Travel Playbook: Denver, Chicago among must-visit sports destinations

Congratulations, you've accomplished the hard part. You got tickets to on of the weekend's biggest games. But travel comes with questions: where to eat, where to party, what mistakes to avoid. Well, fear not. Here's your traveler's guide to the sporting weekend.


Must-Watch Game: Redskins at Broncos (Sunday, Oct. 27 at 4:25 p.m.)

Peyton looked almost human last week and RGIII returned to looking like a super hero. What a perfect time for their two paths to cross. Expect a whole lot of points on the board in this one.

Best Sports Bar: Govnr's Park Tavern

Get an early start on joining the Mug Club, a special group for patrons who have tried each of the 24 beers on draft. Completion comes with discounts and a personalized mug to draw the envy of all those around you. Expect a large, boisterous crowd for all Broncos games, enough to make you consider strapping on a barrel yourself.

Best Restaurant: Bittersweet

If you're into fresh organic produce, things can't possibly get more fresh than the fruit and vegetables grown in this artisanal spot's backyard garden. They even have a standing menu item called "The Garden" which changes every night based on whatever's best out back.

Best Route to the Game: BroncosRide

The city of Denver had a brilliant idea: If we dedicate specific bus and light rail service to getting fans to and from the game, we can keep the stadium atmosphere alive longer (preventing congestion and allowing non-sports fans to avoid the rowdiness are nice benefits as well).

Best Layover Viewing Spot: Boulder Beer Tap House

What sets this place apart from other spots to catch the game at Denver International is this pub's selection of beers from its namesake, Boulder Beer, Colorado's first microbrewery. Be sure to try the highly-regarded Mojo IPA or the unfiltered Hazed & Infused amber ale.

Must-Have Gameday Swag: Denver Broncos Foam Horse Head

Show your true allegiance (or just your desire to fit in) by donning this intense stallion's head. It's much tougher looking than a cheesehead.

Tailgating Advice: Get in early! All parking spaces in the tailgating area are first-come, first-served and they will fill up. If you want to be able to join in on the party, you'll have to be ready to go by 8 a.m. Another tip: Bring your own toilet paper. The porto-potties can run out surprisingly quickly.


Must-Watch Game: Nuggets at Bulls (Friday, Oct. 25 at 7:00 p.m.)

This game offers a chance to catch Derrick Rose early in his return to awesomeness. It's also difficult to imagine a more entertaining group of players to watch in a pick-up game than Denver's Nate Robinson, Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee.

Best Sports Bar: Sluggers

This place really has something for everyone. Right in the heart of Wrigleyville, Sluggers boasts three separate floors to appeal to every type of sports fan. The main floor is a standard, rowdy sports bar with food, drinks and plenty of TVs. The basement offers a quieter pool hall for a relaxing vibe. There are even batting cages upstairs for when you get tired of sitting and are ready to get into the action.

Best Restaurant: Au Cheval

The secret held by local hipsters has gotten out and this old-style diner has become one of Chicago's hottest eating spots. Embrace the irony and order the deep-fried bologna sandwich or go outside your comfort zone with the roasted marrow and beef cheek marmalade on toast. If you're feeling truly adventurous, challenge the 32-oz porterhouse with foie gras and roasted apples.

Must Have Gameday Swag: Joakim Noah Bobblehead

Behold, the world's most flattering bobblehead. Typically these figurines have a tendency to turn players into cartoonish parodies of real people. When the subject is already quite cartoonish, though, a bobblehead has a humanizing effect.

Best Layover Viewing Spot: Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse

About six minutes away from the terminals lies this Chicago institution in honor of a Chicago institution. This is no theme restaurant, though. It's consistently voted amongst the best steakhouses in a city that knows its meat.

How to Get to the Game: Chicago transit runs the special United Center Express bus #19 on game days starting two hours before tip-off. Otherwise, the every day #20 bus runs regularly to the arena.


Must-Watch Game: Bruins at Ducks (Sunday, Oct. 26 at 7:00 p.m.)

The Bruins represent one of three legitimate remaining hurdles between Oregon and a national title berth. The Ducks are one of the most exciting things on grass and they're the only game in town, so you know the city will be jumping.

Best Restaurant: Belly

Though Eugene has no shortage of locales to cater to its large vegetarian population, the top spot in town will also keep the carnivores happy. Belly serves rustic European-style food with creative twist. Standouts include the spiced braised pork stew and Andouille sausage with fried egg.

Best Sports Bar: Sixth Street Grill

Since this is a college town, there are plenty of options that will serve you well for watching the game surrounded by rabid fans. At the top of the charts is Sixth Street Grill, which has enough space to accommodate a throng of sports enthusiasts. If you're in town on Tuesday, don't miss the burger 'n brew deal: a burger, fries and a beer for $7.50. Not too shabby.

Must See Stadium Experience: Zen North

Oregon recently opened a freshly-renovated northern edge of the stadium that's unlike anything in any arena anywhere. The Zen North offers a chance to escape from the insanity of a football game and into the serenity of the forest. There's a massive garden full of local plant life, two of the largest man-made waterfalls in North America and one of the cooler new traditions in college football: a row of stakes depicting every game the team has ever played. Each stake is painted the color of the winning team, so you can track Oregon's rise to NCAA power as the rainbow turns pure yellow.

Must-Know Stadium Rule: Oregon is wet, but don't waste your time bringing an umbrella. Open umbrellas are forbidden in Autzen Stadium. Get yourself a poncho or embrace the rain like a true Duck.

How to Get to the Game: The university runs the DUCKexpress for a paltry $3.50 per round trip for adults. There's also $1 bike parking if you want to go green the way the natives do. If you're planning to take public transportation from the airport, give yourself plenty of time. The airport is a bit of a ways from the stadium.

St. Louis

Must-Watch Game: Red Sox at Cardinals (Saturday, Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27 at 8:00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., respectively)

These two teams may or may not be facing off for which of them gets to define this generation of baseball. Throw into that having the opportunity to cheer alongside what many call the best fans in baseball. This is one trip you'll never forget.

Best Restaurant: Pappy's Smokehouse

Of course it's a barbecue joint that finds itself consistently at the top of lists in St. Louis. This is classic, simple, slow-cooked barbecue the way it was meant to be done. The owner, Mike "Smokey" Emerson, is so confident in the quality of his cooking he doesn't bury it under sauce. As the slogan goes: "We've got nothing to hide so the sauce is on the side."

Best Sports Bar: St. Louis Sports Zone

Expect each of the city's many excellent sports bars to be packed for a game of this magnitude. The Sports Zone wins out because it provides more than 60 total televisions including five 105 inch projector screens. All the better for when some 6-foot-7 behemoth settles in right in your line of sight.

Best Layover Viewing Spot: Eighteen/76

St. Louis was in many ways built on two things: beer and baseball. Celebrate both by hitting this bar, which until recently was known as the Budweiser Stadium Club. The bar is owned and operated by St. Louis' own Anheuser Busch Company. It may be an international airport, but this is as local as you can get.

Where to Celebrate (If things go well): Paddy O'reilly's

Just steps from the stadium, this sprawling bar/restaurant will provide the perfect spot for revelry after a Cardinals victory. Plow through the sea of red jerseys to get great local beer and quality barbecue.

Where to Commiserate (If things go poorly): The Hideaway Restaurant and Lounge

If you just want to be left alone with a few fingers of whiskey after your team has blown it, hop a cab to one of the city's best places to hang your head. Voted by the Riverfront Times as the "best place to drown your sorrows," this spot has all of the quiet, charmingly-weathered atmosphere one would want when mourning a painful loss.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.