It’s baseball season, which means it’s time to go out to the ball game. But all the peanuts and Cracker Jack can really add up. A day at the ballpark can be expensive when you factor in ticket price, transportation to and from the stadium and concessions.
While the cost of attending a baseball game varies widely throughout the Major League, sometimes it’s actually cheaper to see your hometown team on the road during a summer vacation.
Aside from the potential for savings, catching a game on the road is a great tradition, whether you’re there to cheer on your favourite team or just to soak up some baseball tradition.
But, with 30 Major League stadiums to choose from, where should you start? To guide your decision, we set out to find the cheapest places to see a ball game this season.
We calculated the cost for two people to catch a game, including overnight hotel stay, tickets, Uber transportation to and from the stadium and concessions (park staples of a hot dog, soft drink and beer for two).
We used hotel data from Cheapflights to find the average price of a one-night stay, zeroing in on the most affordable three-star or higher hotel within a 30-minute walk of each stadium. SeatGeek.com provided us with the ticket pricing, taking the cheapest seat for each remaining game at a stadium and giving us the median price. Then, we found the estimated Uber price for a ride to and from the game and tapped Statista for 2016 concession prices in each city. From there, we did the math, ranking all 30 MLB parks.
Check out the our rankings and then plan when, where and how to take your next baseball pilgrimage.
2016 MLB stadium affordability ranking*
The 10 most affordable baseball parks
Based on our rankings, these 10 parks are the best value for a baseball outing. Keep reading for more on some of the traditions and unique entertainment each venue offers as well as other places to go and things to see while you are in the neighbourhood.
1. Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
Built on history, Minute Maid Park brought outdoor baseball back to Houston in 2000. Fans entering this downtown ballpark walk through the grand lobby of Union Station, a main transportation hub that served Houston for more than 60 years. Once through, fans enter a high-tech ball park, complete with a retractable roof, Wi-Fi and, when needed, air conditioning.
Fun at the ballpark includes a locomotive that runs along a track atop the west side of the park as well as the Chic-Fil-A “Fowl” poles. Anytime an Astro hits the poles, all the fans at the game get a free chicken sandwich. Look out for the Phillips 66 Homerun Porch too. The old-fashioned gas pump in this left-centerfield alcove has tallied home team home runs since the ballpark opened.
Don’t worry about going hungry at a Houston Astros game. Some new food choices this year include sweet potato waffle chicken sandwiches, Hawaiian pork tacos and hand-dipped corn dogs.
Houston Zoo: In addition to its usual 6,000 animal residents — from a giant Pacific octopus to orangutans to king vultures — this summer Houston Zoo is hosting dinosaurs. Wander a path through prehistoric plants and tall trees to spot the life-like animatronic dinosaurs. The exhibit runs through Sept. 5. If you have a CityPass, present it for a 48 per cent discount on zoo tickets.
Space Center Houston: Although it is about 56 kilometres away, Houston Space Center is worth a side trip. It offers more than 400 things to see and do across its space artifacts museum, education programs and exhibits. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
2. Coors Field, Denver, Colorado
Home to the Colorado Rockies, the mile-high Coors Field is renowned for high scores and home runs. However, it also offers fans quite a bit more in the way of entertainment. The recently opened 3,500 square metre Rooftop is open to all ticket holders two hours before the first pitch and offers a sweeping view of downtown Denver as well as food and drink from a choice of three bars and eateries. And 90 minutes before game time, the Blue Moon Brewing Co. at the SandLot opens to ticket holders as well. This is the birthplace of Blue Moon and an active brewery serving up specialty beers to the baseball community.
Other cool things to look for in the park include a landscaped garden beyond centerfield where fountains shoot up water after home runs. For the best view, try for a seat on the first base line or facing right field: The Rocky Mountains will serve as a backdrop to the game as will the setting sun if the timing is right.
Coors Field is a cornerstone of the Lower Denver or LoDo neighborhood, an historic district with a great food and bar scene. Plan to spend some time exploring the area.
Colorado State Capitol: While you must plan ahead to book a formal tour of the Colorado State Capitol, you can give yourself a self-guided one though many parts of the building. Or just snap a photo out front. It’s an impressive building.
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver: Spend a couple of hours exploring the nearby MCA Denver. With an ever-changing lineup of exhibits and a regular Friday night rooftop happy hour, this is not your everyday museum.
3. Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas
The 11th oldest baseball stadium, Globe Life Park opened in 1994 and pays homage to the style of older, more traditional stadiums. But if you’re looking for this retro experience, head to Arlington in the next few years. Plans have recently been unveiled for a new stadium with a retractable roof that, if approved, could open as early as 2020 or 2021.
Seats on the Home Run Porch offer an especially authentic experience that recalls older ballpark style. As a bonus, sit on the upper level of the two-tiered area and take advantage of the All You Can Eat Seats. Hungry fans can indulge in bottomless baseball park staples with all-you-can-eat hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn and soft drinks, as well as grilled chicken sandwiches.
Six Flags Over Texas: Head to this 200-acre amusement park right in Arlington that boasts more than 50 rides and live entertainment. If you’re looking for thrills, Six Flags Over Texas offers nearly 20 fast-paced rides and roller coasters for the more adventurous park goer.
American Airlines CR Smith Museum: Frequent fliers and aviation enthusiasts should check out this museum of flight that features historic artifacts, full-scale aircraft engines and a Douglas DC-3 airliner, among an always changing host of special exhibits.
4. Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
A ballpark with a swimming pool? Yes, please. Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, boasts a pool suite in right center field. While the pool can be rented for groups of more than 35, there are other cool attractions to check out when traveling with a smaller crowd. The stadium is air conditioned and its retractable roof can open or close in four minutes, making it comfortable to catch a game rain or shine. Grab a bite at Game Seven Grill and check out some of the baseball memorabilia on display, or enjoy a craft beer at The Draft Room.
Dorrance Planetarium: See the stars from one of the largest (and most technologically advanced) planetariums in the U.S.
Desert Botanical Garden: Enjoy the area’s natural beauty through the garden’s permanent exhibits, special events and seasonal offerings. At night, flashlight tours offer an alternative way to see desert life.
Grand Canyon: No trip to Arizona is complete without taking in the area’s most well known and breathtaking attraction. Rent a car and in a little more than three hours you will find yourself at one of the country’s most beautiful natural sites.
5. Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California
Angel Stadium of Anaheim underwent a $100 million renovation beginning in 1996, reverting it back to a baseball-only facility. It’s hallmark is the eye-catching “Outfield Extravaganza”, a garden of fake boulders with a waterfall and spouting geyser in deep left center field. The stadium has several other unique points of interest as well, including a bronze statue of Gene Autry that welcomes fans who enter the ballpark through Gate 2, a statue of Michelle Carew at Gate 3 and an interactive Music Garden on the third base side by Gate 1. The stadium has free Wi-Fi for fans too.
If you’re hoping to get an autograph from your favourite player, head to the railing of sections 101-103 and 133-135 up to 40 minutes prior to the start of a game or until the end of batting practice, whichever comes first.
For the ultimate fan experience, reserve one of 10 Dugout Suites, located in between the Angels’ and the visitors’ dugouts. These suites afford a view of the game that is closer to home plate than the pitcher.
Fun seasonal events include Family Sundays, which feature children’s activities like a photo booth, games and face painting at the Gate 5 Courtyard.
Disneyland: No visit to Anaheim, Calif., is complete without visiting “The Happiest Place on Earth.” The 85-acre Disneyland theme park has eight themed lands, including Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrowland, packed with more than 60 rides and attractions.
Flight Deck: Experience what it’s like to fly a plane at Flight Deck. Whether you choose to do aerial maneuvers at 600 knots in a military fighter jet simulator or get behind the controls of a Boeing 737 commercial airliner, you can “fly” in authentic flight simulators.
Anaheim Packing District: Take a stroll along restored historic buildings at Anaheim Packing District in downtown Anaheim. The complex features 20 artisan eateries and live music on the weekends.
6. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
The National League’s Cincinnati Reds, baseball’s first professional franchise and the first team to utilize long socks and knicker-style pants, call the Great American Ball Park home. Located on the winding banks of the Ohio River, Great American Ball Park has innovative features, including the new Fioptics District, a private rooftop patio on the third base side of the view level. Make time to explore the team’s rich history, which includes five World Series wins, at the on-site 16,000-square-foot Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
Visitors to the Great American Ball Park get the opportunity to go on a culinary tour of the city without leaving the stadium. There are outposts of local favorites like The Reds Brewery District Bar (the 85-foot bar features 60 taps of local craft brews); Taste of Belgium, which serves Belgian waffles with strawberries and cream, and chicken and waffles with Ohio honey and hot sauce; La Rosa’s pizza; Skyline Chili; Frisch’s Big Boy hamburgers; and Queen City Sausage, which uses traditional German recipes and manufactures bierwurst exclusively for the ballpark as well as goetta (a meat-and-grain sausage) for its Goetta Burgers.
Fans can attend fun promo nights like Fireworks Fridays and Family Sundays and Reds Rise and Climb, which gives fans a chance to run the stairs at the ballpark and enjoy an after-party plus score tickets to a future game.
The Banks: Nestled along the river next to the Great American Ball Park, the recently redeveloped Banks and Smale Riverfront Park offers family-friendly restaurants and sports bars adjacent to the stadium.
P&G Go Vibrantscape: Younger baseball fans will enjoy the P&G Go Vibrantscape, a recently opened play area that features a giant 19-foot piano; Oinkithopter, a massive steel flying pig; the Castellini Esplanade, a new setting for farmers markets and other activities; the Heekin/PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground that has rock climbing, racing slides, a fog mister and other play equipment built from local, sustainable materials with many connections back to Cincinnati’s history; and the Carol Ann Carousel with 44 characters all featuring Cincinnati scenes and symbols hand-painted by local artist Jonathan Queen.
7. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Now celebrating its 44th season, Kauffman Stadium (or “The K” as it’s called) underwent a $250 million renovation that made its debut in 2009. The stadium’s concourse offers a 360-degree view, so fans never have to lose sight of the field.
If you’re looking to save, the Hy-Vee Outfield seats are some of the most affordable, although they may not offer the best views. If that’s the case (or even if it’s not), head to the Pepsi Party Porch for a two-tiered, standing-room-only view of the outfield. Get there early, as it fills up fast and is on a first-come, first-served basis for all ticketholders.
Kids of all ages will appreciate the Outfield Experience. Head to the stadium early and purchase tokens ($2 each or $10 for an all-day pass) for the interactive attractions. The Outfield Experience boasts a carousel, mini golf and live entertainment, as well as a chance to step up to the plate. Run the bases, swing a bat and test your pitching prowess for one token each.
Boulevard Brewing Company: Beer lovers should head to Boulevard Brewing Co., the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest. The brewery offers free 60-minute tours that wrap up in the Tasting Room, where you can sample their wide range of beers. If you’re hungry, consider the Smokestack Tour and Tasting, which combines the tour with a tasting session and food pairings.
The Money Museum: Located at The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, The Money Museum serves up a free self-guided tour. Interactive exhibits give museum-goers the chance to gaze upon billions of dollars in the area’s largest cash vault, as well as the opportunity to feel the weight of a gold bar.
8. Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia
Come see the Braves play at Turner Field for the last season (the Braves will play in the new SunTrust Park starting in 2017). The final season at Turner Field is being commemorated with pre-game ceremonies, limited-edition gate giveaways and more. In addition, the Braves are holding commemorative pre-game ceremonies during the season and a home game countdown that features special guests tearing away the game numbers from 81 to zero.
Turner Field is brimming with attractions for fans to enjoy before games like the Ivan Allen Jr. Braves Museum & Hall of Fame, which features more than 600 Braves artifacts and photographs that trace the team’s history from its beginnings in Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta. Fans can also get a guided tour of the stadium most days except days with afternoon games. Visitors can taste local food favorites from chef-driven stalls including H&F Burger and Kevin Rathbun Steak Sandwich. The littlest fans should visit the Coca-Cola Sky Field, located along the left field corner of the upper deck. The Coca-Cola Sky Field features a giant Coca-Cola bottle, a path for kids to run the bases and a picnic pavilion.
This season’s promo nights include Friday night post-game fireworks and live concerts after select home games.
Centennial Olympic Park: A short 10-minute drive from Turner Field, Centennial Olympic Park is home to seven of Atlanta’s most famous attractions, including the World of Coca-Cola, where soda lovers can sample more than 100 soft drinks; Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Western hemisphere; and Inside CNN Studio Tours, a 55-minute behind-the-scenes guided walking tour of the news channel.
East Atlanta: The Atlanta Streetcar connects Centennial Olympic Park to the east side of Atlanta, where visitors can stop by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to walk in the footsteps of the civil rights activist; Zoo Atlanta to see a variety of animals and exhibits; and Sweet Auburn Curb Market to sample the meat, seafood, produce and sweets of 24 local eateries.
Piedmont Park: Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s picturesque park that has been a local favorite since 1904.
9. Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
The Cardinals were the first team in almost 100 years to win a World Series Championship in the inaugural season of a new ballpark when Busch Stadium opened in 2006. Special stadium features include a Build-A-Bear Workshop in Ford Plaza and the Family Pavilion, which features a batting cage, speed pitch, T-ball cages and Xbox game area. Fans can also get a tour of the stadium which includes a view from the radio broadcast booth, a glance at the World Series trophies in the Champions Club and the dugouts.
Before the game, head to Ballpark Village to learn more about Cardinals’ Nation. Opened in 2014, Ballpark Village is located across the street from Busch Stadium. The two-story venue offers more than a dozen restaurants and entertainment options, including the Cardinal Nation Restaurant and Bar, St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, Cardinals Authentics Shop and AT&T Rooftop Deck.
Gateway Arch: The 630-foot Gateway Arch has been an American icon for more than 50 years. The Arch commemorates Thomas Jefferson and St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States. Don’t miss a ride on the Gateway Arch Riverboats, replicas of 19th century paddle wheel riverboats that provide a closer look of the Gateway Arch.
National Blues Museum: The newly opened museum pays tribute to the musicians who created America’s roots music and St. Louis’ signature sound. A theater for musical performances, artifacts, interactive exhibits and exciting programming bring the blues music experience to life at the National Blues Museum.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery: Visit the “King of Beers” by taking a tour of the nearby Anheuser-Busch brewery. Guests can learn the history of the iconic brewing company and see the world-renowned Budweiser Clydesdales. Free samples for adults over 21 are included at the end of the tour.
10. Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Located in downtown Toronto, Rogers Centre (formerly called SkyDome) is home to the Toronto Blue Jays and features the world’s first fully retractable roof. Super fans can opt to sit in the TD Comfort Clubhouse, a premium seating area behind home plate that has wider padded seats, a full service bar, in-seat service and a buffet with dining pods overlooking the field.
Special events this season include Friday Fan Festival, an outdoor pre-game festival; Jr. Jays Saturdays, when kids can run the bases post-game; and Ballpark Beach Bash, a beach-themed party in the WestJet Flight Deck July 31.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada: Containing more than 5.7 million liters of water, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Canada’s largest indoor aquarium, is home to more than 16,000 marine animals, including jellyfish, lobsters, stingrays and bamboo sharks.
CN Tower: The 1,815-foot CN Tower affords spectacular views, including from its vertigo-inducing glass floors. Three restaurants sit inside the tower including 360 Restaurant (a view from the top of the CN Tower is complimentary with the prix fixe menu). Those who are up for the challenge can try the thrilling EdgeWalk, the world’s highest hands-free walk along the exterior of the CN Tower.
Steam Whistle Brewing: Sample Toronto craft beer – Steam Whistle Pilsner – brewed at the historic railway roundhouse. The brewery offers public tours too.
Hotel: Cheapflights.com – average price of a one-night stay during the weekend of Aug. 12-13 at a three-star (or higher) hotel within a 30-minute walk of each stadium
Ticket prices: SeatGeek.com – the median price of the cheapest seats available for all remaining games at each stadium
Concessions: Statista.com – 2016 prices for hot dogs, soft drinks and beer
Transportation: Uber.com – fare estimate to and from hotel and stadium
All prices are in CAD, based on the July 13, 2016, exchange rate.
Main image: iStockPhoto/adamkaz