Spring Training Road Trip to Scottsdale
Cue music, "It's the most wonderful time of the year. With baseballs a hitting, and everyone telling you have a good beer, it's the most wonderful time of the year." Am I right? It is the first week of March, which means winter isn't coming for much longer, Spring Training is here, and baseball season is right around the corner. To say that I'm excited to reboot my annual Spring Training road trip to Scottsdale would be a vast understatement.
Spring Training Road Trip to Scottsdale from L.A.
Wait for it....A road trip from Los Angeles to Scottsdale may be one of my favorite road trips in America. It's just a half-day trip through what I think is one of the most expansive, beautiful parts of the U.S., the American Southwest. It takes you along the southern edge of the San Bernardino National Forest, past Mt. San Jacinto, through Palm Springs (and passed the Cabazon Dinosaurs, of Pee-wee Herman fame), along the south side of Joshua Tree National Park, and over the Colorado River. Alright, so perhaps there's miles upon miles of desert and nothingness (which is kind of awesome), but the reward is the endless summer of Phoenix. Just make sure you keep your car tank filled with gas (and your stomach tank filled with In-N-Out), you know, because of that whole miles of desert thing.
Where to Stay in Scottsdale
Scottsdale is one of my favorite hotel cities in America, which I highlighted in part in this Scottsdale Spring Training post. I've found that some of the nicest, coolest hotels I've stayed at are in and around Scottsdale, from luxury resorts at the base of Camelback Mountain (Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia) to casita-style accommodations (Royal Palms) in the heart of Scottsdale. Many even offer Spring Training "stay and play ball" packages.
Among my go-to Scottsdale hotels, however, is the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a AAA Five Diamond resort located at the PGA Tour's TPC Scottsdale. It's a Fairmont after all, which is one of my favorite hotel brands (<---They didn't pay me to say that). Among the perks: A number of great restaurants, including celebrity chef Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak, several pools (yes, pools, plural), and a great craft drink program that includes a tequila goddess (seriously) and a rum princesa (for real). Oh, and, you know, just a PGA tour golf course.
Attending Spring Training Games in Scottsdale
But now to attending Spring Training games in Scottsdale themselves. Spring Training is what I believe the purest form of professional sports in America, and not an experience you can have with any other sport. The atmosphere, the games, the players, the experience, the fans; there's nothing like it. And having now been a few times, I feel like I have a little bit of a routine. My game plan:
- Go to my favorite stadiums. In the Cactus League, this includes Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (home to the Arizona Diamondbacks during Spring Training), Scottsdale Stadium (San Francisco Giants), and Sloan Park (Chicago Cubs) in nearby Mesa.
- Go to at least one Dodgers game, obviously. The Dodgers home stadium is Camelback Ranch, which is also home to the Chicago White Sox.
- Attend one night game. While Spring Training evening games are much fewer and further between, this is perhaps my favorite game, often with a bit more vibe and bustle than day games. Night games, too, have afforded the opportunity to see celebs and players from other teams in the stands.
- Don't splurge on baseball tickets (buying either at the stadium or in advance on StubHub). This is Spring Training, not the World Series, so you're not going to find me paying more than $20 for a ticket, and often, no more than $10. Yes, I know, that's cheaper than a beer at regular season games.
Where to Eat and Drink in Scottsdale
I've found Scottsdale to be one of the most underrated food and drink towns in America. You've got speakeasies, you've got western saloons, you've got first-class restaurants, and you've got great southwestern food. I already mentioned Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak and Fairmont's tequila sommelier, but beyond that you have great spots like Citizen Public House, which is "not to be missed" according to Esquire, Postino, a wine cafe with numerous locations, and Pig & Pickle, a comfort food gastropub in the heart of Scottsdale. Scottsdale is also home to one of my favorite saloons (and the oldest in Scottsdale), the Rusty Spur Saloon. Other great drinks spots include Coach House and Old Town Tavern. Scottsdale also has several craft breweries, including Mesquite River Brewing, Goldwater Brewing, and Scottsdale Beer Company.