5. Spring training in Arizona: Watch baseball in the warm desert sun
For baseball fans, the previous season's disappointments miraculously vanish as fastballs begin popping into catchers' mitts at ballparks around Phoenix and Tucson.
With its modern "baseball complexes," the Cactus League is no longer the pure, insider experience that it once was, but you can still enjoy an intimacy with the game that's hard to find during the regular season. Ask your favorite players for autographs. Catch a foul ball. Watch a game in your swimsuit under the warm desert sun.
And if by some chance your team reaches the World Series, take satisfaction in knowing you were there from practically the first pitch. ― Matthew Jaffe
INFO: Cactus League. Stadiums, schedules, ticket prices.
Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau. Check spring-training packages. 800/283-6372.
Hi Corbett Field (Colorado Rockies), Tucson. Hard to beat a ballpark in a city park. From $2. 520/327-9467.
HoHoKam Park (Chicago Cubs), Mesa. Draws record crowds. From $5. 480/644-4451.
Scottsdale Stadium (San Francisco Giants). Downtown near shops and restaurants. From $8. 480/990-7972.
Tempe Diablo Stadium (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Tempe. Recently renovated. From $5. 480/350-5265.
World Baseball Classic. The inaugural event will take place March 7-10 at Scottsdale Stadium and Chase Field in Phoenix. Multigame packages from $30. www.worldbaseballclassic.com
LODGING & DINING
Arizona Inn. A respite from the everyday. From $289. 2200 E. Elm St., Tucson; www.arizonainn.com or 800/933-1093.
Café Poca Cosa. Inventive Mexican cuisine. $$; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat. 110 E. Pennington St., Tucson; 520/622-6400.
Don & Charlie's. Steak and barbecue with memorabilia and major-leaguers. $$$$; dinner daily. 7501 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale; 480/990-0900.
Doubletree Hotel Tucson at Reid Park. Convenient to Hi Corbett Field. From $119. 445 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson; www.doubletree.com or 800/222-8733.
El Cubanito. Popular with Latino ballplayers. $; lunch and dinner Mon-Sat. 1150 E. Sixth St., Tucson; 520/623-8020.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch. A paradise for kids, with a water park and cultural activities. From $479; spa treatments from $130. 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Scottsdale; www.scottsdale.hyatt.com or 800/554-9288.
The Pink Pony Steakhouse. As old-school as pinstripes and stirrup socks. $$$; lunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily. 3831 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale; 480/945-6697.
Travel tip: Tickets for March spring-training games are on sale now, so seek them out before you fly in; they can be hard to come by, especially for the Cubs and Giants.
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