For families batty over baseball, following the Cubs to Mesa, Arizona can make for a sporting road trip
Major League Baseball is coming to Las Vegas — for a weekend, at least. In mid-March, the Chicago Cubs will make their annual trek to Las Vegas, where they will play two games at Cashman Field. However, one weekend of baseball might not be enough for dedicated fans. After all, this could be an exciting year for the Cubs, a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908. During the off-season, the Cubs have welcomed new manager Joe Maddon and signed coveted pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million contract. Add to the mix an impressive crop of young talent, and the Cubs’ 2015 season could turn out to be a historic one.
If one weekend of baseball in Las Vegas isn’t enough to satisfy your craving for summer sports, never fear. A getaway to Mesa, Arizona provides fans with a fun, budget-friendly way to see a little more Cubs action during spring training from March 3 to April 1.
This will be the Cubs’ second year at their new Cactus League home, Cubs Park (2330 Rio Salado Pkwy., 480-668-0500, cactusleague.com). Designed to resemble iconic Wrigley Field in Chicago, the ballpark has brick walls adorned with colorful Cubs murals and a large replica of Wrigley Field’s famous red sign. Vendors sell classic baseball treats such as pretzels, hot dogs and beer, and the mood in the stadium is distinctly Midwestern despite its desert surroundings.
On game day, be sure to arrive at the ballpark early. Next to the stadium, you’ll find practice fields where you can take a seat on the bleachers and watch the players warm up. Or grab your glove and head out to the grassy area beyond the fence where you can try to catch a few of the plentiful home-run balls that will be delivered during batting practice. (Just be sure to keep your eyes up!) If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might even be able to snag an autograph or snap a photo with your favorite Cubs players as they walk to and from the practice field.
After the game, visit nearby Riverview Park (2100 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., mesaaz.gov). Located just up the road from Cubs Park, this is a great place for the kids to burn off some energy. The playground features futuristic-looking climbing structures, including a 50-foot tall climbing tower. Visitors will also find a splash pad, fishing pond, walking trails and shaded picnic areas. Riverview Park is open from sunrise to 10 p.m. daily.
Spend your evening in downtown Tempe, which has a distinct college-town vibe thanks to the proximity of Arizona State University. Enjoy dinner and explore the extensive beer menu at Blasted Barley Beer Company (404 S. Mill Ave., 480-967-5887, blastedbarley.com) or opt for the more family-friendly Gordon Biersch (420 S. Mill Ave., 480-736-0033, gordonbiersch.com). End your evening with ice cream at Sparky’s (510 S. Mill Ave., 480-921-6228, sparkyscreamery.com), a local favorite.
Before returning to Las Vegas, spend the last day of your getaway exploring other parts of the Phoenix metro area. Architecture aficionados will want to take a guided tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Taliesin West (12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., 480-627-5340, franklloydwright.org). Tour tickets should be purchased online in advance, since space is limited.
For families, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (7301 E. Indian Bend Rd., 480-312-2312, therailroadpark.com) in Scottsdale is an affordable option. Throw on your conductor’s cap, buy some tickets and hop aboard the kiddie train or the carousel. Other unique family-friendly attractions include the Musical Instrument Museum (4725 E. Mayo Blvd., 480-478-6000, mim.org) and the firefighter-themed Hall of Flame Museum (6101 E. Van Buren St., 602-275-3473, hallofflame.org).
Travel time to Mesa: By US-93: 4 hours, 45 minutes; nonstop flight from McCarran: 1 hour
Spring Training: March 3-April 1
Big League Weekend in Las Vegas: March 13-14, Cubs vs. Oakland A’s at Cashman Field