Take Me Out to the Ball Game: A Stadium & City Guide
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
More Cities and Stadiums to Consider
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.
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.
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.
You can email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @jimbyerstravel. Jim also can be found on Instagram @jimbyerstravel1.