Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader


Is there anything that excites Americans quite like sports?

Some of our most memorable collective experiences come in the way of sports — buzzer beaters, immaculate receptions and miracles on ice. Although the thrills eventually fade away, the memories never do.

In sports museums around the country, exhibits memorialize those great moments and the athletes who made them. Visiting a sports museum is a walk down memory lane and a great way to get closer to the excitement than your home television set can bring you.

Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
Birmingham, Ala.

Alabama has produced a crop of great athletes over the years, and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame honors many of them.

“We have some of the greatest athletes in the world from this state,” said facility manager Bill Miller. “When ESPN did their Top 100 Athletes for Sports Century, nine of them were in our hall of fame.”

Visitors to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham gaze at the University of Alabama’s national football championship trophy.

Courtesy Alabama Sports Hall of Fame

Visitors will find displays on such sports greats as Jesse Owens, Joe Lewis, Hank Aaron, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Willie Mays and Mia Hamm. The museum has two Heisman Trophies — one belonging to Pat Sullivan and the other to Bo Jackson,

Several great moments in Alabama sports history are memorialized in dioramas. Scenes include Bear Bryant on a football sidelines and Hank Aaron hitting a home run.

Touch-screen kiosks throughout the museum play 45-second biographical clips on each of the inductees. Visitors can also play video trivia games and win prizes.

Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
Macon, Ga.

With some 43,000 square feet of space, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is among the largest museums of its kind in the country. The museum honors athletes who were born in Georgia, who played in Georgia or who are otherwise associated with the state.

Among items on display at the museum are baseball and football equipment used by Hank Aaron and Herschel Walker, respectively, as well as a number of pieces of Bobby Jones’ golf memorabilia. Another unusual piece is the bowtie worn by referee Mills Lane during the infamous 1997 heavyweight boxing “bite fight” between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, during which Tyson bit off a part of Holyfield’s ear.

The museum also has a number of high-tech, interactive exhibits.
“We have a NASCAR simulator that was given to us by Ford,” said Jackie Decell, the m

America’s love affair with sports is captured in many museums around the country, such as the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, Ga.Courtesy Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

useum’s executive director. “Two people can get in at the same time and race each other. It’s a lot of fun.”

Kansas Sports Hall of Fame
Wichita, Kan.

Considering the state’s rich heritage in college basketball, it stands to reason that the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame has a strong section on University of Kansas basketball history. But the museum also goes beyond that to honor Kansans who have excelled in all sorts of sports.

“We have areas of the museum dedicated to pretty much every major sport, from U.S. Olympians in track and field to basketball, football and baseball,” said Hall of Fame communications manager Neil Smith. “We have stuff from women’s volleyball and softball and even several inductees from the rodeo circuit.”

Some highlights include cleats worn by groundbreaking distance runner Jim Ryan, a saddle used by rodeo rider Ken Roberts and a torch from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

One notable aspect of the museum is a wall devoted to Sports Illustrated covers. The display contains a copy of every cover that has featured a Kansas athlete or team.

San Diego Hall of Champions
San Diego

Another one of the country’s largest multisport museums, the San Diego Hall of Champions features three levels of exhibits, including a high-tech theater and an interactive media center. The museum is located in the historic Federal Building in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

Exhibits at the Hall of Champions cover high-school to professional sports, among them traditional sports and nontraditional events such as bass fishing, surfing and “action sports.” The Action Sports Gallery has memorabilia from the likes of Tony Hawk, a native of San Diego and the world’s most famous skateboarder.

Other galleries at the museum cover championship swimming, motor sports and college-football bowl games.

Sports Museum of New England

The Sports Museum of New England has the benefit of being located in one of the Northeast’s most famous sports arenas.

Visitors to the Sports Museum of New England can see Boston Bruins’ artifacts, left, Larry Birds locker, center, and uniforms of local college teams, right. Courtesy Sports Museum of New England

“We are at the TD Garden, right in the arena,” said Brian Codagone, the museum’s associate curator. “So one of the advantages of being here is that you can look out and see the floor or the ice.”

The arena is home to the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins, and the museum has historic items from both teams’ illustrious pasts. Visitors can sit inside an old penalty box from Boston Garden or see sections of the Celtics’ famous parquet basketball court.

The museum also has several galleries of artwork related to sports, including a number of statues by famed sports sculptor Armand LaMontagne.
Groups who visit the museum can take a tour of TD Garden, with stops in locker rooms and the marshalling area where the basketball floor and the Zambonis are kept.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.