Baseball has long been described as America's Pastime. And if you're a Major League Baseball fan of any team, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, etc., one of the best ways I recommend to expand on your fandom is visit the MLB Ballparks of the United States and Canada. If you can do it with a family member, even more worth it.
I've had the pleasure of visiting every ballpark in the majors. My father and I took summers while I was in middle and high school and completed the circuit in about seven years. Making a pilgrimage to places such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are well worth the visit, but there are plenty of newer parks out there. Today, I'll give you my top five ballparks in MLB. If you ever find yourself in these cities and enjoy baseball, I highly recommend you give these places a try.
1. PETCO Park - San Diego, California
The home of the San Diego Padres is America's finest ballpark. Why? As they say in real estate: location, location, location. Strategically located in downtown steps from the waters of San Diego Bay and the Gaslamp Quarter, it doesn't get much better. The views are incredible from all over the stadium. Go up high and see sweeping views of the bay and surrounding area. The seating is great, the people are friendly and the food is quite good with a plethora of choices for every palate. PETCO Park also has a nice greenery space just outside the gates (no ticket needed!) beyond center field where families can sit on the grass, eat (if you want) and enjoy the SoCal sunshine. Plus, from some locations, you can even spot a decent view of the field! When I visited, it was first-come, first-serve on the grass, but definitely not something I've ever seen 25 feet from the entrance to any MLB stadium. There are also plenty of restaurants around, so a pregame or post-game destination is always around. With good weather most of the year, whether it be a day or night game, if you're ever in San Diego, go. I would try to go again if San Diego wasn't so far away from Georgia.
2. PNC Park - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
We're back east for a moment to recognize one of MLB's best in PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. You might be thinking...Pittsburgh? Really? Yes, really. Pittsburgh has gotten a bad rep over the years of being the Steel City (Drab, unappealing, etc.). However, the city has given itself a major facelift over the years, shedding off that gray vibe and I would argue is now one of the nicest "smaller" cities in America. I can't speak for Heinz Field, but Pittsburgh's PNC Park and PPG Paints Arena (home to the city's NHL franchise) are just a part of what makes Pittsburgh a nice destination and a phenomenal sports town. To the ballpark itself, it sits on the banks of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh. PNC Park has good seating along with spectacular, sweeping views of downtown Pittsburgh and the Roberto Clemente Bridge. In addition to that, PNC Park has plenty of tasty food options for patrons to choose from. Given the location, views, seating and food, PNC Park is a true favorite of mine. I encourage you to give Pittsburgh a try, perfect for a long weekend.
3. Oracle Park - San Francisco, California
We're back to the Golden State for No. 3. I flip back and forth on PNC Park and Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, because San Francisco is an incredible place to visit. Like the city, the ballpark has plenty to offer. Perpetually cool year-round, you'll never complain about it being too hot for baseball. Located just a bit south of the Bay Bridge, Oracle Park sits just off the waters of the bay and has sweeping views of the boats docked at the pier and beyond. The seating is superb, the people are friendly and the food options are plentiful. Barbecue, burgers, crab, sandwiches, tacos and so much more, but my personal favorites? Chowder in bread bowls and super good garlic fries (with real garlic, not the powdered kind). I'd go back just for the chowder and/or the fries. If you're ever in SF, take in a game and enjoy baseball.
4. Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota
This one might surprise some folks, but yes, the Twin Cities gets its baseball stadium right. Conveniently located near public transportation and downtown Minneapolis, Target Field is a beautiful facility. Great seating and food options combine with friendly fans and spectacular scenery. Tons of restaurants nearby for pre and post-game meal or plenty of options at the ballpark. You don't feel crushed in like sardines, but I didn't go to a playoff game so I cannot attest to that environment. Still, the Twins and Target Field did a good job in their product.
5. Truist Park - Atlanta, Georgia
I would probably be remiss if I did not mention the major upgrade that is Truist Park (formerly SunTrust Park) as opposed to its predecessor. Truist Park is the home to the Atlanta Braves and is conveniently located (for those in Gordon County) off I-75 at the I-285 interchange. With good seating all around, great sightlines and passionate fans, patrons can catch some exciting baseball. As a smaller stadium, it feels more intimate. Plus, can one really go wrong with Waffle House, Chick-Fil-A and Fox Bros.? It's hard to. While Truist Park itself is stellar, this ballpark earns a high place on my list because of what has been done around the stadium. For years, I had been saying (along with others) Turner Field lacked much around enticing people to come early and leave late. Now, that issue has been resolved with The Battery, a combinations of shops, restaurants, hotels and apartments. Many restaurants with both table and counter service alike cater to all types of food cravings. Combined with a fountain just outside the third-base gate, The Battery and Truist Park make going to a Braves game early and staying late an enjoyable experience. If you haven't been yet and enjoy sports/baseball, I highly recommend it.