mlb stadiums and neighborhoods: Cleveland

Cleveland (Photo by William Reiter for thisiscleveland.com)

We like to call this our “around the horn” stadium tour. First, an explanation: The baseball term “around the horn” refers to a throwing pattern that happens after a strikeout when there are no runners on base. The sequence is catcher to third base, to second, to shortstop, and then back to the pitcher. That’s five destinations for that baseball. Do you see where I’m going with this? Maybe it’s too much of a (seventh inning) stretch? (If you’re already groaning from the baseball lingo usage, this might not be the vacation for you.)

Let me spell it out further. YOU are that baseball — or at least you could be, for these purposes. Here are five great baseball cities, all with Major League teams, just waiting to be visited by you and your family and friends. We will tell you where to stay, where to eat, and what else to do while you’re there, just in case baseball isn’t enough. And remember, the “Boys of Summer” play through much of October, so you’ve got plenty of time to make it “around the horn” — or in this case, from Boston to Detroit to Cleveland to Minneapolis to San Francisco.

Boston Red Sox

Field of Dreams

Fenway Park, with the famous Green Monster left field wall, is a must-visit on any baseball aficionado’s bucket list of ballparks. Opened in 1912, it is one of only two original stadiums left standing (Wrigley Field, built in 1914, is the other) and still in use. Light towers for night baseball were installed in 1947 (the Cubs lagged a bit behind that particular milestone). The fan base extends through much of New England, and the Yankees are considered the evil empire. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it quenched an 86-year thirst, one of the longest “droughts” in baseball — until the Cubs won in 2016 that is.

One of America’s smallest ballparks, Fenway’s capacity is fewer than 38,000. But good things come in small packages. Tours of “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” ($20 adult/$14 children) are available year-round but the schedule is truncated on game days; individual game tickets for 2017 home stands are available online.

Word to the Wise: Learn the words to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” sung during the middle of the eighth inning.

Where to Eat

Fenway Park sits smack in the middle of a very buzz-worthy restaurant scene. Tiger Mama, from “Top Chef” alum Tiffani Faison, brings fresh interpretations to Southeast Asian cuisine, a glorious mash-up of Thai and Vietnamese flavors. The cocktail program is also on point. Faison also owns nearby Sweet Cheeks Q, a sassy BBQ joint that’s known for their Heritage Breed Pulled Pork and Cita’s Broccoli Cheese Casserole. Trays come with your choice of meat, a hot and cold side “scoop,” pickles and onions.

More inventive cocktails can be found up the street at Hojoko, an izakaya serving Japanese small plates, sushi and bowls. You’ll also find a great burger and the Dogzilla, a bacon-wrapped smoked hot dog that is stuffed with American cheese and pickled jalapeño, drizzled with kabayaki sauce and bonito flakes, a funky homage to the nearby ballpark.

For classic New England seafood, hit up the Island Creek Oyster Bar with its jaw-dropping raw bar selection along with the de rigeur Lobster Roll, Fried Ipswich Clams and Fish & Chips.

Where to Stay/What to Do

mlb stadiums and neighborhoods: Boston

Nearby hotels include the Hotel Commonwealth, the official hotel of the Boston Red Sox and only a quarter mile from the park. The rooms are updated and spacious, and of course red is a prominent accent color. The Verb Hotel is funky, kitschy, retro and apparently a lot of fun. It’s the hipster hotel in the Fenway Kenmore neighborhood.

For an added dose of culture, the Museum of Fine Arts is only half a mile but a world away from the ballpark, or explore the Fenway Victory Gardens, established in 1942 and part of Boston’s “Emerald Necklace,” a system of parks and waterways. Of course, no trip to Boston is complete without a trot around the Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half mile walk through colonial American history.

Detroit Tigers

Field of Dreams

mlb stadiums and neighborhoods: Detroit's Comerica Park

Comerica Park (Photo by Vito Palmisano.)

Detroit’s Comerica Park opened in 2000, replacing the beloved but dilapidated Tiger Stadium. Located in a rejuvenated downtown Detroit, this state-of-the-art ballpark features a ginormous fountain behind center field that runs a “liquid fireworks” display with synchronized music; actual fireworks follow every Friday and Saturday night home game. A 50-foot Ferris wheel with giant baseball cars and a carousel with 30 tigers to ride enhance the carnival atmosphere. Oh, and there’s a baseball game to watch, too! A capacity crowd of 41,299 can really get this place rocking. Individual game tickets are available online.

Word to the Wise: Wanna fit in? Wear orange and navy and rock out to the Tiger’s unofficial anthem, Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City.”

Where to Eat

Before downtown Detroit was inundated by hip and cool upscale restos, a trip to Greektown was considered the play. The always-packed Golden Fleece Restaurant is still worth a stop, with some of the best gyros and souvlaki in town, but Santorini Estiatorio is a big step up in terms of service and selection. The
rustic American cuisine at Republic really hits the spot, especially the Charred Duck Breast and the Chorizo Shrimp Paella. Or get really fancy and dine at The Apparatus Room at the brand-new Foundation Hotel and remind yourself why Chef Thomas Lents, late of Chicago’s Sixteen, earned two Michelin stars.

Where to Stay/What to Do

mlb stadiums and neighborhoods: Detroit

Detroit (Photo by Vito Palmisano.)

Detroit has been beset by casino hotels. If that’s not your bag, try the Westin Book Cadillac, the grande dame of Detroit hotels, or the Inn on Ferry Street, a series of four fully restored Victorian mansions.

Visit the Joe Louis Monument (aka “The Fist”), a tribute to the legendary boxing champ and crusader for racial justice, or the 150-year-old Eastern Market, the heart of Detroit’s food scene and a remarkable blend of old and new.

Cleveland Indians

Field of Dreams

Cleveland’s Progressive Field, found in the heart of downtown Cleveland, has some of the best ballpark food in Major League Baseball. A dozen local restaurants from around town are represented inside the stadium, ranging from an old-fashioned soda fountain to a modern brew pub, hot dogs and burgers to Mexican food. Originally built in 1994 and known as Jacobs Field, real Cleveland fans still refer to it as “The Jake.” The stadium accommodates a little over 35,000 fans, and caters particularly to its youngest ones with amenities like the two-story Kids Clubhouse, which features a climbing wall, arts and crafts area, batting cage and more. Individual game tickets are available online.

Word to the Wise: Pay homage to superfan John Adams, who sits in the upper-left-field bleachers and fires up The Tribe faithful at every game with his bass drum.

Where to Eat

Head to East 4th Street, which is within walking distance of the ballpark. Celebrity chef (and pride of Cleveland) Michael Symon has two spots there: the upscale Lola Bistro and the more casual smoked meat emporium Mabel’s BBQ. Butcher and the Brewer, no surprise, is the place for meat and craft beer, while you’ll find a rooftop patio with a great view and killer cocktails at the nearby Greenhouse Tavern.

Where to Stay/What to Do

mlb stadiums and neighborhoods: Cleveland

Photo by Larry E. Highbaugh Jr for thisiscleveland.com

The new Kimpton Schofield Hotel is the hot boutique spot in town, with its restored 19th-century brick façade and modern interior. Just a little down the block is Metropolitan at the 9, part of The Autograph Collection of Marriott Hotels, which means boutique flourishes — with Marriott points.

The nearby Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a must-visit for any emerging air guitarist, while Playhouse Square, America’s second-largest theater district, boasts a wealth of concerts, shows, comedy and dance performances.

Minnesota Twins

Field of Dreams

mlb stadiums and neighborhoods: Minneapolis' Target Field

Target Field (Photo by Wayne Kryduba, MLB Photographer, and courtesy of Meet Minneapolis.)

Target Field, located in the historic Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis, opened in 2010, and it’s an excellent example of a thoroughly modern stadium. It’s one of the most accessible parks in Major League Baseball, and features exceptional lighting, sight lines and concessions. The inclusion of the original Metropolitan Stadium flagpole on Target Plaza keeps the fans in touch with Twins history, as do murals of Twins greats Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett. Kids under 14 can run the bases after every Sunday home game. Individual game tickets are available online.

Word to the Wise: Wait for a home team four-bagger to see the center field Minnie and Paul celebration board — a giant light-up sign shaped like Minnesota with two old-style Twins players that shake hands — in action.

Where to Eat

Since Target Field is located in the downtown area, good food choices are plentiful, and Minneapolis has gotten a reputation as a solid restaurant town. Isaac Becker, the James Beard Award-winning chef/owner of 112 Eatery, is a big reason why. His inventive take on global cuisine makes reservations here a tough ticket to get. Head to Smack Shack, known for their lobster rolls and crab cakes, to assuage your serious shellfish cravings. The Butcher & The Boar is a meat-centric, shared-plate concept with spot-on craft cocktails, while City Works Eatery & Pour House is not your average sports bar — they focus on craft beers (120 global offerings on tap) and upscale bar food.

Where to Stay/What to Do

Boutique hotels are a respite from the sometimes cold and corporate old standards. Two cases in point: A renovated old warehouse has become the beautiful Hewing Hotel, located just a few blocks from the ballpark, while the Kimpton Grand Hotel Minneapolis touts its “100-year-old spirit and modern-day spunk.”

For fun, check out the Walker Art Center, a world-class art museum with a sizeable urban sculpture garden, or perhaps the creatively and architecturally astonishing Guthrie Theater. They’ll be presenting a gorgeous production of Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” this summer, perfect after a day in the sun. Culture is fundamental!

San Francisco Giants

Field of Dreams

The Giants now call AT&T Park their home. The team, once known as the New York Giants (and before that, the New York Gothams), has been ensconced in the City by the Bay since 1958, and their legendary rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers (once the Brooklyn Dodgers) moved west with them. The park, built in 2000, has incredible views of the Bay Bridge, not to mention a nine-foot statue of Willie Mays to greet you at the park entrance, an 80-foot tall Coca-Cola bottle with built-in playground slides, and, being San Francisco, an awe-inspiring selection of food, including a culinary teaching garden behind the center-field wall. Individual game tickets are available online.

Word to the Wise: Watch for the kayakers who populate McCovey Cove during games, hoping to catch a long ball flying out of the stadium.

Where to Eat

mlb stadiums and neighborhoods: San Francisco's ROOH

ROOH’s Charred Sweet Potato (Photo by Anthony Thornton.)

Where not to eat might be a shorter list, but I’ll highlight just a few of the plethora of good eats near the ballpark. The Ferry Building is a stop I’ll make on every visit, just to eat at perennial Vietnamese cuisine favorite The Slanted Door, where the cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab are an absolute necessity. Hog Island Oyster Company is another can’t-miss meal, with the freshest, most delicious bivalves around. Momo’s, located directly across from the park, has classic salads, pizzas and comfort foods, San Francisco-style (cioppino, Shrimp Louie, tuna tartare, meatloaf). For something completely different, Rooh offers an exciting contemporary California take on Indian cuisine.

Where to Stay/What to Do

We loved The Alise, a little jewel box of a hotel near Union Square. They’ve got complimentary bicycles, plush linens and bathroom amenities, and they’re dog
friendly. Closer to the ballpark, the W Hotel is a hive of good energy and urban hip, plus it’s right near the amazing San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

And no visit to San Francisco is complete without walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, or the eerie tour of Alcatraz. There’s so much more, of course. It’s no wonder that San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in America.

 

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Julie-Chernoff

Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.