Fri.-Sun., Sept. 22-24
GOLF: RYDER CUP
K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Call it the Olympics of golf. Every two years, the best U.S. golfers join as a team and face Europe's top stars. This year's match, held for the first time in Ireland at one of its loveliest and most formidable courses, pits the 12-man American team, headed by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, against a European team led by Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia.
Web site: http://www.rydercup.com
Do: Make a week of it. Arrive in time to attend the Shelbourne Hotel Goffs Million/Ryder Cup Race, Europe's richest race for two-year old Thoroughbreds, at Curragh Racecourse (near Kildare) -- Ireland's premier racetrack and home to most runnings of the Irish Derby. (Tickets)
Stay: Dublin, to the northeast, is less than an hour away. Rooms are going fast. Try the Regency (Swords Rd.), where rooms start at $200 U.S.
Eat: Dublin has one American-style steakhouse -- and it's a good one. Shanahan's on the Green (119 St. Stephen's Green), housed in a 250-year old Georgian building, features fine beef and local seafood. Try the filet or the bone-in ribeye. (Web site)
Mon., Sept. 25
NFL: ATLANTA AT NEW ORLEANS
Superdome, New Orleans
Normally, this game wouldn't generate much buzz. Last year, the two teams finished at the bottom of the NFC South. But this game marks the return of the Saints to their home field in New Orleans, the first time they'll host a game at the Superdome (1500 Poydras St.) since Hurricane Katrina.
Do: Make it a football weekend. Drive to Baton Rouge, 80 miles northwest of New Orleans, to see No. 8 LSU host the Big Easy's Tulane at Tiger Stadium (Stadium Dr., Baton Rouge).
Stay: Rooms won't be a problem. And it won't break the bank. Stay in the French Quarter, at the three-star French Quarter Courtyard (1101 N. Rampart St.), where rooms start at $78. The Ramada Plaza Hotel The Inn on Bourbon (541 Bourbon St.) has rooms starting at $129.
Eat: Go native -- which, in New Orleans, means Creole cooking. You'll find the best at Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St., in the French Quarter). Try the Filet Bearnaise. Request a table on the main floor. (Web site)
Sat., Sept. 23
NCAA FOOTBALL: PENN STATE AT OHIO STATE
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
No. 1-ranked Ohio State opens its Big Ten season in a big way -- against No. 25 Penn State at Ohio Stadium (411 Woody Hayes Dr.). See OSU's two Heisman Trophy candidates -- QB Troy Smith and his chief target, FL Ted Ginn Jr. -- face off against Penn State All-America LB Paul "The Puz" Posluszny, winner of the 2005 Bednarik Award as the nation's best defensive player, and arguably the best linebacker in Nittany Lion history.
Do: Visit the Jack Nicklaus Museum (2355 Olentangy River Rd.). The Columbus native attended OSU, and the university has honored him with a museum documenting the highlights of his career. The museum is home to one of the nation's premier golf memorabilia collections -- including "White Fang", the putter he used in his 1967 U.S. Open victory. (Web site)
Stay: This won't hurt. Rooms at the 3-star Holiday Inn Columbus-City Center (175 E. Town St.) start at $79. The 4-star The Columbus: A Residence Hotel (50 N. 3rd St.) has rooms from $129, and rooms at the 4-star The Westin Columbus (310 S. High St.) start at $139.
Eat: Mitchell's Steakhouse (45 N. 3rd St.) is Columbus's finest prime beef palace. Set in a lovely former bank building, it is a place for an elegant meal and a fine bottle of wine. Try the bone-in filet mignon. (Web site)
Fri.-Sun., Sept. 22-24
MLB: FLORIDA AT PHILADELPHIA
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
Much is at stake here -- both the Marlins and Phillies are battling for the NL wild card. But the real show is Ryan Howard and his chase for 61 home runs. Citizens Bank Park (1 Citizens Bank Way) is made for his swing.
Web site: http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/
Do: See Penn and Villanova battle for local bragging rights: The schools' football teams face off Sat., Sept. 23, at Penn's historic Franklin Field (235 S. 33rd St.), which has hosted college football games since 1895. (Tickets)
Stay: This is your lucky weekend. You can get a room downtown at the 3-star Club Quarters at Philadelphia (1628 Chestnut St.) starting at $129, or at the 3-star Latham Hotel Downtown-Philadelphia (135 S. 17th St.) starting at $138.
Eat: The Prime Rib (1701 Locust St., in the Radisson Plaza/Warwick Hotel) has the atmosphere of a Rat Pack steakhouse. Throne-like chairs, a wonderful pianist, attentive waiters -- and succulent steak. Go for the roast prime rib or bone-in rib steak. (Web site)
Various airlines are offering deals for last-minute travel packages to the Sunshine State. Tickets are limited, so hurry: Click here for Florida travel deals.
Head to Tropicana Field (1 Tropicana Dr.), where the Devil Rays and Carl Crawford host the playoff-bound Yankees (Fri.-Mon., Sept. 22-25, Tickets). Then drive to Raymond James Stadium (1 Buccaneer Pl.) to see the Buccaneers take on the Carolina Panthers in an NFC South duel (Sun., Sept. 24, Tickets: sold out -- seek out a ticket broker).
Major U.S. airlines are offering similar last-minute travel packages to the Golden State. Again, tickets are limited, so hurry: Click here for California travel deals.
Head to PETCO Park (100 Park Blvd.) to see the Padres take on the Pirates as they battle for the NL wild card in their final regular-season home games (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 22-24, Tickets). Then head to Qualcomm Stadium (9449 Friars Rd.) to see San Diego State play Utah (Sat, Sept. 23, Tickets)
Fri., Sept. 21-Sun., Sept. 24
Are you ready for some football? Travel to Berkeley, Calif., Sat., Sept. 23, to watch No. 21 Cal take on Arizona State at Memorial Stadium (210 Memorial Stadium, Tickets). Then head to San Francisco's Monster Park (602 Jamestown Ave.) to see the 49ers play the Eagles (Sun., Sept. 24, Tickets).
Or head to East Lansing, Mich., to see Michigan State host No. 2 Notre Dame, Sat., Sept. 23, at Spartan Stadium (Red Cedar Rd. and Shaw Ln.). Or go to Detroit to see the Lions host rival Green Bay, Sun., Sept. 24, at Ford Field (2000 Brush St.). Unfortunately, tickets are sold out in both places, so you'll have to consult a ticket broker.
Sun.-Sun., Sept. 17-24
ESA EASTERN SURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS, Buxton, N.C.
Head to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore-Lighthouse Jetty to see the east coast's top surfers compete in the 2006 ESA Eastern Surfing Championships (Sun.-Sun., Sept. 17-24). Admission is free. Stop by Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest in the country at 207 feet, then head north and visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial (mile post 7.5 on U.S. Highway 158, Kill Devil Hills, N.C.) in nearby Kill Devil Hills, on North Carolina's Outer Banks near Kitty Hawk. There, in 1903, Orville Wright embarked on the world's first motor-powered air flight (Web site).
Stay at the 3-star Clarion Hotel on the Ocean (1601 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills), where rooms start at $119, or the 2-star Quality Inn John Yancey (2009 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills), where rooms start at $89.
Sun., Sept. 17
TENNIS: DAVIS CUP
Olympic Stadium, Moscow
The Davis Cup is to tennis what the World Cup is to soccer. It's for world bragging rights. The U.S. plays Russia at Moscow's Olympic Stadium, in the World Group semifinals (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 22-24). James Blake, Andy Roddick, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan represent the U.S. against Russia's Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, Marat Safin and Dmitry Tursunov (Tickets). Between matches, visit the Kremlin, Red Square and Lenin's Tomb. Stay at the 4-star Iris Congress (Koroviskoye Chaussee 10), near downtown Moscow, where rooms start at $147 U.S. Or at the Irbis (Gostinichnaya Str. 1, Moscow) or Zarya (127106 Moscow, Moscow), both 3-star hotels located in downtown Moscow, with rooms starting at $132 U.S.