Sun., Dec. 17
NFL: CHIEFS AT CHARGERS
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
San Diego atop the AFC West is no surprise. No one, it seems, can stop LaDainian Tomlinson. But Kansas City? Who would have thought? After starting the season 0-2, Herm Edwards's team has jelled, winning seven of its last ten. RB Larry Johnson is second in the NFL in rushing, and the defense has been solid. Beating the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium (9449 Friars Rd.) would send a big message that the Chiefs have arrived.
Web site: http://www.chargers.com/
Do: Visit Wild Animal Park (15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, Web site) evenings until 8 p.m. during the annual holiday Festival of Lights. See lions roam the veldt, roadrunners racing through desert brush, condors roosting in wait, elephants dipping their feet in a pond -- all of them illuminated by more than 100,000 holiday lights and light sculptures.
Stay: Want a harbor view? No problem. Stay downtown at the 3-star Radisson Hotel San Diego Harbor View (1646 Front St.), where rooms start at $129, or the 3-star Holiday Inn San Diego-On the Bay (1355 N. Harbor Dr.), with rooms from $149.
Eat: Dine at Donovan's Steak & Chop House (4340 La Jolla Village Dr., Web site), home of San Diego's finest steaks. Order the 14-ounce prime filet mignon or the 20-ounce prime porterhouse.
Sat., Dec. 16
NBA: CAVALIERS AT MAGIC
The Arena in Orlando, Orlando
The Magic are back. Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Grant Hill are lighting it up. The three have led Orlando to the top of the Eastern Conference in the early season. The Cavs game at The Arena in Orlando (600 W. Amelia St.) ranks as a coming-of-age test. Can they handle LeBron James and friends?
Web site: http://www.nba.com/magic/
Do: Mickey! Minnie! Goofy! Spend the holiday with them at Walt Disney World Resort (1675 N. Buena Vista Dr., Buena Vista, Web site). Revisit your childhood and tour the park. Then head to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, the resort's five championship golf courses, the spas and swank restaurants.
Stay: Make this trip a true fantasy. Stay at Walt Disney World, at the 4-star Hilton Walt Disney World Resort Hotel (1751 Hotel Plaza Blvd., Lake Buena Vista), where rooms start at $109, or at the 4-star Royal Plaza in the Walt Disney World Resort (1905 Hotel Plaza Blvd., Lake Buena Vista), with rooms from $124.
Eat: Dine at Shula's Steak House (1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista, in the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, Web site), home to the resort's finest steaks. Try the 16-ounce New York strip steak or the 20-ounce Kansas City strip steak.
Sat., Dec. 16
NCAA BASKETBALL: PITTSBURGH AT WISCONSIN
Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
F Alando Tucker (Wisconsin's No. 5 all-time scorer) and G Kammron Taylor have led the rugged Badgers to No. 11 in the polls -- the highest they've been ranked since 2003-04. Wisconsin plays well at the Kohl Center (600 W. Dayton St.), but will it perform well enough to beat No. 2 Pitt, powered by 7-0 C Aaron Gray, one of the nation's top big men?
Web site: http://www.uwbadgers.com/
Do: Visit Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's 37,000-square-foot estate in Spring Green (5607 County Rd. C, Web site), 37 miles west of Madison. Wright, considered by many to be America's greatest and most forward-thinking architect, incorporated more than 40 years of his ever-evolving theories on organic design into Taliesin, his rural, 600-acre estate. Wander the grounds. The buildings, landscaped grounds, roads, ponds, lighting and furnishings are all part of Wright's vision.
Stay: The price is right. Stay downtown at the 4-star Edgewater Hotel (666 Wisconsin Ave.), where rooms start at $119, or the 3-star Madison Concourse Hotel (1 W. Dayton St.), with rooms from $114.
Eat: Smoky's Club (3005 University Ave., Web site) is considered one of the finest steakhouses in the Midwest. Order the 14-ounce bone-in filet mignon or the 20-ounce T-bone.
Sat., Dec. 16
NHL: MIGHTY DUCKS AT SHARKS
HP Pavilion at San Jose, San Jose
Two of the NHL's best teams -- Anaheim and San Jose -- battle it out for dominance in the Western Conference's Pacific Division Sat., Dec. 16, at the Sharks' HP Pavilion at San Jose (525 W. Santa Clara St.). The Ducks, led by G Jean-Sebastien Giguere and D Chris Pronger claim first place. The Sharks, behind G Vesa Toskala and C Joe Thornton, hold down second place. A Sharks win could make things very interesting.
Web site: http://www.sj-sharks.com/
Do: You're in Silicon Valley. Go native -- visit the Tech Museum of Innovation (201 S. Market St., Web site). Think of it as a high-tech play land. Lie on a giant shake table and ride out a virtual earthquake. Pilot a remotely operated vehicle, like the one that explored Titanic's nooks and crannies. Ride the same virtual trainer the U.S. Olympic team bobsledders used. There's even a green power exhibit that enables you to harness energy from wind, water and sunlight.
Stay: Take advantage of the "dead season" rates -- the 4-star Hotel Montgomery downtown has rooms starting at $109 and the 5-star Fairmont San Jose starts at $169.
Eat: Reserve a table at A.P. Stump's (163 W. Santa Clara St., Web site), the city's grand old steakhouse. Order the 10-ounce corn-fed filet mignon or the 14-ounce prime rib eye with gorgonzola.
Various airlines are offering flight deals to Las Vegas. Tickets are limited, so hurry: Orbitz deals
It's the start of a new season -- the Texas Hold'em season. Take advantage of bargain airfare to visit Las Vegas's Bellagio (1 AT&T Center Pkwy., Web site) Thu.-Tue., Dec. 14-19, to watch the top poker players and top wannabes compete in the Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic. Or ante up (it's a $15,000 buy-in) and see if you've got the nuts. Before sessions, tour the magnificent Wynn Collection art gallery in Wynn Las Vegas (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Web site). Wynn's private collection includes paintings by van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin, Mondrian and Monet. Its highlights are Vermeer's A Young Woman Seated at the Virginal, a Rembrandt self-portrait, a serial portrait of Wynn by Warhol and Picasso's Le Reve, which Wynn purchased for $42.4 million.
Various airlines are also offering flight deals to Philadelphia, the major destination closest to Atlantic City. Tickets are limited, so hurry: Orbitz deals
The 2007 World Series of Poker circuit tour's No Limit Hold'em Championship reaches Harrah's Atlantic City (777 Harrah's Blvd., Web site) Sun.-Tue., Dec. 17-19. Watch poker's biggest names mix it up -- or pony up the $4,900 buy-in and join the action. Between hands, catch the entertainment. George Carlin performs at Caesars Atlantic City (2100 Pacific Ave., Tickets) Thu., Dec. 14 Then head to the House of Blues Atlantic City (801 Boardwalk, Tickets) to see Last Comic Standing, with Josh Blue and Chris Porter
Fri.-Sat., Dec. 15-16
Division I football powers such as Ohio State and USC aren't the only ones battling for a college football championship. The action is just as intense among the smaller schools. Visit Chattanooga's Finley Stadium (18th St. and Carter St., Tickets) Fri., Dec. 15, to see the Division I-AA championship. Will defending champ Appalachian State (11-1) repeat? Will Montana or Massachusetts, both 11-1, win?
Or travel to Florence, Ala.'s Braly Municipal Stadium (Stadium Dr., Tickets) Sat., Dec. 16, to see the Division II title game. Defending champion Grand Valley State remains in the running. So does Northwest Missouri State, whom they beat in the 2005 title game.
Or trek to Salem, Va.'s Salem Football Stadium (1008 Texas St., Tickets) Sat., Dec. 16, to see the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl -- the Division III championship. The participants in last year's game -- champion Mt. Union and runner-up Wisconsin-Whitewater -- are still in the mix.
Fri.-Sun., Dec. 15-17
NASHVILLE COUNTRY CHRISTMAS
Ryman Auditorium, Nashville
This is the week to immerse yourself in Nashville's country music scene. Performances of the Grand Ole Opry are back at the historic Ryman Auditorium, home to the show from 1943-74. Purchase tickets to the Opry's Fri., Dec. 15, show, featuring Emmylou Harris and the Charlie Daniels Band, among others (Tickets).
Return Sat., Dec. 16, to see Emmylou again, this time with Del McCoury and Ashley Monroe, among others (Tickets).
Between shows, trek to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (222 5th Avenue South, Tickets ) to see the special exhibit, "I Can't Stop Loving You: Ray Charles and Country Music."
Can the Tennessee Titans keep their rhythm going? Head to LP Field (1 Titans Way) Sun., Dec. 17, to see if Vince Young and the Titans can pound one out against Jacksonville.
Sat.-Sun., Dec. 16-17
SNOWBOARDING: FIS WORLD CUP -- BAD GASTEIN
Bucheben Skiarena, Bad Gastein, Austria
The world's top snowboarders will compete at Bucheben Skiarena (Stubnerkogel Talstation, Web site) in this annual FIS World Cup event (Admission is free). Justin Reiter of Steamboat Springs, Colo., is America's top hope.
Between heats, tour Bad Gastein. Located in the Hohe Tauern, in the Austrian Alps, the town was once the playground of the royals and the rich. Known for its health baths and a lovely waterfall in the center of town, it is now a center for winter sports. Feeling lucky? Head to Casino Bad Gastein. (Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Str. 14, Web site). Fly into Salzburg, about 54 miles north.