By: Angela Caraway-Carlton
Where to watch Miami’s biggest and best annual sport events.
Miami has become a global destination for sports fans, hosting some of the biggest international competitions throughout the year. The city boasts beautiful beaches, a vibrant nightlife scene and eclectic food, but the Magic City also has so much to offer when it comes to major, international sporting events. No matter which sport is your favorite, there is something for every type of fan throughout the year.
December: Orange Bowl
Miami wraps up the year and kicks off a new one with another premier college bowl game, the annual Capital One Orange Bowl. It’s one of the oldest bowl games in the country, right behind the Rose Bowl, and draws more than 67,000 spectators.
“Anyone would choose to be in Miami over a snowy football game somewhere else,” says local business leader Brett Beveridge, who has served on the Orange Bowl Committee, an organization which is made up of South Florida business leaders, sports fans and philanthropists.
The Orange Bowl is part of the College Football Playoff, and will host a Playoff Semifinal game in 2018, 2021 and 2024. During these eight years when the Orange Bowl isn’t hosting a semifinal, it will feature the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Champion, or the next highest ranked ACC school against the highest ranked available school from either the Big Ten Conference, Southeastern Conference (SEC) or Notre Dame.
During the week leading up to the game, football fans engage in a host of activities all over the city, and the Orange Bowl Fan Fest kicks off the game-day celebration with a concert, interactive games and contests. Who doesn’t want to celebrate the new year in Miami?
January: Miami Marathon and Half Marathon
Running enthusiasts can set the pace for a healthy New Year at the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. The annual race, which is usually held at the end of January, draws more than 25,000 runners from all over the world looking to take advantage of Miami’s mild, winter weather and a flat course that showcases all of the city’s beauty.
Runners in the full and half marathons both start at American Airlines Arena, the home of the Miami HEAT and follow the same scenic course for the first 12.8 miles. Runners can take their minds off the long distance by focusing on the sparkling, turquoise water of Biscayne Bay, South Beach’s stylish Art Deco buildings and the beauty of the lush, local neighborhoods.
“From the music on the course to the sights, the race offers a taste of what Miami is all about,” says Miami Marathon co-founder Frankie Ruiz. All runners finish at Bayfront Park with a festive post-event celebration.
The best part? In true Miami-style, everyone who completes the race is awarded a glitzy, unique medal that changes each and every year.
March and April: Miami Open
From the golf course to the tennis court, March is also the time for Miami to serve up world-class tennis. For two weeks, top tennis players and A-list celebrities converge onto the island of Key Biscayne for the Miami Open.
The Miami Open is the largest tennis event in the world, outside of the Grand Slams, with 96 men and 96 women in the singles competition, and 32 men’s and 32 women’s doubles teams.
More than 300,000 people head to Crandon Park for 14 days to watch high-profile matches featuring tennis stars such as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters.
“This tournament helps to highlight a multitude of aspects that Miami has to offer from the chefs that are brought in for pop-up restaurants to the numerous events that take place throughout the city before and during the tournament,” says Lauren Gnazzo, a Miami businesswoman who’s attended the tennis matches for the last five years.
While pro tennis players dominate on the court, the event also weaves in elements of fashion and food off the court.
April: Miami Beach Polo World Cup
In April, one of the most unique sporting events in the country takes center stage on the sands of South Beach. Watch horses gallop down the beach, as the top-ranked men’s polo players from as far away as Argentina, Brazil and Germany compete in the Miami Beach Polo World Cup.
The “sport of kings” takes place on Miami Beach between 21st and 22nd streets, near many of the area’s swanky hotels. The chic event attracts 10,000 to 15,000 spectators, looking for a blend of sport, celebrity hunting, fashion and food.
“It allows spectators to enjoy a “Great Gatsby” day at the beach, while being entertained by well-trained thoroughbred horses and talented athletes, with a comforting tropical breeze fanning you from the ocean,” says Alex Webbe, president of the International Beach Polo Association.
Eight women’s teams kick off the first day of play, vying for the South Beach Women’s Polo Cup. Then six teams of men compete for the Miami Beach Polo World Cup.
In the past, 10-goalers such as Argentine players Gonzalito Pieres and Matias Magrini, along with Ralph Lauren polo model Nacho Figueras, have played in the renowned sporting event.
November: The Ford Championship Weekend
Die-hard fans with a need for speed race to Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, to witness NASCAR crown three champions.
The Ford Championship is the only event where you can see three NASCAR championships in one weekend: Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ford EcoBoost 300 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and granddaddy of them all, NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400.
It’s a thunderous occasion as more than 150,000 spectators from 50 states and 30 countries pack the grandstands to watch top drivers such as Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson burn rubber around the track.
“You can run all over the race track and really put on a good show for all of the fans,” brags NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, who first hit the Homestead track in2003.
Over the course of the three days, expect a big, rowdy block party created for fans of all ages. There is a kid’s play zone, driver trailers to buy racing memorabilia, stages for local musical acts, and a big star such as Tim McGraw or Jason Aldean, usually performs before the start of the Ford EcoBoost 400.
December: Miami Beach Bowl
Miami offers plenty for fans on the gridiron scene. Besides being home to the Miami Dolphins, the city also hosts post-season college football bowl games. The
Miami Beach Bowl is one of the newest college bowl games on the scene, but it's already proven to be one of the most exciting, with double over-time and close games.
The competition is usually held each year from mid-to-late December and pairs a team from the American Athletic Conference against a team from the Mid-American Conference. "The playoff game allows for the participating student-athletes to enjoy world class hotels, events and playing facility in a warm-weather, beach environment,” says Scott Draper, president of the Miami Beach Bowl.
The football game is played at a baseball stadium, Marlins Park, which is home to the Miami Marlins, but football fanatics will feel right at home in the expansive stadium, which offers a retractable roof (in case the weather doesn’t cooperate), four levels of seats, multiple club boxes and suites.
The football teams and fans can revel in a number of lively events during the days leading up to the big game, from barbeque bashes on beautiful Miami Beach to a “Battle of the Bands,” a face-off between band members, mascots, dance teams and cheerleaders.
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