America's Best Baseball Stadiums
“Baseball stadiums are epicenters of community pride,” says Wayne McDonnell, clinical associate professor of sports management at New York University. “It’s an extension of who they [the communities] are; each park has something that the others don’t.” Take Miami’s Marlins Park. The swanky stadium, completed in 2012, features a South Beach-worthy pool, two 450-gallon aquariums, a retractable roof, and guacamole-jalapeno-topped Tater Tots. Just a few years old, the park already reflects its flamboyant hometown.
The best ballparks play to their particular strengths, whether it’s an easily accessible location with skyline views, exhibitions honoring bygone greats, or craft beers served by fire pits overlooking left field. Classics such as Fenway Park and Wrigley Field—each over 100 years old—still use hand-operated scoreboards and keep baseball’s history alive, while others have introduced decidedly modern features like the synchronized music and light show that follows every home run at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
The fusion of sports with entertainment has grown tremendously over the last decade, and as a result, you no longer need to bleed your team’s colors to embrace the ballpark experience. With over 70 million people pouring into parks each season, many stadiums are rivaling amusement parks. “When you walk through the turnstiles, you’re getting one-stop shopping for the entire family,” says McDonnell.
Kids can play mini-golf or ride a carousel at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, for instance, while parents can enjoy one (or several) of the 75 available craft beers. At San Francisco’s waterfront AT&T Park, children can tackle the Coca-Cola Superslide, 465 feet from home plate, as adults sip wines sourced from nearby Napa Valley and paired with Dungeness crab sandwiches.
The fun may not always be old-fashioned these days, but it’s still part of the all-American tradition of a day out at the ball game. As Walt Whitman put it: “Baseball has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere. It is the place where memory gathers.” So take yourself out to one of the best baseball stadiums and start building those memories.
Coors Field: Colorado Rockies
Fans in the Mile High City are treated to spectacular Rocky Mountain views, particularly from the purple-colored seats at precisely 5,280 feet above sea level. But keep your eye on the ball because games here move at a faster pace. High altitude dries and hardens the baseballs, so they actually fly 9 percent faster up in the mountains. Known as a “hitter’s park,” Coors Field tends to get high-scoring games with quite a few home runs. It’s also a hit for cheap Rockpile bleacher seats (as low as $4) and the stadium’s brick warehouse look, which fits in with the surrounding LoDo neighborhood.
PNC Park: Pittsburgh Pirates
Even the highest seat in this stately two-level ballpark (the only one in MLB) is just 88 feet from the field, so prepare for terrific views of the action as well as the Pittsburgh skyline and the Allegheny River—where decked-out fans wait in boats and kayaks for a stray ball. On game days, the Roberto Clemente Bridge closes to traffic so that you can walk across it and take the adjoining river walk to the stadium. Pup Nights on select Tuesdays, local favorites like Primanti Brother's Almost Famous sandwiches and Quaker Steak & Lube wings, and quirky entertainment like pierogi mascot races make a summer outing to PNC pitch perfect.
Citi Field: New York Mets
New York’s culinary melting pot has come to Citi Field, which opened in 2009 with improved sightlines, a sunlit rotunda honoring Brooklyn slugger Jackie Robinson, and a lineup of gourmet ballpark food. Show up hungry to feast on lobster rolls from James Beard-Award-winning chef Dave Pasternack; finger-licking-good ribs from Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke (Meyer also runs the cultish Shake Shack and El Verano Taquería.); or "Meat the Mets," a Creole chicken, pepperoni, sweet Italian sausage, and jalapeño pizza by newcomer Two Boots. Wash it down with more than 60 beers, including local brews, and gourmet Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
Marlins Park: Miami Marlins
The Little Havana-based Marlins Park, which debuted for the 2012 season, is already making a big splash—literally, with two 450-gallon tanks featuring nearly 100 tropical fish. Try the aquatic life yourself with a dip in the Clevelander’s pool, a South Beach party outpost complete with animal-print-body-painted dancers and celeb DJs spinning at each game. A kaleidoscopic mosaic walkway, mango slaw-topped SoBe dogs, and a 73-foot marlin (and flamingo) sculpture that rotates to celebrate home runs also reflect Miami’s flamboyant influence.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards: Baltimore Orioles
No park blends the old with the new quite like Camden Yards. Constructed over an old railroad station and what was once a café owned by Babe Ruth’s father (now centerfield), the downtown stadium harks back to baseball’s early days—even though it opened in 1992. The stadium is largely credited with starting the league-wide trend toward parks built with an eye toward integrating neighborhoods and serving regional cuisine. Follow that smoky aroma over to Boog’s Barbecue, where the thing to order is a pit beef sandwich topped with thinly sliced raw onions and secret sauce.
AT&T Park: San Francisco Giants
The City by the Bay got an award-winning waterfront ballpark in 2000, witnessed some of outfielder Barry Bonds's record-setting home runs, and hosted World Series games in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Fans can also cheer about the wine list sourced from nearby vineyards. Fans hoping to fish out long balls that splash into McCovey Cove (named in honor of Giants slugger Willie McCovey) station themselves in kayaks just outside the stadium. Others scope out park attractions like the Coca-Cola Fan Lot, with its 26-foot-high by 30-foot-wide baseball glove; four twisty slides; and Little Giants Park, a kid-size replica. No tickets? Head to the south side right field wall for a free glimpse of the action through one of the four portholes.
Fenway Park: Boston Red Sox
As historic as the city of Boston, the Green Monster celebrated its 100th season in 2012 and remains much as it did when it opened. You don’t need to be a die-hard Red Sox fan to appreciate its original architecture, the hand-operated scoreboard, and the red-painted seat in the right-field bleachers that marks Fenway’s longest measurable homer (hit by Ted Williams in 1946). Whether you’re singing “Sweet Caroline” or downing a pitcher at the nearby Cask 'n Flagon on Lansdowne Street, you’re cementing its legacy.
Comerica Park: Detroit Tigers
Kids score big at Comerica Park thanks to its 50-foot Ferris wheel and the tiger-clad carousel at the base of the food court; come on Sunday, and kids 14 and younger ride for free. But grown-ups have a playground of their own at the 1940s-style Cigar Bar of the Tiger Club, stocked with 20 cigar varieties and a baby grand. Whether you’ve got club access or nosebleed seats, you’ll appreciate the Bellagio-like liquid fireworks—a synchronized light and music fountain that shoots up 150 feet in the air through more than 900 nozzles to celebrate each home run.
Yankee Stadium: New York Yankees
Welcome to the modern-day coliseum. Though it's not The House That Ruth Built, the new Yankee Stadium still honors pinstripe legends. After all, the epic team has won more championships than anyone else in the major leagues. Stop by Monument Park, relocated from the original ballpark across the street, to pay homage to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle. And treat yourself to Torrisi's meatball parm sandwich in the Great Hall between gates 4 and 6.
Miller Park: Milwaukee Brewers
Tailgating parties here rival those prior to NFL games, so don’t be alarmed by that smoky haze visible from I-94. It billows up from thousands of grills sprawled across the 12,500-car lot where fans have been cooking up pregame chow. Come early because the line to the lot starts hours before the game. By the time you’re inside, you may be ready for round two: helpings of the stadium’s bratwursts, Polish sausages, chorizos, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Rally for your favorite link in the Famous Racing Sausages sprinting extravaganza on the field. And don’t let any foul weather deter you; Miller Field’s retractable roof can open and close in about 10 minutes.
Wrigley Field: Chicago Cubs
Wrigley Field is built on holy ground—a former seminary, to be precise, though America’s second-oldest ballpark is pretty sacred in its own right. The original scoreboard is still hand-operated and the iconic ivy on the outfield wall grows so thick that balls can get lost in the foliage. New traditions are embraced with zeal. Bill Murray and Ozzy Osbourne are among those who've seized the microphone for unconventional takes on “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Sure, the Cubs may not have won a championship since 1908, but the fan camaraderie is unmistakable. Wrigleyville prides itself with neighborhood-wide parties. The stadium is currently in the midst of a multi-year renovation project, which includes a new jumbotron, expanded bleachers, and upgraded player facilities.
Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners
Come early for happy hour at the newly opened 'Pen to get your fill of $5 beers and star-chef Ethan Stowell’s oyster po’boys. Then settle into the stadium, which offers sunset views of the Puget Sound and Seattle skyline. It borders Pioneer Square, an area that includes artist studios, shops, and restaurants. Baseball-inspired works by Pacific Northwestern artists are on display, including a chandelier made from 1,000 resin baseball bats, located above the home-plate entry way. The 12-by-9-foot abstract bronze catcher's mitt is a popular photo-op as is the team mascot, the Mariner Moose, which can be found in the main concourse’s Moose Den.
Petco Park: San Diego Padres
You can’t go wrong with your seating at Petco Park, which has some of the best sightlines in baseball and is served by the trolley line. Join families and couples for a picnic on the grassy area beyond the outfield wall prior to Sunday home games. Or time your visit to Friday for theme parties like 80s Night, Ultimate Cookout, and Beerfest at the park near the whiffle ball field. Postgame, the fun spills over to the nearby Gaslamp District.
Kauffman Stadium: Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals’ Kauffman Stadium is not new, but it’s experienced a recent surge in fan appreciation. Thanks in part to a $250 million renovation finished in 2009, the sixth-oldest stadium in the majors (it opened in 1973) now offers one of the sport’s best game-day experiences. The 84’ x 104’ high-definition LED display screen is not only one of the world’s biggest, it’s also one of the most unique: Together with the massive golden crown atop it, the screen forms the shape of the Royals logo. Waterfalls flow constantly behind the fence in right field, where powerful fountains create a majestic backdrop between innings and before and after games. Grab one of 75 craft beers at Craft and Draft, and enjoy creative sandwiches from celebrity chef Andrew ZImmern or some barbecue at Sweet Baby Ray’s.
Target Field: Minnesota Twins
The downtown location makes Target Field one of the most accessible ballparks in America, so go ahead and pedal to the gates. Grab a Kramarczuk's brat or a walleye-on-a-stick. When temperatures start to drop, the left-field sanctuary brings relief in the form of cozy fire pits and views of the Minneapolis skyline.