PHOTO: Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. (photo via Flickr/Dave Nakayama)
You can hear the whipping of the bat through the air from the on-deck circle, the crunching of the cleats in the dirt. You can see the beards on their faces and hear the words from their mouths, whether it’s a player, coach, or umpire. Autographs are easy to come by, and all seats are “great” thanks to the small stadiums. If you’re a baseball fan, that’s pretty much all that needs to be said to convince you that Spring Training is a worthwhile jaunt each March.
If you’re a casual or less-than-serious fan, the atmosphere – relaxed and summer-esque and filled with beer drinking in the sun during the winter month of March – should work as the selling point. March is one of the best times of the year to be in the desert, with baseball serving as the background buzz for bright sunny days and the chance to explore the Phoenix’s most exciting, evolving neighborhood in Tempe.
Tempe has quietly developed into one of Phoenix’s premier sub-cities. The presence of Arizona State University and it’s youthful, diverse population has led to a boom of restaurants, bars, museums, and outdoor activities. It is one of the best locations, along with Scottsdale, in terms of the range of options, especially those going to Phoenix/Spring Training for the first time and looking balance game-watching with nightlife. Tempe’s close proximity to multiple stadiums gives you the chance to see a variety of teams without straying far from its social and dining establishments. Tempe is accessible from the airport via the Valley Metro Rail ($2 one way).
Tempe is home to Tempe Diablo Stadium, the spring training facility of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Nearby is also Sloan Park, home of the World Series’ Champion Chicago Cubs. You can park for free and take a trolley to the stadium from Tempe Marketplace.
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Mill Avenue runs through downtown Tempe and is the spot for all your bar and restaurant needs, a great place to stroll and window-shop for the scene of your liking. Some classic favorites are Handlebar, a backyard beer garden, La Bocca Urban Pizzeria, and Four Peaks Brewery, which just completed an expansion. But there are a host of new options in downtown Tempe this year:
Beyond the Bricks – Thursday Night Live: A new concert series in Downtown Tempe’s Hayden Square Amphitheater featuring local bands, and food, wine and beer available for purchase. This event is held on Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:30 p.m. through May 2017.
6th Street Market: Held on Sundays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the 6th Street Market has live music, local vendors, community yoga and art projects. This market runs from now through May.
Tempe Public Market: This huge 3,200-square-foot restaurant will serve a simple, health-focused menu of sandwiches, salads, slow-cooked meats and pastries along with a full bar.
Matt's Big Breakfast: This popular Phoenix restaurant is opening its new location along Tempe Town Lake in the Marina Heights development. It features an all-day breakfast and lunch menu.
Pedal Haus Brewery: This locally owned brewpub and beer garden on Mill Avenue closed for an expansive remodel this summer and reopened in late September 2016. The expanded restaurant includes an enhanced patio area and expanded beer selection.
The Shop Beer Co.: The newest brewery in Tempe.
Tempe Town Lake: Watersports in the desert? You bet. This oasis is great for paddleboarding or a morning walk, and often hosts events, such as the Arizona Dragon Boat Festival on March 25-26.
Where to Stay:
With the spring season set to kick off next month, here are some packages and deals to take advantage of:
Graduate Tempe: This hotel offers the Spring Training Home Run Package. Available from Friday, Feb. 24 to Saturday, April 1, the package includes: two tickets to a game (choice of game based on availability); Accommodations; Ball Cap from team of choice; and a welcome amenity with drink voucher, crackerjacks and sunflower seeds. Pricing starts at $269 per night.
Also for spring training, from Feb. 25 through March 25, is Brats and Brews on the hotel’s rooftop. Three types of brats and local beers will be available and the hotel has partnered with local breweries for pairing selections. TVs will be on and tailgate games will be available to play. It will take place on Thursdays and Fridays after 5 p.m. and all day Saturday.
Tempe Mission Palms: If you’re looking for a desert-themed destination resort, this is the place in Tempe. The spring training package includes a waived hospitality fee ($17.95 value) and $30 daily food and beverage credit to use at Mission Grille, Harry's Place Lounge, Cabana Bar & Grill or in-room dining.