Sporting events are almost always worth attending in person. Whether the outcome is good or bad, watching something on television can never compare to the experience of really being there.
Of course, adding the "if you're crazy rich" caveat really changes the scope of this discussion.
Most of us attend a handful of sporting events live in a given year—and that's if we're lucky. But since when has being poor ever stopped anyone from fantasizing about what could or would be if the financial situation were to improve substantially?
If money were no object, you could literally spend the entire year traveling the world to watch sports, assuming your newfound wealth wasn't at all tied to having to actually work for a living.
Working is the worst, so let's just go ahead and assume it's not!
Here are 31 sporting events from around the world that you definitely have to attend.
Keep in mind—these are not ranked in any particular order. Ranking them seemed like an arbitrary and unnecessary exercise.
It's safe to say that most Americans don't appreciate the sport of soccer nearly as much as the rest of the world. Yes, there are the select few who take it very seriously—like way too seriously—but they are generally shunned in our society.
That being said, you don't have to be soccer obsessed to appreciate the enthusiasm fans all around the world have for the World Cup. Sometimes all it takes is the happiness of others to make someone happy.
The World Cup, not to mention the months and years leading up to it, is always such an epic event that it's almost impossible to entirely ignore in the U.S. Traveling and seeing it in person and meeting the fans would be absolutely unforgettable.
Hopefully in a good way, rather than something that involved violence or arson.
Though technically the NBA season starts almost two months earlier, it doesn't really begin until Christmas Day. That's right around the time basketball no longer has to compete with football, because the NFL season is winding down—at that point it's pretty much over for all non-playoff teams.
The NBA showcases its premiere teams with premiere matchups on December 25. Obviously not everyone is going to want to spend a holiday with the Lakers and the Knicks, but if you're not particularly religious, I can think of no better way to spend the day.
Brazil is known to have some of the most ridiculously banging beach bodies on the planet. Which is why it should come as no surprise that beach volleyball is a pretty big deal in the country.
With beach weather basically year round, Brazil is the perfect host location for beach volleyball events—and why they're so damn good at the sport.
Whether you appreciate beach volleyball as a sport or just appreciate the scantily clad human form at it's finest, there is no better place to see it live—and in the flesh—than Brazil.
The Ironman World Championship on the Big Island of Hawaii is definitely one of the more underappreciated sporting events.
Each year it attracts some of the greatest athletes in the world who go on to compete against each other with one of the most scenic locales on Earth as their backdrop.
Come for the epic endurance competition, stay for the inexplicably beautiful girls who basically live in bikinis. Your classic win-win situation.
As a golf fan myself, I realize there's a very good chance you are not much of a golf fan and think that watching the sport on television is boring. There's no way I'll ever be able to change your mind about that, but I absolutely guarantee that seeing a tournament in person is a far different experiences than watching on TV.
If you enjoy the outdoors, even if you don't know much about the game, being outside in the bug-free glory of a beautiful golf course is a very enjoyable way to spend a day. Of course, if you're only going for the outdoor experience, Pebble Beach or The Masters at Augusta would be more than adequate.
But if money is no object, and in this case it isn't, you might want to consider making the trek overseas to the UAE. The course in Abu Dhabi is nothing short of glorious and unlike anything in the world. Just remember to behave like a responsible adult, otherwise you may find yourself serving a lengthy prison sentence for making out with your girlfriend in public.
As a lukewarm fan of baseball who has attended two different MLB All-Star games, I can say with certainty that it's an experience well worth the cost of admission, no matter how passionate—or not passionate—you are about the game.
The games and events leading up to them that I attended were both in my hometown, which was definitely fun, but I've always wanted to travel to a new city and see it at a less familiar ballpark. Unfortunately, that's been cost prohibitive.
But if it weren't, it'd be one of the events topping my sports tourism "to do" list.
I don't know about you, but I don't generally associate Canada with rodeos. It seems our moderately friendly neighbors to the north are full of surprises though.
Each year the Calgary Stampede is held in Alberta. It's a 10-day event which attracts over a million visitors annually, dubbing itself "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth."
At its core it's a rodeo, but if grown men playing cowboy doesn't interest you, they've got a massive parade, concerts, various stage shows, competitions, races and an epic carnival atmosphere.
You know how we get crazy patriotic around the 4th of July with all that high-fiving and chants of "USA! USA! USA!" echoing around the country, the soundtrack to our celebration of being freed from British oppression?
Yeah…well the UK isn't really like that. Chanting in unison just isn't their thing and they have a strong, almost universal, aversion to high-fiving. It's pretty jarring, honestly.
That being said, our reluctant British allies aren't entirely immune to PDP—Public Displays of Patriotism. Each year they show their national pride during Wimbledon, when the collective gaze of the sports world (outside the U.S., generally) is focused squarely on them.
Even if you don't care much for tennis, and I'm assuming you don't, it's just nice to see them display something other than droll self-mockery. Plus…tennis really isn't that bad.
The Antarctic Ice Marathon doesn't interest the vast amount of legit distance runners in the world, so it probably won't appeal to you on a competition level.
When the hot summer sun heats the landscape to a balmy 28 degrees on its best day, dragging yourself 26 miles across a frozen landscape has limited mass appeal. But nobody said you have to race. Just the experience of being in Antarctica would be well worth taking the trip.
Not only would you get to hang with the bewildered penguins who are endless confused by the speedy giants who seem to appear out of nowhere each year, but there's nothing that helps validate your life choices like seeing strangers struggle through a pointless race.
This one really speaks for itself. In sports, there's nothing like a truly great rivalry game. Most teams have at least one good rival, but a long history is the key ingredient required to elevate it to great.
Ohio State vs. Michigan. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs. Packers vs. Bears. Celtics vs. Knicks. It doesn't even matter if one or both teams suck in a given year, anything can happen.
Before you get all bent out of shape over poker not being a "sport," just stop the whole semantics argument right now. No, it's not a sport. Yes, it's a game. Whatever—I say it counts.
The World Series of Poker is pretty much how it sounds. It's the annual championship of poker, which is held in Las Vegas and attracts players—and their money—from all over the world.
Some events in the WSOP are more than entertaining enough to watch on television, meaning they'd be even better in person. And if you're rich enough, you don't have to just watch.
In Vegas, and life in general, money talks. Most, if not all, WSOP events are open to anyone willing to pony up the entry fee. You'll probably lose all that money and more, but walking away with a story about getting beat in a poker game by the great Doyle Brunson is truly priceless.
The whole horse racing thing is really a side note to the events surrounding the Kentucky Derby.
Sure it'd be entertaining to watch the actual race in person, but watching horses run in a dirty circle only has so much appeal to those of us without crippling gambling addictions.
Come for the beautiful girls in ugly hats, the mint juleps and just soak up the ambiance. The Derby is a pretty big deal worth attending at least once in your life—a chance to be fancy, if only for a day.
Each year the French city of Le Man hosts a world famous race known as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is exactly what you'd think it is based on the title.
Drivers flock to the world's oldest active speed and endurance race, in which they have to find just the right balance of speed that allows the car to run for a full 24 hours. No easy task.
Plus, the historic city has plenty to offer visitors before and after the race. Not to mention the fact that the late, great Steve McQueen starred in Le Mans the movie in 1971.
So you know it's too cool for school, just like McQueen.
Next January will be the 10-year anniversary of La Gorzderette, an annual event in the French Alps that features various epic extreme competitions, most of which would be the death of you if attempted.
Risking your life climbing the face of an inverted ice mountain is probably not your cup of tea, but watching other people risk their lives climbing the face of an inverted ice mountain damn well should be.
The event does have more to offer than stunning scenery and death defying competition though. If you want to get in on the competitive action yourself, hay bale sledding definitely sounds like something you can do drunk.
Australia lays claim to some of the best surfing in the world. And surfing is a sport that can only really be appreciated in person—its magnificent scale is completely lost on television.
For much of the year, there's nothing on Earth that can compare to the big-wave surfing in Western Australia. Of course, if you prefer something slightly less dangerous, the country routinely plays host to various ASP events throughout the season.
In this world there is "intense" and there's "Japanese intense," which I mean in the best possible way. It's just that when they decide to do something, there's no half-assing it.
The Onbashira Festival is so Japanese intense that it's only held every six years and it lasts several months. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Grand Shrine, which they do in various dangerous ways.
Before the festival there are a number of massive trees cut down, decorated and outfitted with comically oversized, but very necessary, ropes. The logs are then ridden down a mountainside by you men who make very bad decisions.
Check out this gallery—it's truly a sight to be seen.
Sled dog racing isn't a sport that garners a lot of attention, outside the iconic Iditarod, dubbed the "Last Great Race on Earth." It's an annual Alaskan event in which a team of 16 dogs and a musher race from Anchorage to Nome.
Competitors travel approximately 1,100 miles in 9-15 days, depending on the conditions. There are only a few portions of the race which are accessible to spectators, but each year those areas attract tens of thousands of curious onlookers. Some are locals, but the vast majority have flown in from different states and countries.
And because the Iditarod takes place in March, well within the winter months, the glorious Northern Lights paint the skies each night. Not that you should've needed any convincing beyond the faces of those dogs.
I considered dropping the Tour de France from this list because of it's association with universally loathed conman Lance Armstrong. Well…that combined with the fact that cycling sucks.
Then I figured the Tour de France is much bigger than just cycling and it's definitely bigger than Lance Armstrong. This century old race is an institution in sports—a time-honored tradition.
The three-week event covered approximately 2,000 miles of some of the most scenic and beautiful locations in the world, before reaching its dramatic conclusion on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
The people along the way are just as much a draw as the places. It seems that every year some crazy person makes international news for some sort of questionable behavior. Imagine if that crazy person…was you.
This picture is a little deceptive. Unless you have some serious money, the level of which provides access beyond my comprehension, you probably won't be in the locker room with the winning team following a World Series Game 7.
But you don't have to be showered with champagne to understand the momentous nature of the occasion. Getting to a World Series is, for the most part, a relatively rare occurrence for most teams in MLB. And the series going to seven games is even rarer.
Come that time both teams have played just shy of 180 games over the course of the season, and suddenly it's win or go home for the championship. One game for all the marbles. You don't even have to have a vested rooted interest to appreciate that kind of pressure.
Steeped in history and tradition, the Kentucky Derby, which has been an annual event since 1875, is the gold standard in Thoroughbred horse racing.
Steeped in lavish excess and not much else, the Dubai World Cup, which has been held annually since 1996, may not be the gold standard in Thoroughbred horse racing, but you do get the sense that the organizers have plenty of gold.
Like everything in Dubai, and the UAE in general, the event was created to showcase the sudden— seemingly limitless—wealth of a country drunk on their own oil riches. It may lack understated dignity, but damn if it's not entertaining.
There are few things in life that can compare to the pageantry and overall spectacle that precede the Olympics. The opening ceremony is watched by hundreds of millions of people all over the world, so the host country generally pulls out all the stops.
You may not see something on par with the Beijing Games—the Chinese seemingly time traveled to the future and brought that thing home with them—but you are still guaranteed an unforgettable show.
More so in the Summer Olympics, rather than the substantially less fun Winter Olympics.
Hey—if you're going to go to the opening ceremony, you might as well stick around for the Summer Olympics.
You've already made the trip and booked a hotel, why not extend the stay and stick around for the actual competition.
I actually felt kind of bad about dissing the Winter Olympics because I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are into snow sports.
If you want the snow without the boring, the Winter X Games, which have grown exponentially in popularity over the last decade, are definitely the way to go.
Not only is the crowd going to be younger and cooler at the X Games as compared to the Olympics, but events like pairs ice dancing and biathlon are replaced with ice climbing and skiboarding.
For a spectator, a marathon is really only as good as the city it's in. And, as far as cities go, they don't get much greater than New York.
The New York Marathon is an annual event which attracts upwards of 50,000 runners from around the world and several times that in tourists in town just to watch.
Each year two million people line the street of the Big Apple to cheer on runners. You could be one of them!
Formula One racing's Monaco Grand Prix has been an annual event since 1929 and is considered on par with the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans in terms of prestigiousness in the racing world.
But the Indianapolis 500 can't hold a candle to the infamously narrow course, which weaves dangerously through the streets of picturesque Monaco. The twists and turns and frequent changes in elevation actually limits the overall average speed of the drivers, but the demanding track more than makes up for it.
It really doesn't matter if racing isn't your first love, Monaco is the real draw of making this trek. The Grand Prix is an added bonus.
I'm not sure that chasing a dangerously large roll of cheese down a dangerously steep hill counts as a sport, but the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling, which is an annual event in Northern England, has got a lot of sporting aspects to it.
You've got people running down the hill, which is an athletic endeavor. You've got them competing against each other to reach the cheese. And you've got thousands of spectators attending each year to cheer them on, just as they've done for the last 200 years.
This event is as dangerous as it is captivating and, therefore, a definitive can't miss.
For one month each year college basketball completely hijacks the attention of the sports world in the U.S. During March Madness the NCAA tournament takes center stage, with the NBA and NHL temporarily falling by the wayside.
There's something intoxicating about all those busted brackets and the win-or-go-home format, which makes every single game absolutely essential. Not to mention stressful as hell.
Final Four action is, for lack of a better phrase, a pretty big deal. Watching at home is great, but nothing compared to being in the middle of the action and watching the winner cut down that net from 20 yards away.
The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona is an event that has never interested me personally. It's dangerous, excessively cruel to the animals and has sparked cheap knockoffs in a number of other countries around the world.
That being said, the Running of the Bulls continues to attract international attention each year and millions of thrill seeking tourists with money to burn along with it.
If you want to live the life of some of the coolest people in entertainment, springing for courtside seats at an NBA game—particularly at a Lakers game—is a good first step.
A good, but expensive first step.
It doesn't even matter if you're inherently uncool. There's nothing like sitting in between Jack Nicholson and Snoop Dogg to forever change that perception.
The Baja 500 is the perfect event to sooth the soul of the renegade in all of us that's just dying to get out. It's a series of races held annually each June on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula.
Racing vehicles include, but are not limited to, motorcycles, trucks, dune buggies, stock cars and crazy custom automotive creations. And if you've got the cash, you can even buy your way into the race. Many drivers would be willing to let you ride shotgun for the right price.
The nonstop racing action coupled with the nonstop party attracts tens of thousands spectators each year. It even attracted the original renegade, Hunter S. Thompson, whose novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas referenced the races he once covered as a journalist for Rolling Stone.
The Super Bowl is, hands down, the biggest sporting event in the U.S. each year. These days no fewer than 100 million people tune in to see the game and the spectacle that comes along with it.
Of course, seeing it on television is as close as most of us will ever come to the Super Bowl. But if you can afford to actually be there in person, there's no question it'd be well worth the money.
Even if the game isn't particularly competitive and the lights stay on through the whole thing, the days leading up to the game is when the real fun is had.