A Day in the Ballpark

Mid Game with the Red Sox in Boston, (photo by Richard & Abe Nowitz)
Mid Game with the Red Sox in Boston

The United States is a sport-loving country, and no other athletic endeavor holds the same place in the nation’s heart as baseball. If you're hitting the highway on an American road trip, attend a home game at one of the country’s great ballparks for a truly authentic experience

America’s favorite pastime

Baseball can be fairly slow or extremely exciting, depending on the pitching and hitting quality on any given day, as well as on the charisma of individual players and the reputations of the teams. Some teams, such as the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, have a national ­following, attracting nearly as many fans on the road as the teams they play against. Others are lucky to fill their home stadiums – although often the underdog is the secret favorite. 

Going to a game

Although the finer points of baseball can be mystifying, a general understanding of the rules will infinitely enhance your enjoyment of the game. If you find yourself confused at any point, don’t hesitate to ask someone sitting nearby. Baseball fans are usually more than willing to explain the game. In fact, going to a ball game often resembles a day in the park more than a sporting event. Except during the post-season or match-ups between great rivals, there’s little of the intensity of many other professional sports such as American football or hockey.

A Major League ball game begins with the singing of the national anthem, followed by the ceremonial throwing out of the first pitch ­(usually by a local celebrity). Halfway through the seventh inning comes a break in play known as the seventh-inning stretch – a good time to stretch your legs and get some refreshments. Traditionally, at the start of the seventh-inning stretch the whole crowd stands and sings Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a 1908 Tin Pan Alley song. Everyone is encouraged to sing along. Note that most singers replace the words ‘home team’ with the actual name of the home team. Since the ­terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, God Bless America has also been sung during the seventh-inning stretch. It is considered a sign of respect to remove your hat and place your right hand over your heart.

Best ballparks

Baseball revels in its history, legends, and statistics. Although many old stadiums have been replaced with larger, more modern facilities, at least two ballparks steeped in baseball lore remain. Fenway Park (4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA), the home of the Boston Red Sox, opened on April 20 1912, just five days after the sinking of the Titanic. Wrigley Field (1060 West Addison Street, Chicago, IL), home of the Chicago Cubs, opened two years later. Smaller than most Major League ballparks, both are intimate, quirky, and regarded as baseball’s cathedrals.

At the other end of the spectrum are the new stadiums, which dazzle with their architecture, scale, and views. Among the most lauded are PNC Park (115 Federal Street, Pittsburgh, PA),  AT&T Park (24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA; ), Oriole Park at Camden Yards (333 West Camden Street, Baltimore, MD), and Safeco Field (1250 First Avenue South, Seattle, WA). 

Whole vacations – even honeymoons – have been designed around visiting baseball stadiums. For those who don’t want to make arrangements on their own, there are organized trips such as Jay Buckley’s Baseball Tours and Around the Horn Baseball Tours. Facility tours are also available directly at most ballparks. 

Special baseball experiences

Baseball offers many special experiences beyond regular-season games. To check out the sport at closer range and in a more casual setting than the Major League ballparks, consider attending the pre-season Spring Training camps in Arizona and Florida starting in February or early March.

You don’t have to go to a Major League game to have a great baseball experience. Watching a Minor League game in a small-town ballpark can be very enjoyable; some teams, such as North Carolina’s Durham Bulls, are quite well known – and you may just catch a glimpse of the next great player before he becomes a star.

For true baseball fans – or anyone who simply wants to understand the sport’s place in US culture and history – the National Baseball Hall of Fame (5 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY) is another unmissable stop on your American roadtrip. Exhibits explore the history, the records, the great players, and the memorable moments of the sport.


Plan your US road trip


To read more about what to see in the United States, visit Insight's USA destination pages. Or choose from one of our fantastic USA travel guides, including US on the Road...



Northern route – east coast Boston to west coast Washington state

Atlantic route – New York City to Key West, Florida


Pacific Route – from San Diego to Seattle

• Tips on renting a car for your journey

• Road trip survival skills

• A tour of some of the best locations from US road movies


• A guide to eating your way across America

• June 2013's competition to win DVDs of five road movie classics 


This June we're exploring the highways and inroads of the United States of America as our destination of the month. For more updates keep following the Insight blog, or check us out on Twitter @InsightGuides or on our Insight Facebook page, or why not look at some lovely travel photography on Pinterest.

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