Commentary

Madness March: A trip like no other

Updated: March 16, 2009, 8:09 PM ET
By Tony Guadagnoli | Special to ESPN SportsTravel

March Madness-2009 1
Mouse over the basketballs on the map above or click on the list of cities below to get to the NCAA tournament host of choice lickety-split. (Graphic by Eliot Krohn)

Greensboro | Kansas City | Philadelphia | Portland | Boise | Dayton | Miami | Minneapolis
Regionals and finals: Boston | Glendale | Indianapolis | Memphis | Detroit


• Photo gallery: Take a trip through last year's bracket

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is sports entertainment at its best, especially when you can see the elbows fly up close and hear the squeak of sneakers in person.

You never forget attending an NCAA tournament game, and on March 17, 1988, I was lucky enough to witness the tournament at its most entertaining.

Loyola Marymount had won 22 consecutive games under coach Paul Westhead, but was a No. 10 seed playing seventh-seeded Wyoming, the surprise Sweet 16 team from 1987, in a first-round game in Salt Lake City.

More Madness

Can't get enough of tourney time? Flash back to the 2007 bracket in this photo tour.

When the final buzzer sounded, Loyola -- which wouldn't scare a 10-second shot clock with its frenetic pace -- had run the Cowboys ragged 119-115, at the time the highest scoring regulation game in NCAA tournament history.

Westhead practically got a standing ovation from the media when he entered the postgame conference. Wyoming's all-name, all-hot-dog Fennis Dembo was still catching his breath.

"It was more than dizzying," said Dembo, whom I covered from his first exhibition game as a freshman in 1984. Trust me, he knew "dizzying."

Dizzying is still an apt description for March Madness, a veritable amusement park for fans, providing the most fun and thrills of any sporting event going. There's always the chance to experience something wild and unexpected -- a high-scoring game, a 50-point performance, upsets, buzzer-beaters, end-to-end finishes are all possible in the madness that is March (and April -- the finals are slated for April 4 and April 6 in Detroit).

We'll get you primed and ready for this year's ride with our Tournament Travel Guide to all 13 host cities and arenas:

FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS – MARCH 19 and 21

GREENSBORO
• Arena: Greensboro Coliseum
• Host: Atlantic Coast Conference
• Address: 1921 W. Lee St., Greensboro, NC 27403
• Phone: 336-412-6222
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife areas: The Club Fifth Season (Sheraton Greensboro Hotel, 3121 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336-292-9161); Four Seasons Grande Theatre -- 18-screen movie theater next to Four Seasons Town Centre; Downtown locations 100 block to 300 block of South Elm Street include The Idiot Box (comedy club), The N Club, Heaven/Much Restaurant & Bar, Inferno (the best of '70s, '80s and beyond), Churchill's Martini Bar.
• Sports bars: Ham's (3017 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336-854-5696) -- 15 TVs, local brews, a mile from the arena. JP Looney's (3021 Spring Garden St. Greensboro; 336-852-1331) -- more than 20 wide-screen TVs, known for wings, ribs, "tournament time" specials. J. Butler's Bar & Grille (Doubletree Hotel 3030-A High Point Road, Greensboro; 336-316-1991) -- 20 flat-screen TVs. Natty Greene's Pub & Brewery (345 S. Elm St., Greensboro; 336-274-1373) -- downtown brew pub serving seven homemade beers daily. Grey's Tavern (343 S. Elm St., Greensboro; 336-617-5341) -- eight wide-screen TVs next to Natty's. Legends Sports Bar & Grill (Clarion Hotel 415 S. Swing Road, Greensboro; 336-855-7505) -- near the airport, 10 wide-screen TVs.
• Restaurants: Joseph's (Sheraton Greensboro Hotel, 3121 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336-292-9161) -- fresh seafood, steaks, chicken. Next to Outback Steakhouse, Bone Fish Grill, Carrabba's.
• Cheap eats: Stamey's Barbeque (2206 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336-299-9888) -- famous slow cooked pork barbecue, chicken, peach cobbler, all across from the arena.
• Attractions: Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Replacements, Ltd., Natural Science Center, Grand Prix Indoor Kart Racing, Four Seasons Town Centre and The Shops at Friendly.

KANSAS CITY
• Arena: Sprint Center
• Host: Big 12 Conference
• Address: 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64106
• Phone: 816-949-7000
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife area: The new Kansas City Power & Light District (13th Street and Grand Boulevard, Kansas City; 816-842-1045) is located across the street from the arena and features more than 40 dining and entertainment venues. One block features a ring of restaurants and nightlife surrounding a covered outdoor courtyard. The KC Live! stage offers live entertainment more than 150 days per year. Nightlife options range from the high-octane Angels Rock Bar to an authentic Irish pub, Raglan Road.
• Sports bars: Named one of America's top five sports bars by Sports Illustrated, Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum (323 Armour Road, North Kansas City; 816-421-0002) features a huge collection of sports memorabilia. Also try The 810 Zone (4686 Broadway Ave., Kansas City; 816-268-9633). The bar, complete with more than 100 high-definition TVs, is located in Kansas City's Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district.
• Restaurant: If you're looking for an affordable fine-dining experience, you can't go wrong with Bluestem (900 Westport Road, Kansas City; 816-561-1101). Chef Colby Garrelts' progressive American cuisine has been recognized by the likes of Food & Wine and the James Beard Award Foundation.
• Cheap eats: What would a visit to Kansas City be without sampling some of the city's signature barbecue? Kansas City boasts more than 100 establishments devoted to the heavenly 'cue. Try nearby local favorites such as Gates (3205 Main St., Kansas City, 816-753-0828), Arthur Bryant's (1727 Brooklyn Ave., Kansas City, 816-231-1123) or Fiorella's Jack Stack (101 W. 22nd St., Kansas City, 816-472-7427).
• Attractions: College Basketball Experience, National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, American Jazz Museum and Hallmark's Crown Center.
• More in the ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Kansas City

PHILADELPHIA
• Arena: Wachovia Center
• Host: Saint Joseph's University
• Address: 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19148
• Phone: 215-336-3600
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife area: South Street (running 10 blocks between Front Street and 10th Street) is an eclectic mix of young and old with nearly every ethnic group featured. Plus you can peruse 300 shops and more than 60 eateries, cafes and bars.
• Sports bars: Chickie's and Pete's (1526 Packer Ave., Philadelphia; 215-218-0500) is located within walking distance of the Wachovia Center. Seafood, especially crab, rules at this place. From noon to 4 p.m. on March 19 and 20, Chickie's and Pete's will offer a $35 all-you-can-eat buffet on a first-come, first-serve basis. McFadden's Ballpark (11th Street and Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia; 215-952-0300) is right next to Citizen's Bank Park and has 33 plasma TVs and a kitchen open until midnight.
• Restaurants: Monk's (264 S. 16th St., Philadelphia; 215-545-7005) is known for its amazing selection of Belgian beer, burgers and mussels. Royal Tavern (937 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia; 215-389-6694) is a neighborhood favorite in South Philly with terrific bar fare.
• Cheap eats: Cheesesteaks are king in Philadelphia and you must try one. Among the most popular spots are Pat's King of Steaks (1237 E. Passyunk Ave.; 215-468-1547), across the street at Geno's Steaks (1219 S. Ninth St.; 215-389-0659) or Jim's Steaks (400 South St.; 215-928-1911).
• Attractions: Franklin Institute of Science, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Philadelphia Zoo.
• More in the ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Philadelphia

PORTLAND
• Arena: Rose Garden
• Host: University of Oregon
• Address: One Center Court, Portland, OR 97227
• Phone: 503-797-9904
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife areas: Step outside the Rose Garden and onto the MAX light rail line, and you're downtown in minutes and in the center of the city's nightlife (and the Rose Garden and downtown are all within "Fareless Square," so this trip is free for all). Most nightclubs are located in Old Town and Chinatown (downtown). Another option is Northwest/Nob Hill.
• Sports bars: Opened in 1902, Kelly's Olympian (426 S.W. Washington St., Portland; 503-228-3669) is the third-oldest continuously operated bar and restaurant in Portland. The centerpiece of Kelly's is a dozen vintage motorcycles. Kells Irish Pub (112 S.W. Second Ave., Portland; 503-227-4057) was rated the nation's top Irish pub and restaurant by Tom Horan's Top Ten. Like they say, "If you can't go to Ireland, come to Kells!" Henry's (10 N.W. 12th Ave., Portland; 503-227-5320) features 100 draft beers. Other options are The Thirsty Lion (71 S.W. Second Ave., Portland; 503-222-2155) and Life of Riley (300 N.W. 10th Ave., Portland; 503-224-1680).
• Restaurants: Russell Street Bar B Que (325 N.E. Russell St., Portland; 503-528-8224) features some of the city's best Southern cooking, with lean, tender meats. Also save room for the deep-fried chocolate pie. Ringler's Pub (1332 W. Burnside, Portland; 503-225-0627) is in a building that is more than 90 years old and has housed many different businesses and styles, including an automotive garage. Ringler's is distinctive for its massive, ceramic-tiled bar.
• Cheap eats: Hot Lips Pizza (1909 S.W. Sixth Ave., Portland; 503-224-0311) features a large outdoor deck area. There also are four other locations in the Portland area.
• Attractions: Grand Central Bowl, Nike Factory Outlet, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and Rialto Pool Room.

FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS – MARCH 20 and 22

BOISE
• Arena: Taco Bell Arena
• Host: Boise State University
• Address: 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725
• Phone: 208-426-4737
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife area: In BoDo (or downtown Boise), you will find many of the best nightclubs. Try Opa (213 N. Eighth St., Boise; 208-342-6555), The Bouquet (1010 W. Main St., Boise; 208-345-6605) -- which is nearly 100 years old and has outlived many of Boise's other businesses -- and Tom Grainey's (109 S. Sixth St., Boise; 208-345-2505).
• Sports bars: Piper Pub (150 N. Eighth St., Boise; 208-343-2444) features more than 40 varieties of Scotch. Closed Sunday. Old Chicago (730 W. Idaho St., Boise; 208-363-0067) is part of the chain of brew pubs featuring pizza and 110 varieties of beer. Harry's Hyde Park Pub (1501 N. 13th St., Boise; 208-336-9260) serves up burgers and brews.
• Restaurants: Ha' Penny Bridge Pub (855 Broad St., Boise; 208-343-5568) is a casual Irish pub in downtown with live music and a large variety of draft beers. Bardenay (610 W. Grove St., Boise; 208-426-0538) is the nation's first restaurant distillery, crafting liquor on site. Tours are given as time permits.
• Cheap eats: Pita Pit (746 W. Main St., 208-388-1900) is open until 3 a.m. every day, serves Lebanese-style pitas and bills itself as a healthy alternative to fast food. Pie Hole (205 N. Eighth St., Boise; 208-344-7783) features pizza by the slice or more than a dozen specialty pies, including Thai chicken and broccoli cheddar.
• Attractions: Boise Greenbelt, Boise State University blue-turf football field and adjacent Allen Noble Hall of Fame Gallery, Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, The Basque Block and World Center for Birds of Prey.

DAYTON
• Arena: University of Dayton Arena
• Host: University of Dayton
• Address: 1801 Edwin Moses Blvd., Dayton, OH 45408
• Phone: 937-229-4635
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife area: The Greene (51 Plum St., Beavercreek; 937-490-4900) -- with a 14-screen movie theater, The Funny Bone Comedy Club & Cafe, fast food like Chipotle and higher-end dining such as The Cheesecake Factory and Flemings are among the options here. The Greene has something for everyone, including Bar Louie, Adobe Gila's and The Pub.
• Sports bars: Buffalo Wild Wings offers three locations close to UD Arena (1900 Brown St., Dayton; 937-222-9464; 6210 Wilmington Pike, Sugarcreek; 937-848-2999; and 262 E. Stroop Road., Kettering; 937-424-3999) -- more than enough TV screens and one of the most lively places to view sports in Dayton.
• Restaurants: You'll enjoy fine seafood at Jay's (225 E. Sixth St., Dayton; 937-222-2892), with dishes such as soft-shell crab, shrimp and pasta; all fresh fish is flown in daily. Visit its elegant bar. At Pacchia (410 E. Fifth St., Dayton; 937-341-5050), just around the corner, you'll find exotic and inventive pizzas served in a semi-formal atmosphere that includes white tablecloths and original rotating art displayed on the walls. Also try Cafe Boulevard (329 E. Fifth St., Dayton; 937-824-2722) in the Oregon District, where you will experience the atmosphere of a European sidewalk cafe and taste cuisine from around the world.
• Cheap eats: Milano's Atlantic City Submarines (1834 Brown St., Dayton 937-222-7072) -- in its 40th year of business; starts making its bread from scratch at 1 a.m.
• Attractions: United States Air Force Museum, Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Carillon Historical Park, Dayton Art Institute and Riverscape Metro Park.

MIAMI
• Arena: American Airlines Arena
• Host: Florida International University
• Address: 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132
• Phone: 786-777-1000
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife area: South Beach (encompassing 23 blocks on Miami Beach) will be very busy this time of year because of spring break, but it is a must-see to get the flavor of Miami's art deco, chic, trendy vibe. Expect long lines and be ready to spend some cash at one of the more than 150 clubs and restaurants, many of which do not close until 5 a.m. (South Beach also is a "daylife" area, and enjoys miles of white, sandy beaches.) Little Havana (S.W. Eighth St., between S.W. 12th Avenue and S.W. 27th Avenue) is the place to dance the night away to the pulsating beats of Latin music while perhaps trying a hand-rolled cigar and experience the full flavor of Coo-ba.
• Sports bars: Bru's Room Sports Grill (5476 W. Sample Road, Margate; 954-968-1050) is known for its tasty ribs and wings. .
• Restaurant: Versailles (3555 S.W. Eighth St., Miami; 305-444-0240) -- features traditional Cuban food in a casual environment in Miami's Little Havana district. Patterned after the French palace, Versailles is open until 3 a.m. on Friday and 4:30 a.m. on Saturday.
• Cheap eats: Five Guys Burgers (3401 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-571-8345) -- part of the nationwide chain with a basic menu of juicy burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese and a veggie special. This is one of five locations in the Miami area.
• Attractions: Miami beaches, Miami Metrozoo, Miami Museum of Science, Parrot Jungle Island and Seaquarium.
• More in the ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Miami

MINNEAPOLIS
• Arena: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
• Host: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
• Address: 900 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis, MN 55415
• Phone: 612-624-8080
• Web site | Seating chart | Buy tickets
• Nightlife area: ComedySportz (3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-870-1230) is an interactive improv experience in the heart of Uptown. Two teams of "actletes" compete for laughs and points in this hilarious unscripted comedy show. Appropriate for all ages. For a different experience, try Shout House Dueling Pianos (600 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-337-6700). This restaurant and bar has two pianists and singers performing classics at face-to-face grand pianos in front of large mirrors. Seven Sushi and Lounge (700 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-238-7777) is a balance of urban chic and sophistication.
• Sports bars: Established in 1902, Gluek's Restaurant & Bar (16 N. Sixth St., Minneapolis; 612-338-6621) is a downtown tradition. In addition to a wide variety of food, Gluek's has its own brand of beer and live music. Spike's Sports Bar & Grille (1300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612-596-4680) is located in the Hyatt Regency and has TVs seemingly everywhere, along with pool tables and electronic dart games. Hopscotch Grill (600 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-656-7311) is part of the GameWorks establishments with many interactive games and a bowling bar.
• Restaurants: NBA City Restaurant (600 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-767-2960) is an upscale sports entertainment restaurant for the sophisticated sports fan. NBA City has contemporary American cuisine, state-of-the-art sports entertainment and interactive games. Old Spaghetti Factory (233 Park Ave., Minneapolis; 612-341-0949) is a family-friendly Italian restaurant located two blocks north of the Metrodome.
• Cheap eats: Hard Rock Cafe (600 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 952-285-7625) offers a lively dining experience filled with American cuisine and wall-to-wall memorabilia. Merchandise is available in the retail shop. Pizza Luce (119 N. Fourth St., Minneapolis; 612-333-7359) -- over the years, this award-winning gourmet pizza, delivery service and late-night dining establishment has become a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
• Attractions: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota Zoo, Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Mall of America.
• More in the ESPN SportsTravel City Guide: Minneapolis

Tony Guadagnoli is a free-lancer in western Washington. Click here to read more of his work.

NEXT PAGE (for Regionals and Final Four)

ALSO SEE