For sports fans, few activities bring as much frenzied excitement as watching a close game. The rush of adrenaline, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat make sports a nonstop emotional roller coaster for devotees.
To replicate these emotional experiences in a museum setting, sports halls of fame across the country have gone beyond typical exhibits. Guests can chat with talking busts of football players at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Or groups can snap a picture with the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Other halls of fame invite visitors to test their talents with interactive exhibits at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the World Golf Hall of Fame and the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Groups with raging fans or curious observers can experience all the highs of a sensational game at these sports halls of fame.
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Visitors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame can ask the image of John Madden what it was like to be carried off the field after winning the Super Bowl. Impressively, Madden will then answer.
In collaboration with an artificial intelligence company, StatMuse, the museum created its Interactive Bronzed Bust experience in early 2019. Using a mobile device in front of some of the bronzed busts in the Hall of Fame Gallery, guests can converse with some of their football heroes face to face. Many fans have long found the bronzed busts one of the emotional highlights of the tour with screen kiosks that include bios, photos and videos on the inductees.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame honors the sport. A time tunnel of football players, as well as interactive exhibits and personal artifacts, explain how football became an American phenomenon.
Another recent technological marvel of the museum features a holographic theater production of “A Game for Life.” Holographic images of Hall of Fame legends Joe Namath, George Halas and Vince Lombardi deliver advice on how the game of football teaches life lessons.
Other favorite exhibits include the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery, which follows the much-anticipated game from Super Bowl I to its current global significance. On the second floor of the museum, groups can find hands-on exhibits with chances to replay football moments, try on helmets and compare visitors’ hand sizes with those of Hall of Famers.
Groups that want to visit the museum’s vast collection of football artifacts not now on display can opt for the VIP Behind-the-Scenes Tour.
World Golf Hall of Fame
St. Augustine, Florida
Groups can golf 1880s style at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida. The hands-on exhibit allows participants to use hickory-shafted putters to hit balls made of gutta-percha rubber on a re-created putting green for a historic golfing experience.
The Hall of Fame follows the sport from its development in Scotland to its spread around the world. Groups can capture a keepsake photo while crossing a replica of the Swilcan Bridge from the famous St. Andrews Links golf course in Scotland.
A museum-wide audio tour offers exclusive personal stories and anecdotes from more than 35 Hall of Fame members. Karrie Webb discusses picking up the game at age 4. Arnold Palmer reminisces about his friendship with President Dwight Eisenhower.
Other exhibits tell stories about the world’s most gifted golfers, such as “Arnold Palmer: A Life Well Played,” “Bob Hope: Shanks for the Memory” and “The Member Locker Room.” “Honoring the Legacy: A Tribute to African Americans in Golf” displays rare photos and video memorabilia to highlight the rich history of African Americans’ contributions to the sport.
The museum challenges visitors to test their swing at a golf simulator. Guests can stand at a virtually re-created Old Course at St. Andrews, Firestone Country Club or Plantation Course at Kapalua to navigate each elite course.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Visitors regularly break out in a sweat when visiting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. The 35,000-square-foot museum invites guests to shoot hoops at the full-sized Center Court. Participants attempt shooting, passing and other skills before heading on to more physical feats.
The second floor features interactive exhibits that allow guests to sit in a broadcaster’s chair, measure their vertical leaps and coach a team to victory. A game of virtual hoops also tests participants’ shooting form.
The lively museum’s other exhibits honor the fast-paced game with three theaters, basketball memorabilia and interactive kiosks.
Organizers named the museum after James Naismith, a physical education instructor at the YMCA Training School in Springfield. Tasked with devising an indoor game to wear out a rowdy class of young men, Naismith brought out a couple of peach baskets, a soccer ball and a set of 13 rules for the first game of “basket ball.” The recreational sport spread quickly. Today, the game is played by more than 300 million people in 200 countries.
The first Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1968 at the campus of Springfield College. The growing popularity of the sport necessitated a move in 2002 to its current $47 million facility designed as a basketball-shaped sphere.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Cooperstown, New York
A shrine to America’s national pastime sits in the scenic upstate New York town of Cooperstown. The National Baseball Hall of Fame honors the beloved sport by helping guests relive some of the game’s most historic moments.
Three spacious floors filled with more than 38,000 artifacts illustrate the importance of the sport. Many visitors start their tour on the second floor with a 13-minute video in the Grandstand Theatre for an overview of baseball’s history. “Taking the Field” re-creates the early days of the 19th-century game before a timeline chronicles baseball’s greatest players, teams and record-winning games.
For more personal stories, guests can visit the Babe Ruth Room, the “Women in Baseball” exhibit and the “African American Baseball” exhibit. “Today’s Game” features lockers with artifacts such as uniforms, hats, gloves and photos from all 30 major league teams.
On the third floor, groups can learn about baseball legend Hank Aaron’s life from childhood to the present day in the “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream” exhibit. The Baseball Card Room lets groups peek into the world of baseball card collecting by displaying a sampling of the museum’s 135,000 baseball cards.
Guests shouldn’t leave the museum without stopping in the Hall of Fame Gallery. Each inductee has a bronze plaque displayed so fans can find their favorite players.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Groups can attempt to stop lightning-fast pucks from Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Ontario. The ice hockey museum honors the sport with exhibits on the players, the teams and the National Hockey League, alongside interactive challenges.
Computer simulations let participants take shots using real pucks at a simulation of goaltender Ed Belfour. Guests can also learn how hockey broadcasting works by recording messages alongside replayed games, then arranging for those clips to be emailed to them.
The stunning Esso Great Hall, with plaques of Hall of Fame members, stands out for many guests. NHL trophies line the walls, including the towering Stanley Cup. Groups can snap photos with the cup.
The museum recently renovated its Vault, the permanent home of the now-retired original Stanley Cup Bowl. The exhibit also contains the exclusive Stanley Cup ring display of more than 20 rings, including the first 1893 championship ring.
The Canadian museum is self-guided, with knowledgeable staff throughout to assist with questions or point out interesting artifacts. Visitors can use mobile apps for customized tours.
The Hockey Hall of Fame was established in 1943. It moved to downtown Toronto in 1993 inside the historic Bank of Montreal building.