Take Me Out to the Ballpark: Top Ten Baseball Stadiums

Be a part of America’s favorite summer pastime and catch a game at one of the country’s ten best baseball stadiums, or just check out the sights in these great American cities.

There are some baseball parks so legendary and so historic that even if you don’t know the difference between a run and a hit, you’ll know these stadiums by name: Wrigley, Fenway, Yankee Stadium. From Pittsburgh to San Diego, the United States is dotted with baseball treasures. Some are home to historic teams; some to younger clubs. In some parks, scores of championship banners hang from the rafters; others are quite bare. But for those looking to catch a game and also to enjoy a cool new city, there is no shortage of options. With the help of baseball connoisseur and creator of baseballparks.com Joe Mock (who’s been to 256 different major and minor league ballparks), we give you ten of the country’s best baseball stadiums, set in some of the nation’s coolest cities. Regardless of your team affiliation, even if you’re a die-hard fan, you’ll want to attend a game on the road at one of these standout parks.

10. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

The city of Baltimore has one of the best locations in the nation: just north of Washington D.C. and just south of New York City. Although this often means that it’s the Mid-Atlantic’s forgotten city, Charm City’s got lots of character, with quaint neighborhoods and cobblestone streets, rocking bars with live music, and (being a coastal town) some of the biggest and best crabs in the country. And, Baltimore can certainly claim one of the nicest parks in the nation. Mock describes Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a throwback park, even though it was completed in 1992. Mock says the architects looked to classic Ebbets Field, rather than the Skydome for inspiration. More importantly, it changed the ballpark business model. Instead of just selling baseball, the owners decided to sell wine, Baltimore’s famous jumbo lump crab cakes, barbeque, and funny knickknacks. There’s also plenty to do outside the park: Just minutes away, the inner harbor area has cool places to eat as well as the Maryland Science Center, the Baltimore Aquarium, and Baltimore Maritime Museum. The ballpark is just minutes away. For those seeking a two-fer, hop on the MARC train, Maryland’s public transit trains, and head about 40 miles south to Washington D.C. for a Nationals game. The newly constructed Nationals Park offers one of the best views in all of Major League Baseball and the exterior is designed to fit in with all the monuments and federal buildings that characterize the nation’s capital. Baltimore Family Guide

9. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

Although some Brooklynites are still smarting from the loss of the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1962, the team is now part of the fabric of Southern California. Appropriately, it is housed by the “Taj Majal of baseball.” Dodger Stadium overlooks downtown Los Angeles and is actually built into a mountain side. Mock says the seating bowl offers a great view of the Hollywood hills. Dodger Stadium is not centrally located, but getting to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Catalina Island, and all the other glamorous places associated with L.A. is not hard to do—just hop on the (in)famous freeway or the Metro. Of course, if you want to see another park while you’re in town, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are just about an hour away. Visit Mickey and Minnie in Disneyland while you’re at it. Los Angeles Active & Adventure Guide and Los Angeles Family Guide

8. Safeco Field, Seattle

Safeco Field is the best example of a retractable roof in all of major league baseball. The reason? Even when the roof is fully closed, the stadium isn’t enclosed. There’s an area above the left field seats that stays open all the time so it doesn’t feel claustrophobic and still has the feel of a traditional, open-air baseball stadium. Plus, the open area provides for an excellent view, including Mount Rainier, Seattle’s business district, and Puget Sound, depending on where you are sitting. Of course, no visit to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Space Needle, where you can look out over the city from 520 feet in the air. Don’t miss Pike Place Market, home of the original Starbucks coffee shop, and get farm-fresh veggies, fruits, and flowers while being entertained by street performers. And take an underwater stroll in the Seattle Aquarium’s glass dome, and watch sharks and other aquatic life swim by you. Seattle Family Guide

7. PetCo Park, San Diego

The San Diego Padres play in PetCo Park, located in the city’s Gas Lamp District. One of Mock’s favorites, Mock likes the park for its architecture and says that its construction helped revitalize the area, attracting “lots of funky restaurants and shops.” Apart from the park, San Diego is full of things to see and do. Home to perhaps the most famous zoo in the country, it also has the Wild Animal Park, which gives exotic animals the space to live in an environment similar to their natural habitat. Of course, when you’re in San Diego, there’s plenty of natural beauty to absorb. Lay back and enjoy the more than 70 miles of beaches, or, for sightseeing and active trips, head toward the Anza Borrego Desert and the Laguna Mountains. Head south to the Mexican border and you’ll find an abundance of Mexican architecture, food, and culture. If you have kids, be sure to make a day of Sea World or Legoland California.
San Diego Beach Guide and San Diego Family Guide

6. Turner Field, Atlanta

Turner Field, the Home of the Braves, was built in 1997 by media mogul Ted Turner and is one of Mock’s favorite places to take photographs: “From the upper deck you have a view of the Olympic Torch and the skyline.” It is, he contends, “the most underrated ballpark,” offering lots to do—especially for children—including a game area called Scouts Alley, and The Braves’ Museum. Of course, Atlanta itself is full of Southern history. The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Oakland Cemetery, and the Atlanta History Center will transport visitors back to the Civil War. Remember assassinated Civil Rights leader and Atlanta native, Martin Luther King, Jr. by visiting his birth home and the place where he preached, The Ebenezer Baptist Church. His Nobel Peace Prize is on display at The King Center. Atlanta Family Guide

5. Coors Field, Denver

Coors Field is one of the nicest parks in the country. Not only does it offer fantastic views, but because of the use of brick and its unique entryways, Coors Field “has the most spectacular exterior in all of baseball,” according to Mock. It also offers cool features like its mile-high upper deck. The row of seats—which is actually 5,280 feet high—is painted purple. The ballpark, Mock says, also spurred some urban renewal in the surrounding area, bringing in cool restaurants and shops. If you like skiing and beer, Denver is the place for you. The city is home to more brewpubs than any other in the country. The Ski Train transports skiers, snowboarders, and sightseers to Winter Park Resort for a break from city life. Denver Family Guide

4. Fenway Park, Boston

Home of the “Bahsten” Red Sox, Fenway Park is wicked awesome and wicked old. Built in 1912, it’s the granddaddy of them all. Bostonians are fiercely loyal to their park and would never hear of tearing it down in favor of something more modern. But that’s what Mock loves about it. “The Red Sox have done tremendous things with Fenway,” he says. Instead of building a new park, they built more seats: on the third base, first base, and right field roofs, and on the far left field wall, the legendary Green Monster. But because it’s such an old park built along city blocks, Fenway has many obstructed views, especially down the right field line. But the view isn’t exactly what Sox fans come to Fenway for; every game sells out. And much like its ballpark, Boston is historic and steeped in tradition. Walk the Freedom Trail and visit some of the key sites of the American Revolution. Shop ‘til you drop on Newbury Street and Fanieul Hall. Boston also has fabulous museums including the Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Science Boston, and the Isabella Gardener Stewart Museum. Kids will love the Children’s Museum of Boston and the New England Aquarium, considered one of the best in the country. If you have the time, head south to Cape Cod and relax at the beach, New England style. Boston Family Guide

3. Yankee Stadium, New York City

This was the last season for the “House that Ruth built.” Yes, the Yanks are tearing down their legendary Yankee Stadium to build a new state-of-the-art park. The price tag? Approximately $1.3 billion—but if anyone can handle that kind of dough it’s the Yankees, the richest team in baseball. They are also one of the most decorated sports teams in the world with 26 World Series titles under their belts. Mock says what he loves most about the Bronx ballpark is its storied past. “It probably has the best sense of history,” he says. “Take the tour and go to Monument Park to see the Miller Huggins and Babe Ruth monuments. It is spellbinding to go out there and see where those monuments are. It is magical out there.” Across town in Queens, the Mets play in Shea Stadium, which Mock says is one of the ugliest ballparks in the country. But the Mets are also building a new stadium, which will be ready next year. Mock says it promises to be the prettiest park in baseball. Of course, beyond sports, New York City’s got it all, too. Indulge your expensive taste with shopping in SoHo and on Madison Ave., or bargain hunt in Chinatown. Want to see art? No problem. Check out any of the city’s slew of world-class museums, the MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, and the Whitney. Look up your ancestors on Ellis Island and remember the fallen at Ground Zero. See a musical on Broadway and relax in Central Park. There’s nothing you can’t do in the Big Apple!
New York City Active & Adventure Guide

2. PNC Park, Pittsburgh

Since PNC Park opened in 2001, it has dazzled almost all who enter. The Pittsburgh Pirates might have a losing record, but the city has a winner of a park. “The thing that makes the ballpark great is the way it’s positioned. What the architects call the footprint gives you the spectacular view from the seating bowl, especially on the third-base side,” Mock says. From the stadium you get a view of the river, the Roberto Clemente bridge, the very impressive skyline, and perhaps best of all, Mount Washington. There are also two incline railroads that ride up and down this hill and you can watch the trains going up and down the hill from your seat in the park. “When it gets dark and the skyline starts to twinkle, it is absolutely spectacular,” says Mock. Pittsburgh was home to steel titan and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and the city is full of his many contributions including the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. You can also visit architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Falling Water house here. And, as Pittsburgh played an important role in the abolitionist movement, get a little of American history by visiting homes that served as stops on the Underground Railroad before of after you catch a game at the city’s beloved PNC Park. Pittsburgh Family Guide

1. Wrigley Field, Chicago

Since the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, and then again in 2007, the Cubs are officially the most cursed team in Major League Baseball. But Wrigley Field is Mock’s absolute favorite park—ever. Built in 1914, the park is surrounded by Chicago’s Wrigley neighborhood and fits its surroundings beautifully. Mock says the park features high rises and bleachers built right onto the roof. “I’d rather sit there and watch a game than anyplace else in baseball,” he says. “The vantage point stretches for miles and miles.” Chicago is home to another franchise as well: The White Sox play at the less spectacular U.S. Cellular Field, formerly named Comiskey Park after its original builder. Besides baseball, Chicago, the third biggest city in the country, has a lot to offer. Many of the biggest names in comedy get their start at the Second City Chicago Theater. Check out the unique sounds of Chicago Blues at Blue Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Legends, and Chicago’s oldest blues club, Kingston Mines. For a dazzling bird’s eye view of the city, go to the Sears Tower Skydeck. If you’ve got kids in tow, or you’re curious for knowledge and culture, Chicago has tons of world-class museums, including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, The Adler Planetarium, The Museum of Science & Industry, The Children’s Museum, and the spectacular Shedd Aquarium. Think museums are too stuffy and want to stay outdoors? Visit Millennium Park, which features live concerts and art, including the gigantic Cloud Gate sculpture. Stroll Navy Pier, full of great shops and restaurants, and take a ride on the Ferris wheel. Just by Navy Pier you can hop on a sightseeing or dining cruise on Lake Michigan. Finally, fill up on good food in Chicago, as the city’s known to foodies for everything from deep dish pizza to fine dining. Chicago Family Guide

Leave a Comment