The view from the Royal Box at Wembley Stadium. // (c) 2012 Samantha Davis-Friedman
London is gearing up to host the world at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, but sports fans can have amazing experiences in London any day of the year by visiting the many fascinating and exciting sports venues around the city. So, have no fear, just because you didn’t get tickets for the 2012 London Olympic Games, you can still have an exciting (and interactive) sports-oriented vacation in London this summer and beyond.
Home of the England Football Team, Wembley Stadium offers guided tours daily, giving visitors an all-access look at one of the world’s most famous stadiums and its hidden treasures including the 1966 World Cup crossbar and the 1948 Olympic tablets. Though Wembley is officially a neutral venue, tours take guests into the “home” locker room where they can take photos with jerseys belonging to England’s players and, from there, they will enter the pitch through the players tunnel (to the sounds of a cheering crowd). Once pitch-side, visitors can fully appreciate the size of this remarkable stadium, marvel at its iconic arch overhead and see how it feels when winners climb over 100 steps from the field to the Royal Box. Also currently on display inside the stadium is the Exhibition of Champions, which showcases all 56 UEFA Champions League finals from 1956 to 2011 and features one-of-a-kind artifacts from each one. Easily accessible by tube from central London, Wembley tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day (except Dec. 25-26 and Jan. 1). Tickets are approximately $26 for adults and $15 for children under 16. There are also family tickets and group discounts available.
Just minutes from central London on the Piccadilly Line, Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium offers self-guided audio tours that visitors can take at their leisure using individual audio-visual handsets that feature commentary by famous Arsenal players such as Robin Van Persie and Jack Wilshere. In addition, the handsets are continually updated to include highlights from the most recent Arsenal match so visitors will never have the same tour twice. For a more unique experience, Arsenal Legends give guided tours of the stadium and answer questions about their personal experiences on the team. Guests booking a Legends Tour will receive a special gift pack including an autographed photo of the Legend. All tours of Emirates Stadium include a visit to the Arsenal Museum featuring interactive exhibits depicting the history of the club as well as fascinating Arsenal artifacts including the club’s FA Premier League “Invincibles” trophy from the historic 2003-2004 season. Prices for the self-guided audio tour are $28 for adults and $15 for kids under 16. For the Legends Tours, the price is $57 for adults and $29 for kids. There are family tickets available for the self-guided tour only. The stadium is open seven days a week.
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis museum features a history of the game of tennis as well as memorabilia donated by tennis superstars from around the world. Here, you can see the outfits worn by all of the Wimbledon Champions including the newest, Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic. In anticipation of the 2012 London Olympic Games, an Olympic Tennis Exhibition highlighting the history of tennis in the Olympics opens this spring. On display will be Olympic medals, badges, clothing and souvenirs from the fourteen previous Olympics at which tennis was played. As if the museum wasn’t enough, visitors to this world-famous venue have the opportunity to tour the historic grounds, which include some of the most iconic locations in the sport of tennis. Guided tours take guests to see the press interview room, the Millennium Building and Wimbledon’s Centre Court, arguably the most prestigious and well-known location in all of tennis. Wimbledon is easily accessible from central London by Underground and is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Due to the Olympic Games, however, tours will not be available June 18-Aug. 14. Tour prices are $32 for adults and $20 for children.