May 1, 2010
On race day, the Churchill Downs track sells an unlimited number of $40 general-admission tickets. You can also buy them in advance on the website—and they're a steal compared with the $270 grandstand seats sold by brokers like gotickets.com. The passes give you standing-room-only access to the track's two hotspots: the grassy, 40-acre infield, where college students swill smuggled-in bourbon, and the paved paddock area, where socialites in over-the-top hats sip mint juleps. kentuckyderby.com.
June 21–July 4, 2010
At England's premier tennis tournament, in the southwest corner of London, entrée to the outer courts and the standing area at Court 2 sells for $13 to $32—and is slashed after 5 p.m. to $8 to $23. If you want better seats, bring a tent and join one of the world's best-organized overnight lines. You'll be in a good position to nab one of the 1,500 or so tickets that organizers set aside each day for Centre Court and Courts 1 and 2 (from $55 to $137, cash only). wimbledon.org.
June 11–July 11, 2010
Tickets to the first-ever World Cup in Africa aren't easy to come by. But if you weren't one of the lucky fans who scored through the complicated, yearlong online lottery system, you can still join the crowd. The 64 matches are being televised on giant screens in fan parks spread across South Africa, from coastal Cape Town to Polokwane in the wildlife-rich north. You'll toot vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) with locals as you take in the competition. And the festivities will be accompanied by live music, street soccer, and even foosball matches. fifa.com/worldcup.
Tour de France
July 3–25, 2010
This year, the 2,200-mile course sweeps through the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, including Reims (July 7) and Bordeaux (July 23). You can wait for the final push along the Champs-Élysées in Paris (July 25), but for more face time with the cyclists, stake out a spot along the grueling mountain passes in the French Alps—it takes longer to pedal up steep stretches than on the flatter surfaces where racers zoom by at over 30 mph. There are no tickets or bleachers for spectators, so fanatics pitch tents over-night for the best asphalt with a view. letour.fr.