Tips + Trends

Winter Olympic Cities Then and Now: What to Do in These Former Host Towns

While TV streaming services may talk up their lineups — Drama! Comedy! Horror! and pretty much everything else — there’s just one place to look to experience any and all emotions without fail: the Olympics.

But what to do when your desire to experience the world stage of sports doesn’t align with your sporting talent? Or maybe you want to learn all about Olympic sports in person, no screens necessary (unless those screens are part of a museum exhibit). The best bet for making your desires a reality? Visiting an Olympic host city of yesteryear.

Vancouver, B.C.

winter olympic locations
Hit the ice in Vancouver’s Richmond Olympic Oval. (Photo: Alamy)

The site of the 2010 Olympics now offers gold-medal-level facilities for experiencing sports. At the Richmond Olympic Oval gym, you’ll find pretty much anything a workout fan could want. Even if you only plan to visit for a day, you can drop in on classes to bump up your strength or take to the ice for figure skating, hockey or speed skating.

But if you really want to experience the excitement of Olympic-level competition without putting in the training years, go straight to the Richmond Olympic Experience (ROX). The ROX museum walks you through loads of Olympic history and then, thanks to sports simulators, lets you step into the thrills.

Zip down a bobsled course, paddle some serious whitewater or sit-ski your way down Canada’s National Paralympic Team’s training course. From curling to bobsledding to museuming, Olympic cities offer opportunities aplenty. The kid-friendly museum might even inspire your young’uns to go for the gold.

Salt Lake City

winter olympic locations
Are you up for the ropes challenge? (Photo: Courtesy of Utah Olympic Park)

Let’s get one thing out of the way that, Olympic athlete or not, everybody can agree on: Utah offers up some of the United States’ best skiing. And nobody can deny skiing’s place at the center of a winter Olympics.

Prefer other Olympic sports? Get to Park City’s Utah Olympic Park. At the Olympic site itself, try bobsledding or put the old ski jumps and more to work in their second jobs by testing your mettle on the humungous zip line and canyon adventure course.

Nagano, Japan

Site of the 1998 winter games, Nagano’s M-Wave complex where the games were held is home to a massive oval rink and a hockey rink. Skate or live out your Zamboni dreams by riding an ice-resurfacing machine. (No training necessary.)

M-Wave also houses the Nagano Olympic Museum, where you can see the torch used to carry the Olympic flame, a bobsleigh used by the Japanese National Team and much more. While in town don’t miss out on a day trip to one of the other stars of that year’s winter Olympics’ coverage — the snow monkeys who live at Jigokudani.

Calgary, Alberta

Back in Canada, home of the 1988 Calgary Games, what to do? So much. If you have a need for speed coupled with a brave heart, there’s no better way to take off than by bobsled, luge or skeleton.

Even the bravest of travelers will feel their heart rates soar as the speed picks up, up, up. Of course, there are plenty of ski and snowboard adventures to be had. Or for families who prefer bumping along while laughing nonstop, the decidedly non-Olympic downhill sport of tubing awaits.

Lake Placid, New York

winter olympic locations
Sate your need for speed in Lake Placid. (Photo: Alamy)

That was quite the Games, eh? What? The 1980 Games don’t stand out in your mind? Well, here’s a refresher: A few of the most memorable moments included speed skater Eric Heiden winning five gold medals and that moment of moments when the United States beat the Soviet Union in hockey. That was a win felt around the world.

There are still plenty of Lake Placid Olympic spots to explore. Take a bobsled ride at the Olympic Sports Complex. See how fast you can skate on the Olympic Oval (rentals available, of course). Or take a break from the winter chill and explore the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

Sapporo, Japan

It’s been quite some time since the 1972 Sapporo Games, but the city remains as elegant as ever, and there’s still plenty of Olympic joy to go around. Visit the Okura Jump Stadium to get a ski-jumper’s-eye view of the world. Or try skiing the same slopes the competitors took on during the games.

Prefer something new to you? In January and February, you can try the luge practice course. For an Olympic sport you can get up to speed on much faster, curling is a go-to for every age (though you might want to skip the fun if your knees aren’t in happy shape).


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