It’s that time of year again. March Madness is upon us. The 2010 NCAA basketball tournament teams were announced Sunday and the first games will kick off this week. Although the majority of spectators will enjoy the action on television, tens of thousands of individuals will attend games in person, with many of them traveling from other states. In all, 13 cities will be involved during the three weeks of competition.
Some of these basketball fans will be praying to avoid snow in Buffalo, while others will be strolling the French Quarter of New Orleans in between games. From a tourist perspective, then, which of these 13 cities are the most attractive destinations for fans? Here are my pick cities for this year’s NCAA tournament.
No contest, New Orleans has to be the most sought-after city for this year’s fans. The warm weather will of course provide a welcome respite for anyone from a northern city, but New Orleans is also a prime destination for anyone looking to kick back and have some fun. You’ll no doubt want to spend time wandering the world famous French Quarter, where you can eat and drink to your heart’s delight or spend an evening in a jazz club. You might also take in a Mississippi River cruise, or enjoy some of the city’s more unique attractions, such as a cemetery tour or the Voodoo Museum.
It may not have the character or the fun quotient of New Orleans, but Houston does have its share of attractions to keep you occupied and interested. There are excellent dining options and some nice museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Menil Collection and Museum of Natural Science. Or you can head to nearby Johnson Space Center for a view of mission control, lunar landers and other symbols of the nation’s space program. If you don’t mind driving a bit further, you can also enjoy the Gulf coast of Texas. Galveston is only an hour away and has miles of beaches.
San Jose itself isn’t a high-end tourist magnet, but the city does have some unique sites and offers excellent proximity to other popular destinations. The capital of Silicon Valley is home to the Tech Museum of Innovation, as well as a Museum of Art and Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. More impressively, though, is that it’s only an hour to San Francisco, with its myriad of tourist attractions, and about two hours to the wine country of Napa Valley.
Providence is a decent enough place on its own, but it’s limited. So, like San Jose, this city is on the list partly because of its closeness to other locations. Within Providence, you might enjoy the cafes and restaurants of the historic College Hill district, where Brown University is located. For a different experience, check out the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University. Just one hour north, though, is the city of Boston, with enough history, attractions, food and shopping to keep you entertained for days. Or, less than one hour to the south is the lovely seaside town of Newport.
Jacksonville and Salt Lake City
O.K., so it’s a coin toss between Jacksonville and Salt Lake City, which are quite different destinations but offer something similar to travelers. Namely, a little bit of history and a lot of outdoor recreation. But do you prefer beaches or mountains? Those are the main attractions. If it’s just dining, history and museums that you’re after then St. Louis could just as easily fill this final slot.
There are plenty of nice beaches in the Jacksonville area of northeastern Florida. There are also a few interesting attractions, such as the Museum of Southern History. Less than an hour south of Jacksonville is the pleasant town of St. Augustine, where you can soak in the Spanish history of the country’s oldest European settlement.
In Salt Lake City, meanwhile, the history is tied to the area’s Mormon heritage, which you can explore at the various sites of Temple Square. If you prefer to be more active, you might be able to squeeze in some spring skiing in the nearby mountains. Whether or not you hit the slopes, one place to check out is the charming town of Park City, where there are not only ski resorts but also great dining and shopping options.
Photo credit: Falkue via Wikimedia Commons.