Away games have historically been pretty friendly places to be for Thunder fans. The first couple of seasons, the Thunder were harmless enough that no one was going to give you much attitude for wearing blue in a road arena. And since then, as OKC’s profile has risen, there are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook jerseys in just about every section of the arena whenever the Thunder are away from home.
Cheers for the Thunder on the road have been pretty audible in recent seasons, as a matter of fact. Although sometime it’s less of a cheer than a scream in awe and horror.
No time like the present to join in on the fun and catch a road game this year. Here’s a comprehensive list of the best opportunities to catch a Thunder road game this season.
(The ground rules for the search that produced this list: The game has to be reachable without burning more than one vacation day on a Monday to Friday work schedule, and it has to be in a city that one would normally associate with a nice three-day weekend even if there were no basketball game to attend. Sorry, Milwaukee. All airfares are based on flights from Oklahoma City and as of Sunday, and with reasonable itineraries. All hotel rates, also as of Sunday, are three-star or better hotels in a decent area. Driving distances are from Chesapeake Energy Arena to the opposing arena.)Friday, Dec. 6 at New Orleans
Fly: $352 (Southwest)
Drive: 724 miles (10 hours, 18 minutes)
Stay: $228/night (Holiday Inn New Orleans West Bank Tower)
Do … stay in or near the French Quarter, which is within walking distance not only of the arena, but within almost everything you’d really want to do during a long weekend in New Orleans. The food is fantastic. The bars are legendary. The Bourbon Street gutters may run with vomit, urine and stale beer on party weekends, but it’s a unique slice of Americana to spend a fun weekend in the Big Easy. If you haven’t been, this is a great excuse to go. (A problem with this: Something must be going on in New Orleans that weekend, because hotel prices in the French Quarter are through the roof.)
Don’t … mess with pelicans. Make fun of New Orleans’ basketball team’s name at your peril.Saturday, Dec. 21 at San Antonio
Fly: $367 (Southwest)
Drive: 463 miles (6 hours, 46 minutes)
Stay: $98/night (El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel)
Do … check out the Riverwalk and eat your body weight in Mexican food. Look, it’s true that there’s decent Mexican food in Oklahoma City. In fact, there are a couple of places where it’s a lot better than decent. But not many, and I don’t care what you say. But that’s not the case in San Antonio. You trip over a good Mexican restaurant every block there, and you would do well to make your way down the Riverwalk one margarita at a time. Plus the weather is likely to be more pleasant the weekend before Christmas in San Antonio than in OKC.
Don’t … worry if the Thunder don’t actually win the game. The Thunder have a relatively soft opening schedule, and the Spurs game is one of the first handful of tests of the entire season. But Westbrook might not even be back by then, and there’s no sense in getting worked up over a win or a loss before football season is even over. So just enjoy the weekend, and a win would be gravy.Friday, Jan. 24 at Boston
Fly: $450 (American)
Stay: $105/night (Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers, via Kayak)
Do … bring a coat, but also go explore one of the many historical sights in and near the city. There are too many to count. Start with the Freedom Trail and see where it takes you.
Don’t … plan on getting a beer at the game if you are under 25. Maybe the rules have changed since I last attended a game there many years ago, but at the time they didn’t sell beer to anyone with an out-of-state ID who was under 25 years old. A bit of a bummer, but I guess the bright side is I saved $8 or so.Saturday, Jan. 25 at Philadelphia
Fly: $468 (American)
Stay: $157/night (Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penns Landing, via Kayak)
Do … try to combine this one with the Boston game if you can. Philly is only a few hours away from Boston by train. But even if you can’t, there’s almost as much colonial-era history in Philadelphia as there is in Boston. Independence Hall is the no-brainer.
Don’t … worry about losing this game. The 76ers look to be a disaster this season.Friday, Jan. 31 at Brooklyn
Fly: $424 (United)
Stay: $226/night (Best Western Plus Arena Hotel)
Do … realize that if you need help figuring out things to do in New York City, then you have problems.
Don’t … confuse the Barclays Center with a rusting spaceship.Saturday, Feb. 1 at Washington
Fly: $268 (United)
Stay: $101/night (Residence Inn Arlington Rosslyn)
Do … hope that Congress doesn’t shut the government down again before Feb. 1 (a distinct possibility since the government is only funded now through mid-January) so you can actually see the sights. And, like the Boston/Philly combo, this would be a good chance to see two games in one weekend. New York and Washington are about three hours apart by train.
Don’t … miss the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. There’s a moon rock there, just in case anyone forgot that we’re the only country to put a man on another celestial body. And there’s the Wright brothers’ plane — THE Wright brothers’ plane, not a replica — and an untold number of other historical aircraft and spacecraft. It’s amazing.Friday, Feb. 7 at Orlando
Fly: $310 (AirTran)
Stay: $134/night (Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, via Kayak)
Do … go to Disney World. Duh.
Don’t … go to Disney World at any other time than an offseason trip like this. Otherwise you’ll spend way more time in line than doing something fun.Sunday, March 9 at Los Angeles (Lakers)
Fly: $338 (Frontier)
Stay: $194/night (DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown)
Do … eat outside while you’re there, unless you have bad enough luck for the weather to be bad. There are numerous quality eateries with outdoor patios in LA. Yes, there’s the obvious things to do like go to the beach or check out Hollywood and the other touristy sights. But never forget to enjoy the simple things, like a meal in the Southern California sunshine.
Don’t … take for granted the chance to beat the Lakers while they’re down. Kobe Bryant ought to be back by then, but it should hardly matter. The Lakers are going to be pretty bad this year.Friday, March 21 at Toronto
Fly: $627 (United)
Stay: $81/night (Comfort Hotel Downtown)
Do … walk the streets in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in North America, which is so urban and eclectic that it’s often a stand-in for New York in movies and films. Toronto is a truly delightful city, even if it might be a little chilly in late march like most of the rest of the northeastern part of the continent.
Don’t … be too sad that the Maple Leafs are out of town this weekend, because the Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto and very much worth visiting.Sunday, April 6 at Phoenix
Fly: $255 (Frontier)
Stay: $100/night (Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix Midtown, via Kayak)
Do … play some golf, if that’s your thing. It’s still a little early in the year for it to be blisteringly hot in Phoenix, and some of the best golf in the country can be found in the area. And if shopping is your thing, you can do a lot worse than going to Scottsdale. Phoenix is truly Los Angeles lite when it comes to things like food, shopping and leisure, minus the beach.
Don’t … pee in the pool where the Diamondbacks play. It’s bad form.