The question when taking kids to spring training is: grapefruit or cactus? The Grapefruit League is the spring training in south and central Florida, and the Cactus League is in Arizona. Ticket prices are not the bargain they once were; expect to pay about $15 for bleacher seats, up to $35 for field box. In Arizona, there is lawn seating for $7.
Bring sunscreen, a baseball cap and a ball and Sharpie if your kid likes to get autographs. And, like at major league games, kids can get foul balls – bring a mitt.
For anyone used to one of the new major league stadiums, though, the food selection at these small fields is of the hot dog and peanut category. Some will let you bring your own food, like a picnic when you have lawn seating, but others restrict bags and your own food.
Spring Training in Florida
I can’t imagine a better way to spend spring training with my kids than at Club Med Sandpiper in Port St Lucie, Florida. First of all, the resort is 10 minutes from Digital Domain Park, home to my beloved New York Mets. Second, it’s Club Med. The newly renovated resort has tennis, golf and fitness academies for adults and amazing programs for kids of all ages. The circus, with trapeze instruction, is alluring to my adventure seeking children, but there is also a baby gym for ages 4 months to three years, with a tiny playground, cooking classes, surfing lessons, sailing and swimming.
Tampa is convenient for the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. The InterContinental Tampa has a Spring Training Package February 26 – April 4. The package includes discount on rooms, a Fan Tool Kit with a baseball for signing and Cracker Jacks, peanuts and popcorn to bring to the game or eat at the beach. The hotel also has a rooftop pool.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has rides and animals. The theme park has a Sesame Street area with kiddie rides, herds of giraffes, zebras, antelope, ostrich and gazelle which you see from a train ride and Jungala, with a mini-zipline and rope bridges and nets for kids to climb. For teens, thrill rides include four stomach churning roller coasters.
Fans of the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals should head to Jupiter, home to both teams. The Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa offers a Spring Training package March and April with 10% percent off the Best Available Rates and a $10 credit at Roger Dean Stadium. You also get breakfast for two each morning, free valet parking, and a welcome gift with a baseball, Sharpie, and Cracker Jacks.
The hotel has a kids’ club, for ages 4-12, on Saturdays and Sundays, and Friday and Saturday nights. There are also daily activities like pool side arts & crafts, scavenger hunts, and dive-in movies. And there is a game room, tennis courts and a spa. The beach has kayak and jet ski rentals, snorkeling and windsurfing.
Five minutes from the hotel, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center offers Wildlife Turtle Walks, (starting March 1) toddler programs with crafts and story times and Tai chi classes, for those with older kids. You can also take a two hour cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway with the Manatee Queen.
The Cactus League teams are clustered more closely together, with the 15 teams in the Greater Phoenix area (including Scottsdale and Tempe) all within 40 minutes of each other. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs are just some of the teams you can see in the region.
PhThe Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Sip, Savor and Swing package, through April 30, includes $100 daily food & beverage credit. Catch a free trolley from the hotel to the downtown Scottsdale Stadium, spring training home of the San Francisco Giants. The hotel has a new National Geographic Explorers Camp for ages 5-12. Kids go on a treasure hunt with GPS devices, learn how to take videos and photographs and do science projects. A free teen lounge has an XBox, large screen television, music room and Internet cafe. Kids can also hang out at the pool, which has a water slide.
JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, doesn’t have a spring training package, but every weekend until August, it offers a Nickelodeon Getaway package (in August, it runs daily). The activities include interactive shows, character breakfasts with SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer and crafts. The five pools at the Marriott include a shallow pool for kids and one with a lazy river and water slide. You can rent bikes, including children’s bikes, at the hotel.
While you are in Phoenix, stop by the new Musical Instrument Museum. The museum, with thousands of instruments, gives you wireless headsets so you can hear the different instruments. In an interactive gallery, you can make your own music.
Maybe you can teach your kids how to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Photo courtesy of Phoenix CVB