Alternative Holiday Sports Options (For Those Of Us Too Broke For the Warriors or Raiders)

From Cal swimming to Golden Gate Fields, take the family to a budget sporting event.

The holidays, they’re great. Family. Friends. Food. Fun. All the makings for a swell time. That is, until it comes down to choosing where to eat or what to do.

That conversation can make what was a jolly gathering into a messy debacle.

And, if you surround yourself with die-hard sports fans that want to go to a major spectacle in the Bay Area, consider how many big-market teams there are. There’s the San Francisco 49ers. The Oakland Raiders. The Golden State Warriors. This exchange has the potential to devolve into a contentious — and also expensive — argument really quickly.

The only logical solution is to attend a sporting event outside the confines of traditional, professional athletics. The Warriors have enough fans watching their games at Oracle Arena, anyway. They don’t need your money.

So, if you’re hankering for a merry time out with loved ones without the crowds, exorbitant costs, and bickering, consider some of these fun-filled alternatives to professional sports.

Swim, Swim, Swim!

People only seem interested in competitive swimming during the Olympics. That means potential Bay Area swim fans are missing out on great opportunities to see some high-level swimming, because both of Cal’s teams are really good. The men’s team is currently ranked second in the nation, while the women’s team is ranked No. 18. The men don’t have any meets scheduled in Berkeley over the holidays, but don’t worry, the women are here to satisfy your swim spectating needs.

The women’s squad have four swimmers on the roster that competed in Rio this summer. Among them is Kathleen Baker, who captured silver in the 100-meter backstroke, and Abbey Weitzeil, who also got silver in the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay. So come out and support a team that wouldn’t mind seeing a few more fans in the stands. You’ll more than likely meet a handful of Olympians in the process. Cal Women’s Swim: December 21 at Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley.

Mediocre but Better

This one is a little more conventional with what you’d expect at a professional spectacle — but won’t hurt your wallet (unless you hit the concession stands). Despite losing Jaylen Brown to the NBA, the Cal men’s basketball team is poised for … a spectacularly mediocre season. Mediocre probably isn’t what you were expecting, but considering Cal has been among the bottom feeders in Pac-12 basketball for years, it’s a considerable step up.

Experts expect the Bears to take a step back after key losses, but don’t be surprised if powerful sophomore forward Ivan Rabb leads them to some unexpected wins. Rabb’s supremely talented, and watching him is worth the ticket price. He’s also widely considered a top-10 pick in next year’s NBA draft, so don’t miss a chance to see him live before he goes big. You can also say you watched him at Cal if he ever becomes ultra-famous. Cal Men’s Basketball: December 17, 21 and 30 at Haas Pavilion.

Running In Circles

Golden Gate Fields is home to the only major horse racing track in Northern California. So, if you’re hosting out-of-towners, this is a worthy Bay Area spectacle.

Golden Gate Fields provide a free direct shuttle outside of the North Berkeley BART station that will take you to and from the races — so don’t hesitate to start the day with a beer or two. Races start every half hour, which means you’ll have plenty of time to grab a beer or a hot dog or check out the dozens of horses. Every Sunday during the racing season is also a dollar day. That means $1 admission, drinks, and food.

For those uninterested in watching horses run around in a circle, the Golden Gate Fields say that the view from their men’s restroom is the best in the Bay. Resting on the shore of the San Francisco Bay, the venue provides a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Mt. Tamalpais, and the San Francisco city skyline. The fall racing season ends December 11 but starts up again for the winter season the day after Christmas. Rejoice! Golden Gate Fields are open until December 11 and after Christmas Day.


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