It’s no secret that after a year of staying at home and placing vacation getaways on hold, people were ready for a trip … and youth travel sports tournaments came back strong too! Over this past summer, Americans were expected to spend $153.7 billion on summer vacations (50% increase from the summer of 2019) including to many top youth tournament destinations.
Sports, and youth tournaments alike are back and running full-steam ahead. CollegeWeekends.com highlights some of the hottest and most travelled to youth travel sports destinations in the country (for all seasons) and take a dive into some great options for you to consider while you are there. Time to play ball!
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Located in one of South Carolina’s premier vacation hubs, Myrtle Beach has no shortage of family fun. Don’t be surprised if you or your childrens’ travel team makes plans for a tournament here (especially if you are on the East Coast!). Myrtle Beach hosts baseball, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, wrestling, volleyball and as well as tennis events throughout the year. The Myrtle Beach Sports Center, a massive 100,000 square foot facility, has also become host for top tournaments such as cheerleading nationals, gymnastics championships, national travel basketball tournaments, and volleyball tournaments. The Ripken Experience hosts the top baseball and softball tournaments, and has nine fields that contain synthetic turf in both the infield and outfield. Other popular tournament hosts include the North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex, which is home to a diverse set of outdoor sports including soccer, lacrosse, and even quidditch!
When travelling for a tournament to this beach haven, there is plenty to do nearby in Myrtle Beach. For those looking for fun options in between games, check out Broadway at the Beach. The district is home to a variety of activities for all ages including Ripley’s Aquarium, Gridiron Glory Football Hall of Fame, WonderWorks, helicopter tours, Hollywood Wax Museum, Top Golf, and more! Grab a bite at one of the top dining districts in the country, home to more than twenty beachside restaurants. The food varies from seafood to southern cuisine, and there are a number of bars for adults (American Tap House and Carolina Ale House) and arcades for kids (Dave and Buster’s and Backstage Epic Games). Tuesday and Friday nights starting at 10pm a firework show kicks off at 10pm!
Looking for a relaxing day at the beach? Head to the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk for a day of fun. The 60-mile oceanfront will take your breath away, and teams can bond while jumping waves, surfing, snorkeling, boating or fishing. Major festivals also frequently take place at the boardwalk, such as the Carolina Country Music Fest and Myrtle Beach Seafood Festival.
Cooperstown, New York
Located in upstate New York at the tip of Otsego Lake and not too far from Niagara Falls, Cooperstown is known for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Cooperstown Dream Park, which hosts over 100 teams from around the country for 13 weeks each summer. If your team has a chance to play amongst the baseball legends, consider it a trip of a lifetime … some consider the Cooperstown experience the “Disney of baseball”!
The Road to Cooperstown Tournament Series is also a weeklong event that features the top teams from across the United States and Canada. The tournament is held at Legends Fields in Oswego, NY. Each team is guaranteed a six game minimum with playoffs, and the event includes an opening day team parade and concludes with an R2 skills competition. Finally, Cooperstown is also home to several softball tournaments.
While in Cooperstown, take advantage of history. Aside from the aforementioned Baseball Hall of Fame, check out the Fenimore Art Museum, Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum, or the Farmers Museum. Have an extra day to spend? Go caving at the world-renowned Howe Caverns. The best eats in the area include Mel’s at 22, Doubleday Cafe, Cooperstown Diner, Origins Cafe, and Upstate Bar and Grill. Locals love to go beer tasting at Ommegang Brewery and witness cider-making at the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard.
Ft. Myers, Florida
Another popular youth travel baseball tournament destination is Ft. Myers, Florida. The 2021 Perfect Game Summer Select Tournament amongst 15-18 year olds features some of the best up and coming players in the nation. The event occurs from July 28th-31st. Ft. Myers also proudly hosts the “American 2 the top” Baseball Academy Travel program, offered to travel teams ages 9-14. The program is run and coached by some of the top professional and collegiate coaches and former players.
Aside from baseball, Ft. Myers offers a wide array of fun for all ages. Found in Lee County, Florida, the beaches are a can’t miss spot. Lynn Hall Memorial Park Beach is the most popular and family oriented beach full of shopping, fishing, and exciting street performers. Looking for a less crowded beach? Try Lover’s Key State Park, known for its tranquility and secluded beaches.
Downtown Ft. Myers or the “River District” is home to a variety of restaurants and is one of the top rated cities in Florida. The most popular dining spots are El Gaucho Inca, The Veranda, Downtown House of Pizza, Mel’s Diner, and McGregor Cafe.
This one comes as truly no surprise. If you’ve made the trip out to Orlando, surely you have come across the countless youth sports teams looking to make a name for themselves in a local tournament. ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex plays host for several youth baseball tournaments, most notably the International Salute to baseball and Memorial Day Baseball clinic kickoff. The events are hosted at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. AAU basketball makes its mark in Orlando, with the Battle at the Big House tournament already sold out for both boys and girls. The AAU 14U & 8th grade boys world championships and the Hard2Guard Olympic games both take place in Orlando.
Be sure to make a stop at Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios while in Orlando, both are full-day trips that teams will not want to miss! Aside from theme parks, Orlando offers a huge variety of restaurants and sightseeing opportunities. Some of the top golf courses in the world find themselves in Orlando, including Orange County National, Celebration Golf Club, and Shingle Creek Golf Club. Gatorland and Discovery Cove are two local wildlife favorites, with the former offering gator wrestling and snake shows while the latter is a fun spot to swim with dolphins and snorkeling. Santiago’s Bodega, Kres Chophouse, Café Tu Tu Tango, Border Grill Fresh-Mex, and Domu encompass some of the best restaurants in all of Orlando that are worth checking out.
Las Vegas, Nevada
One of the most vibrant locations in America, Las Vegas is a top spot for youth sports tournaments. Did you know that Las Vegas ranks towards the top of the most popular destinations for youth sports travel tournaments? Volleyball, basketball, and baseball all have some of their biggest events here. The Las Vegas Classic is one of the largest volleyball tournaments in the country and hosts some of the best volleyball squads around. As for basketball, the 2021 Las Vegas Tournament Series includes the West Coast Junior Olympic Games (July 9-11), the West Coast National Championship (July 15-18), the Las Vegas Classic (July 20-22), and the Grand Finale (July 23-25). For kids baseball, Back to School Brawl (Sep.4), Diamond Duel (Sep.18), and October Slugfest (Oct.2) headline the long list of events for top players to participate in.
While in Vegas, Must hit spots include Las Vegas Boulevard or “The Strip” … home of the Bellagio Fountains & Casino, the Eiffel Tower at Paris, and a plethora of shops, restaurants, and performance venues. The Venetian Casino and Grand Canal are America’s version of Italy, as close to the real thing as you can get! Gondola rides, stilt walkers, and singers help to recreate the scene. Adults will enjoy the Mirage Casino and Volcano, one of the three establishments found in the famous film, “Ocean’s Eleven”. After a day of sports, be sure to watch a show from world-famous Cirque du Soleil, an acrobatic and circus masterpiece.
Ballparks of America, an organization created by three baseball dads provides 10 to 13 year old baseball players the opportunity of a lifetime. The youth baseball tournaments amongst varying state headliners are played on mini replicas of legendary stadiums, equipped with clubhouses for each team. Branson, Missouri also hosts the famous Branson Shows and is located in the Ozarks Mountain country and is consistently ranked one of the top vacation towns in America.
Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with a retro Ozarks theme, is a must-see … as is the Titanic Museum which contains a full display of the ship’s history and artifacts. Country lovers will want to check out Dolly Parton’s Stampede, a family dinner-theater adventure. Must try restaurants include Gettin’ Basted, Pickin Porch Grill, Farmhouse Restaurant, Danna’s BBQ and Burger shop, and Rocco’s Pizza. You surely won’t be disappointed with your trip to Branson!
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Youth basketball, baseball, and soccer teams and families make their presence known at Pigeon Forge, located in Eastern Tennessee. The Ripken Experience, containing six turf fields that replicate the best in the big leagues, is a can’t miss tournament for kids baseball. Add in a backdrop of the Smoky Mountains from the field, the icing on the cake. Rocky Top Sports World offers a youth sports venue that includes Astroturf fields along with basketball courts, and plays host to many of the big tournaments. Top tournaments and events here include the 10-17 year olds basketball Big Shots Rocky Top finale (July 31-Aug 1), Rocky Mountain basketball showcase tournament (Sept 3-5), and the Smoky Mountain Soccer Cup (Aug 19-22 and Aug 26-29).
When not at a sporting event, be sure to stop at some of the best spots in the surrounding area! Top picks include Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park full of rides, a water park, and a museum depicting her long and treasured journey to stardom. The Alcatraz East Crime Museum provides an exclusive look at the crime history in America through exhibits and displays. Looking for a relaxing meal and post game stroll? Head to The Island in Pigeon Forge which has all kinds of restaurants, rides, and shops. Top restaurant picks in the area include The Old Mill for some authentic Appalachian flavors and Southern hospitality as well as the wildly entertaining Hartfield & McCoy Dinner Feud.
Indianapolis is a top youth sports destination in the Midwest, particularly for basketball, baseball and soccer. Prep Hoops 2K21 is hosted by Prep hoops network (Jul 23-25) and is a tournament open to 15-17 year old boys. Cream of the Crop (Jul 23-25) is another marquee basketball event hosted by RecruitLook Hoops for elite boys in 9th-12th grade, while Summer Heat is a tournament offered to boys and girls 3rd-12th grade hosted by Vision Elite Events. In baseball, there are several PBR marquee baseball showcase events held near Indianapolis. As for soccer, Indiana’s top youth tournament is the Grand Park Cup (Sept 3-5) for 9-15 year old girls and boys.
Indianapolis is a true sports town but also offers a wide variety of must hit attractions and great restaurants. The Indianapolis Zoo is home to one of the nation’s only in-water dolphin programs that you have to see! Sports fans will find themselves in awe over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400. In addition, Lucas Oil Stadium which hosts the Indianapolis Colts along with concerts and conventions, is a must see. Even when the Colts are out of town, fans can receive an all inclusive stadium tour! History lovers will want to head to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument which celebrates the Hoosiers which battled in the Civil War, the War Of 1812 and the Revolutionary war, and is located in the heart of the city.