There’s nothing quite like baseball. For over 150 years (give or take) it’s reigned as America’s “national pastime” and gone on to garner international love, from Cuba to Japan. And compared to other sports, it seems like baseball is the one that best pairs with travel. Seriously, when was the last time you heard of someone taking a trip or visiting somewhere on their vacation that had to do with football (the American kind), hockey, or football (the other kind)?
But if you’ve ever looked into merging your love of baseball with your love for travel, then you know the journeys that are most touted, like visiting all 30 Major League Stadiums or going to a World Series game, are pricey, time-consuming, or both.
And yet, there are still plenty of affordable trips and destinations for the budget-conscious baseball tourist…no matter what home team you root for. Here are just 8 home run trips that every baseball fan should try to make:
National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown
Bats, balls, photographs, sweaters…all of these pieces make for a great baseball collection. And all of them are at risk of deterioration without proper care. Luckily, a new experience offered at the #HOF will give visitors a master class in how to preserve their collectibles. Don’t miss out on the Collection Care and Conservation Workshop, featuring behind-the-scenes tours of our archives, unique seminars on artifact conservation and a private dinner in our historic Plaque Gallery. Spots are still available for the inaugural March 14-15 event. Sign up at the link in our profile.
Legend once held that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in the small upstate New York town of Cooperstown. So when the community needed an economic boost after Prohibition had decimated the region’s hops industry, a museum dedicated to the game and its greatest players seemed a good fit. And although baseball historians have since disproved the Doubleday myth, the name “Cooperstown” is now synonymous with the highest form of recognition in the sport.
At the Hall of Fame Museum, where admission runs $23 and under, visitors can learn the history of baseball and its greatest players through exhibits, artifacts, media, and interactive experiences. A good time to visit is Hall of Fame Weekend in July, when baseball fans and former players flock to the town to celebrate that year’s inductees into the hall. The ceremony, which is held on the grounds outside of the nearby Clark Sports Center on Sunday, is a free public event with first-come, first-served lawn seating.
Wrigley Field in Chicago
The second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, the stadium that stands in the north side of Chicago was originally named Weeghman Park when it opened in 1914 — after Charles Weeghman, the owner of the team that played there: the Whalers. Part of the Federal League, the Whalers disbanded (along with the rest of the short-lived “third major league”) in 1915. The Cubs moved in the next year and for most of the 20s the stadium was known as Cubs Park. It was renamed Wrigley, after chewing gum magnate and then-Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. in 1927.
Wrigley Field is so iconic that no trip to Chicago from April to September is considered complete without a visit. If your favorite team is in the National League, then there’s no better time to see a game at Wrigley than when they come to take on the Cubs. Depending on who’s playing and where you sit, tickets can run anywhere from $8 to over $400. But even if you can’t time your getaway to the Windy City during a home game, you can still visit the park and take a 75-90 minute tour for $25.
Spring Training in Central Florida
— FL Grapefruit League (@FlaSpringTrain) April 10, 2017
While professional baseball in the United States doesn’t officially start until opening day in April, die hard fans know that it really kicks off months ahead in February, when teams begin practicing in warmer climates to get ready for the regular season. The custom is believed to have started in 1886, when the Chicago White Stockings traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas to practice and get in shape for the upcoming season. Other teams soon followed and the preseason began to include exhibition games, which immediately started attracting fans to watch.
In the early 1900s, teams began flocking to Central Florida as a spring training site and formed what is known today as the Grapefruit League. The name supposedly comes from a publicity stunt in 1915, when Brooklyn Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson tried to catch a baseball thrown from a plane and the pilot, pioneering aviatrix Ruth Law, forgot to bring a ball so she threw down a grapefruit instead…which hit Robinson in the face.
These days, fans can fly down to Florida to watch 15 MLB teams play in 12 stadiums from late February to the end of March. Most of the fields are spread out along Florida‘s western coast, stretching from Lakewood to Fort Myers, but there are a few in the southeast section of the state between Port St. Lucie and West Palm Beach. Ticket prices vary from stadium to stadium, but they usually run from about $10 to around $50 depending on where you sit.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City
— negroleaguesmuseum (@nlbmprez) March 5, 2017
Baseball’s surge in popularity at the end of the 19th century eventually gave rise to a professional version of the game. And despite early African-American players like Moses Fleetwood Walker and Bud Fowler, by the start of the 20th century there was “the color line” in pro baseball — a division based on the rampant and societal racism of the day. In 1920, the Negro National League, the first long-lasting professional league for African-American ballplayers was formed and kicked off what many consider a golden era of “negro league baseball,” which didn’t end until 1951–four years after Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the MLB.
In the early 1990s, a group of historians, business leaders, and former players founded a museum dedicated to preserving and honoring the history of African-American baseball. Originally based in a one-room office in Kansas City’s Lincoln Building, it moved in 1994 to a 2,000 square-foot space (also in the Lincoln Building). In 1997, it moved again — this time to a 10,000 square-foot space in a building shared with the American Jazz Museum. For a $10 admission fee (less for seniors and kids), visitors can take in exhibits that range from baseball artifacts and photos to films and multimedia computer stations.
Fenway Park in Boston
The oldest ballpark in professional baseball, Fenway Park opened in 1912 and has been the home of the Red Sox ever since. The team won the 1918 World Series there and then began one of the most infamous championship droughts in sports history, which only ended after 86 years. In that time, attendance waned, selling less than 500 tickets at one point in 1965 (when the park had a seating capacity of 33,000+). But fans eventually began coming back for games and in 2003 Fenway began a record-breaking streak of sellout games that would last almost a decade.
Any visit to Boston during baseball requires a stop at Fenway, especially if your favorite American League team is in town. Depending on what team is playing, seat location, and how far in advance you buy, a ticket can cost from around $25 to over $1,000. Fenway Park also leads the league in beer prices, at $7.25 a pop. You can still visit the park if there’s no game scheduled for that day and take an hour walking tour led by an experienced guide for $20.
Spring Training in Arizona
Madison Bumgarner fires the first pitch of the Cactus League season! The Giants are taking on the Reds today at Scottsdale Stadium! pic.twitter.com/NVFplXwu5k
— Cactus League (@cactusleagueaz) February 24, 2017
Legendary baseball team owner and promoter Bill Veeck claimed he was the reason teams began heading to Arizona for spring training. The story goes that while co-owner of a minor league team in the 1940s, Veeck attended a spring training game in Florida and mistakenly broke the rules of the segregated stadium seating by sitting in the non-white section and chatting with fans — sparking a heated argument with local authorities. The incident so incensed Veeck (who signed Larry Doby, the second black player in the major leagues after Jackie Robinson) that when he became the owner of the Cleveland Indians in 1946, he brought them out to train in Tucson. He also convinced the New York Giants to train in Phoenix, starting the Cactus League.
Like Florida’s Grapefruit League, the Cactus League is a great opportunity for fans to watch 15 MLB teams play each other from late February to the end of March. There are only 10 stadiums, so most teams share fields, and they’re all located in the greater Phoenix area. The average ticket price is about $50, but some Cactus League stadiums offer lawn seating for a low $8 and tickets for premium spots (like behind home plate) have been known to go for close to $400.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville
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The most famous brand of baseball bat, the Louisville Slugger, has been swung by some of the greatest names in sports. According to the corporate mythology, the brand was born in the Louisville woodworking shop of J. Frederick Hillerich when his teenage son Bud snuck off one day in 1884 to watch the local major league team, the Louisville Eclipse. At the game, the team’s star Pete Browning broke his bat and Bud offered to craft him a new one at his father’s woodworking shop. When Browning used the new bat for the first time he got three hits and soon players were coming to Hillerich’s shop for bats. By the 1920s, the company of Hillerich and Bradsby (Frank Bradsby was a successful salesman turned partner) was selling more bats than anyone else.
At the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in downtown Louisville’s “Museum Row,” which you can’t miss thanks to the 120-foot baseball bat leaning against the building, visitors can tour the working factory and see how Louisville Sluggers are made and see some impressive baseball memorabilia, like Babe Ruth’s famous notched bat and Hank Aaron’s 700th home run bat. Admission costs $14, though kids 5 and under are free, and includes a complimentary mini bat.
The Field of Dreams Movie Site in Iowa
Undoubtedly one of the greatest movies about baseball, 1989’s Field of Dreams — about an Iowa farmer compelled to build a baseball diamond on his land that then draws the ghosts of famous ball players — featured a baseball diamond built on an actual farm in Iowa. The diamond is still there in Dubuque County, Iowa and can be visited. Admission is free and includes a guided 30-minute tour. The best time for fans to visit is Labor Day weekend, during the Team of Dreams event, when reenactors, retired players, and celebrities gather to talk baseball, play a game, and sign autographs.