- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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You've probably seen the Battle of the Ballparks bracket we've been running. Maybe you saw Jim Caple's list of the best and worst of the ballparks. If you've a heading to a ballpark this summer, a few tips on tickets, food and transportation are always. I asked the SweetSpot bloggers to send me tips about their home park and get a few responses back:
Boston Red Sox: Fenway Park
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: Grandstands down the first- or third-base lines. Best place to take in a game if you're willing to compromise on sight lines down the foul lines in the outfield. Getting under the roof is a bonus as you'll be protected by the sun and/or rain.
What to eat: Fenway boasts a lot of different meals, with accessibility to said meals all varying upon where you sit. There is no one tried and true food. If you sit in the State Street Pavilion or the right-field roof boxes, they have a nice menu to pick from. If you stick to the concession stands, head to the right-field concourse for the most varied selections.
Tips on how to get there and parking: Take public transportation whenever possible, as the cheapest parking spots go for $35 around the area and some are north of $50. On weekends, some further-away lots offer all-day parking for low prices, and you can take the T (or in national parlance, the subway) into the game. On weeknights, try to utilize a Park and Ride on the Mass Pike or park further away from Fenway (at least a 15-minute walk away) at a garage with sane prices and hoof it to the stadium. Failing all that, ignore all the $35-and-up spots that are a 5-10 minute walk from the park and go directly to Lansdowne Street, where there are a couple places to park for $40 and will cut down on travel time.
--Evan Brunell, Fire Brand of the AL
Cleveland Indians: Progressive Field
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: Ticket prices vary throughout the season, but you can typically get a nice bleacher seat for $10. If you prefer an actual seat to a bleacher bench, the outfield mezzanine provides a good view for about $20, as does the upper reserved seats in the top deck behind home plate (also about $20).
What to eat: -- You definitely need to try a hot dog with Bertman's Ballpark Mustard ... it's very good. There is also a stand with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free foods.
Tips on how to get there and parking: A lot of people don't realize that most metered spots in downtown Cleveland are free after 6 p.m. and on the weekends. If you're lucky, or willing to walk a few blocks, you can avoid parking fees all together. There are a few nice pay lots and garages right by the park, but the cost is much higher than if you select one a few blocks away. You can also take Rapid Transit light rail right into Tower City, just a few short blocks away from the ballpark.
--Stephanie Liscio, It's Pronounced "Lajaway"
Los Angeles Angels: Angel Stadium
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: Best bang for your buck is the right-field bleacher seats just above the right-field wall. Great home run seats and very affordable. If field level is what you're looking for you want to preferably be on the third-base side during day games. It is typically in the shade while the first base seats are directly in the sun. It gets HOT. Believe me, I know because that is where my seats are. For night games it is all good -- either baseline works.
What to eat: The in-seat foot-long hot dogs are delicious and typically always hot. It's better to get those than the "hot dog stand" dogs at the game because it saves standing in line, and the hot dogs are just better because they're hot. Clyde Wright BBQ is also excellent and comes highly recommended. Also, the burgers at the Knothole Club are terrific, but the public is only allowed in starting in the sixth inning. Before that, only club-level ticket holders are allowed in.
Tips on how to get there and parking: Easiest way in is the entrance on Orangewood. Exit the 57 freeway and head towards the ballpark. You will see the entrance. If you want a cold adult beverage or a family meal before or after the game there is a restaurant called JT Schmid's right off of Katella Avenue in front of the ballpark across the street from the Honda Center. The food is pretty good and the set-up is great for a drink or a meal before or after the game. Parking is uber easy there; easy in, easy out -- unlike Dodger Stadium. From I-5 South, get in the carpool lane, which has a convenient Gene Autry Way exit for the carpool lane. Drops you off right at the State College entrance.
Minnesota Twins: Target Field
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: Best seats in Target Field would have to be the lower-deck third-base line. This section provides a great view of the park's most distinct attractions: the massive left-field scoreboard, the beautiful right-field skyline, the unique center-field "Minnie and Paul" display, and of course, the game on the field.
What to eat: I'm a big fan of the Kramarczuk sausages -- delicious brats and polishes loaded with fried onions and kraut. The Tony O's Cuban sandwich (named after Twins legend Tony Oliva) and the gourmet "Vincent Burger" are also popular offerings.
Tips on how to get there and parking: The light rail is inexpensive and will drop you right on the doorstep of Target Field, but it can get pretty crowded for the ride home. If you're driving and willing to walk a bit, I recommend finding a cheap lot to the northwest of the stadium and then stopping by the Fulton Tap Room for a local brew on the trek to the game.
--Nick Nelson, Twins Daily
Toronto Blue Jays: Rogers Centre
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: The place to sit in the Rogers Centre is the 500 level, sections 521-526 in the first five rows. While the perception is that these upper deck seats are in an entirely different orbit, these seats actually provide fans with the feeling of hovering over the field of play. The bird's-eye view that this perspective provides allows the opportunity to see plays unfold clearly across the entire diamond. These tickets can be had fairly easily on a weeknight, and for an $11 ticket ($14 for premium games), it is one of the best entertainment values in the city.
What to eat: In the last five years, the diversity of ballpark food options has grown by leaps and bounds at the Rogers Centre. Savvy Blue Jays fans will seek seek out the Muddy York Market, a concession area that showcases the cuisine of Toronto's diverse neighborhoods. Selections include an in-house smoked pulled-pork barbecue sandwich, classic gyros, souvlaki, specialty pizzas, carved smoked turkey sandwiches, beef and chicken satay, kung pao wraps, sushi boxes and more. The highlight is the smoked chicken nachos: tri-colored tortilla chips loaded with cheddar cheese, smoked BBQ chicken, fresh jalapeños and onions. They're topped off with fresh salsa and sour cream. They are the best nachos you’ll have for $8.50. Another popular locale is the Roundhouse Carvery and bar, just outside section 122. The carvery features prime rib and turkey. Delicious.
Tips on how to get there and parking: With the Rogers Centre being located in Toronto's downtown core, parking is limited and expensive. The best bet is to take the subway to either Union or St. Andrew's station and walk to the park from there. If public transit isn't for you, why not try a Bixi Bike? Toronto's newest bike-sharing program allows users to "borrow" a bike for a nominal fee and return it to any mobile bike station located conveniently throughout the city.
--Callum Hughson, Mop-Up Duty
Atlanta Braves: Turner Field
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: Best bang is probably to buy general admission tickets and get to the park early enough to get a table on the lower level of the chophouse (or stake out a piece of rail on the upper deck of the chop house if you want to meet people). If you get a table, you feel somewhat obligated to order from the waiter. So, if you need your arm twisted to have beer brought to you at a baseball game ...
What to eat: Turner Field doesn't have any single one standout concession, though most of the food is at least decent. Kevin Rathburn Steak sandwiches are very good, but expensive ($15 for regular-ticket holders, $10 for season-ticket holders, as Turner Field gives about 33 percent off food and beverage for season-ticket holders). Chick-Fil-A, though a chain restaurant, started in Atlanta, and you don't get much more "Atlantan" than a regular Chick-Fil-A sandwich and a Coke. The Chophouse has a semi-full bar.
Tips on how to get there and parking: If you live in Atlanta, taking MARTA is a good option. Otherwise just buy a parking pass with your tickets and tailgate before the game. Compared to most parks, Turner Field is relatively easy to get into and out of. If you're coming from out of town for a 7 p.m. game, avoid coming through the I-285 belt between 4 and 6:30 if at all possible. Traffic in Atlanta is vastly exaggerated by out-of-towners, because they often hit the I-285 perimeter belt at the wrong time. If you can avoid that, it's really not bad. In the "official" parking lots for Turner Field, you can find quite a few tailgates for most games, complete with cornhole, plenty of adult beverages and grilling. It's worth it to get there early, as a tiny bit of SEC football culture has rubbed off to Braves games in this regard.
Franklin Rabon, Capitol Avenue Club
Chicago Cubs: Wrigley Field
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: From a novelty standpoint, it’s the bleachers, but it’s gotten unbearably expensive so if we’re looking for bang for the buck, I’d have to point to the sections just next to the bleachers down the foul lines.
What to eat: The hot dogs are the staple, but please no ketchup on it. If you’re not a hot dog kind of person, go for the Italian beef sandwich.
Tips on how to get there and parking: DO NOT DRIVE. Because Wrigley is embedded into the heart of a Chicago neighborhood, parking on the streets is permit only. There are sparse mini lots around the stadium, but costs are high. Much easier to park somewhere on the street a few miles from the park if you must drive and take the bus or the train. The red line lets you off right outside the park.
--Joe Aiello, View from the Bleachers
Cincinnati Reds: Great American Ball Park
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: Best place to sit -- by far -- is the Sun/Moon Deck in right field. The section is an homage to a similar seating section at Cincinnati's old Crosley Field. The seats are inexpensive, it's the best place to catch a home run ball, and there's a beautiful view of the Ohio River and the Roebling Suspension Bridge behind the section.
What to eat: You can't come to the Queen City without trying Cincinnati-style chili, so the Skyline Cheese Coneys are a can't-miss delicacy. If you are looking for something sweeter, Funnel Fries are the latest obsession in the cheap seats.
Tips on how to get there and parking: To get the full experience, I would recommend parking across the river in Northern Kentucky. You can eat or have a drink, then take a ferry across to the ballpark. You can also walk across the Purple People Bridge (as the Newport Southbank Bridge is known). If you aren't up for that, there are plenty of cheap parking options available downtown within a short walk of the stadium. In recent years, a number of bars and restaurants have opened between GAB and the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium (the so-called "Banks" development), so you don't need to go far either before or after the game to find a crowd.
--Chad Dotson, Redleg Nation
Houston Astros: Minute Maid Park
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: The one place you need to sit in Minute Maid Park is the Crawford Boxes. They're a little on the pricey side (as are all of the seats in Minute Maid), but still pretty affordable for the best view in the stadium with the best chance of catching a home run ball.
What to eat: If you need something more than the traditional hot dog at the game, you have to hit up Maverick Smokehouse and try their chopped BBQ baked potato. You may never be able to eat another potato again.
Tips on how to get there and parking: My best advice for getting to Minute Maid is to not try to park too close. With its downtown location, everything around there is paid lots, and the closer you get, the more expensive the parking. It also gets harder and harder to get out of there at the end of the game. Trust me -- park five or six blocks away and enjoy the stroll through downtown. It'll save you time and money.
--Austin Swafford, Austin's Astros 290 Blog
Pittsburgh Pirates: PNC Park
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: My personal favorite is Section 316. You're high above home plate, but right above it so you can easily see the game, and you also have a
great view of the Pittsburgh skyline. Of course, every seat in PNC Park is a relative bargain, so you can definitely splurge for something in Sections 114-118 and have a close-up view of the game for about 1 percent of what it would cost at Yankee Stadium. The only "bad" seats in the house are Sections 301-304, where you're just too far away from the game to enjoy the action on the field. For your first visit, I'd also recommend avoiding the right-field pavilions, just because you'll miss the amazing views of the city.
What to eat: It's Pittsburgh, so the easy answer is Primanti Brothers. They put the coleslaw and french fries right on the sandwich! Believe me, that's
not for everyone, and it's not the easiest thing to eat at the ballpark, but many Pirates fans would argue that this iconic Pittsburgh dish shouldn't be missed. You might also want to check out Manny
Sanguillen's BBQ out in center field, or Pops' Plaza (named for Willie Stargell) in left field. Pops' Plaza has french fries, gyros, chicken sandwiches and even sushi.
Tips on how to get there and parking: If there's a really convenient place to park, I haven't found it. Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges, so the best way to get to
the ballpark is to park downtown and walk over the Roberto Clemente Bridge. The city closes the bridge before and after games, and walking across the Allegheny River gives you a great view of the ballpark. PNC Park is located on the north shore, so if you want to park near the stadium, plan to arrive a few hours early; the non-lease parking lots fill up quickly. Another option for those with time to spare is parking in Station Square and riding the Gateway Clipper boat to the ballpark.
--John Franco, Pitt Plank
San Francisco Giants: AT&T Park
Where to sit, or best bang for your buck: Center-field bleachers are the best view and closest to the action and often the best priced among bleacher seats. I've seen them as low as $12.50 per seat for certain games. Although keep in mind AT&T Park's dynamic pricing, so prices change every day. For a consistent value, view reserved (up on the third deck) can't be beat. There isn't a bad seat in the house, with panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay all around you. Prices are really decent -- usually the lowest among all the sections. View reserved right field usually has the best prices, around $17 for a typical game. If you come to AT&T Park during a weekend, a Dodger game, or another game that would draw a larger than normal crowd, prices will go up. Of course, AT&T Park routinely sells out so you're still looking at 40,000-plus people; Matt Cain's perfect game was a weeknight game against the Astros and it was still a sellout.
What to eat: AT&T Park is a foodie's dream come true. For the baseball purists, hot dogs, beer, and peanuts are available around the ballpark. Otherwise, there's literally anything else you can imagine to eat. The best AT&T delicacies are the Gilroy Garlic fries (with a few different stands around the yard), the Cha Cha Bowl (two stands, one in the Coca Cola fan lot behind the scoreboard in center field), and the brisket sandwich on the third deck at the Carvery. The Cha Cha Bowl is a recipe from Orlando Cepeda's family lore, with white rice, black beans, jerk chicken and pineapple salsa. I've been to the Caribbean and it's legit. Other options like pizza, sausages, burgers, Mexican (burritos and tamales are available at a few places around the yard), salads and wraps, and chicken are also available. There are also a ton of different beer options, including my favorite local brew Anchor Steam. Guinness, Harp, Sierra Nevada, and other fancy beers are also available on tap. If you have a sweet tooth, check out the tiramisu or the Ghiradelli hot fudge sundae. Also keep an eye out for the numerous vendors selling food around the ballpark. The corn dog guy is my hero. Also on cold nights, the vendors toting the backpack units full of coffee and hot chocolate are a must.
Tips on how to get there and parking: Public transit is the best way to get to AT&T. There are a ton of options for commuters from every part of the Bay Area. BART runs from the East Bay (for example, Oakland), Caltrain runs from the South Bay (San Jose) and the peninsula (San Mateo), ferries run between key points on the Bay, and a few Muni lines run from the ballpark to points in San Francisco. Maps and signs will tell you where to go on Muni, depending on where you're coming from. You can park in the ballpark lot, but it's $30 and up and it's often a nightmare to get in and out of there. Fighting for parking on the streets of San Francisco is worse than trying to park in the ballpark lot, in terms of pricing, availability and traffic. Take public transit whenever possible.
Chris Martinez, Bay City Ball
You've probably seen the Battle of the Ballparks bracket we've been running. Maybe you saw Jim Caple's list of the best and worst of the ballparks. If you've a heading to a ballpark this summer, a few tips on tickets, food and transportation are always.