The annual Australian Formula One Grand Prix takes place in March at Albert Park, about 3km (2 miles) from central Melbourne. Call Ticketek (tel. 13 28 49 in Australia) or check out the Grand Prix's website at www.grandprix.com.au for information on tickets, accommodations, and airfares.
From October through March, cricket's the name of the game in Melbourne. The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Brunton Avenue, Yarra Park, Jolimont, is perhaps Australia's most hallowed cricket field. The facility (the main stadium for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games) can accommodate 97,500 people. For the uninitiated, "one-day" games are the ones to look out for; "Test" games take several days to complete. Buy tickets at the gate or in advance from Ticketmaster (tel. 13 61 00 in Australia; www.ticketmaster.com).
Tours of the MCG (tel. 03/9657 8864; www.mcg.org.au) start every half-hour daily from 10am to 3pm. Tours take about an hour and price includes admission to the new National Sports Museum, which is also at the MCG. Tours leave from Gate 3 in the Olympic Stand on nonevent days only. Call for times and prices.
Melbourne's number-one sport is Australian Rules football -- or simply "the footy" -- a skillful, fast, and sometimes violent game the likes of which you've never seen (unless you have ESPN). Melbourne is home to 10 of the 16 Australian Football League (AFL) teams, with the others coming from Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, and Brisbane. The season starts on the third weekend in March and ends with the Grand Final on the last Saturday in September. The most accessible fields are at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (take tram no. 75 along Wellington Parade), Etihad Stadium (behind Southern Cross station on Spencer St.), and the Optus Oval at Carlton (take tram no. 19 from Elizabeth St.). For game information, call AFL Headquarters (tel. 03/8663 3000; www.afl.com.au). Buy tickets through Ticketmaster (tel. 1300/136 122 in Australia; www.ticketmaster.com.au).
Melbourne's "Rectangular Stadium" is officially known as AAMI Park (an insurance company holds naming rights), has the capacity for 30,000 spectators, and is the home of three other forms of football -- soccer, rugby league, and rugby union. It is located on Olympic Boulevard, in the Melbourne and Olympic Parks complex (www.mopt.com.au).
The Melbourne Cup, on the first Tuesday in November, has been contested by the best of Australia's thoroughbreds (and a few from overseas) since 1861. Melbourne society puts on a show, dressing up for the occasion, and the entire nation stops in its tracks to at least tune in on TV.
The city has four racetracks: Flemington (which holds the Melbourne Cup), 400 Epsom Rd., Flemington (tel. 1300/727 575 in Australia, or 03/8378 0888; www.vrc.net.au); Moonee Valley, McPherson Street, Mooney Ponds (tel. 03/9373 2222; www.mvrc.net.au); Caulfield, Station Street, Caulfield (tel. 03/9257 7200; www.melbourneracingclub.net.au); and Sandown, Racecourse Drive, Springvale (tel. 03/9518 1300). If you're staying in the city center, Flemington and Moonee Valley are the easiest to get to. Take tram no. 57 from Flinders Street to reach the Flemington racetrack, and catch tram no. 59 from Elizabeth Street to Moonee Valley.
The Australian Open, the Asia/Pacific Grand Slam, is played during the last 2 weeks of January every year at the Melbourne Park National Tennis Centre, Batman Avenue. Tickets go on sale in October through Ticketek (tel. 1300/888 104 in Australia or 02/8736 2711; www.ticketek.com.au). To get there, take the free tram shuttle service on route 70 from Flinders Street. For more information check out www.australianopen.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.