By
Travel & Leisure
updated 12/12/2011 9:18:15 AM ET 2011-12-12T14:18:15

What makes a city’s sports fans legendary: their sheer numbers, their loyalty, or perhaps even their anguish?

For Linda Beltran, a baseball enthusiast, it’s the sportsmanship. The D.C.-based hotel exec attended Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, wearing an Albert Pujols Cardinal jersey. “While I was heckled by a few drunk Texas Rangers fans, the rest were showing that ‘Texas hospitality,’ going so far as to apologize for their brethren’s behavior.”

That wasn’t the case in Philadelphia, Beltran says, where the infamous fans harassed her more vividly for her jersey choice. Still, you can’t argue with either city’s passion—which is why both Philly and Dallas made the top 10 of sports-crazed cities, according to Travel + Leisure readers.

In this year’s America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers voted on travel-related categories in 35 big cities, such as the best hotels, street food, and reliable wireless coverage. For some travelers, however, playoffs, bowl games, and even stadium tours are the stuff of great vacations. (Full disclosure: a few sports-oriented places weren’t part of the general Travel + Leisure survey, such as Detroit, Indianapolis, and World Series champs St. Louis.)

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For each of America’s most sports-crazed cities, we’ve highlighted a landmark, museum, or experience that lets fans tap into the local fervor—whether that’s a lesser-known team, a historic stadium, or a bar owned by a local sports hero. In Chicago, for instance, you can enjoy the city’s legendary pizza while reliving Blackhawks history in one restaurant; in Austin you can rent a bike from a shop owned by Lance Armstrong.

Ironically, though, some of the biggest winners in the sports survey were not the homes of winning teams, implying that “sports-crazed” does not always equal happy fans. Then there’s Boston, which has won seven championships in 11 years but couldn’t clinch the No. 1 title in our survey.

“I’ve actually noticed that Boston fans have become slightly less passionate, perhaps due to their success,” says Beantown native Andrew Schrage, who now edits personal finance site MoneyCrashers in Chicago. “It’s become easier to get tickets to games, and the competitive attitude has dwindled a little bit.”

But in the Windy City? “The frustration has definitely risen, especially with Cubs fans,” he says. “They’re incredibly passionate.”

The heart of this Tennessee city belongs to its basketball teams: the Grizzlies and the University of Memphis Tigers. Before games, you can see fans in team colors packing the bars and restaurants along Beale Street. That’s also a great spot to experience the city’s highest ranked qualities: music, which ranked No. 10, and the fabulous barbecue, which came in at No. 2.

See all the America’s Favorite Cities survey results!

Copyright © 2012 Amex

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