Soon, the Olympic Torch will be arriving in Rio, kicking off the 2016 Summer Olympics. While most of us will be skipping a trip to Brazil and watching from our living rooms, there are still plenty of ways to plan a trip to catch the Olympic spirit in the United States.
The US Olympic Committee has established three training centers and 17 training sites located in 15 states across the United States. Although designed to provide elite training for Olympic athletes, these sites and centers are open to the public for tours and opportunities to try out an Olympic sport. Six US cities have also hosted Olympics, and several of those cities feature Olympic destinations that are worth a visit. Here are some tips for what to expect when you visit these US Olympic sites.
US Olympic Training Centers
US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO: This is the flagship training center for the USOC, with over 500 athletes and coaches residing and training at the 35-acre complex, but there is still room for the less-than-Olympic visitor to catch some of the action. Public tours are available year-round Monday – Saturday. The tour starts with an inspirational 12-minute film and then a 45-minute outdoor walking tour of the training complex, including the weightlifting and wrestling facilities, the Aquatics Center and the Sport Center Gymnasiums. As you wander the complex, you could be walking down the sidewalk with the next gold medal Olympian.
~The inspiring campus of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. ~
US Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY: Home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, the center focuses on mostly winter sports, including bobsled & skeleton, figure skating, hockey, luge, ski & snowboard and speed skating. Half-hour, guided tours are available Monday-Friday at 3 pm and offer the history and general facts of the Olympic Center.
~Aerial Ski jump platforms in Lake Placid~
US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA: This year-round warm weather center was the first to be master planned from the ground up and is dedicated to the development of future Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Many summer events are trained in this location, but it is the BMX tracks that get the most attention. The BMX track is open weekly for the public to come and try the sport, and chances are good that you will be riding next to a current Olympian. Training runs and races are also open to the public for those who would rather watch.
US Olympic Training Sites
There are 17 Olympic Training Sites across the country, but there are a few that deserve a visit as they allow guests to have a taste of the Olympic sport on the same courses used by Olympic athletes.
Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation: Home to the only urban whitewater rafting course in US, this state of the art facility is also the training center for Olympic rowing, canoe and kayak athletes. Visitors who want to grab a paddle can visit the adjacent Riversport Adventures, where everything from rowing camps to white water adventures is available. Thrill seekers will want to check out RIVERSPORT Rapids, one of only three man-made whitewater venues in the nation, and the training course for Olympic whitewater. Six pumps recirculate treated water through two channels to create class II-IV rapids. Flow can be adjusted to offer various levels of rafting and kayaking experiences, from beginner to advanced.
Anschutz Southern Sports Complex: This site is home to the Velo Sports Center and the USA national track cycling program, where classes at all skill levels are open to the public in the largest indoor velodrome. Visits can include beginners clinics, open riding, and demonstrations by Olympic hopefuls and athletes.
US Olympic Host Cities
Salt Lake City, Utah: The 2002 Olympics was hosted in Salt Lake City and this US city might have the distinction of doing the most to keep the Olympic spirit alive. There is no end to the sites you can visit and try, including skating on the “Fastest Ice on Earth” or taking a clinic to learn freestyle aerial jumping. For a truly once in a lifetime experience, climb into a bobsled and feel the force of 4gs on the one mile track. If spectator sports are more your style, you can see an aerial show on summer Saturday nights, take a van tour of the complex, or visit the museums where you can see the relics of the 2002 Olympics. You can also go “all-in” with your Olympic spirit and sign up for an Olympic Fantasy Camp. No prior experience required.
~Photo courtesy of Tips for Family Trips~
Lake Placid, NY: Anyone alive in 1980 will remember this Olympics as the Miracle on Ice, when the underdog USA hockey team skated to victory against the power U.S.S.R. team. You can see much of the memorabilia from this event and more in the museum onsite, and you can even skate on the very same ice. An Olympic Sites Passport gives you access to many of the remaining facilities, museums, and events that showcase World Cup and Olympic events. A unique “Be a Biathlete” program gives the thrill of a shooting and skiing sport with accommodations that will even allow children to shoot using a paintball gun.
Squaw Valley, CA: While it wouldn’t be described as easily accessible, the Olympic Museum commemorating the 1960 Olympic Games is certainly memorable. An aerial tram takes you to the top of the mountain where you can spend the day at High Camp visiting the museum, swimming in the outdoor heated pools or skating (in season) on the ice rink. It is as much a history lesson that introduces visitors to the culture of the 1960s as a trip to a historic Olympic site.