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 March Madness is here, and you’ve probably been coaxed into filling out a bracket by a friend or a coworker. So, you know what it feels like to live vicariously through teams you would otherwise have no reason to root for. And you know what it’s like to feel the rush when you guessed a major upset, or the crushing defeat when your front runner goes out in the first round. This year, you can escape the stress of the office pool to go and see the action up close.

Here are the Final Five places you can experience March Madness:

    1. Anaheim, CA ­– Located in the heart of Orange County, Anaheim will host the Western Regional Finals in the Honda Arena, home to the Anaheim Ducks. The stadium has capacity for 17,000 and it’s hard to find a bad seat in the house. And since you’ve travelled this far, you might as well go to the happiest place on Earth: Disneyland Park. Originally just called Disneyland, Disneyland Park now has eight themed lands bringing together Disney classics new and old. You’re going to need more than just one day to explore it all, so save up that PTO and maybe throw in a sick day or two. We won’t tell.honda-arena-anaheim-march-madness

      If you’re bringing the kids (and if you’re not, believe us, an adult trip to Disneyland is nothing to be ashamed of), head over to the massive 20,000+ square foot Vans Skatepark for a unique experience they won’t forget. Fun for youngsters who’ve spent time on the board and beginners alike, the Vans Skatepark offers lessons with designated areas for different skill levels. If you’re looking for an even more extreme athletic experience, head to SwingIt Trapeze for aerial gymnastics lessons.

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      When the kids get hungry, find the Anaheim Packing House for a foodie heaven, complete with artisan tacos, warm, comfort-filled Indian plates and, for dessert, huge glops of gelato on a stick, dipped in chocolate, rolled in toppings, and handed to you with a smile. If that’s not experiential enough for you, Anaheim also is the home of Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, where you can witness glory in the middle ages over a four course meal.

    2. Washington D.C. – America’s capital will host the Eastern Regional Finals in the Capital One Arena, home to the Washington Capitals. It’s located in a place full of vibrant lights and a non-stop energy: D.C.’s Penn Quarter & Chinatown neighborhood. If you take the Metro to the game, you’ll immediately be faced with a 60-foot high Chinese archway adorned with bright neon lights outside the station. And while D.C.’s National Mall gets all the travel headlines, Penn Quarter’s historic attractions are well worth the trip. The Newseum is an interactive museum that chronicles and celebrates the history of the news. The National Portrait Gallery carries the most complete set of U.S. Presidential portraits outside of the White House. The legendary Madame Tussauds is full of famous celebrities in the form of wax figurines. And for the game winning shot, the National Building Museum celebrates the greatest stories in architecture, engineering and design.united-states-capitol-building

      After the fourth quarter of your museum experience, check out Reren for some delectable dim sum, homemade noodles or succulent roasted duck. Or for some bites from a celebrity chef, try one of José Andres’ restaurants which include the Greek and Turkish Zaytinya and Oyamel, a must-taste mix of ancient and modern Mexican cuisine. For some window shopping, head over to CityCenterDC and experience a walkway full of high-end boutiques in a cultured outdoor courtyard.

    3. Louisville, KY – Louisville will host the Southern Regional Finals at the KFC Yum! Center, an ode to the home state of Kentucky Fried Chicken (also sponsored by KFC), and home to the Louisville Cardinals men’s and women’s basketball teams. With 22,090 seats, it’s the second largest college arena in the country, only out-seated by University of Kansas’ Rupp Arena.KFC-yum-center-louisville-kentucky

      If you come to Louisville for the hoops, you’ll want to stay for the food. Named one of the Top 5 Foodiest Small Cities in America by Bon Appétit Magazine, Louisville repeatedly sinks shots for its great Kentucky ham, local food traditions and proximity to bourbon country. Head from the stadium down to Main Street and grab a table at Atlantic No. 5 for fresh food and daily baked goods that will leave you ready for game time or ready to recover afterwards. To top off the night with a cold Louisville beer, try Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse – a self-professed brewery owned-brewery and the product of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Their brew-masters and gastropub-ians are ready to help you find the right beer to match your mood and the right food to pair with it.

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      In the morning, check out Louisville at See Level for a cruise through history on the Ohio River, where you can find out how Louisville came to be and the cultures that shaped it from the top deck of a cruise ship. Or, to round out a sports-filled weekend, visit the iconic racetrack Churchill Downs, which has been hosting the Kentucky Derby every year since it opened in 1875. For a taste of that legendary Kentucky bourbon, head over to the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse where you can learn about the history of the American whiskey and even bottle your own.

    4. Kansas City, MO – Kansas City is hosting the Midwestern Regional Finals at the Sprint Center, a colosseum of college basketball which includes the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the even bigger College Basketball Experience. Get into the game and meet the legends who played it in this 41,500 square-foot interactive facility. The experience is chalk-full of skills challenges to test your jump shot and dribbling, and unique moments like performing your own call of a historic game at the ESPN-U Broadcast desk.kansas-city-sprint-center

      Once you hear the final buzzer, head to the Kansas City Streetcar nearby to get a free ride through the city. The 2.2-mile route along Main Street connects to 16 locations so you can see different sides of downtown. Hop off at the Crossroads Art District and head over to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue for a few bites of the classic BBQ that’s historically and enthusiastically defined the city’s culinary culture. Or for some lighter fare, Café Gratitude offers 100% organic and vegan food, juice and free education on how to run a restaurant sustainably. For some after-dinner drinks, try Cleaver & Cork in the Power & Light District, which features farm-to-table craft cocktails or Border Brewing Company in the Crossroads Art District for a wide variety of beers perfect for both amateurs and hops aficionados.

    5. Minneapolis, MN – Minnesota is hosting the Final Four and the National Championship for the 4th time at U.S. Bank Stadium, located in the heart of the twin cities and home to the Minnesota Vikings. The stadium is enclosed to keep fans and players alike protected from the Midwest winter cold and has a full-sized Viking ship out front to intimidate travelling fans and teams.
      us-bank-stadium-viking-shipFortunately for anyone making the trek to Minneapolis, actual Vikings are long gone, and the city is full of family-friendly and adult-friendly fun. To get in touch with your inner Viking, head to the Erik the Red Bar for smokey wings, hearty burgers and a menu full of barbeque just a few steps away from the stadium. McKinny Roe offers a slightly-more-upscale-but-still-jeans-friendly dining experience nearby, with a two-level bar and an excellent selection of country mussels and east town wings. Or you can grab some food and libations at Day Block Brewing Company with a beer flight and a warm Midwest pizza two blocks away from the stadium.

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      After the game, head downtown and wander along the Minneapolis Riverwalk for a scenic look at the city. Stop by Pryes Brewing Company for a quick drink, snap some photos of the Mississippi River by visiting the Hennepin Island Hydro Generating Station (despite it’s intimidating name, it provides an amazing view), then stop at the Mill City Museum to learn about the ruins of an old mill that burned down from an explosion years ago. You can also wander through the Guthrie Theater for a show and some of the most amazing architecture and views in the city. Their outdoor deck that stretches over the water is proposal-worthy.

 

Wherever you decide to travel to, make sure you do it right with an experience you won’t forget. VacationRenter can help you book a stay and plan the best trip possible.