This year, there are many sports fans who aren't getting their hockey fix. The NHL lockout has left a void in an otherwise autumn ritual in North America.
While I do enjoy the greatest game on ice, I took this opportunity to check out some other professional sports teams while on a recent visit to Washington, D.C.
Fall is the time of year when die-hard sports fans can rejoice in the fact there's a smorgasbord of opportunity to get in on a whole load of action, with baseball, football, basketball, soccer and usually hockey, all happening at the same time.
As some head into the post season, others are beginning another season in hopes of making the playoffs several months down the road. Beyond the parameters of the recent White House race, there's a whole different buzz that is more concerned with winning games than votes.
My indoctrination to a D.C. sports-themed weekend adventure was to catch a season-ending game of the Washington Nationals baseball team. After spending their first three seasons at RFK Stadium, the Nationals began playing at Nationals Park in 2008, a new state of the art outdoor venue. The air of excitement that afternoon had been fueled by the fact the team just clinched their division playoff spot the previous day.
After being without a professional baseball team for more than three decades, the Montreal Expos relocated to D.C. in 2005, and have now taken over the home-team designation from the nearby Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals ended up winning this game as well, and had the best league record of the season, but weren't able to carry this through the playoffs, losing in their division battle.
The following day I was going to experience something I had never done before -- attend two professional sporting events in one day.
Although a bit of a trek from downtown Washington, walking toward the enormous FedEx Field and passing by throngs of "tail-gaters," I knew it would be a momentous occasion. Once inside and seated, I was mesmerized by the size of the stadium -- the largest in the NFL with a capacity of 85,000. As time passed, almost every seat filled with fans eager to welcome back the Washington Redskins at this season opener. I had envisioned a much more boisterous crowd, but for the most part it was fairly subdued for this Cincinnati Bengals match, which unfortunately the home town heroes lost.
Then it was off to RFK Stadium, an historic venue that has been home to several sports franchises, and hosted many concerts and events. This marquee ignites memories from the past -- especially for the throngs of D.C. United soccer fans who have been supporting their championship MLS team there since 1996, cheering them on to four cup victories. Their 1997 MLS Cup victory at RFK Stadium was the first time a Washington team had won a championship in the District of Columbia.
Although the stadium lacks much of the latest technology -- and crowds are much smaller compared to Redskins and Nationals games -- D.C. United fans are definitely the most spirited. From the first kick of the ball to the final whistle, there were constant chants and drumming, as the home team was cheered onto victory.
Flying home I was pleased with my game stats: A two over three victory for the home teams, and a discovery of a side Washington I was not familiar with. As for hockey, yes, I would have loved to have seen a Capitals game, but then again I caught another side of sports I wasn't as familiar with as well.
OUT AND ABOUT
Other things of interest to sports fans include Bike and Roll, offering rentals and guided tours of key sites, and Go Ape Treetop Adventures in nearby Rockland, Maryland, which is a combination of ziplines, treetop walks and rope ladders, much akin to boot camp. With more than 230,000-acres of parkland and trails in the DC region, there's also plenty of nature to explore. See bikethesites.com and goape.com.
Canadian owned Fairmont Washington, D.C. is centrally located in the fashionable West End and adjacent to historic Georgetown. The three-story health club and spa is a great way to keep in shape indoors, while the complimentary BMW bikes will keep you fit in style on the streets. The onsite Juniper Restaurant has a expansive selection of healthy eats to keep your energy level high. See fairmont.com/washington.
The emerging Atlas Arts District on H Street is home to some great dining and the sports-themed bar H Street Country Club, featuring an indoor mini golf course, shuffleboard, skeeball and Xbox Kinect. Smith Commons is a great starting point with an amazing selection of craft beers and specialty cocktails. See atlasdistrict.com.
Porter Airlines has daily non-stop flights into Dulles International Airport. See flyporter.ca.