together golfers, spectators and volunteers in order to raise money for the charity.
Find more sports events on the Visit Orlando Events Calendar.