Fresh Takes: the 5 Best Ballparks in the USA (and what to do before or after the game)
The roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat… every part of the baseball experience is amplified by a truly great ballpark! From modern marvels to historical monuments, the five fields below represent our favorite places in the country to catch a game. As a bonus, we talked to some prominent baseball bloggers to get to know a little more about the neighborhood surrounding each park, and what to do there while you’re in the area to cheer for your favorite team.
1. Fenway Park
The Boston Red Sox enjoy one of the quirkiest homes in baseball, including features like the gigantic, home-run-spoiling wall known as the Green Monster and the lone red seat in right field where a fan was clonked by a Ted Williams homer. While its details are well known to baseball fans, fewer people are hip to all the superb eateries nearby. Joanna Hicks of the blog Empyreal Environs has some great memories associated with them:
“One of my favorite places is El Pelon. Excellent, authentic Mexican food at affordable prices. I went with friends and we bobbed our heads to upbeat mashups while munching on burritos. We discovered Girl Talk that afternoon.
There’s also Baseball Tavern, of course. Enjoy the roof deck or indoors.”
…and Ernie Paicopolos, the editor-in-chief of FenwayNation, has discovered some hidden treasures:
“For a Boston first-timer at Fenway Park, I would recommend a short (5-7 minute) stroll out of busy Kenmore Square down Beacon Street to a great little place called O’Leary’s (which is technically right over the line in Brookline). It’s a classic Boston bar/eatery with a distinct Irish flavor (most of the waitresses really do have lilting Irish accents). More importantly, the food is good, plentiful and cheap. And you can get a true ‘black and tan’ Guinness while you’re at it… it’s far less of a wait than some of the bigger places closer to the park.
Don’t have dessert at O’Leary’s, though. Instead, on your walk back toward Fenway, stop at Tatte Fine Cookies & Cakes (also on Beacon Street). You’ll find a wide range of homemade pastries that are a little pricey, but well worth it — especially the croissants.”
More to do in Fenway/Kenmore: http://www.zerve.com/d/fenway-kenmore
2. Yankee Stadium
Although the current home of the New York Yankees is only a few years old, the immense reputation and fame of the Bronx Bombers made it an NYC landmark the moment it opened! Robert Casey, the creator, writer and editor of Bleeding Yankee Blue, recommends giving yourself some extra time to soak up the atmosphere and fit in some photo ops:
“…I like to arrive earlier than many. Around the stadium there’s quite a bit to do. I like to stop in at Bald Vinny’s House of Tees, I usually take pictures with my family at Babe Ruth Plaza with the stadium as our backdrop and if there’s time, I’ll walk across the street to the baseball field that was once the original Yankee Stadium. There is something very special about Yankee Stadium that can only be truly understood if you’ve walked the corridors and root for the men in pinstripes. The history is massive and sucks you in. Fan or no fan of Yankee baseball, I encourage you to take a trip to the Bronx, visit the stadium and catch a game… trust me, it’s a moment you will never forget.”
More to do in the Bronx: http://www.zerve.com/d/bronx
3. Dodger Stadium
“THINK BLUE,” commands a Hollywood-like sign in the mountains north of this Los Angeles park where Sandy Koufax threw his spectacular perfect game against the Cubs. It’s the largest-capacity stadium in baseball, and the place where a game is least likely to get rained out. It also enjoys a close proximity to Downtown and Chinatown, where Eric Becker, the mind behind Eric’s Dodgers Blog, has a few pre- and post-game favorites:
“If Dodger Dogs aren’t enough for you and you’re hungry after the game, Pink’s Hot Dogs is about a 15-minute drive from the ballpark and is always open late. Pink’s has been around since 1939 and frequently has lines that take 45 minutes or more to get through, but the hot dogs are worth it. How good is Pink’s? There are a lot of people who hate hot dogs who LOVE Pink’s.
A pre-game favorite for night games and post-game favorite for day games is Phillipe the Original, which features French-dipped roast beef sandwiches located about a mile and a half or so from the ballpark. Many Dodger fans will tell you that Phillipe’s is a traditional must-have.
For people looking to get out with a group after the game, a drive about 10 minutes into Koreatown will find them at the hottest karaoke spots in town, with many locations open until 2 a.m. Gaam Karaoke on 6th Street seems to get the most praise.”
More to do in Chinatown: http://www.zerve.com/d/chinatown-los-angeles
4. Wrigley Field
Its ivy-covered outfield walls make Wrigley one of the most traditional-feeling places to take in a game—not much room left for advertisements among all that greenery! Plus, the tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch was popularized here. Complete the Chicago Cubs experience with a little help from “Bad Kermit,” the blogger who is known for his hilarious rants against the team’s worst players at Hire Jim Essian:
“If Beirut is your game, check out The Dugout on Addison just off the Red Line stop. Let me be very clear, it’s as divey as dive bars come. You will be drinking in a basement, but at least it’s cheap and pretty unpopulated on game days. They have a shady flip cup/Beirut table in the back, and a bar decorated with baseball cards of old, bad Cubs that you can look at for laughs.
Remember, you can bring your own food into Wrigley Field! Save a few bucks and quite a bit of gut rot by bringing in a meal from outside the game. There are plenty of fast food places right across from the park.
If you can time it correctly or are willing to hang out in Wrigleyville for a while after the game, hit up a show at Improv Olympic. Many of their actors are just as good as the Second City crew—their Harold is a great long-form improv game.”
More to do in Wrigleyville: http://www.zerve.com/d/wrigleyville
5. AT&T Park
Located smack dab on the edge of San Francisco Bay in the neighborhood known as SoMa (South of Market), the home of the Giants boasts some truly lovely views—and as far as ads go, that giant Coca-Cola bottle beyond left field is charming enough not to ruin things. Richard Dyer, who gets in-depth with his fandom at The Giants Cove, offers some tips:
“You don’t have to go far from AT&T Park to begin your personal SOMA tasting tour. Directly across King Street is MoMo’s , an elegant bistro perfect for lunch.
Take a history break at the Society of California Pioneers. Don’t let the stuffy-sounding name put you off— the museum features wonderful displays and is a quick in and out.
A trip to San Francisco without a wine experience is unthinkable. K&L Wine Merchants is a top wine store featuring an array of California wines and wines from around the world, while the Bluxome Street Winery actually makes wines and features tours and tastings.”
More to do in SoMa: http://www.zerve.com/d/soma
Bonus: some other photos of our favorite ballparks courtesy of travel blogger Greg Goodman: http://www.adventuresofagoodman.com/photography/baseball-stadium-fisheye-tour/