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Play...Squash? 5 Unconventional “Sporting” Events in NYC to Check Out

Tired of baseball and basketball? New York City takes spectator sports to a whole new level.

New York City offers a team for every type of sports fan — baseball fans can eat peanuts and crackerjack while watching the Yankees or Mets, football fans can root for the Jets, and basketball and hockey fans can saddle up courtside (or rinkside) with the Knicks and Rangers.

But if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, you can find plenty of more “unconventional” sporting events in the city, too. Whether you’re into competitive eating, high-stakes dreidel, or something else entirely, you can find it all in the Big Apple.

1. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

It’s natural for athletes to work up a sweat during sporting events, but meat sweats aren’t usually part of the equation. Then again, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest isn’t your average athletic competition. Every year, hordes of hungry people — and eager observers — gather at Coney Island to see who can down the most frankfurters in 10 minutes. Last year’s winner of the coveted Mustard Belt ate a whopping 72 hot dogs, so there’s no telling what the competitors will stomach in 2018.

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island.

2. Major League Dreidel

Believe it or not, dreidel is no longer reserved to holiday gatherings: Major League Dreidel (MLD) has turned the pastime into a competition. Rather than taking a leisurely spin, MLD players compete to see who can spin the dreidel for the longest time in a custom-made “Spinagogue.” Led by an MLD “Knishioner,” the big face-off appropriately only takes place each year during Hanukkah — so mark your calendars!

Major League Dreidel happens at Full Circle Bar at 318 Grand Street in Brooklyn.

3. J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Squash

Most people go to Grand Central Terminal to commute, but once a year, hundreds of visitors  flock to the transit hub to enjoy the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. Located smack-dab in the middle of the terminal, this squash competition takes place in a stylish court constructed from clear glass. Admission is free, but if you’re looking to be in the thick of the action, ticketed courtside seats are also available.

Grand Central Terminal is located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue.

4. Gotham Girls Roller Derby

Prospect Park’s LeFrak Center offers a space for family-friendly roller skating in a controlled, respectful environment. But if you’re looking for something more action-packed, Gotham Girls Roller Derby is for you. One of the few full-contact, all-women sports leagues in the city, this non-profit roller derby packs a serious punch, so come prepared!

Gotham Girls Roller Derby competes at various locations in NYC.

5. Empire State Building Run-Up

If you want to get in on some athletic action in the heart of midtown, we have just the event for you. But be warned: it involves running up dozens of flights of stairs. Yes, the annual Empire State Building Run-Up is exactly what it sounds like. Hundreds of runners, staggered in groups, dart up an impressive 86 flights of stairs to the finish line at the building’s scenic Observation Deck. The frontrunners generally complete the climb in just 10 minutes.

The Empire State Building is located at 350 Fifth Avenue.

These one-of-a-kind sporting events happen throughout the year, so don’t worry: no matter when you visit the city, there will always be something to see. Of course, the more time you have to spend, the more of the Big Apple you’ll have the opportunity to explore. That’s why Affinia is offering our amazing Free Nights offer: book four nights for the price of three, or three nights for the price of two at any of our midtown locations.

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