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March 18, 2011

Final Four Travel Plans


TX, Houston_TX skyline with Memorial Park in foreground_73068373 (VisionsofAmerica-Joe Sohm_Digital Vision_Getty)
Houston plays host to this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament (Joe Sohm)

Chances are, you're too busy hiding the NCAA Tournament video stream behind an Excel spreadsheet right now to read this, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little sleepy from staying out to watch the UConn-Bucknell game last night at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. But if your team is making a run deep into the tournament, here are a few places you might hope they wind up:

5. Tuscon, Arizona
Site of the first and second rounds (or, sorry NCAA, second and third rounds thanks to the miserably confusing "First Four" play-in games), Tucson is a great destination for early spring. Dry desert air and Spanish colonial architecture make you almost forget this is one of the West's greatest college towns and home to the Arizona Wildcats, a five-seed in the West bracket.

Tuscon Travel Guide

4. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Really? This host of early-round games gets its reputation from oil-derrick roots (and indeed, you'll find the 76-foot-tall "Golden Driller" statue in the town's fairgrounds), but spring brings rose blooms and cool temperatures to Tornado Alley. And the burgeoning area along East 15th Street is awash in new restaurants and boutique shops, including the trendy Rope Tulsa.

Tulsa Travel Guide

3. Anaheim, California
Home of the West bracket finals, families will find plenty to do in Orange County, from Disneyland to Lego Land to a land filled with great beaches and nearby mountains close enough to squeeze in a hike before the games start.

Anaheim Travel Guide

2. Newark, New Jersey
Ok, laugh. Make your Jersey Shore jokes or snide comments about crime rates. They're all somewhat valid in New York's largest suburb. But what's lost is that Newark has some legitimate attractions and fine hotels, including a superb art museum and a history rooted deeply in sports. It's the perfect place to catch the East bracket semi-final game and see if your team can make the Final Four. (And an easy train ride from New York if that's more your style.)

Newark Travel Guide

1. Houston, Texas
Of course, everyone wants to be in the final. And Houston, with its fascinating shipping port, resurgent arts scene, and excellent shopping and dining, is a mighty good host for the championship games. Of course, I think I might hold out until next year, when the finals will come to New Orleans and may even overlap with Jazz Fest. I'll just have to hope my Huskies can make the trip.

Houston Travel Guide

See Away.com's Top Ten College Towns.


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