Take Me Out to the Ball Game: A Stadium & City Guide

Apr 8, 2016

With baseball season in full swing, we tabbed former Blue Jays correspondent and longtime travel guy Jim Byers to share his experiences from stadiums steeped in lore. Plus, we negotiated a few exclusive deals to make your trip even better.

Yankee Stadium in New York City

They’ve redone Yankee Stadium several times, but it’s still got tons of history and is a fantastic place to watch a ball game.

Sure, the house that Ruth built had more history and character, but the new Yankee Stadium (opened in 2009) has its own charm. For the uninitiated, the stadium is in the Bronx, the northernmost of the five boroughs. Don’t be intimidated. How to get there: Take either the 4 train (East Side) or the B and D trains (West Side) from Manhattan and follow the dark blue-and-white clad Yankee fans out of the 161st Street/Yankee Stadium subway stop. Tip: Deals for New York are available via Travelzoo’s new Hotel Search.

Borgattis is a fantastic Italian deli in the Little Italy section of The Bronx, centred on Arthur Avenue. It’s far more authentic than the Little Italy in Manhattan.

Most tourists make a beeline back to Manhattan after the game. They’re missing out. The Bronx is home to its own version of Little Italy (around Arthur Avenue; you’ll need to get a cab) that’s far more authentic than the one in Lower Manhattan. At the Bronx Market, there are tons of shops selling massive cannolis and good espresso. Check out Wave Hill Gardens on the Hudson River or head to City Island, an old-style place with a nice beach, fun shops and restaurants selling fried clams and other seafood.

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles

Dodger Stadium. Flickr photo by Sherry Main.

Referred to by some as Chavez Ravine, patrons to the park are treated to a beautiful setting, with great views of nearby hills that are sometimes ablaze with wild flowers in spring. You’re only a few minutes from downtown, where you’ll find achingly hip hotels such as the Ace, or the Standard with its trendy rooftop bar featuring a German beer garden, ping pong tables and gorgeous views of the downtown skyline.

The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles has one of the city’s best rooftop bars.

Shop at the Grand Central Market, an LA staple where vendors sell everything from fine ice cream to gourmet oysters. Don’t miss the roast beef dip sandwiches at Philippe’s Original, a Los Angeles institution with cheap coffee and a clientele that ranges from tourists in Hawaiian shirts to local cops who know where to find the best sandwiches in town at a great price. Way better than the Dodger dogs they serve at the ballpark. How to get there: LA has come a long way in terms of public transit. There’s no subway or streetcar line near Dodger Stadium, but ticket holders can get a free bus ride from Union Station downtown on the Dodger Stadium Express. Tip: Tune in to hear the call from legendary play-by-play announcer Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years.

Wrigley Field in Chicago

Wrigley Field in Chicago is one of the most famous, and cherished, ballparks in the Major Leagues.

They’ve tinkered with the stadium and taken away some of the charm from the days when folks set up folding chairs on rooftops behind the outfield walls, but the walls have retained the ivy and their nickname of "Friendly Confines." Wrigley is also known as a stadium where the home team hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. The surrounding neighbourhood is famous for souvenir stands, fun food spots and bars. Last time I was there, I had a fantastic burger and good local beer at Rockit, right around the corner from Wrigley.

Take a boat tour and enjoy the architecture of Chicago; one of the world’s great cities.

Don’t miss a chance to take one of the architectural boat tours on the Chicago River, where you’ll marvel at some of the most beautiful high rises in the U.S. Chicago was the birthplace of the modern skyscraper, and there are few cities in the world that can match the Windy City for architecture. (I’ve read that Toronto is actually windier than Chicago, just FYI.) How to get there: The Addison Metro station is just steps from Wrigley, so transit is a great option for getting to the park. Tips: Save $30 on tickets to see the Chicago Cubs from a rooftop with all-you-can-eat food and drinks, including beer and wine. Scope out the sights during a history walk or bus tour, $20 (reg. $40)

Fenway Park in Boston

Fenway Park. Flickr photo by Sarah Nichols.

Another iconic ballpark with cozy seating and a quirky layout that includes the famous Green Monster, a towering green wall in left field that turns potential doubles or line-drive home runs into singles but also makes the park immensely enjoyable. The Boston Common is a great place to picnic or take a spin in one of the famous swan boats. The North End has tiny, brick streets and historic homes that have charm to spare. Boston’s Little Italy has restaurants that serve up immense portions for incredibly reasonable prices. My wife and I once ordered an appetizer portion of mussels, only to find a plate with 50 or 60 coming our way.

Little Brewster Island is a fun spot in Boston Harbor, an under-appreciated part of the city.

For something different, try a tour of the Boston Harbor Islands and check out the Little Brewster Island lighthouse. Or take the ferry to Provincetown, which has great beaches, a lively shopping and gallery scene and a very LGBT friendly atmosphere. How to get there: You can take the T to the park and if you’re staying in the Back Bay, you can walk there in less than half an hour. Beginning May 19, there will be free bike valet parking for ticketed patrons.

AT & T Park in San Francisco

Nestled along the waterfront, AT&T Park sports breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Bay.

Another of the early downtown parks, and this one is still a true gem. The right field stands give way quickly to San Francisco Bay, which means a long home run to right field can sometimes splash down in the waters of McCovey Cove. Boats usually patrol that part of the bay and wait for someone to bop a long ball into the water. Tip: Book a gameday sail for US$49 (reg. US$105). From the deck of the boat, you can see the scoreboard and are in range of splash hits. How to get there: You can walk to the park from anywhere downtown, or take the Muni bus or tram system. What to eat: The stadium is famous for its garlic fries.

Take a drive along the coast of Sonoma County before or after a San Francisco Giants game.

The Bay Area boasts an abundance of great attractions, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the nearby Monterey Peninsula and the wine-growing areas to the north. I love Napa but I find the Sonoma Valley a tad more approachable. Try a tour at the Coppola Winery, owned by movie director Francis Ford Coppola. Or take a drive along the coast near the Sonoma County town of Jenner.

The Coppola Winery is a fantastic spot to sip wine in the Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco.

More Cities and Stadiums to Consider

The new Safeco Field at sunset. Flickr photo by Ellas Gayles.

Seattle is less than a three-hour drive from Vancouver and has a great new ballpark, Safeco Field. Be sure to check out the city’s famous Public Market, where fish vendors are known to toss enormous tuna back and forth and where coffee flows in vast quantities, this being the home of the original Starbucks.

Don’t miss the Public Market on a trip to Seattle to catch the Mariners play.

Camden Yards opened on April 6, 1992 Baltimore was the first major league city to embrace the new style of smaller ballparks in the heart of downtown, for which baseball fans should be forever grateful. Oriole Park at Camden Yards remains a fantastic spot to catch a game.

Miller Park. Flickr photo by Barrel Man Sammy.

Milwaukee is a fun city with great culture and a fun stadium called Miller Park, where the mid-game routine includes a bunch of folks dressed in costumes representing hot dogs, Polish and Italian sausages, chorizo dogs and bratwursts racing around the infield bases. A Milwaukee brat and a cold beer is the perfect baseball lunch.

Pittsburgh is very much a city on the rise. PNC Park is right smack downtown and on the banks of the Allegheny River. The city’s ever-growing skyline serves as a marvelous backdrop. Culture fans can double up with a visit to the nearby Andy Warhol Museum.

About Jim:

Jim was the travel editor for 5 years at the Toronto Star and has his own travel blog, JimByersTravel.com. He also writes destination stories for several publications, including the PostMedia network, Zoomer magazine, The Australian newspaper, Air Canada rouge and now the Travelzoo Canada blog.

You can email Jim at jim@jimbyerstravel.com or follow him on Twitter at @jimbyerstravel. Jim also can be found on Instagram @jimbyerstravel1.

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