Sun., Oct. 1
NFL: SEAHAWKS AT BEARS
Soldier Field, Chicago
Seattle reached the Super Bowl last year while the Bears won the NFC Central. Each expects bigger things this season -- and each is off to a fast start. Bears QB Rex Grossman returned from an injury-riddled season to torch Green Bay for 252 yards. Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck and NFL MVP RB Shaun Alexander are looking to do the same against the Bears, at Soldier Field (1410 S. Museum Campus Dr.).
Do: Head to Wrigley Field (1030 W. Addison St.) to watch the Chicago Cubs close out their season with a weekend series against the Colorado Rockies. The baseball might not be the best, but historic Wrigley Field makes any game worth the visit (Tickets).
Stay: Chicago is no cheap date. Try the 3-star Club Quarters Central Loop (111 W. Adams St.), where rooms start at $202, or the 2-star Congress Plaza Hotel (520 S. Michigan Ave.), where rooms start at $189.
Eat: Morton's, The Steakhouse has branches in nearly every major U.S. city. But the Morton's on Chicago's Gold Coast (1050 N. State. St.) is the mothership, the original (Web site). Order the double-cut filet mignon or the Chicago-style bone-in ribeye.
Sun., Oct. 1
NFL: RAVENS AT CHARGERS
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
Are these AFC teams for real? They have been dominant through two weeks, outscoring the opposition by a combined 122-13. But, let's not get too excited -- both teams have faced the feckless Raiders. Still, it should be an intriguing ballgame when LT and the Chargers come in to beautiful M&T Bank Stadium to take on Ray Lewis and the host Ravens.
Web site: http://baltimoreravens.com/
Do: The Orioles are out of town, but you can still take a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards (333 West Camden Street) -- and, hey, it won't be that much emptier than it is for a game, these days! Visit the O's dugout as part of tours which leave hourly from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. from Mon.-Sat., and at 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $7.
Stay: Rooms are available near the Inner Harbor at the 4-star Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore (20 W. Baltimore St.), where rooms start at $139. The Holiday Inn Express at 1701 Russell St. is just 4 blocks from M&T Bank Stadium, and has rooms starting at $159.
Eat: When in Baltimore, you gotta try the crab cakes. Faidley's Crab Cakes (203 N. Paca St., Web site) is considered to be among the best, and, even better, it's just a few blocks from the stadiums, at Lexington Market.
Sun., Oct. 1
NASCAR: BANQUET 400
Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kans.
The Banquet 400 is third race in the ten-race Chase for the Cup series, which will decide the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship. See if Kevin Harvick can continue his roll at Kansas Speedway's (400 Speedway Blvd.) 1.5-mile, tri-oval track.
Web site: http://www.kansasspeedway.com/
Do: Head to The Woodlands (9700 Leavenworth Rd., Kansas City, Kans., Web site) Sat., Sept. 30, for the 14th running of the Sunflower Stakes. The six-furlong race is for Thoroughbred colts and geldings three years and older. Parking and admission are free.
Stay: Stay in downtown Kansas City, Mo., where the action is. Stay at the 3-star Radisson Hotel & Suites Kansas City-City Center (1301 Wyandotte), where rooms start at $175. Or try the 2-star Econo Lodge Kansas City (3240 Broadway), where rooms start at $119.
Eat: Fiorella's Jack Stack may be the classiest barbecue joint in the nation. Here, in one of America's great barbecue towns, succulent ribs meet linen napkins. The side dishes -- including hickory pit beans and cheesy cornbake -- are the best in the city (Web site). Try the hickory-roasted barbeque.
Fri.-Sun., Sept. 29-Oct. 1
MLB: WHITE SOX AT TWINS
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis
The final weekend of the 162-game season, and an AL playoff spot could be on the line when the defending champion White Sox face the surprising Twins at the Metrodome (900 S. Fifth St.) -- where the Twins seldom lose. Do you go with Sox starter Mark Buehrle or the Twins' Johan Santana? Sox MVP candidate Jermaine Dye or the Twins' nominee, Justin Morneau? Will Sox manager Ozzie Guillen totally lose his mind?
Web site: http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/
Do: Oct. 1 marks the end of a marathon baseball season. Fittingly, it is also the day of the Twin Cities Marathon (Web site). The race starts 8 a.m. at the Metrodome (900 S. Fifth St.) and winds 26.2 miles to the majestic State Capitol (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., St. Paul), in St. Paul (Course map).
Stay: No New York-like rates here. Stay downtown at the 3-star Holiday Inn Minneapolis-Metrodome (1500 Washington Ave. S.), where rooms start at $149, or the 3-star Embassy Suites Hotel Minneapolis-Downtown (425 S. 7th St.), where rooms start at $159.
Eat: The best downtown place for beef is Manny's Steakhouse (1300 Nicollete Mall, near Grant St., Web site). Just go for it. Order the double porterhouse.
Midwest Airlines is offering deals for flight deals to Nashville. Tickets are limited, so hurry: Orbitz deals.
The Cowboys will be in town on Sun., Oct. 1 to face the struggling Titans. If you really, really, really love football, you can watch Temple (possibly the worst team in Division I-A) visit Vanderbilt, no powerhouse itself, on Saturday. If you're a saner sort, we'd recommend hitting some music sights like the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Bluebird Cafe.
Midwest is also offering flight deals to Phoenix. Again, tickets are limited, so hurry: Orbitz deals
Head to Arizona State's Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium (Stadium Dr., Tempe, Ariz.) in nearby Tempe on Sat., Sept. 30, to see the No. 22-ranked Sun Devils take on No. 18 Oregon (Tickets). Then visit Chase Field (401 E. Jefferson St.) to see the Arizona Diamondbacks play the Padres, who may need to win on this final weekend (Sept. 28-Oct. 1) of the regular season in order to advance to the NL playoffs (Tickets).
Fri., Sept. 29-Sun., Oct. 1
It's the final weekend of the baseball season. Several teams are still in the wild-card hunt. We've already listed three of them: the White Sox, Twins and Padres. Others are also compelling. Travel to Miami, Fri.-Sun., Sept. 29-Oct. 1, to see NL wild-card wannabes Florida and Philadelphia duke it out at Dolphin Stadium (2269 Dan Marino Blvd., Tickets). Or head to San Francisco, Fri.-Sun., Sept. 29-Oct. 1, to see the Giants try to win the wild card against the rival Dodgers at AT&T Park (24 Willie Mays Plaza) -- in what might be the final games of Barry Bonds's career (Tickets, Note: the Sun., Oct. 1, game is sold out).
GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL, DENVER (Sept. 28-30)
GERMAN VILLAGE OKTOBERFEST, COLUMBUS (Sept. 29-Oct. 1)
So what if the Broncos and the Buckeyes are out of town, respectively -- these are two of the great events in American beer. The Great American Beer Festival will offer 1600 beers from more than 380 U.S. breweries, as it celebrates its 25th edition at the Colorado Convention Center. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in 69 categories of beer styles.
Meanwhile, Columbus hosts what AskMen.com ranked as the top Oktoberfest in America. 233-acre German Village provides an authentic locale, as it's a 19th-century working-class neighborhood that's been painstakingly restored.
Thu.-Sun., Sept. 28-Oct. 1
GOLF: WGC-AMERICAN EXPRESS CHAMPIONSHIP
The Grove, Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire, England
Only the top 50-ranked golfers and selected others are invited to compete in this event, also known as the World Golf Championships. Last year Tiger Woods defeated John Daly on the second playoff hole, his fourth win since the inaugural championship, in 1999. This year's tournament will take place at The Grove (Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire), a much-admired layout located on the northwest outskirts of London. The victor will bank $1.3 million. Anyone want to bet against Tiger? (Tickets)
Between rounds, visit Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the theater district in Covent Garden. Stay at the 3-star Ambassadors Earls Court (16 Collingham Rd.), where rooms start at $125 U.S., or at the Thistle Bloomsbury Park (126 Southampton Row), where rooms start at $154 U.S.