March Madness is once again sweeping through the USA, and that means basketball fans are making travel plans.
From Los Angeles to Boston and destinations in between, host cities for the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are getting ready to welcome and entertain fans.
If you’re one of the throngs planning to attend, here’s a “starting 5” lineup of other things you and hoops troops can enjoy in the host cities beyond the court. (As with any starting 5, you may think there’s a better lineup. And there’s no foul called if you decide to visit these destinations some other time of year):
Dayton’s starting 5:
Did you know the road to San Antonio starts in Dayton, Ohio? It does in 2018, anyway, as Ohio’s sixth-largest city hosts the First Four play-in games and enjoys its shining moment on the national stage.
1. National Museum of the US Air Force: This is a must-see for fans of military flight, where some exhibits cover specific periods such as World War II or the Cold War. You can also enjoy movies and flight simulators. 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson AFB, 45433. Phone: +1 937-255-3286.
2. Dayton Art Institute: A wide variety of art is is on display, from African works to a glass gallery. Founded in 1919, it rests atop a hill along the Great Miami River. 456 Belmonte Park North, 45405-4700. Phone: +1 937-223-5277.
3. Oregon District: This is Dayton’s oldest historic district. You and your pals can enjoy galleries, restaurants, bars and shops. And if you like strolling around and looking at older restored homes, you’ll love the Oregon District. Fifth Street is the main artery flowing through here.
4. America’s Packard Museum: If you’re more into cars than military aircraft, be sure to drive on over here. The museum was founded in 1992 and has more than 50 Packards from 1903 to 1958 for you to see in an art deco showroom. 420 South Ludlow Street, 45402. Phone: +1 937-226-1710.
5. Meadowlark Restaurant: They focus on American palates here but with high-quality ingredients and influences from other countries. A sampling of items: Homemade soup with cornbread, macaroni and cheese, seared garlic chicken and mushroom risotto. 5531 Far Hills Avenue, 45429. Phone: +1 937-434-4750.
1ST AND 2ND ROUND CITIES
Boise’s starting 5
Boise and seven other cities will host the first and second rounds of the tourney. The capital of Idaho is a launchpad to beautiful land out West and offers plenty of attractions itself:
1. Idaho State Capitol: This building is a stunner and looks like it could be the home of a national legislature. It rises 208 feet and occupies two city blocks. The public is invited to tour the building. 700 West Jefferson Street, 83702. +1 208-332-1000.
2. Boise River Greenbelt: If you tire of watching players run up and down the court, get some exercise of your own at this beautiful greenbelt. The pathway is lined with trees and features amazing scenic views, habitat for wildlife and a fun way to get to various riverside parks.
3. Boise’s “Basque Block”: Boise holds one of the most concentrated populations of Basque descendants in the United States. Here, you can enjoy restaurants, a museum, cultural center and more. The Basque Market is at 608 West Grove Street, 83702-592. Phone: +1 (208) 433-1208.
4. Bar Gernika: Continuing the Basque theme, Bar Gernika has been open since 1991 and serves up authentic food and wine. On the menu: Chorizo sandwiches, a lamb grinder and Basque-style rice pudding. 202 South Capitol Boulevard, 83702. Phone: +1 208-344-2175.
5. World Center for Birds of Prey (The Peregrine Fund): See live raptor demonstrations and come face to face with majestic eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and even vultures. 5668 West Flying Hawk Lane, 83709. Phone: +1 208- 362-8687.
Charlotte’s starting 5:
Talk in the largest city in North Carolina often centers around two things: banking and basketball. With storied teams from Duke, UNC, Wake Forest and N.C. State not far away, it’s a natural host city. See what else you can do.
1. NASCAR Hall of Fame: While North Carolina loves its basketball, it also loves its NASCAR. And you’re in the heart of it in Charlotte. At the hall, learn all about racing giants such as Richard Petty and the colorful history of NASCAR. 400 East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, 28202. Phone: +1 704-654-4400.
2. Price’s Chicken Coop: There’s something about this takeaway stand that takes fried chicken to a whole new level. The lines are testimony to how crispy good it is. Admittedly an acquired taste, the livers and gizzards are divine. 1614 Camden Road, 28203. +1 704-333-9866.
3. Mint Museum: Along with paintings spanning the centuries, you’ll find exhibits devoted to fashion, decorative arts and crafts. In addition to the main museum, there’s a second branch just blocks from Spectrum Center in Uptown Charlotte. Mint Museum Randolph: 2730 Randolph Road, 28207. Mint Museum Uptown: 500 South Tryon Street, 28202. Phone: +1 704-337-2000.
4. Tryon Street stroll: A leisurely stroll down Tryon in Uptown reveals a city of commerce and culture. A few of the great finds along the route: fanciful sculptures at The Green, stunning murals in the Bank of America headquarters building and Discovery Place Science Center (301 North Tryon Street, 28202. Phone: +1 704-372-6261).
5. US National Whitewater Center: The rapids may be artificial, but the thrills are genuine at this magnet for whitewater fans. If it’s too cold for the rafting and kayaking, the center also has zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour and mountain biking. 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, 28214. Phone: +1 704-391-3900.
Dallas’ starting 5
They love their football in Texas, but the people of Dallas know how to host a group of basketball fans, too. Your starting five for Dallas:
1. Reunion Tower: Head to the building with the distinctive glowing ball on top to get the lay of the land in sprawling Dallas. This isn’t the highest vantage point in the city, but the 360 degree panorama is hard to beat. Reunion also has two revolving restaurants. 300 Reunion Boulevard, 75207. +1 214-712-7040.
2. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum: No matter your politics, presidential libraries offer a wonderful window into American history. See a replica of the Oval Office, an exhibit on 9/11 and learn about the Bushes’ life in the White House. 2943 SMU Boulevard, 75205. Phone: +1 214-346-1650.
3. Deep Ellum: Directly east of downtown Dallas, Deep Ellum’s tree-lined streets hold restaurants, bars, art galleries and more. Musical roots run deep here. Consider catching an act at The Bomb Factory (2713 Canton Street, 75226. Phone: +1 214-932-6501).
4. Klyde Warren Park: What makes this newer Dallas park distinctive: It’s the top of a freeway and your gateway to the Dallas Arts District. You can enjoy food trucks, yoga and all types of activities. 2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, 75201.
5. Fort Worth Stockyards: Yes, this is not in Dallas. But for a real feel of classic Texas, head to nearby Fort Worth and the stockyards. The historic district gives you a good look at the huge role livestock played in Texas. It’s also a fine place to eat for steak, barbecue and Mexican food. 130 East Exchange Avenue, 76164.
Detroit’s starting 5
You know how much they love sports in Detroit. What you may not know is all the other things they love: books, music, architecture. So hoops fans will have plenty of other attractions to occupy their time.
1. Belle Isle Park: Set in the Detroit River between the United States and Canada, this is where city residents go to be in a beautiful outdoor setting. Along with splendid nature, you’ll find a zoo, aquarium, conservatory and golf range here. 2 Inselruhe Avenue, 48207. Phone: +1 313-821-9844.
2. Detroit Institute of the Arts: This is home to one of the most impressive art collections in the country. The Beaux Arts style building holds more than 100 galleries. Don’t miss the Detroit Industry murals by Diego Rivera. 5200 Woodward Avenue, 48202. Phone: +1 313-833-7900.
3. Motown Museum: If you love that classic sound of the Supremes, Four Tops and Jackson 5, go see where the magic happened. Studio A is where hits such as “Stop in the Name of Love” were recorded. 2648 West Grand Boulevard, 48208. Phone: +1 313-875-2264.
4. Fisher Building: When it comes to eye-grabbing architecture, Detroit is a city of riches. If time is limited for a full-blown tour of lots of sites, try to stop by the Fisher Building. Completed in 1928, it’s a true stunner, and tours are offered. 3011 West Grand Boulevard, 48202. Phone: +1 313-873-7873.
5. John J. King Used & Rare Books: If you love books, welcome to paradise — albeit in a cluttered, industrial (and magnificent) setting. Whether you’re looking for a used book bargain or a higher priced rare volume, this is the place to be. 901 West Lafayette Boulevard, 48226. Phone: +1 313-961-0622.
Pittsburgh’s starting 5
Once the poster child for economic decline, Pittsburgh is now the poster child of comeback cities. Its rich history, forged in steel and the fortunes it made, along with its new economic and cultural growth make it a top destination:
1. Duquesne Incline | Monongahela Incline: Still-working inclines are rare, and Pittsburgh features two. They are a fun and historical way to get great views of this hilly city. Duquesne: 1197 West Carson Street, 15219. Phone: +1 412-381-1665. | 100 West Station Square Drive,15219. Phone: +1 412-442-2000.
2. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: Phipps is a civic treasure house of plants and art going back to 1893. You can see a new “Tropical Forest Cuba” exhibit, view delicate orchids and enjoy historical and glass artwork. One Schenley Park, 15213-3830. Phone: +1 412-622-6914.
3. Bicycle Heaven: The aptly named store and museum is truly a heaven for fans of bicycles. The museum has more than 3,000 antique bikes on display, and if you’re traveling with a bike, they do repairs in the shop. 1800 Preble Avenue,15233. Phone: 412-734-4034.
4. East Liberty | Lawrenceville: Perhaps Pittsburgh’s biggest draw is its incredible neighborhoods. Two you may want to explore are East Liberty and Lawrenceville.
In East Liberty, be sure to check out the ornate Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre (5941 Penn Avenue, 15206. Phone: +1 412-363-3000) and Kelly’s Bar & Lounge for local atmosphere (6012 Centre Avenue, 15206. Phone: +1 412-363-6012). In Lawrenceville, you might want to sample one of the breweries, such as The Church Brew Works (3525 Liberty Avenue, 15201. Phone: +1 412-688-8200).
5. St. Anthony’s Chapel: Set on a hill overlooking the Allegheny River on the North Side, this magnificent shrine overflows with Christian relics and is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. You’ll also find a Stations of the Cross here. 1704 Harpster Street, 15212. Phone: +1 412-999-4401.
Nashville’s starting 5
It’s the center of the country music universe, so you’re naturally going to have a strong representation from that sector in Nashville’s starting five. But watch for a couple of unexpected members of the team, too:
1. Ryman Auditorium | Grand Ole Opry: These are technically two places miles apart. But any country music fan can tell you how intertwined they are. In downtown Nashville, Ryman is the storied first home of the Opry and has a museum (116 Fifth Avenue North, 37219. Phone: +1 800-733-6779). The newer facility is about a 12-mile drive from the Ryman. (2804 Opryland Drive, 37214. Phone: +1 800-733-6779).
2. Johnny Cash Museum: Nashville overflows with places to pay tribute to various artists. This is one of the best. Fans of “The Man in Black” can hear recordings, see his clothes, read love letters to June Carter Cash and more. 119 3rd Avenue South, 37201. Phone: +1 615-256-1777.
3. Honky Tonk Highway: Smack in the heart of downtown Nashville, you’ll find the “Honky Tonk Highway,” aka Lower Broadway. It’s lined with live music venues open from late in the morning to early in the morning the next day. You might get lucky and see the next emerging country music superstar.
4. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage: In life and later in legacy, President Andrew Jackson had avid admirers and determined detractors. Learn about his life and a pivotal time in US history at his home, The Hermitage, where you’ll find lovely Tennessee grounds, too. 4580 Rachel’s Lane. 37076. Phone: +1 615-889-2941.
5. Monell’s: Dig into classic Southern cooking served family style at Monell’s. You’ll be seated with strangers who rapidly become friends as you pass around fried chicken, veggies and delicious desserts. Afterward, take a walk in the Germantown neighborhood. 1235 6th Avenue North, 37208. Phone: +1 615-248-4747.
San Diego’s starting 5
With some of the best weather in the United States, it will be easy to leave Viejas Arena and enjoy outdoor activities in San Diego.
1. USS Midway Museum: San Diego is a big Navy town, so it’s no surprise that the USS Midway Museum is a visitor favorite. Explore the flight deck and more as you learn about this mighty aircraft carrier’s role in American history. 910 North Harbor Drive, 92101. Phone: +1 619-544-9600.
2. San Diego Zoo: This is probably the most storied zoo in the country, with enough room to host a cheetah safari, gorilla forest and jungle ropes safari among the many attractions. See animals from butterflies to elephants. 2920 Zoo Drive, 92101. Phone: +1 619-231-1515.
3. Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve: With so many wonderful outdoor areas, it’s hard to pick just one. Torrey Pines is certainly special, though. With pine forests and sandstone canyons, the park has well-maintained trails along the cliffs with gorgeous views of the Pacific. 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 92037. Phone: +1 858- 755-2063.
4. Old Town San Diego: Wander around this historic part of the city and have any number of restaurants, shops and entertainment just steps away. Within the district, get your haunt on at the Whaley House Museum (2476 San Diego Avenue, 92110. Phone: +1 619-297-7511).
5. Spas: While watching first and second round games is a lot of fun, it’s also tense. What you may want is a relaxing spa visit in a city and state known for being chill.
Wichita’s starting 5:
Wichita, which started out as a trading post, is the largest city in Kansas. Set along the banks of the Arkansas River, it’s home to indoor and outdoor destinations worth checking out.
1. Botanica, the Wichita Gardens: This is a superb place to soak in some nature. Among its themed gardens: butterfly, Chinese, wildflowers, roses and even one devoted to Shakespeare, where you can cheer thyself a little. 701 Amidon Street, 67203. Phone: +1 316-264-0448.
2. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House: Finished in 1918, this house was the last of the architect’s prairie houses, which featured earth tones, horizontal lines and a mixing of interiors with exteriors. Go online to set yourself up for a guided tour. 255 North Roosevelt Street, 67208.
3. Arkansas River Path: This lovely trail runs 10 miles along the banks of the Arkansas River. You can rent a bike or use inline skates on the wide, paved path. The trail gives you access to the Sedgwick County Zoo, various parks and other trails. From 21st Street North to Galena Street on the south.
4. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: Whether you’re looking to attend Mass or just looking for stunning architecture, you’ll find it at this cathedral. A distinctive feature: large granite columns that came from an old post office in Chicago and sent by rail. 430 North Broadway Street, 67202. +1 316-263-6574.
5. Lucky’s Everyday: It’s nice to go to a new city and get the feel for it at a local watering hole a little away from the tourist strips. Lucky’s Everyday fits the bill. It’s described as dive bar meets hipster hangout. 1217 East Douglas Avenue, 67211. +1 316- 201-6910.
SWEET 16 AND ELITE 8 CITIES
Atlanta’s starting 5:
The largest city in the Deep South, Atlanta puts a lot of focus on hosting visitors to its sports venues and conventions. Here are five great places to go between Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games:
1. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site: Head down to Sweet Auburn and learn more about the man who changed 20th century America. You can see where MLK and Coretta Scott King are buried, visit inside Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached and go inside his childhood home. 450 Auburn Avenue Northeast, 30312. Phone: +1 (404) 331-5190.
2. Georgia Aquarium: One of the world’s largest aquariums, it’s divided into various environments: rivers, tropical ocean, etc. Gawk at piranha, whale sharks, dolphins, beluga whales, otters and colorful tropical fish. 225 Baker Street Northwest, 30313. Phone: +1 404-581-4000.
3. College Football Hall of Fame: You may be in town for hoops, but they love their football in Atlanta, too. The new College Football Hall of Fame is an easy walk from Philips Arena and has exhibits and interactive activities. 250 Marietta Street Northwest, 30313. Phone: + 1 404-880-4800.
4. Varsity: You’ll be greeted by the following: “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” This gigantic drive-in and restaurant has kept Atlanta awash in hot dogs, Coke and fried peach pies for generations. For the true Varsity experience, head to the mother ship. 61 North Avenue. 30308. Phone: + 1 404-881-1706.
5. Hang out in Decatur: This smaller city that comes right up to Atlanta on its east is sometimes called “Mayberry meets Berkeley.” If the noise and excitement of the ATL is getting a bit much, hop on a MARTA train and emerge in an area of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and galleries, but on a quieter scale.
Boston’s starting 5:
Another classic sports city, Boston is also the cradle of the American Revolution. So soak in some culture and history (and brews) with these starting five:
1. Freedom Trail: Soak in American history where the fervor for independence was sparked. Follow the red-lined route that features the meetinghouses, churches and burying grounds that shaped the United States. You can start at Boston Common (139 Tremont Street, 02111).
2. Museum of Fine Arts: One of the largest museums in the United States, its works span the continents and the centuries. See artwork from El Greco to a superb collection of Japanese art. 465 Huntington Avenue, 02115. Phone: +1 617-267-9300.
3. Boston Public Garden: Get some fresh air and a whiff of history here. Boston Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America, established in 1837, and has a certain Victorian flair. 4 Charles Street, 02116. Phone: +1 617-635-4505.
4. Samuel Adams Brewery: Speaking of revolutions, this is the outfit that helped spark one in American beer in recent decades. See how the beer is made and enjoy tastings from Boston Lager to Sam 76. 30 Germania Street, 02130. Phone: + 1 617-368-5080.
5. Beacon Hill: Walk the steep and storied streets of Boston’s premiere neighborhood. See Federal, Victorian and Greek Revival architecture. Peruse antique shops and boutiques and stop in at classic restaurants and watering holes. Bound by Storrow Drive and Cambridge Street, Somerset and Beacon streets.
Los Angeles’ starting 5:
Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the country. So the hard part is narrowing down what to do. It’s hard to go wrong with these:
1. Getty Center: In the hills of Los Angeles, the futuristic white buildings of the Getty Center make a dazzling impression. Go inside for the art, where you’ll be equally impressed with a wide collection that goes back to antiquity. 1200 Getty Center Drive, 90049. Phone: +1 (310) 440-7300.
2. Disneyland: There’s nothing quite like the original, so head to the park that started a theme park revolution in the 1950s. From early rides such as Autopia to newer entries such as Star Tours, kids and the adults they’re escorting will have a blast. 313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, 92802. Phone: +1 714-781-4565.
3. Sunset Boulevard: You’ve heard the stories of Sunset. Now go live the life for yourself — from live music at Whisky A Go Go (8901 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, 90069 Phone: +1 310-652-4202) to comedy at The Laugh Factory (8001 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90046. Phone: +1 323-656-1336.)
4. Koreatown: Koreatown is a standout among L.A’.s many neighborhoods. And you may be surprised once you start exploring that it’s not all Korean. In the mood for karaoke? Try Palm Tree L.A. (3240 Wilshire Boulevard, 90010. Phone: + 1 213-381-3388), a swank club with private rooms and songs in Korean, Japanese and English.
5. Downtown L.A. restaurants: Downtown was once pretty empty after business hours, but no more. Along with tourist attractions, it has a growing culinary scene these days. Broken Spanish (1050 South Flower Street, 90015. Phone: +1 213-749-1460) will provide you with a memorable meal.
Omaha’s starting 5:
Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska, and like the rest of the Midwest, you’ll find friendly people who’ll welcome you and show you a good time.
1. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium: The highlight here might be the Desert Dome, the world’s largest indoor desert. Other exhibits include: Expedition Madagascar (with a giant jumping rat), a sea lion pavilion and a pavilion devoted to insects! 3701 South 10th Street, 68107. Phone: +1 402-733-8400.
2. Joslyn Castle: This 35-room Scottish baronial mansion was built in 1903 on top of a hill on Omaha’s outskirts. In addition to the home, you can tour the garden and grounds under restoration. 3902 Davenport Street, 68131. Phone: +1 402-595-2199.
3. The Drover: You might want some steak while you’re in Nebraska. The Drover is known for its whiskey steaks in classic steakhouse setting. It also has a large wine selection. 2121 South 73rd Street, 68124. Phone: + 1 402-391-7440.
4. The Old Market: Walking distance from many hotels, the Old Market has street musicians, artists, boutiques and galleries along its cobblestone streets. You’ll also find music venues and plenty of places to eat. Bordered by Farnam, South 10th, Jackson and 13th streets.
5. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge: Get a great walk and wonderful view of Omaha’s skyline from this 3,000-foot long bridge that stretches across the Missouri River. From here, you can reach more than 150 miles of nature trails, too. 705 Riverfront Drive, 68102. Phone: +1 (402) 444-5900.
FINAL 4 CITY
San Antonio’s starting 5:
One team will emerge the champs in San Antonio, but everyone promises to be a winner visiting the second-biggest city in Texas. Your starting five for the Final Four:
1. The Missions: There’s the Alamo, of course, but did you know there are four other missions you can visit? You’ll find more see and fewer tourists at the others (call +1 210-932-1001 for general information):
— Mission Concepción: 807 Mission Road, 78210.
— Mission San José: 6701 San José Drive, 78214 (the park’s visitor center is here).
— Mission San Juan: 9101 Graf Road, 78214.
— Mission Espada: 10040 Espada Road, 78214.
2. Riverwalk: Yes, it’s on the touristy side, but there’s good reason folks flock here. There’s something magical about this narrow, winding waterway with restaurants, shops and galleries lining its banks. You can pick it up at the Shops at Rivercenter. 849 East Commerce Street, 78205. Phone: + 1 210-227-4262.
3. Briscoe Western Art Museum: This is a terrific place to see art of the American West, and that includes works by Native Americans. You can also see artifacts such as Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna’s sword and a Wells Fargo stagecoach. 210 West Market Street, 78205. Phone: +1 210-299-4499.
4. Japanese Tea Garden: Take a break and enjoy some quiet and this lovely year-round garden. You’ll find a floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges over koi ponds and a 60-foot waterfall. 3853 North St. Mary’s Street, 78212. Phone: + 1 210-212-4814.
5. Arjon’s International Club: Nearby Austin isn’t the only music city in Texas. And Arjon’s is a great place to hear the sounds of San Antonio with salsa, merengue, bachata and cumbia music. 8736 Tesoro Drive, 78217. Phone: + 1 210-804-1419.