Play ball…it’s opening day around Chicago! If only there weren’t still snow on the ground. Spring arrives perenially late in these parts, but thankfully, I still have sunny memories of our spring break in the desert. Plenty of sun, a desert in bloom, plus it’s home to the MLB’s Cactus League— Arizona’s a home run for the whole family.

Let’s Go Cubbies!

The Cubs have been major players in Arizona’s Cactus League since spring trainging baseball first came to the Valley of the Sun in the 1950’s. Since their arrival, they’ve played at Hohokam stadium in Mesa, just outside of Phoenix, adjacent to the town of Tempe. It’s one of the only spring training stadiums that allow tailgating and one of our favorite things to do is picnic on the grassy area, just outside the stadium.

cubbie hole

Next year brings a game changer. After over 60 years at Hohokam, the Cubs are moving three miles away to a brand new stadium in Mesa. I’m excited to see what they’re tentatively calling Wrigleyville West next year, but here are highlights from our recent Hohokam visit.

Hohokam Highlights

Hohokam is a Cubs classic, as much a tradition for snowbird Cubs fans as the 7th inning stretch, which, of course, they do at spring training as well.

Why are we here?… for some, it’s the beer

What would a Cubs game be without an Old Style? Luckily, there are wacky vendors to help me surrender to the Cubs blowing the game in the final inning.

cubs sign

My vote for the best snack food at the game? Could there be a better way to cool off on an 85° degree day than an italian ice in a souvenir baseball helmet cup?

baseball cup

The Wright Stuff

To prepare for the Cubs loss, make sure and have a home base that fullfills all your other vacation needs. The Arizona Biltmore, with its Frank Lloyd Wright connection, is as much a tradition for baseball fans as getting their baseball signed before a spring training game.

With the Cubs loss behind us, it’s time to dive into the fun at the Biltmore’s prairie style waterpark.

Although our beloved Cubbies didn’t win, it was a great vacation. In good Cubs fan style, we reminded ourselves, there’s always next year! And we’ll be there, when the new Cubs spring training stadium opens in Mesa, Arizona in 2014. Shine on, Cubs!

baseball family

Disclosure: Arizona Biltmore and the Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted the author and her family for puposes of this review.

Andrea Guthmann is a freelance journalist focusing on family travel. She spent many years as a writer/producer for WTTW-TV, the PBS station in Chicago. Her travel stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent and on-line travel sites.

A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from pre-school to high school. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations and is working hard to raise 3 happy campers.