With a vision of building a more peaceful world through sports, French nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin rekindled the spark of the ancient Olympic Games by establishing the modern Olympics in 1896. And for more than 125 years, no matter which of the Olympic ring colors — blue, yellow, black, green, or red — is woven into the flag representing our country’s athletes, we set aside our differences and come together as a human race for a few weeks every two years. From the first Olympics held on American soil to a new museum that celebrates all American Olympiads and host cities, these are the Olympic venues in the U.S. you can visit now.
Fun Fact: Although the Olympics originated in Greece and 70 percent of the modern Olympic games have taken place in a European host city, the United States has hosted eight Olympic games, more than any other country.
1. Forest Park, Francis Field, And Francis Gymnasium In St. Louis, Missouri
You might be surprised to learn that St. Louis was the first American city to host the Olympics. That’s right, 1904 was a big year in the Gateway to the West! Not only did it showcase the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (widely known as the World’s Fair), but it also hosted the Games of the III Olympiad.
Although it’s been more than a century since boxers, wrestlers, runners, and other athletes from 12 nations competed in the St. Louis Olympics, you can still visit several former Olympic venues now in the shadow of a soaring silver arch. Forest Park, the venue for both the World’s Fair and the Olympic water sports, is now home to the St. Louis Zoo, Missouri History Museum, St.Louis Art Museum, and many other attractions.
Just west of Forest Park, on the campus of Washington University, Francis Field and Francis Gymnasium were the sites of most of the remaining Olympic events. While some Olympic venues from around the world have been abandoned and left to ruin, Francis Field is a registered historic landmark, which should ensure that it — and the ornamental wrought-iron gate on the east end of the field — can be visited for another century to come.
Fun Fact: Chicago was originally slated to host the 1904 Summer Olympics, but the games were moved to St. Louis to tie into the World’s Fair.
2. The Olympic Center In Lake Placid, New York
In Upstate New York, the small Adirondack Mountain town of Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice, in 1932 and in 1980. Only two other host cities — St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Austria — share this distinction.
Although the 1932 Winter Games in Lake Placid were held in the middle of the Great Depression (during a horrible snow year) and have since been eclipsed by the 1980 Winter Olympics, they mark the first time the victory podium was used and the first time the same Olympic athlete won gold medals in both the summer and winter games.
But the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid are legendary.
Known as the “Miracle on Ice,” a team of American college student and amateur hockey players coached by Herb Brooks beat the Soviet national team 4-3, sending the country who has long dominated the sport home with silver. It was also at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid that American speed skater Eric Heiden became the first Olympian to win five individual gold medals in a single Olympics.
Several Olympic experiences await your visit to Lake Placid. Start at the Olympic Center, where you’ll find memorabilia, photos, and video footage from the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games. You can also tour the speed skating oval where Eric Heiden made Olympic history and the Herb Brooks Arena where the “Miracle on Ice” game was played. You can also strap on your skates and hit the ice during public skating, stick ‘n puck, or another event.
For an ADA-compliant “hands on” Olympic experience, take a gondola and glass elevator ride to the top of the Lake Placid ski jumps for beautiful views of the Adirondack Mountains and to get a ski jumper’s view of the ramp.
Fun Fact: St. Paul, Minnesota, honors native son Herb Brooks with a statue outside the Xcel Energy Center where the Minnesota Wild NHL team plays.
3. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum In Los Angeles, California
A few months after the Winter Olympics flame in Lake Placid was extinguished, a new torch was lit in Los Angeles for the 1932 Summer Olympics. The City of Angels hosted the Olympics again in 1984 and is slated to host the 2028 Summer Olympic Games. So when you visit LA, you can both relive Olympics past and sneak a peek at the sites that will be used in the upcoming games.
When you attend a USC Trojans football game, an LA Giltinis rugby match, or other event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, you are sitting in the venue that has held the opening and closing ceremonies of two Olympics. And in 2028, it will become the only stadium in the world to host three Olympic games.
You’re also enjoying an Olympic venue in LA when you catch a baseball game at Dodger Stadium or a tennis match at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the UCLA campus. And when you watch a UCLA Bruins basketball game in Pauley Pavillion, you are in the spot where Mary Lou Retton became the first American to win the women’s gymnastics all-around gold medal in 1984.
If you make your way from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica, winding through Beverly Hills and down Rodeo Drive, you’re on the course of the 1984 marathon, an event in which women were (shockingly) able to participate for the first time that year.
4. The Olympic Museum In Squaw Valley, California
When Squaw Valley was awarded the 1960 Winter Olympics, the struggling resort in Northern Tahoe included one chair lift, two tow ropes, and a 50-room lodge. But within five years, the city built Olympic venues and accommodations to host two million visitors. Now also known as Olympic Valley, Squaw Valley is one of the largest ski areas in the United States.
Start with a bird’s-eye view of the impressive mountain scenery and crystal-clear lake on a 10-minute aerial tram ride. Then browse the exhibits at the Olympic Museum, where admission is included with your ticket. You’ll discover a variety of exhibits and memorabilia from the 1960 Olympics, including television news coverage, which happened for the first time during these Olympic Games.
5. Centennial Olympic Park In Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta hosted the Centennial Olympic Games in the summer of 1996. Although the games were a financial success, they will forever be associated with the pipe bomb that exploded in Centennial Olympic Park. The 2019 Oscar-nominated Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell spotlights the security guard whose heroic actions saved scores more from injury or death.
Stroll through Centennial Olympic Park, a 22-acre green space on the northern edge of downtown Atlanta. You’ll find monuments honoring folks like Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, and Billy Payne, the Atlanta native responsible for bringing the Centennial Olympic Games to his hometown. Among water features like the Fountain of Rings and small cascades, you’ll see a mosaic of stones from around the world to honor the 111 people injured by the bombing as well as an eternal light that shines in memory of Alice Hawthorne, who died in the attack.
Next, visit the “Atlanta ‘96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City” exhibit at the Atlanta History Center to relive historic sporting moments from the game and examine examples of the medals placed around the necks of the champions.
You’ll also find Olympic artifacts on display at the World of Coca-Cola. When we visited, a museum docent let us hold one of the torches used to carry the Olympic flame from Athens to Atlanta.
6. Utah Olympic Park In Salt Lake City, Utah
The US city to most recently host an Olympics is Salt Lake City. Most of the events took place near Park City, where Utah Olympic Park was built on the east side of the Wasatch Mountains to accommodate the bobsled, skeleton, luge, and ski jumping events at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Visit the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, where you can tour the 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum free of charge. Just outside the museum, thrill seekers can experience the ride of a lifetime by jumping in behind a professional bobsled pilot and tearing down the track at up to 100 mph. If you’re visiting Salt Lake City when the ice has melted, don’t worry! The bobsleds are modified to roll on the track’s concrete surface during the summer season.
You can also hit the world’s fastest ice by joining a public skate session or learning how to curl in the Utah Olympic Oval. Lastly, get a glimpse of the Olympic Cauldron in the southwest corner of the Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.
7. The US Olympic & Paralympic Museum In Colorado Springs, Colorado
The newly opened US Olympic & Paralympic Museum is a 60,000-square-foot interactive tribute to the Team USA athletes of the modern Olympics. Start your visit by exploring the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame that spotlights the accomplishments of extraordinary athletes. The museum also houses a variety of unique Olympic artifacts, from the scoreboard used at the 1980 men’s hockey game in Lake Placid to torches from every Olympics game in modern history.
Whether you want to visit multiple Olympic host cities or learn about Team USA in one spot, these Olympic venues will welcome you with open arms.