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Places to Celebrate Britain's 'Football' Heritage
This month, English fans of ‘footy’ had lots to celebrate. Despite a heartbreaking loss in the finals of the Euros, it was England’s best performance ever in the continent’s biggest game.

Soccer, that is.

Britain is the birthplace of the modern sport that has traveled around the world to become the most popular in the world. It’s also morphed into versions with their own fans - for example, North America has co-opted the name ‘football’ for a different game entirely.

Although kids all over the world since the beginning of time have kicked things around the village, the game that became British ‘football’ and the world’s ‘soccer’ traces its roots back to the mid-19th century.

That’s when players and clubs from around Britain came together as the Football Association to come up with a single set of rules. Not everyone was happy with the new rules; a splinter group of clubs opted instead to form the new Rugby Football Union, and so two completely different games were born.

No matter how you define ‘football’ today, any sporting fan on a trip to Britain should try to get tickets to see a game live in its birthplace.

Here are some other places and ways to immerse yourself in British footballing heritage while traveling around Britain:

Aston Villa’s Villa Park

Aston Villa football club was formed by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel, which sounds very sedate, but the club’s competitive attitude has nothing to do with church-like behavior. Since 1897, the club has played its home games at Villa Park, which was once a Victorian amusement park developed in the former grounds of Aston Hall, a grand stately home with gardens dating back to the mid-17th century. Alongside touring the stadium, this slice of history is just a short distance away.

The Wolves’ Interactive Museum at Molineux


Molineux has been the home of the Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) since 1889. Another of British football’s founding clubs, the stadium’s interactive museum takes visitors on a journey through the early years of modern football, while stadium tours provide a behind-the-scenes peek into memorable moments from the club’s history.



Manchester United’s Playing Field and National Football Museum


Some clubs can trace their origins to the workplace. Manchester United, as they are now known, was initially formed by the Carriage and Wagon Department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1878.

When they changed their name at the turn of the century, the club moved to their current Old Trafford stadium in 1910 and have remained there ever since. Learn more about this world-famous club’s heritage on a museum and stadium tour.


Football fans in Manchester can also embark on an interactive journey through the beautiful game at the National Football Museum, set in the striking Urbis building in the city centre. Alongside a penalty shootout and other interactive games, it’s packed with footballing memorabilia including medals, replica trophies and shirts from history-making games..

London’s Storied Clubs


Arsenal can trace its roots to the south of the capital, in the late 19th century when a group of workers from the Royal Arsenal, an armaments factory in Woolwich. The club relocated to North Londond then to its current Emirates site in 2006. Behind-the-scenes tours dive into the club’s rich history, and there’s also legend experiences – guided tours by some of the club’s former players – to enjoy.

North London club Tottenham Hotspur was formed by a gang of schoolboys in the 1880s, and played at their White Hart Lane stadium from 1899. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, built on the same site, opened in 2019. It includes the Goal Line Bar, which at 65 metres is the longest bar in Europe!

After enjoying a stadium tour, those with a head for heights can gaze out over the capital on the Dare Skywalk, a chance to climb the stadium and look down on the pitch below. A similar rooftop tour is also available at Newcastle’s St James’ Park stadium, offering up panoramic views of Tyneside.

Chelsea, another of London’s top clubs, was formed in 1905 in an upstairs room of a pub, now named the Butcher’s Hook. Located in the shadow of Stamford Bridge, which was being built at the time, fans can tour the club’s stadium and museum.

National Footballing Sites


Iconic Wembley Stadium, complete with its massive, 133 metre (430 foot) arch, reopened in 2007. It can hold up to 90,000 fans, making it Britain’s largest sporting venue. In addition to history-making matches like Euro 2020’s final, played in July 2021, it’s also where epic concerts including the record-breaking Live Aid take place.


Glasgow’s Hampden Park is known as the home of Scottish football. It was the world’s biggest stadium when it opened in 1903. Hampden Park still holds the British attendance record, from 1937, when nearly 150,000 people crammed in to watch Scotland play England in 1937. Although its capacity has massively reduced with modernisation and the introduction of safe seating, Hampden Park is still home to the Scottish Football Museum – a space dedicated to documenting the northern nation’s footballing history.

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Get Into the Spirit of the 'Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports'
Spring brings longer days, warmer weather… and the thunder of hooves as horse racing begins in North America and Europe. 

On this side of the pond, there’s no better way to get your heart racing than to be in the stands for the legendary Kentucky Derby. Held on the first Saturday of May, the epic race gets the serious horse racing season going as the first leg of the American Triple Crown.

The Kentucky Derby was founded nearly 150 years ago by the grandson of William Clark of ‘Lewis and Clark expedition’ fame. He’d been to England and attended that country’s biggest horse race, Epsom Derby. 

On his return to Kentucky, he spearheaded the organization of the Louisville Jockey Club and new track and race facilities that would become known as Churchill Downs.


Today, the Kentucky Derby has a purse worth millions, but what makes it the grand-daddy of all horse races on the continent are its storied history and colorful traditions.

Horsing Around


Appropriately, the race is run deep in the heart of America’s horse country. 

Lexington is billed as the Horse Capital of the World, and visitors to the state find themselves easily immersed in equestrian culture, from picture-perfect farms where famous breeds graze on Kentucky’s famous bluegrass, to countless race tracks and equine-related activities.

Elegant, leggy thoroughbreds are the state horse and the heroes of the Kentucky Derby. 

And the most famous of them all is Secretariat. Possibly the most famous horse in America, immortalized in book and film and equestrian culture, the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history is one of only two to win the race in under two minutes.

Not Just Another ‘Day at the Track’


More than 150,000 race-goers pack the stands at Churchill Downs on race day. Like Royal Ascot in England, the Kentucky Derby is at the peak of the social scene, a place to see and be seen, preferably in an epic, even outrageous hat.

Americans bet around $150 million on the race every year, and in addition to millions of dollars in prize money going to the owners, the winning horse is draped in a blanket of 554 red roses, giving the Kentucky Derby its second nickname: ‘The Run for the Roses’.

‘The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports’ even has an official drink.

 
Of course, it’s a Mint Julep, a cocktail that conjures up images of gracious Southern hospitality. It may also be the most refreshing way to drink bourbon, which anyone from Kentucky will tell you is more than a local spirit, it’s a way of life in the state.

 

Here’s the official Churchill Downs & KentuckyDerby.com recipe so you can savor the taste of the Kentucky Derby even if you’re watching it from home. It’s traditionally served in a frosty silver cup, but if you’re short silver cups, a collins or other cocktail glass will do.

Ingredients
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • Crushed ice
Preparation
  1. Express the essential oils in the mint and rub them inside the glass.
  2. To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon and crushed ice. Stir.
  3. Garnish with more ice and fresh mint before serving ice cold.
 

 

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Images courtesy kentuckytourism.com


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Learn to Haka on the All Blacks' Rugby Team's Home Ground
It's one of the most famous – and fearsome – pre-game rituals in the world. One that you can now learn for yourself in one of the world's most storied stadiums.

Any global sports fan has heard of New Zealand's fabled All Blacks rugby team. The All Blacks are not just heroes of the country's national sport; in spite of New Zealand's tiny size, the All Blacks are considered the greatest team in global rugby history. They are consistently ranked at the top of the sport, and have won the Rugby World Cup more than any other team in the world.

(Photo: Kai Schworer. All other Photos: Eden Park)

The All Blacks' distinctive black uniforms with only the national silver fern symbol are already intimidating: the team resembles an aggressive black swarm on the rugby field. Then imagine an entire team of robust, black-clad rugby players screaming and stomping wildly, working themselves into a fierce, unbeatable tour de force on the rugby field.

For the sporting superstitious, part of the All Blacks' success comes from the spectacular haka that the team performs before every match. The ancient Maori dance serves the same purpose for the All Blacks as it did for the New Zealand indigenous warriors on the battlefield. The ferocious postures and vocalizations that challenge opponents prepare the players physically and mentally, and unite them in a focused team frenzy.
 
The All Blacks' pre-game Haka tradition is as anticipated every game as their winning rugby form. It's ancient Maori for: Bring. It. On.


Now when you visit Auckland you can step on the hallowed grounds of the All Blacks' home stadium, get a behind the scenes tour of Eden Park, and learn to tap into your inner Maori warrior with a haka group – right on the green where the All Blacks play.


A Maori warrior in traditional garb is your guide of the home team's changing rooms and other off-camera spaces, your tour of great sporting moments for the All Blacks and Eden Park over the last century and more, and finally, onto the actual playing turf itself.

You'll join an authentic haka group and experience the power of the haka up close as it's performed on an All Blacks' game day. And you'll even have the opportunity to channel your inner Maori warrior during an interactive haka-learning workshop, and have your photo taken with traditional Maori warriors.


Whether or not you – or anyone in your group - are sports or rugby fans, the Haka in the Park program at the All Blacks' Eden Park in Auckland is a one-of-a-kind way to get up close and even participate yourself in the drama and history of authentic New Zealand Maori culture.

 

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What is the Top Golf Travel Destination in the Asia Pacific Region?

Twice in a row, the International Association of Golf Tour Operators has named New Zealand the golf destination in Asia Pacific with the best experience for golf travelers.Do you think of New Zealand as the golf world's hidden gem? In fact, only Scotland has more golf courses per capita in the world. This island nation has 400 golf courses ranging from ocean-front, subtropical courses in the north, to alpine terrain and vistas in the south. So getting on the tee is never a problem. 

New Zealand loves its golf. And New Zealanders love to share golf with visitors. Local volunteers run small country courses, and of course the country boasts exceptional world-class championship courses. 

Thinking of a trip to this golfer's paradise? Here are 5 of New Zealands' most spectacular marquee golf courses for the ultimate golf travel experience.

Kauri Cliffs Kauri Cliffs ranks in Golf Digest's list of the world's top 50 golf courses. Perched above the bay in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, this championship course has five sets of tees for all levels of golfers. You'll be challenged by native rough, stands of fern and intimidating forced carries over gorges. Four of the 18 holes run parallel to the Pacific on the top of dramatic cliffs.

The Lodge at Kauri is famous in its own right, with top-shelf accommodation and the Pacific Rim cuisine that rivals the views over the ocean.


Cape KidnappersThis poetically-named golf course (Photo Credit: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers) in the country's famous Hawke's Bay wine region will steal any golf lovers' heart.  The course is dramatically perched on a narrow peninsula that juts into the Pacific and ranks in the top 20 of Golf Digest's list of top 50 courses.

The par 71 course is not for the faint-hearted.  Here's one description: a “stratospheric Pebble Beach, high atop a windswept plateau some 500 feet above the sea”. Imagine yourself taking challenging tee shots over deep canyons. And its luxury lodge is one of the country's most exclusive and talked-about resort destinations.

The Kinloch Club This Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course enhances the Kinloch Club's (Photo by the Kinloch Club) natural environment and is a test of true links golf. Internationally-renowned, this par 72 course rivals the panoramic views of New Zealand's largest fresh-water lake, Lake Taupo, and the surrounding rugged rural landscape.

The Lodge at Kinloch is just as known for golf as well as romantic couples' escapes.


Jacks PointThis 18-hole, par 72 championship course with five tee positions to choose from is an unforgettable golf experience only 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown. 

But the view is even more spectacular. Lake panoramas and the breathtaking 2300 vertical meters of the aptly-named The Remarkables mountain range are the best possible distraction from your game. 

The natural landscape remains as part of the course architecture. Native tussock grasslands, dramatic rock outcrops and native bush are 'par for the course' at Jacks Point on the edge of Lake Wakatipu.

The HillsThe Hills is a magnificent golf course surrounded by snow-capped mountains near Queenstown providing not only a dramatic landscape but a challenge to all golfers.

The Hills occupies a former deer farm near Arrowtown, Queenstown (image credit: Gary Lisbon). Native plants including native brown top grasses and wild mountain tussocks are preserved in the design. But there's an even more unique course design story here: sculptures crafted by New Zealand artists are integrated into the course’s lakes, waterways and wetland areas.

With a reputation that includes its position as co-host of the New Zealand Open, The Hills is a course that's a destination for both player and spectator. So on or off the course, this will be a lasting memory of a golf trip to New Zealand.

 

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