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Game Day: Three Arizona Spring Training Itineraries

Catch a Cactus League game, plus a whole lot more, with these daylong itineraries around three metropolitan Phoenix ballparks.

by Nora Burba Trulsson

On a fine March afternoon you might notice that traffic in metro Phoenix seems less congested, that businesses are strangely quiet and that shopping centers don’t feel quite as crowded. Where is everyone? At a ballpark. It’s Cactus League Spring Training season in Arizona, and locals and visitors alike disappear en masse for a few hours of sunshine, hot dogs, beer and the chance to watch their favorite boys of summer shake off the winter doldrums.

It’s no wonder that baseball is so popular here. The Cactus League had its inaugural Spring Training game in Arizona in 1946, and now nearly half of all Major League Baseball teams make the desert their Spring Training headquarters at ballparks throughout Greater Phoenix.

You can make a day out of catching a ball game by including visits to attractions near the baseball stadiums. Here are a few suggested itineraries.

Bring the kids: Camelback Ranch-Glendale – Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers
Situated on the west side of metro Phoenix, this stadium puts you in the center of family-friendly attractions you can take in before or after a White Sox or Dodgers game.

  • Pregame: Wake up with fluffy buttermilk pancakes at Kiss the Cook, a folksy, antiques-filled breakfast spot in Glendale. Then you’ll be ready for a few hours at the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium, where you can ride a safari train, feed giraffes and admire white tigers. Be sure to check out the inhabitants of the aquarium, including stingrays and sharks.
  • 00035.jpgGame time: Head to Camelback Ranch-Glendale, one of the Cactus League’s newest – and largest – ballpark complexes, located on 141 acres on the Phoenix-Glendale border. You’ll admire the sweeping curves of the desert-inspired stadium, while your kids will be mesmerized by the live bands and stilt-walkers entertaining fans before the game. Look for autograph opportunities as ballplayers walk to the field from their respective clubhouses.
  • Postgame: At the end of the day, do some shopping and catch dinner at Westgate City Center, also in Glendale and adjacent to two other major sports venues, Jobing.com Arena and University of Phoenix Stadium. Look for stores that offer sports-themed clothing and accessories, and nationally known restaurants.

The high life: Scottsdale Stadium – San Francisco Giants
The Giants’ Spring Training home, Scottsdale Stadium, sits in the thick of downtown Scottsdale’s sophisticated, urban attractions. With a little planning, you can walk between the ballpark, restaurants, shops and nightclubs.

  • 00046.jpgPregame: Start your game day with an order of corned beef hash topped with jalapeños at The Orange Table, a small, artsy café, then walk over to Scottsdale Fashion Square, 1.8 million square feet of major-league shopping anchored by such fashionista-friendly names as Nordstrom, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus.
  • Game time: Stroll to Scottsdale Stadium, site of Spring Training games since 1956, where legends such as Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski once played. Root for the Giants as you catch some rays on the grass, munch garlic fries and cool yourself with frozen lemonade. On your way out, look around the concourse for photographs of historic baseball objects, taken at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Postgame: After the game, make a beeline to Don & Charlie’s, a classic rib and chop house filled to the rafters with baseball memorabilia, or hang out at Blue Moose, a nearby sports bar. Want something a bit more velvet-rope-ish? Head to the W Scottsdale for poolside cocktails or to one of the many nightclubs that dot the streets just north of the stadium.

Fun in the sun: Tempe Diablo Stadium – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
You can see the vast, wide-open spaces of South Mountain Park from the Angels’ spring headquarters, so why not take advantage of the balmy desert weather to make a day of the great outdoors with hiking, baseball and alfresco dining?

  • 00047.jpgPregame: Get going with a healthy bowl of granola on the patio at Morning Glory Café, part of The Farm at South Mountain, a rambling complex of restaurants, galleries and organic gardens. Then lace up your hiking boots for a trek through South Mountain Park, a 16,000-acre desert preserve laced with 51 miles of trails. Keep your eyes peeled for the spring wildflowers that peak this month.
  • Game time: At Tempe Diablo Stadium, wedged at the base of a craggy butte, look for the bust of the legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry, who once owned the Angels. Between innings, try the hot dogs, said to be the best in the Cactus League. If the warm sun catches you off guard, ask ushers for a free sample of sunblock.
  • Postgame: Following the game, explore downtown Tempe’s Mill Avenue District, a pedestrian-friendly collection of restaurants, shops and clubs. Sip wine and dine under the pergola at House of Tricks, a longtime local favorite, then stroll down to nearby Tempe Town Lake to catch reflections of city lights on the calm waters.

Going?

Blue Moose
Phone: (480) 949-7959
www.bluemoosescottsdale.com

Camelback Ranch-Glendale
Phone: (623) 302-5000
www.camelbackranchbaseball.com

Don & Charlie’s
Phone: (480) 990-0900
www.donandcharlies.com

House of Tricks
Phone: (480) 968-1114
www.houseoftricks.com

Kiss the Cook
Phone: (623) 939-4663
www.kiss-the-cook.com

Mill Avenue District
Phone: (480) 921-2300
www.millavenue.com

Morning Glory Café
Phone: (602) 276-8804
www.thefarmatsouthmountain.com

The Orange Table
Phone: (480) 424-6819

Scottsdale Fashion Square
Phone: (480) 941-2140
www.fashionsquare.com

Scottsdale Stadium
Phone: (480) 312-2586
www.scottsdaleaz.gov/stadium

South Mountain Park
Phone: (602) 495-0222
www.phoenix.gov/PARKS/southmtn.html

Tempe Diablo Stadium
Phone: (480) 350-5205
www.tempe.gov/diablo

Tempe Town Lake
(480) 350-8625
www.tempe.gov/lake

W Scottsdale
Phone: (480) 970-2100
www.starwoodhotels.com

Westgate City Center
Phone: (623) 772-4000
www.westgatecitycenter.com

Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium
Phone: (623) 935-9453
www.wildlifeworld.com

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