Sports can offer some of the best reasons to travel in the United States. That’s not to say you need to be obsessed with sports to get the most out of your travel experiences. But the U.S., broadly speaking, cares so much about different sports at all different levels that there are truly incredible experiences all across the country. Whether it’s because you’ll be witnessing an enthusiastic crowd, seeing a great team, or even enjoying a pretty stadium, there are lots of reasons to include sports as a consideration in your travel planning. And in line with that reasoning, I’ve put together a list of the best sporting experiences you can have while traveling to (or through) Ohio.
MLS at MAPFRE Stadium – Columbus
The MLS may not be considered among the “major” sports leagues of the United States. But soccer is getting more popular, and should continue to do so with the U.S. now slated to host the 2026 World Cup. As it happens, the Columbus Crew has become one of the more well-known franchises in American soccer, and plays its matches at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus. It’s noteworthy in that it was one of America’s first soccer-specific stadiums, and it draws a nice, enthusiastic crowd for home matches.
College Basketball at UD Arena – Dayton
The University of Dayton might not be the first team that comes to mind when you think of college basketball in Ohio. Ohio State is certainly a more high profile program, as is Cincinnati. Dayton, however, has been consistently terrific at its level, and the arena experience reflects what is ultimately an underrated basketball culture. Last year it came out that men’s basketball at UD Arena in Dayton had attendance ranked 22nd nationally, which is really quite remarkable when you think about how many great college basketball programs there are. If you like the sport, UD Arena is a special place to watch it.
NBA at Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland
On the professional side of things, basketball can also be a blast at Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cleveland Cavaliers play. Unfortunately, things will be different in Cleveland moving forward. LeBron James, the NBA’s biggest star, has left Cleveland for LA, shifting the NBA title outlook in doing so. That means the Cavaliers won’t be contending again anytime soon, and arena enthusiasm will likely drop off. Still, this is a city with great sports pride, and there’s something fun about watching a team start over. The Cavaliers should continue to be interesting at Quicken Loans.
College Football at Ohio Stadium – Columbus
Ohio Stadium is behind only Michigan Stadium (for the University of Michigan) and Beaver Stadium (for Penn State) in capacity. This massive venue can seat just about 105,000 people for a college football game, which makes it an almost unique place to watch sports. Throw in the fact that Ohio State is almost always good at football, and the student body always enthusiastic, and it’s quite an experience – arguably the best sporting experience in Ohio.
MLB at Progressive Field – Cleveland
There are a couple of major league baseball options in Ohio, between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians. Naturally, if you’re visiting the state and you’re a big baseball fan, you may want to check out both. But we’d give the edge to Cleveland’s Progressive Field. It’s a slightly prettier ballpark, and at least these days the Indians are a very competitive team. Particularly if the Indians are in the playoff hunt, or the playoffs themselves, it’s well worth visiting this stadium. The championship-hungry fans create an incredible atmosphere.
NFL at Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati
Paul Brown Stadium is a beautiful place to watch NFL football if you happen to be passing through Cincinnati. Part of its beauty comes from its situation right on the Ohio River, which has actually become something of a problem, from a flooding perspective. Provided that issue is under control, however, it remains a pretty, pleasant place to watch a game.