Who says spring break is all about beaches, shopping and nightlife? Although the 2010 Major League Baseball regular season doesn’t kick off until April 4, spring training is in full swing. If you’re traveling to Florida or Arizona for spring break, you might be just a short drive away from one of several spring training facilities dotted across cities in each state. The “Sunshine State” and “Grand Canyon State,” both known for their warm climates, are the only states throughout the country that play host to spring training ballgames.
Whether you’re an avid baseball fan or simply looking to while a few hours away with friends, a day at the ballpark makes a great alternative to an afternoon spent amid the hustle and bustle of a jam-packed amusement park, crowded mall or tourist-saturated beach. What’s more, every game affords spectators the opportunity to get an autograph, catch a foul ball, or take loads of pictures.
Spring training is divided into two leagues with 15 teams apiece. Florida-training teams make up the Grapefruit League, while teams that train and play exhibition games in Arizona are in the Cactus League. More than 1.5 million fans have attended Grapefruit League games six years running while the Cactus League set an attendance record with 1.31 million fans in 2008.
And while Arizona is nearly synonymous with the Grand Canyon and Florida conjures images of breathtaking rides at Orlando’s famed theme parks, there’s plenty more to do at these sun-drenched spring hot spots. Both states offer a wealth of recreational activities including golf, hiking and biking. If you’re big on sunset-watching, you’ll want to visit Phoenix, which sees more than 300 days of sunshine each year. (I guess they call it “The Valley of the Sun” for a reason!) Orlando was named the third most visited American city among travelers by Forbes in 2007, thanks largely to its popular theme parks, sprawling malls and a vibrant sports scene.
Whether you’re heading southeast or southwest this spring, there are noteworthy hotels that sit just minutes from spring training stadiums across various cities in both states.
Champion Stadium, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista at Walt Disney World, is only 1.3 miles from the Mona Lisa Suite Hotel, which offers complimentary shuttle service to the Walt Disney theme parks, Universal Orlando and Sea World. The stadium is also 1.6 miles from the Celebration Hotel, a AAA Four-Diamond boutique hotel in the heart of Celebration. Next to Lake Buena Vista lies Kissimmee, where travelers might catch a Houston Astros spring training game if they venture to Osceola County Stadium. Only seven miles away is Caribe Royal Orlando while the Radisson Orlando Resort and Gaylord Palms are each approximately 10 miles away.
If you’re traveling to Legends Field in Tampa to watch the defending World Series champion New York Yankees in action, you can stay at Sailport Waterfront Suites on Tampa Bay, Tampa’s only all-waterfront, all-suite hotel (roughly 4 miles away), or Safety Harbor Resort and Spa which, situated fewer than 11 miles away, underwent a multimillion dollar renovation in 2007.
Travelers visiting the Phoenix area can catch an Oakland Athletics game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which lies approximately 6.5 miles away from Best Western Dobson Ranch Inn and the 10 acres of landscaped courtyards on which it is set. Phoenix is also home to the resurgent Milwaukee Brewers who, in 2008, lost to the eventual World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in their first playoff appearance since 1982. Try getting an autograph from All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder at Maryvale Baseball Park, which is about 5 miles away from the property declared “Best Boutique Hotel in Arizona” in 2007 by The Travel Channel – The Clarendon. Travel east and you’ll find Scottsdale, the site of ever-popular Scottsdale Stadium. Home to the San Francisco Giants, it is approximately 2.5 miles away from Hospitality Suites Resort, which offers complimentary breakfast and features a Jacuzzi and three swimming pools.
Ready to escape the cold weather? Make sure to grab your glove and camera and catch a live spring training game in Florida or Arizona before time runs out. Play ball!