Sports travel is one of the best vacation experiences you could plan. Watching your favorite team play is an amazing treat when you’re on the road and seeing the world. It’s also a great way to get to know a destination’s culture – even if you aren’t a normal fan of the sport or team. As a massive ice hockey fan, I decided to put together a list of the best NHL cities to visit in North America.
I love the game anywhere I can watch it, but there’s nothing like being there in person. An excited crowd in a packed arena is infinitely better than watching a game on television. The energy alone makes a normal travel experience extraordinary. As much as I love to travel around North America, getting to explore these NHL cities makes a normal getaway even better.
Here’s our list of North America’s best NHL cities, with a little help from some other travel influences from all over the world.
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1. Philadelphia: Flyers
Philadelphia is one of America’s best sports towns. It’s no surprise that the city is also on our list for the best NFL cities in North America. The Philadelphia flyers are fun to watch, have a vibrant fan base and play in a fantastic arena, the Wells Fargo Center.
Philadelphia has invested a lot of money in redeveloping their sports complex and it’s easily connected to Center City by subway. There are also large parking lots for gathering before games and an entertainment complex in the center of the complex called XFinity Live. It’s an ideal place for a pre or post-game drink and bite to eat.
In the city you’ll also find a lot to do. Of course Philly foods are well known around the country and you have to try a cheesesteak or soft pretzel. You should also tour some of the brilliant Philadelphia historical attractions.
Even if you only plan a short trip to Philadelphia, incorporate a trip to South Philly to watch the Flyers play. They’re a great hockey franchise and it’s a lovely city to visit as well.
2. Denver: Colorado Avalanche
Denver, Colorado is a wonderful place to visit and most sports fans would agree – it just feels like a hockey town. And they’re right, Denver is one of the best NHL cities in North America. Watching the Colorado Avalanche play at the Pepsi Center is something that belongs on your sports travel bucket list.
For Denver hockey fans, the Pepsi Center, is conveniently located in downtown Denver. The area of the city was redeveloped to enhance the sports complexes in recent years. To make it easier for fans to reach, it’s serviced by light-rail and there are two exits off of I-25 making it a simple drive. There are several places to stop on Speer Boulevard en route to the arena, like Brooklyn’s and Breckinridge Brewery Mountain House. Both venues offer comfort food and drinks for pre-game entertainment.
If you’re spending a weekend in Denver or aren’t too far to travel for a game – head to the Pepsi Center and see the Avalanche. You’ll leave knowing that Denver is one of the best NHL cities to visit.
3. Detroit: Red Wings
By: Paul from The Two That Do
There is one very good reason why Detroit, Michigan is often referred to as ‘Hockeytown’ – its hugely popular Detroit Red Wings.
Founded in 1926 and one of the original six NHL teams the Red Wings boast more Stanley Cup victories than any other American team.
With their Little Caesars Arena in the city’s downtown district of Detroit they can also boast one of the country’s most modern and premier Hockey destinations.
The array of statues, murals and Red Wings mementos celebrate the team’s rich and glorious history and make for a truly all encompassing Game Day experience.
Named after Detroit’s very own Little Caesars pizza company the arena of course offers a copious range of refreshments and concessions but for a pre-game meal the go to destination must be the adjacent Hockeytown Cafe. Filled from floor to ceiling with Red Wing memorabilia visitors will immediately find their game day face and before they know it joined in with the many renditions of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’!
For visitors from out of town complete your trip to Detroit by celebrating its other nickname of Motown. The Motown Museum and home to Hitsville USA is located just 3 miles north of Downtown Detroit.
For your accommodation head to the delightful Siren Hotel just half a mile south.
4. Tampa Bay: Lightning
By: Pauline from BeeLoved City
If you are heading to Florida soon and are an ice-hockey fan, you must go to Tampa!
Located in central Florida, near the beautiful beaches of Clearwater and St Pete, Tampa is a paradise for sport fans.
The most famous team in the city is the Tampa Lightnings. They compete in the National Hockey League and even won a Stanley Cup!
They play at the Amalie Arena in Downtown Tampa. The schedule is available on the official website but for reference, they usually play on tuesdays and/or thursdays.
Going to one of the bolts games is one of the best Floridan experiences you can have! People in Tampa love their team. There is nothing like the buzz and energy of a good old Bolts game!
The arena is also very well located. It’s right by the riverwalk where you can enjoy amazing views and even see manatees! Columbia Cafe is a great place to grab food before the game. It’s one of the locals’ favorite places! If you’d prefer a brisket, Holy Hog Barbecue will be the perfect place for you!
There are many things to do in Tampa and the nightlife is amazing. After the game, you can roam around downtown and get a drink in one of the bars serving local beers.
5. Miami: Florida Panthers
By: Mario from Rest & Recuperation
When you think about hockey, you think about ice and cold weather. Nevertheless, there are six teams in the NHL spread between California, Nevada, and Florida. Not necessarily ice-hockey classic towns as Winnipeg or Montreal could be!
During my last visit to Miami I had the luck to go to the BB&T Center to see a match of the Florida Panthers. The arena is actually very well built and permits good views over the match from most of its 19,250 seats. Unfortunately in the last years, the Panthers have one of the worst average attendance in the NHL and it was only half-full.
The atmosphere is nevertheless very nice, with some good bars and food stalls inside the building that provide good opportunities to socialize during the breaks.
And Miami…well it is Miami! You can find plenty of nightlife activities in Miami Beach with those great latino vibes. And during the day, a walk through Wynwood to see its beautiful graffiti is a must-do. You can choose to stay in Downtown or close to the BB&T Center. If the latter is your case, I suggest you enjoy some real comfort at the DoubleTree by Hilton Sunrise – Sawgrass Mills.
6. Buffalo: Sabres
Buffalo is a great sports town, with passionate fans and affordable tickets. While the Bills are known for epic table-slamming tailgates in huge parking lots, the Sabres play in the heart of downtown Buffalo. Visiting Buffalo for a Sabres game will let you experience not just the game, but a walk through a resurgent Rust Belt city.
Right across from the KeyBank Center is Buffalo’s Canalside. The waterfront along the Buffalo River has been redeveloped into a lovely park. Canalside includes a boardwalk, great lawn, and is the launching point for a river cruise that tells the history of the Queen City. In the wintertime, you can enjoy ice skating as well, as a public rink is setup at the Winter Pavilion.
After exploring Canalside, head up to Main Street to enjoy some of Buffalo’s great craft breweries and restaurants. Big Ditch Brewery and Lockhouse Distillery are two great spots to enjoy local beers and spirits. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is highly regarded nationally, which you wouldn’t expect in a city that measures snow by the foot!
And no trip to Buffalo is complete without enjoying some buffalo wings. While establishments like Anchor Bar and Duffs are world-famous, the truth is that you can get some great wings at most of the bars and restaurants downtown. Check out a couple so you can have your own rankings!
If you’re planning some sports travel or just love to watch the NHL, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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