Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Mon August 24 2015

A Visitor's Guide to Chicago's Historic Sports Shrines

Destination & Tourism | Tom Bastek | August 24, 2015

A Visitor's Guide to Chicago's Historic Sports Shrines

Photo courtesy of Jenny McNeal

A trip to Chicago has those must-do tourist mainstays: Head to the top of a city skyscraper, take a ride on the "L" and find “The Bean” in Millennium Park. Crucial cuisine includes deep-dish pizza, the eponymous hot dogs and an Italian beef sandwich. But you'd be missing out if you didn't take in the cathedrals that house the legendary local sports teams. These places alone are worth the trip to The Windy City. Here is your guide to getting the most out of them.

Wrigley Field

Home of Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs since 1914. The stadium has seen its share of upgrades in the last 30 years, including a light installation in 1988 along with a full digital scoreboard and big screen installed in 2014, but the legendary ivy covered outfield walls still stand. 

Head the park early on game day and snap a photo in front of the original Wrigley Field sign. Grab an authentic Chicago Dog and a local brew from the vendors inside and watch batting practice. Keep in mind that if you are seeing an evening game and you are in the outfield (and I recommend the bleachers for an authentic Chicago experience) you will have the sun in your eyes for the first couple of innings. Bring sunglasses or buy a Cubbies hat and watch out for the foul balls. 

The seats may be a little cramped, but the experience is second to none. Every person you will talk to has a great memory to share — including your row mates. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation.

U.S. Cellular Field

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Formerly New Comiskey Park, this stadium opened in 1991 after the White Sox had been in the hallowed old Comiskey Park for the previous 81 years.

The difference between Wrigley and U.S. Cellular Field, is that Wrigley has stayed pretty much the same for its entire existence, but U.S. Cellular has been changed a lot. From 1996-2012, 15 different expansions or renovations have taken place to fit the needs of the team and its fans. 

If you are looking for a cheap seat, look to the very top part of the upper deck. Keep in mind, the seats are furthest from the action and this is one of the few places where you aren’t allowed outside of your section, which means, no going to check out things on the lower level or center field pavilion.

Make sure while you are here you take on the “Giant Slugger,” a two-foot-long, loaded hot dog, and don’t be afraid to ask for a little help from your friends.

The closest you can come to visiting the original Comiskey Park, is a journey to parking lot B located just north of the stadium by Gate 5. Here, the former location of the stadium's home plate and foul lines are painted on the lot. 

Soldier Field

Photo via of Wikimedia Commons

With Soldier Field, you either love it or hate it.

There is such a divisive opinion on the renovations that took place to the oldest football stadium in the NFL that you ought to avoid the conversation altogether while you are there. No matter the local opinion, the venue now provides the conveniences of a modern facility with tributes to the original, including the classic Dorian columns out in front. 

When you go, get a picture with the “Doughboy” out in front of Gate O, and check out the 250-foot Memorial Water Wall. If you are looking to revisit your childhood, seek the outside food cart that serves up funnel cakes and elephant ears until well after the game is over. Keep in mind that if you sit in the nosebleeds, it is a hike up to the seats, but the view is beautiful, with the lake on one side and the skyline on the other.

Where to Stay and How to Get There

Like most of the attractions in Chicago, everything isn’t too far off of the Red Line on the “L.” Of course, the Magnificent Mile — which runs from the Chicago River north to the very southern tip of Lincoln Park — is the center for classy accommodations. But if you are planning on doing more than just hitting the sports venues, staying south of The Loop business district is your best bet for convenience and price. The Hilton Chicago sits right on Grant Park, is two blocks from the Red Line and within walking distance of Soldier Field. It is also walking distance to the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and much more.

Plan your trip for the late summer months and you are sure to find a week/weekend where you can take in at least two if not all three teams above and have quite the enjoyable time.

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