Every summer tens of thousands make their way to their favorite ballpark every day to take in a few hours of America’s pastime. Whether you’re a season-ticket holder or just a tourist visiting for the weekend, the game itself often turns out to be just a good excuse to find some fun things to do for the day. So with that in mind, here’s a list of some of the most popular ballparks in Major League Baseball, and what to do before, during, or after the game.
Wrigley Field- Chicago Cubs
Located in ‘The Windy City’, the beloved Cubs of Chicago have been searching for that elusive World Series visit since the 1945 “Curse of Billy the Goat”. Fans of the Cubs annually pack ivy-covered Wrigley Field to cheer on their “Cubbies”. Many visitors to the area head to Michigan Avenue to do a little shopping at what seems to be every imaginable retail store, as well as take in the numerous restaurants and taverns. For those looking for some culture, a stop at the Field Museum of Natural History or the nearby Art Institute is a must. Both are considered as one of the best in the country. If you’re looking for breath-taking views, a trip to the 462-foot high Tribune Tower or the cloud-shattering 1,451-foot Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) are sure to offer the perfect cityscape views. Of course no visit to Chicago is complete without a deep-dish pizza at the original Pizza Uno restaurant located on Chicago’s North side.
Yankee Stadium- New York Yankees
Located in the Bronx of New York City, the 27-time World Series champion Yankees are not only a fan favorite in every city they visit during the season, but they more or less own “The Big Apple” when it comes to baseball. Fans visiting the new Yankee Stadium have a variety of things to do in the area. Within minutes of the stadium is the famous Bronx Zoo. This 250-plus acre animal sanctuary contains a variety of birds, monkeys, and other wildlife. Many say that there is so much to do at the Bronx Zoo that it can’t be seen in just one day. The New York Botanical Garden is also located in the Bronx. Like the zoo, the Botanical Garden is also situated on 250 acres of lush NY real estate. Included on the floral site are 50 unique gardens, an ornamental Victorian-style greenhouse, and several family-friendly activities and events. If you’re looking for a place to grab a bite to eat or pre-game beer, look no further than Stan’s Sports Bar or The Dugout located within steps of the stadium for some traditional ballpark grub. Leaning a little toward the Italian side? Be sure to visit Giovanni’s for great pizza and Italian food. A restaurant known as The Feeding is where foodies head to for that Caribbean-vibe cuisine. Becoming more and more popular on a daily basis, The Feeding is the new “It” place around the ballpark. Inside the new Yankee Stadium sits a variety of restaurants and food courts offering a selection of food including BBQ, cheese steaks, and of course classic Nathan’s hotdogs and Carvel ice cream treats.
AT&T Park- San Francisco Giants
Out on the west coast sits San Francisco, California. For years this northern California city has long been known as a favorite place to travel to, as well as for its faithful sports fans. Built in the year 2000, replacing the former classic confines known as Candlestick Park, AT&T Park served as a breath of fresh air to the Bay Area. The Giants paid tribute to some of its great former players by building the stadium on Willie Mays Plaza, and along the waterfront now referred to as McCovey Cove, in honor of long-time team favorite Willie McCovey. AT&T Park is located in what is known as the South Beach area of San Francisco. Being situated on the San Francisco Bay, though the days can be beautiful and warm, the nights quite often will get down-right chilly, so be sure to bring a jacket or sweatshirt to any evening game. Across from the ballpark is a fan-favorite hotspot called MoMo’s. Fans seem like to make it a pre-game and post-game stop. In fact some have been known for stopping there for pre-game fun, and never making it to the game itself! While at AT&T Park everyone insists that you don’t pass up the garlic fries or tomato mozzarella sticks. Being sold throughout the park, these fries and cheese sticks have become a stadium staple because of their deliciousness. Some fans making their way to and from the game along Market Street will often stop off at the SF landmark, Red’s Java House for a burger and beverage. Along Market Street and around the China Basin marina sit many charming stores selling everything “San Francisco”. Of course getting around this Pacific Coast city can be an experience in itself. Whether you take the public transportation known as the BART, hop a trolley car, or hail a cab, getting around San Francisco is a breeze.
Citizens Bank Park- Philadelphia Phillies
The “City of Brotherly Love” is known for its significance in American history, being home to the famous movie-underdog Rocky Balboa, and also its no-holds-barred sports fans. Through the beginning of this new century the baseball team in Philadelphia known as the Phillies has seen tremendous success on and off the field. In 2012 the team was ranked #1 in all of MLB, with attendance numbers well over 3 million. While the stadium offers up Philadelphia food favorites such as cheesesteaks and hoagies, the area around CBP is as diversified as the population. In Philly the baseball stadium is located in a complex with other stadiums like Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL- Eagles) and the Wells Fargo Center (home of the NBA- Sixers and NHL- Flyers). All of these are located in the heart of the city with parks, museums, and shopping galore seemingly surrounding the perimeter. Of course a trip to historic Philadelphia wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Liberty Bell, Freedom Hall, and Congress Hall. Located within the Independence National Historical Park area of the city sits nearly 20 blocks of historic neighborhoods, buildings, and monuments commemorating the historical significance of Philadelphia. Along the waterfront is the Tweeter Center and Navy Yard. The Tweeter Center on the Waterfront is an outdoor concert venue seating over 20,000 during the warm months of the baseball season. Down at the city’s Navy Yard progress meets history as newly renovated factories and businesses intermingle with quaint shops, restaurants, and parks through beautifully landscaped streets.
Busch Stadium- St. Louis Cardinals
Like the St. Louis Gateway Arch welcomes travelers into the Midwest, the new Busch Stadium welcomes baseball fans of all ages to the Home of the Cardinals. Built in 2006, Busch Stadium has played host to two World Series championship titles since its opening (2006 & 2011). Like most modern U.S. cities, St. Louis offers some incredible eating experiences. There is a section of the city known as “The Hill” that serves up some of finest Italian food in St. Louis. Another famous snack landmark in the city is Ted Drewes, which is where thousands swear you’ll find the finest frozen custard anywhere. Around Busch Stadium, Cardinal fans can find friendly pubs and city-famous thin crust pizza parlors. For visitors looking to experience the cool neighborhood, urban-vibe of St. Louis, a day at the Delmar Loop will offer up cool boutique shops, hip restaurants and cafes, and even a St. Louis celebrity themed Walk of Fame. There is fun for all ages that can be found in and around the city, ranging from the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park and St. Louis Zoo for the kids to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour and nightlife excitement found at the 42-acre Westport Plaza. Not only do the Cardinals have a winning tradition, but the city of St. Louis proves it knows how to do “fun” right.
Fenway Park- Boston Redsox
For many years, actually many generations, fans of the Boston Redsox baseball club had wondered if they too had been cursed, like the Chicago Cubs. Year after year the spring would offer hope, only to find the autumn cold bring expected misery to the faithful fans of the Redsox. However in 2004 the “Curse of the Bambino” was broken with Boston’s first World Series victory in 86 years. Through all of the ups and downs of the Redsox drama, one thing had always been true- Redsox fans are arguably the most loyal in all of baseball. Getting from historic Quincy Market to the city’s Little Italy called The North End, or from the shopping district of Copley Square to the Home of the Redsox along Yawkey Way, traveling around Boston is easy with the use of the public transportation system known as the “T”. When at Fenway Park, baseball memorabilia shops, restaurants, and bars surround the 101 year old ballpark. Fan favorite watering holes include GameOn, the Boston Beerworks, and the Cask n’ Flagon. All three, and many more, are within a ground-rule double of Fenway Park. If you feel the need to get even closer than that then perhaps the Redsox version of tailgating is more your fancy. Every game day a section of street is blocked off along Yawkey Way. It is here that vendors serve up cold beer, hot pretzels and everything that makes you a Redsox fan for a day. Inside the relic of a stadium fans will see the famous Pesky’s Pole down the right field line and the Green Monster situated in left field. Not so widely known is a place built into the Green Monster known as the Bleacher Bar. Visitors to the Bleacher Bar will experience a ground-level view of the playing field from left field with a glass window that allows them to see out without players being able to see in.
Camden Yards- Baltimore Orioles
Though it’s been many years since the glory days of the 1970s Baltimore Orioles, the fan base for this mid-Atlantic region baseball club is as strong as ever. In 1992 the Baltimore Orioles moved out of their dated Memorial Park and into their new home. With that the team and the park rejuvenated the entire City of Baltimore. Located a couple blocks from Baltimore’s tourist-jewel known as the Inner Harbor, the stadium draws hoards of people into this revitalized section of the city. It is here that most visitors to Baltimore gravitate to. With dozens of restaurants and taverns, a variety of stores, and more entertainment than one could handle in a week, the Inner Harbor is really the only place you may need to visit around the ballpark. Max’s, Sliders, and Pickle’s Pub are just three hot spots for those looking for a fun pre-game meal. All three are located right around the stadium. Though Babe Ruth’s childhood home is no longer in its original spot (which is where left field of Camden Yards is now), a stop by the Babe Ruth Museum on Emory Street is definitely encouraged. Just follow the 60 baseballs painted on the sidewalk from the ballpark to the museum. Just a few blocks from Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor are a couple other cool areas known as Fell’s Point and Federal Hill. Both neighborhoods are lined with good food and fun libations.
Comerica Park- Detroit Tigers
Like so many of the new ballparks around the country, Comerica Park too has been the beacon to shed a new, fresh light on what was a dying urban area. In the year 2000 Tiger fans were shown that there can be so much more to do than just watch a game when you head to the ballpark. A ferris wheel that has you riding in baseballs and a merry-go-round that has replaced the decorated horses with yes, you guessed it, ‘Tigers’ are just two things that welcome visitors to Comerica Park. The state-of-the-art baseball stadium blends the modern conveniences of today with the yesteryear feel of decades ago. Located outside the Comerica Park area tourists should be sure to swing by the Henry Ford Museum to see where the American automobile began, the Renaissance Center which is full of shopping and restaurants, and the Hart Plaza to take in unique works of art as well as live entertainment.
Progressive Field- Cleveland Indians
For what used to be referred to as “The Mistake by the Lake”, the City of Cleveland has certainly reversed its fortunes in a way like no other city has ever done before. Since 1992 Progressive Field has been the home field for the Indians’ baseball club. Attendance to games has steadily risen, tourists frequent all that Cleveland has to offer, and with that, Cleveland continues to offer more. For those taking in a game with “The Tribe” for an afternoon or evening there are several establishments around Progressive Field that fans should consider. One of these spots is The Winking Lizard Tavern. Located just a block from the stadium, “The Lizard” is famous for its burgers and wings, and of course ice cold beer. Irish stew, fish n’ chips, and Guinness on tap are the order of the day at Flannery’s Irish Pub. Only a couple blocks from the ballpark, this classic Irish pub is a perfect stop anytime, game or no game. Three blocks from Progressive Field fans can enjoy the taste of Mexico at the Zocolo Mexican Grill. Cold Coronas, tangy burritos, and fish tacos can be enjoyed before or after any game. An area known as “The Avenue” is located right near the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Public Square district of Cleveland. The Avenue is a selection of shopping experiences, restaurants, hotels and movies all in one location. And yes, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is where everyone that comes to Cleveland must visit at least once. This museum of hits and superstars is full of musical memories that seem to offer up something new every time a person visits.
Dodger Stadium- Los Angeles Dodgers
In Southern California’s City of Angels, the LA Dodgers have easily been the most-admired and recognized west coast team since they relocated there from Brooklyn in the 1958. They play in Dodger Stadium which is located in an area of Los Angeles referred to as Chavez Ravine. It is in this part of the world that the sun seems to shine every day, the palm trees sway in the Santa Anna breezes, and the Dodger faithful come out every summer and cheer on their team. Though getting around LA may not be as easy as the larger, older, east coast cities, it isn’t too bad if you have a plan. Located about a half-mile away from the stadium sits the world-famous Chinatown. With authentic shops and restaurants, LA’s Chinatown has a little something for everyone. Within a mile of Dodger Stadium is the beautiful Olvera Street. Set up in the mid-1900s as a tribute LA’s Mexican heritage, Olvera Street serves as an oasis in the middle of a bustling city with Mexican restaurants and shops. Finally, sitting just off Sunset Blvd. is Elysian Park. With over 600 acres of picnic grounds and hiking trails, visitors to Dodger Stadium can find a way to get away from it all after a tough home team loss. Around the ballpark are several restaurants and sports bars that fans regularly visit. Some favorites include Two Boots, where east coasters gather to reminisce about life along the Atlantic, and The Park, which is known for its dishes like wild salmon or grilled polenta. Dodger Stadium itself is a microcosm of the diversity that exists in the LA area. Food at the stadium ranges from sushi to hot dogs, and cold beer to mixed drinks and wine.
I’m quite sure there will be some that wished I had mentioned their favorite team and ballpark, but in all honesty it was nearly impossible to come up with the ten I’ve highlighted. Ask another writer to come up with their ten, and they would likely end up listing five or six different places than mine. The bottom line is simple. Get out to a major League Baseball city this summer and experience not only the game, but the energy around the area. Chances are that each subsequent city you visit will become your ‘new favorite’ to check out America’s pastime.