Sports Getaways for Oct. 12-15

Updated: October 3, 2006, 8:56 PM ET
By Ron Berler | Special to ESPN Sports Travel

  MAIN EVENTS

Sat., Oct. 14

NCAA FOOTBALL: FLORIDA AT AUBURN
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

Four -- count 'em, four -- SEC teams are ranked in the top ten. Auburn (No. 2 and undefeated) and Florida (No. 5 and undefeated, though they host No. 9 LSU this Saturday) get it on Sat., Oct. 14, at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium (2047 Eaves Memorial Coliseum) -- a great place to watch college football. We could be talking national championship, as well as the Heisman Trophy winner. Whose candidate will shine -- Auburn RB Kenny Irons or Florida QB Chris Leak?

Web sites: http://auburntigers.cstv.com/

Do: Drive to Montgomery, Ala., an hour away. Visit the Rosa Parks Museum (252 Montgomery St., Web site), at Troy State University. It was Parks' refusal in 1955 to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery city bus that triggered one of the iconic moments of the Civil Rights Movement.

Then visit the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (454 Dexter Ave., Web site), where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first preached as a young pastor, and from where he challenged Montgomery's blacks to boycott the buses in support of Parks.

Stay: Better hurry, rooms are going fast. Stay at the 2-star Econo Lodge Opelika (1705 Columbus Pkwy., Opelika, Ala. -- nine miles northeast of downtown Auburn), where rooms start at $99.

Eat: Get thee to Byron's Smokehouse (450 Opelika Rd., Auburn) for the area's best barbecue. Don't miss the throw-it-all-in-the-pot Brunswick Stew.

Sat., Oct. 14

NASCAR: BANK OF AMERICA 500
Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

The Chase gets serious. The Bank of America 500 marks the halfway point in the championship-deciding final ten races of the season. Lowe's Motor Speedway (5555 Concord Pkwy. S., Concord), 17 miles northeast of downtown Charlotte, is the capital of NASCAR racing. Days of Thunder, Stroker Ace and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby are among the movies that have been filmed in part at the 1 ½-mile oval.

Web site: http://www.lowesmotorspeedway.com/

Do: Return to the track Sun., Oct. 15, sign up at the Richard Petty Driving Experience (5555 Concord Pkwy. S., Concord) for the Ride-Along program and ride shotgun three laps around the track (with a racing instructor at the wheel) at speeds topping 150 mph. You'll be the only car on the track. Try to imagine driving at that speed with a scrum of cars as near as two feet from you. Now you understand. No reservations. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first serve basis (Tickets).

Stay: Rates at 3-star hotels are reasonable. Stay at The Blake Hotel (555 S. McDowell St.), where rooms start at $158, or the Doubletree Guest Suites Charlotte/South Park (6300 Morrison Blvd.), with rooms from $159.

Eat: McIntosh's Steaks & Seafood (1812 South Blvd., Web site) serves the best surf & turf in Charlotte. Try the 20-ounce New York strip. Better yet, loosen your belt and go for it all -- the three-pound, McIntosh's U.S.D.A. prime porterhouse for two.

  UNDERCARD

Sun., Oct. 15

NFL: EAGLES AT SAINTS
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans

When is the last time people paid attention to the Saints? They're sure paying attention now. RB Reggie Bush and QB Drew Brees have them atop the NFC South. But can they stop the Eagles, led by RB Brian Westbrook and QB Donovan McNabb? Playing at home in the Superdome (1500 Poydras St.) should help. This is the game of the week.

Web site:http://www.neworleanssaints.com/

Do: Head to the French Quarter. It survived Hurricane Katrina better than most parts of the city and remains as fun and beguiling as ever. A treasure trove of history and architecture, the Quarter is ideal for walking tours. Stop at Jackson Square, where the street musicians play some of the sweetest jazz you'll ever hear. Admire the wrought-iron house railings on Rampart Street. Go antiquing on Royal Street. Wherever in the Quarter you go, you'll pass a bistro. Go in, sit near the front window, order chicory coffee and a beignet, and watch the parade of colorful people on the street (Web site).

Stay: The French Quarter is the place to be. The 3-star French Quarter Courtyard (1101 N. Rampart St.) has rooms starting at $60. Or try the 3-star Holiday Inn French Quarter-Chateau LeMoyne (301 Rue Dauphine), with rooms from $88.

Eat: Go native. Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St., Web site) is the crème de la crème of New Orleans Creole cooking. Try the filet bearnaise or the sautéed poisson with crabmeat Yvonne. Ask for a main floor table.

Fri., Oct. 13-Sat., Oct. 14

FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL AT LSU
Tiger Stadium/Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, La.

LSU's Tiger Stadium (Stadium Dr.) is known as Death Valley. An apt name. Even in an off-year, the Tigers seldom lose there. This is not an off-year. LSU (No. 9) is rolling behind their mountain of a quarterback, 6-feet-6, 252-pound JaMarcus Russell and hosts Kentucky, who will have its hands full, on Saturday.

Don't forget about the LSU basketball team, which went to the Final Four in 2006. This year, with Glen "Big Baby" Davis returning, they're hoping for even more. Arrive early for the football game -- way early, at 7 p.m., Fri., Oct. 13, on LSU Basketball Fan Night -- to see the team's first official 2006-07 practice at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center (N. Stadium Rd.). Admission is free.

Web site: http://www.lsusports.net/

Do: Keep it simple: put on some purple-and-gold and tailgate. Tiger Stadium is one of the great tailgating scenes in America. You certainly won't find better jambalaya at any other tailgate.

Stay: Baton Rouge won't break your wallet. Stay at the 3-star Holiday Inn Express Baton Rouge-I-10 at College Dr. (4924 Constitution Ave.), where rooms start at $114, or the 3-star Holiday Inn Select Executive Center Baton Rouge (4728 Constitution Ave.), where rooms start at $132.

Eat: You've had a long day. You want a tender steak, a fine cigar, a dry martini. Head to Sullivan's Steakhouse (5252 Corporate Blvd., Web site) and chill out. Order the 24-ounce bone-in "cowboy" ribeye or the sliced filet with gorgonzola garlic butter.

  DEALS

LAS VEGAS

Various airlines are offering weekend getaway deals to Sin City. Seats are limited, so hurry: Orbitz: Weekends in Vegas.

Head to TPC at Summerlin (1700 Village Center Circle) and TPC at The Canyons (9851 Canyon Run Dr.), twin hosts to the Frys.com Open (also known as the Las Vegas Invitational), the first non-major to offer a $5 million purse -- and where Tiger Woods bagged his first PGA Tour victory. Thu.-Fri., Oct. 12-13, the action is split between the two courses. The final two rounds, Sat.-Sun., Oct. 14-15, take place at TPC at Summerlin, considered the best 18 in Nevada (Tickets). Then make your way to Bellagio (3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.), Sun., Oct. 15, for the first round of Festa al Lago, a World Poker Tour event. Admission is free.

SAN FRANCISCO

Various airlines are also offering flight deals to San Francisco. Again, tickets are limited, so hurry: Orbitz: California vacations

Tell the truth: Do you really need an excuse to visit the city by the bay? Well, just in case you do, the 49ers host RB LaDainian Tomlinson, QB Philip Rivers and the powerhouse San Diego Chargers at the artist formerly known as Candlestick Park, now Monster Park (490 Jamestown Ave., Tickets), Sun., Oct. 15.

  SCHEDULE WATCH

Sat.-Sun., Oct. 14-15
There will be four MLB teams playing Sat.-Sun., Oct. 14-15 -- the final four that remain in the World Series hunt. This is the semifinal round, the NLCS and the ALCS -- a great time for a baseball road trip. But it will require last-minute planning. With the NLDS and ALDS still undecided, you could be traveling to any of six cities (the Yankees and the Mets, with home-field advantage, are guaranteed to be on the road for the middle games of the series next weekend) -- St. Louis (Busch Stadium, Poplar and Eighth Sts.), San Diego (PETCO Park, 100 Park Blvd.), Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave.), Minneapolis (Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, 900 S. Fifth St.), Oakland (McAfee Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way) or Detroit (Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave.).

  SPORTS PLUS

Sat., Oct. 14

FALL FOLIAGE FOOTBALL
Hanover, N.H.

Some cities host the Super Bowl. Others are home to the Final Four. But the best show of all occurs in rural New England, where each mid-October the leaves on billions of trees explode in a kaleidoscope of color. Travel to Hanover, in west-central New Hampshire, where the turning of the season is particularly pretty. Spend the weekend exploring quaint towns in New Hampshire and nearby Vermont along isolated, two-lane roads. Pause Sat., Oct. 14, to see Dartmouth host Holy Cross at Memorial Field (Crosby St.), on Dartmouth's Homecoming Day (Tickets).

  INTERNATIONAL PICK

Thu.-Sun., Oct. 12-15

TENNIS: STOCKHOLM OPEN
Kungliga Tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden

Rafael Nadal, James Blake, John McEnroe. They're the marquee players at the Stockholm Open (Web site), Sweden's premier tennis tournament and one of the ATP's oldest. The matches take place at Kungliga Tennishallen (Lidingövägen 75), known as The Royal Tennis Hall. The nickname is well-deserved. It's a great place to watch tennis. Blake, McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Sweden's great Bjorn Borg are among the tournament's past champs. McEnroe will be teaming with Swede Jonas Bjorkman in doubles; the two won the SAP Open in San Jose earlier this year.

Between matches, take a walking tour of Stockholm, a city of 1.8 million built upon 14 islands in Lake Malaren -- the gateway to thousands of islands and inlets that run to the Baltic Sea. It's an ancient city of bridges and towers, of grand boulevards and cobblestone plazas. Stroll through medieval Gamla Stan (Old Town), where you'll pass the royal palace, parliament building and the Stortorget (Great Square), along which stands the Swedish Stock Exchange building, built in 1776, where the Swedish Academy meets annually to select the Nobel Prize winners in literature. Stay at the 4-star Grand (13383 Saltsjobaden), with rooms $152 U.S., or at the 5-star First Reisen (Skeppsbron 12), where rooms start at $227 U.S.

ALSO SEE