For many baseball fans, the arrival of February means the start of a new season brimming with hope and possibilities. And for 15 of the league’s teams, that all starts in the Valley of the Sun.
Home to the Cactus League, Phoenix comes alive when the teams arrive, not to mention it’s the beginning of to-die-for patio weather and sunny pool season. If you’re one of the many visitors heading out west for this year’s season (Feb. 21 – Mar. 26), then you’re in luck, because there’s plenty to do beyond the ballpark. But first, make sure you’re game day ready. Plan to arrive early, as areas around ballparks can become extremely congested around game time. Consider parking further and walking in as this can sometimes be quicker. For daytime games, be sure to slather on sunscreen. Even when temps are mild, the desert sun is strong and can burn those not used to it quickly. And drink plenty of water…more than you think you need. Out-of-towners commonly suffer dehydration in the Arizona heat, especially when sipping ice cold beers all day.
While the 10 ballparks are scattered throughout the Valley, there’s some dining options that just can’t be missed. For breakfast, hit up local and tourist fave Breakfast Club. This easy-going spot is located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale and is popular for hangover breakfasts, family brunch and more. Arrive early as this place gets packed around 10 a.m. and doesn’t take reservations. For classic eats order up a stack of fluffy cakes at Butter’s, and for a trendy and lively spot with over-the-top build-your-own Bloody Marys, visit Hash Kitchen. For an upbeat sports bar atmosphere, Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers and Zipps both serve up bar faves and have multiple locations throughout the Valley. Other can’t beat spots include Blanco Tacos & Tequila and Oregano’s. Wine lover’s should visit Postino, La Bocca or Isabella’s Kitchen. And for a stunning patio and a longtime favorite of locals, enjoy dinner at El Chorro in Paradise Valley, home to famous sticky buns and killer views.
If you’re looking for a hub of upscale nightclubs and bars, it’s safe to say that Old Town Scottsdale’s Entertainment District is where you want to be. Like a “mini Vegas,” the area is packed with all different types of outlets from country bars to day clubs with pools and cabanas and is often the nightlife destination of choice for out-of-towners. Visit Bottled Blonde, Maya Day + Nightclub, newly opened Riot House or country fave Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row. Or for a more laidback scene enjoy a drink at Kelly’s, Beverly on Main or at Scottsdale’s oldest tavern Coach House. For a more urban vibe, downtown Phoenix is home to many speakeasies and cocktail lounges. Bitter & Twisted is located in the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters and is known for its award-winning cocktails. Other popular joints include the department store turned restaurant Hanny’s, underground Valley Bar and Honor Amongst Thieves. In Tempe, Mill Ave. is the center of college town where you’ll find nightclubs, sports bars and dive bars alike. For cheap drinks visit the Vine, Cue Club or Devil’s Advocate.
Architect buffs can get their fill of Frank Lloyd Wright designs at Taliesin West, while those with youngsters in tow can head downtown to the interactive Arizona Science Museum. Other interesting spots to spend a day include the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), the Heard Museum and the Desert Botanical Gardens. Explore the outdoors even more by hiking Camelback or McDowell Mountain, or tee up at one of the many stunning golf courses like Grayhawk or Lookout Mountain Golf Club.
The second annual Innings Festival is taking place March 2-3 and will be headlined by Incubus and Eddie Vedder. The music, food and art fest also caters to baseball fans with baseball-themed activities like batting practice, pitching and a mini baseball diamond. The luck of the Irish will strike March 15-17 for the Pot of Gold musical festival with Lil Wayne, Cardi B, Post Malone and more taking the stage. For the best shopping in town, visit Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, which recently underwent a major renovation and added multiple restaurants and luxury boutiques. The luxury mall is also located within walking distance to additional shopping and restaurants at Scottsdale Waterfront and Old Town Scottsdale.
Photo: Jose Morales on Unsplash