Baseball Weekend

This was opening weekend for Major League Baseball. If you knew that already, you’re probably already a big fan of the game. But have you had a chance to sit in the outfield, watch your kids run the bases or sit in the sunshine and enjoy a bag of peanuts and a lemonade?

If it sounds like something you’d enjoy maybe this is your year?  Toronto Blue Jays are Canada’s team and with the addition of the UP train from the airport to the base of the CN Tower, it’s MUCH easier than ever before to hit Toronto for the weekend and catch a couple games.

Step 1) Find the days on the schedule that work for you.

Step 2) Find flights. Or a flight and hotel package (There are several hotels within a few blocks. We stayed at the Hilton Garden last time. The Fairmont Royal York is right next to the UP train station making it VERY convenient. Or the Marriott City Centre is attached right to the baseball stadium.) The Intercontinental is nearby, as is the Holiday Inn Express)  The UP train is $13 per ride and takes you right from the airport, directly to the Entertainment District in Toronto. You’ll arrive in 25 minutes and be right at the heart of the action. Baseball, hockey, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, shopping and more. Absolutely no need to rent a car to catch a ballgame in Toronto.

Step 3) Pick up tickets to the game(s). You could use Ticketmaster, or authorized re-sellers like Stubhub.com. My tip for buying tickets is to divide up your budget 25% – 75%. Spend the least amount on tickets for your first game, and splurge on tickets for the 2nd game. Why? Well, your first day in the ballpark is a little overwhelming anyway. It takes a bit to figure out where you are going and where you want to be. Every ballpark is different. For example, I knew that we would be tired from travelling and my son’s attention span wouldn’t likely last the game on Saturday night. So I bought the $14 outfield tickets. So when he was bored by the 6th inning and asking to go, I was ok with it.  The next day, a beautiful 1pm game, we were pumped to enjoy a day in the sun hoping to catch a foul ball. So that day, we had $70 tickets on the 3rd baseline. It was a much better strategy that spending $40 each game and having the same mediocre view twice.

Step 4) Bring your ball glove and a sharpie. Leave your phone in your pocket. Lots of people bring gloves to the game. There IS definitely a chance that a player will throw a ball into the crowd between innings, or pre-game.  A kid with a glove, is like a magnet. Players are always throwing souvenirs to fans who are engaged and enthusiastic.  There is also a chance of getting that ball signed if you’re on the baseline. IF you spend your whole event with your phone in your hand, you are missing out on the experience AND you could be putting yourself at risk of harm if a ball is hit in your direction while in play.

If you’re ready to go beyond Toronto for a game, but still looking for a ballpark that’s easy to get to from the airport, definitely consider Arizona, San Diego and Denver. I loved all 3 of those parks. Great fan experience. Of those three, I would rate Arizona best for younger kids. The neighbouring hotels are inexpensive and there is the Arizona Children’s museum within about 2 blocks of the ballpark. It was safe to walk in the neighbourhood and most area hotels offered free airport shuttles.

I’ve also been to Cleveland, Anaheim, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and my son has been to Chicago without me. Next up for us, is Milwaukee and Miller Park. If you have a question or want to leave a suggestion for our next ballpark trip, please leave a comment!

My estimate for  a Blue Jay’s weekend is $750 per person.  Flights and hotels, for 2 people, 2 nights $1000. Tickets to 2 games, $100 per person. Meals, train and a souvenir $150 more. You can knock down that cost if you can subsidize your flight or hotels with Air Miles or rewards points.

Flights from Winnipeg, to Phoenix to catch a game in Arizona with hotels, tickets, and meals should come in about $550 per person – BUT then you have to take in the USD-CDN exchange, so it’s about the same.

Favourite photos of 2016

This photo represents a beautiful afternoon in Italy. It was very emotional and will be one of those moments I never forget.
Using my Canon long zoom camera, I managed to capture the soft eye and sweetness of this seal pup. It was a photo I took in San Diego, California. One of my all-time favourite photos.
I love this photo because it represents a mother-son trip to watch baseball. We went to Arizona and saw the Diamondbacks play both the Giants and the Yankees in a weekend. My son caught a ball, also had it autographed and ran the bases post-game. Such a good time!
A bridge in Revelstoke, BC from August 2016. I simply love the symmetry, and the moody colours. I’d frame this one and put it on my wall, I love it that much.
The blue waters of the Turks and Caicos will forever hold a special place in my heart. I feel so centred there. One of the happiest places on earth, to me.
I love this photo because it represents the surprisingly great time we had in Cleveland. My younger son took the photo on a Monday morning in September.

Ok, Arizona, you got me.

 

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The Arizona Diamondbacks weren’t “our team” when we arrived, but I believe they are now. They won us over in back to back games.

First we saw them play the San Francisco Giants, in a Sunday afternoon game. We sat in the first row of the upper deck. (MVP Section 321). The view was fantastic and I would definitely recommend them for the best of the cheap seats.

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View from section 321

We took a stroll around the stadium to see where we might like to sit for the next game. What did we discover? There probably isn’t a bad seat in the house. Anywhere on the lower level (home run bleacher seats included) would have a pretty good view of the action.

We also spied the very unique and completely awesome Pet Smart patio. On Sunday game days, people are welcome to attend with their dogs. Yes, your dog can go to a baseball game! How very cool! There was also an adoption pen that on Sundays, showcased local dogs up for adoption. This Pet Smart patio zone had its own entrance an a park-a-potty section for the dogs.

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Right next to the Pet Smart section was Mountainside Fitness. It was an actual gym. You could attend, ride the bike or run on the treadmill AND watch the game action. Again, very cool. Who are these innovators with these great ideas? I’d like to shake their hands.

Next up on our tour was a view of the pool section. Yup, an actual pool and patio that you could rent out for your corporate or party events. Wouldn’t that be something? Bathing suits and baseballs. It was in the home run area, and I could definitely see a ball getting hit into the pool.

For our second game, a night game against the NY Yankees, my son chose the seats, He wanted to sit as close to the field as possible, in foul ball territory, and on an aisle. Thanks to Stubhub.com and a game-day purchase, that was an affordable and possible request.

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We sat just beyond the Diamondbacks’ dugout on the 3rd base side and 6 rows up from the field. At various times during the pre-game, Diamondback players stopped by the fence to sign autographs. My son was lucky enough to catch a ball during batting practice and then have it signed by #27, Brandon Drury.

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We had a great time. A blast. We’re already talking about when we can go back. Seems to me, like we’ve got ourselves a baseball team. Go Dbacks!

We got to see Goldschmidt hit a homerun at his first at bat of the night.
We got to see Goldschmidt hit a homerun at his first at bat of the night.

Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball

SpringHill Suites Downtown Phoenix

 

Get your best rates at this or any Marriott Hotel. 

Phoenix?!! I never knew.

Phoenix! When can I go back?

Need a quick vacation? Something action packed and easy to navigate? I have the answer! Phoenix, Arizona.

My son and I wanted to see a couple major league baseball games. We were on a very tight time schedule, Between work and school, we could only find two nights to get away that worked for both of us. A quick search of the MLB master schedule revealed all the games and cities that would work for our dates.

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We narrowed it down to a few choices and then compared flight schedules and prices. Phoenix was quickly identified as the best value for time and money when it came to flights. In fact, even at last minute prices (we booked on 4 days notice) Delta sent us round trip, taxes in for $350 CDN. So, already this trip was off to a pleasing start

For our hotel, we chose the SpringHill Suites (Marriott) Downtown Phoenix for 3 main reasons. Location, free airport shuttle and excellent Trip Advisor reviews. This turned out to be a brilliant choice!

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The airport shuttle was easy, convenient, clean and also available for short trips in the downtown area. It even had a luggage rack! This is actually a pretty rare asset.

The location was unbelievable. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. We were a casual, stroll in flip flops to the baseball stadium, which incidentally is called “Chase Field.” (More on Chase Field, later.)

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We were 3 blocks from a major dining hub called the Arizona Centre, It had sit down restaurants, patios, waterfalls, gardens and casual eating areas. It was absolutely beautiful. An oasis in the city.

If you had young children with you, the hotel was right across from the Arizona Children’s Museum. We didn’t go, but it was very inviting and actually right there in the same block as the hotel. Rather, we opted to cross the street and go one block further to the Arizona Science Centre. It’s 4 levels of interactive displays, plus and IMAX theater and special travelling exhibit space. We spent just 2 hours there but could have easily spent twice that time. A full day for the really inquisitive mind. Admission was $27 for the both of us, with a modest $2 CAA discount.

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IMG_0205Sharing the same entrance courtyard as the Science Centre is the Museum and also the Heritage Center. The Heritage centre consists of a museum building, stores, restaurants and a coffeeshop, all in original period buildings. The Rose and Crown is one such restaurant, Pizza Bianco another. Each has casual outdoor patio space where you can dine or enjoy a beverage. We chose to stop in at Royal Coffee Bar. It was amazing to me, that in a heritage space of very limited size, they actually roast their own coffee. A very impressive operation. The equipment and furniture still looks brand new even though they’ve been at this location 3 years. It’s obvious that the owners and staff take a great deal of care and pride in this business. Open daily from 8am to 3pm I think it’s a ‘must see’ for coffee lovers if you’re in the area.

In all my travels, I can’t think of another area that was so absolutely all-ages suitable, incredibly convenient, and packed with amenities all within easy walking distance. I’m in awe really. It was exactly what I was hoping for in a quick weekend trip.

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If you wanted to travel to Phoenix for a basketball game, or concert, it would be likely located at the Talking Stick Arena (formerly American Airlines Centre) and is just one block further than the baseball stadium. More restaurants, and a courtyard full of pre-game bars are right there at the doorstep.

This was a two night getaway, that felt like so much more! Without taxis, Uber, or wasting time in traffic we had a chance to relax, enjoy and participate fully in exactly the vacation we wanted. The baseball game… well that was incredible. Worthy of its own chapter.

Save $400 on Denver

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Sun setting in beautiful colorado, at Coors Field.

If you’d like a weekend getaway and would like to see some baseball, may I suggest a trip to Denver?

It’s a city I love, and a trip I took last fall. This is a heck of a bargain and a heck of a good time. With the new Major League Baseball season starting shortly, I thought you might enjoy this bargain coming up for travel late April.

I compared flying from YWG (Winnipeg), or DVL (Devil’s Lake), to DEN (Denver) and I found that departing from Devil’s Lake on April 22nd, will save a couple over $400 on this specific trip.

Comparisons were done on Expedia.ca an both flights are with United Airlines, and paid in Canadian funds, staying at the exact hotel same. Here are the screenshot results.

Winnipeg to Denver on Expedia.ca
Winnipeg to Denver on Expedia.ca
Devil's Lake, North Dakota (where there is FREE airport parking)
Devil’s Lake, North Dakota (where there is FREE airport parking)

I have personally stayed at this Westin and loved it. The rooftop pool was a fabulous place to hang out and enjoy the sunshine. The Westin is about a 10  minute walk from Coors Field, home of the MLB Colorado Rockies.

Rooftop pool at the Westin, with the mountains and NFL Broncos in the background.
Rooftop pool at the Westin, with the mountains and home stadium of the NFL Broncos in the background.

On this particular weekend in April, the Rockies have 3 games against the LA Dodgers.

If you like this deal, do share.

 

Blue Jays in Boston under $800

What if I told you that you could catch a flight, from Winnipeg, to Boston and see a couple Blue Jays games when they are hosted by the Red Sox at Fenway Park?

What if I told you that if you stayed a short commute from downtown, in a really well rated hotel, that you could have 3 nights and flights for under $800?

Would you be interested?

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Prices from Expedia.ca on March 16th.

There is a little price war going on among the airlines right now on this route. You can fly from Winnipeg to Boston (YWG to BOS) as low as $326 taxes in and return. However, the flights that I like best seem to sit around $375 (which is still amazing! You can’t get to Vancouver for that!) Prices are lowest between April and late June.

Baseball teams often have a “home stand” which means that they are playing several games at home. If you choose the right dates, you could see the Red Sox play two or three different opponents.

Tickets are in addition to the above noted prices and can vary widely depending on where you like to sit in the park and where you purchase your tickets.

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And, by the way, All Star tickets go on sale today. The big game is being played in San Diego this year at Petco Park, second week in July.

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The last time I saw the Jays vs the Red Sox was May 2014, in Toronto