As the second largest city in the United States, Los Angeles gets it fair share of visitors attracted by the ocean beaches and sunny days.  Home to Hollywood, Disneyland, and museums and parks galore, LA is as distinctively west coast as New York City is east coast.  It is also a major city for sports, having hosted two Olympic Games.  Sports are also big business in LA, attracting millions of visitors each year who come for both spectator and participatory athletics.

STAPLES Center entrance

STAPLES Center entrance

If you’re a sports fan, here are some considerations that may help you plan your visit to Los Angeles.

Basketball (fall to early summer):  The LA Lakers and the LA Clippers both play at Staples Center (map).  It’s not unusual to see television and film celebrities sitting court side cheering on their team.  Dyan Cannon, Denzel Washington, and Jack Nicholson are big Laker fans, and Billy Crystal, Penny Marshall, and Frankie Muniz are big Clipper fans.  The LA Sparks, two-time WNBA league champions play at the same location, with a season running May to August.

Baseball (April to October):  The boys of summer load up the bases at Dodger Stadium (map) after landing in LA from Brooklyn.  The Dodgers have won eight National League championships and five World Series.

Football (fall):  It’s hard to imagine, but LA has no professional football team.  Both the Rams and the Raiders left town in 1995, leaving LA the largest city in the country without an NFL team.  The city is passionate about its two very successful college teams – the USC Trojans, who play at the Memorial Coliseum (map), and the UCLA Bruins, who play at the Rose Bowl (map).  Both schools are part of the Pacific 10 Conference.  LA has also hosted the SuperBowl on two occasions.

Hockey (October to April): The NHL’s LA Kings take to the ice at Staples Center

Soccer:  David Beckham leads the LA Galaxy, a major force in the MLS.  They play at Home Depot Center.  LA has also hosted soccer’s international World Cup, a part of the reason why the sport has grown in popularity in the area.

Horse Racing:  Two racetracks host the Sport of Kings, Santa Anita (map) with a season running Christmas through mid-April, and its Oak Tree Meet in the fall, and Hollywood Park (map) with a season mid-April to July, and an autumn meet in early November through mid-December.  Alternating meets means that you can catch horse racing year round.  Satellite wagering is available at both tracks.

Running:  Just finishing up its 25th anniversary, the LA Marathon attracts over 25,000 runners and over a million spectators, and is one of the premiere runnig events in the country.  The wheelchair division of the marathon is the top event of its kind in the world.  There are dozens of lesser running events, and thousands of miles of running trails that will appeal to both competitive and social runners.

Golf:  Another year round sport that attracts spectators to professional events while amateurs flock to courses around the area.  The courses are too numerous to mention, but Golf California keeps pretty current on courses, reservations, and prices, or you can just flip open a phone book and browse the yellow pages.

Tennis: Tennis is played year round on public and private courts around the area.  Professional and collegiate tournaments are held on the UCLA campus at the Tennis Center (map).  Tennis great Arthur Ashe was an alumni of UCLA.

Roller Derby:  Full-contact roller derby is back, and the LA Derby Dolls are gaining in popularity.  The Dolls take to the track at the Doll Factory (map), and feature quirky entertainment that includes halftime music and a vendor village featuring art and jewelry.  The 20-bout season is on Saturday nights throughout the year.

Polo (April through October):  Polo has a rather famous history dating back to the 1930’s when Will Rogers cleared the field in front of his home so his celebrity friends could play a friendly match.  Thus began the Will Rogers Polo Club (map).  There was once over 25 polo clubs in the LA area, but today this is the only one that remains.  Matches are held on weekends, and despite a sense of elitism that accompanies the sport, the matches are informal and fun.

With so many athletic activities to choose from, it’s no wonder that sports enthusiasts make Los Angeles their vacation choice!  What’s your favorite?

Photo credit:  Courtesy of LA, Inc.