Now that I’ve hit the top 10 in my personal ballpark ranking, I should say there’s probably not a huge amount of difference here between No. 10 and No. 6. All of these parks have things to recommend them, few problems, and are among those I’d recommend a visit to if you haven’t been there previously. Onward!
10) Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia (last visited, 2009)
This was a weird experience not because of the ballpark, but because this visit (my only baseball visit to Philadelphia) took place the year after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.
The Phillies set a franchise attendance record in 2009 (3,600,693), although it was slightly exceeded the following year after another Phillies WS appearance. It’s the only time in the last 20 seasons where I attended a road game that didn’t have at least a significant minority of Cubs fans in the park. The Phillies drew at least 40,000 in 2009 for 78 of their 81 home games and at least 45,000 for 54 dates (two-thirds of their home schedule). All three of the Cubs games were in this latter group and there were maybe 2,000 Cubs fans in the house — the Phillies fans bought up all the tickets.
The park is nice, the location’s easy to get to (but a bear to get out of the lots when there’s a sellout!), the food’s good with (of course) the Philly cheesesteak being a feature.
I never did get to see this nice Philadelphia skyline view, as my seats were in left field all three days.
The Phillies are down almost a million in annual attendance since that post-World Series peak, so if you go when fans can get back into ballparks, it should be easier to get tickets than what I found in 2009.
9) Miller Park, Milwaukee (last visited, 2019)
There are a lot of Cubs fans (and others) who don’t like Miller Park. I don’t understand why. It’s probably the best of the retractable-roof parks in terms of giving you an actual feel of a real outdoor stadium when the roof is open. And, of course, you never have to worry about weather when you go there. That’s a significant home-field advantage for the Brewers, I’d think.
One of the worst things about getting to Miller Park is that the highways in the Milwaukee area have seemingly been under construction just about everywhere for about the last five years. No matter where you’re headed from Chicago to Milwaukee, you’d run into some sort of lane closures. Fortunately, it appears most or all of this will be done by the time fans are allowed back into Miller Park next spring. From the north suburbs of Chicago, a trip to Miller Park is often faster than a trip to Wrigley Field — no wonder it’s “Wrigley North” most of the time, even with the Brewers’ ill-considered attempts to try to prevent non-Wisconsin residents from buying tickets to Cubs games there. (As if there aren’t Cubs fans in Wisconsin, or they don’t have friends who live there.)
All that aside, the Miller Park experience is generally a good one. Tickets, even for Cubs games, are usually less than for Brewers/Cubs games at Wrigley. The food’s very good and so is the beer. I’ve seen some memorable games there, including Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter in 2008.
It does sometimes attract some odd people, including this Cubs fan last September:
Seriously, go. Have fun.
8) Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles (last visited, 2016)
A lot of people rank Dodger Stadium much higher on their list of ballparks, but I just can’t.
First, when I was there for the NLCS in 2016, the thing that struck me most was how little it had changed since I had previously been there — in 1988, 28 years earlier. It’s still got more or less the same vista it had back then.
Yes, they’ve added some seats (and thus decreased foul territory, which used to be huge) and some private clubs, but basically the place still has a very 1960s feel to it. That isn’t all bad, as I saw in this sign and display when I was there in 2016:
And you can have your photo taken with Vin Scully, or in front of this photo of him, anyway:
It’s not a bad experience, it’s just... oddly retro. Some of that’s fun, the rest of it is kind of meh. People rave about the Dodger Dogs, but I found them pretty ordinary. A lot of the seats in the upper levels are a long, long way from the action.
And the traffic... well, it’s L.A. You’re going to have traffic. For the three NLCS games I decided to arrive when the parking lot opened, three hours to game time. There’s no traffic then, and the ballpark also opens at that time.
But after the game? Well, I managed to figure out how to get out of the lot and onto the freeway toward where I was staying in very little time two of the three nights. The third... don’t ask.
7) Target Field, Minneapolis (last visited, 2012)
After nearly three decades of playing baseball indoors, the Twins returned to outdoor ball in 2010. The reason for playing indoors was, supposedly, the lousy weather in April and May, and that’s certainly the case many days and nights in Minnesota in the early spring. (Heck, it’s that way in Chicago much of the time those two months.)
But what they did by playing at the Metrodome was also cut fans away from the many beautiful summer evenings they have in Minnesota, so the focus was on an outdoor stadium. And indeed, I was there on a June evening (and two very nice June afternoons) when it was just gorgeous outdoors.
This place is very different from many of the “retro” parks, which echo the brickwork you see at Wrigley Field. Target Field’s exterior has limestone, which gives it quite a striking look:
It’s got other cool features, including a large representation of the original Twins logo from when they moved there in 1961:
The skyline views are awesome and the three levels of seats in left field are meant to evoke the triple-level outfield seats in the same area at old Metropolitan Stadium.
At the first game I saw there, June 8, 2012, Alfonso Soriano hit two homers, including launching one to the third deck in left field. How far did that one go?
Twins have a chart that measures home runs. The third deck wasn't on the grid so they guessed. The front of the second deck is 380 feet.— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) June 9, 2012
Put it this way, Soriano's first HR went 431 feet and this was much farther. Had to be 470 feet at least, not 440 like they said.— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) June 9, 2012
They have some “private” clubs there that are open to the public and serve tasty food and beer at reasonable prices and you can get there conveniently and cheaply on the light rail system from just about anywhere in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. It lets you off right in front of the left-field gate.
But really, they should have spent the extra $100 million it would have cost to put in a retractable roof.
6) Fenway Park, Boston (last visited, 2011)
Fenway Park is hard to get to, impossible to drive to, has expensive tickets and small concourses as well as narrow seats and aisles that make it difficult to get in or out of your seat during a game.
And yet, I wouldn’t have traded my Cubs/Red Sox weekend there for anything. The history is amazing, just as it is in Wrigley Field. The Green Monster scoreboard:
The “Pesky Pole” (named after franchise icon Johnny Pesky, you’re supposed to sign it to show you were there):
I’m going to take a bit of exception to the “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” note you see on the video board there; Wrigley Field is certainly just as beloved in most of America, if not more. But you can see how some of the Wrigley renovations were based on similar features in Fenway, particularly the way they added the video boards in Boston to blend in with what was previously there:
The Cubs were lousy in 2011 and lost two of the three games, and the weather was kind of iffy for two of the evenings, too. Wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Boston’s a great city to visit with all kinds of history to see, and Fenway Park is a must-see part of it. Every baseball fan ought to make a pilgrimage to Fenway. The Red Sox were originally scheduled to be at Wrigley Field this year, so the Cubs’ next trip there will likely be in 2023.