Baseball is as quintessential American as Hershey chocolate and Disneyland. If you are heading stateside during baseball season you would be doing yourself a disservice if you passed up the opportunity to flavour this National Sport.
Itchy Feet Family have been fortunate enough to visit a few Stadiums in the USA, somehow our trips always coincide with the baseball season.
From the infamous Yankee Stadium in New York, Nationals Park in DC, Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Marlins Park in Miami and Petco Park in San Diego we have always tried to catch a game wherever possible. Even if you can’t catch a game you can normally do a behind the scenes tour of the park which is always interesting as well.
Even if you don’t care much for the sport, the atmosphere and entertainment is just as much a treat. Baseball can be a long game with nine innings to get through, so for those that are not sports fanatics the in-between entertainment comes as welcome relief.
Our most recent US visit in June 2016 found us in downtown Houston, the home of the Houston Astros who just happened to have a Friday night game on whilst we were in town.
Whilst we did not have the best seats in the house - our AUD $120 worth of tickets for a family of four seemed a reasonable investment for a night out in a foreign city. Of course once in the gates the prices of concessions was ridiculous - but you expect that from sporting arenas all over the world. And you just can't experience an American Baseball game without an overpriced hotdog and a box of Cracker Jacks!
The park is located in the CBD so we were able to walk to and from the game from our hotel which was really convenient and allowed us to get amongst the fans on their commute.
Every baseball park has it’s own unique features - here were our Top Three Highlights when the Houston Astros played Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park Houston.
1. Getting A Haircut
Yes you read it right, for a minimum donation of $10 you could get a mens hair cut right there at the stadium overlooking the field. The hairdressers were volunteers for a charity, all the money from the cuts going to support a worthy cause - the tip to the hairdresser for her time.
This was a novel experience that our son just could not pass up - he had one of the best seats in the house whilst getting a much needed new hair-do!
2. Watching The STeam Train
Houston’s Stadium was built on the location of a railway station, in remembrance of that era a railway was built as part of the left-side of the field. Every time a Houston player scores a home run, or wins the game, the train moves along the track and gives the crowd a toot!
The train is a really unique and quirky feature of the stadium that adds flavour and entertainment to the visit, even if you are not into baseball.
3. Open Air Game
This stadium has a retractable roof. Once the 9th innings was complete, the roof rolled back to reveal the night sky.
Possibly because it was a Friday night game, the crown were then treated to a tribute concert to Prince who had just recently passed, followed by an awesome fireworks display.
Have you ever attended a baseball game in the US? What was your highlight of the stadium you visited?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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Having done a number of trips to North America and ticked off the Aussie must-do's - Disneyland, Florida, California, New York, Chicago, DC, Miami, this trip we decided to do something completely out of the box.
I still can't recall where the idea came from - but the answer was to visit an authentic Cowboy Ranch in the heart of the Cowboy Capital of the World, Banderas Texas.
Neither of the kids, nor Brenton, had ever got on the back of a horse so this was to be the best introduction to horse riding they ever could get with real cowboys on-hand to show them the ropes.
If you are after a luxury getaway, this is not for you. The Ranch is authentic and rustic and comfort and luxury are not their high points. If you are after a holiday where you can disconnect from the digital world and get back to basics, then this is it.
Two horse rides a day, fishing lines to use at the pond, a kitchen bell that is rung to call guests to meals, a bonfire at night with marshmallows to roast and a visit from a local cowboy to strum out some tunes on his guitar - that is a day on the ranch at Dixie Dude Ranch.
The horse-riding was more horse sitting - we simply all falled into line and followed the one in front - but the hillside landscape was so picturesque that the lack of challenge was appreciated. More challenging rides were offered to experienced riders and despite Brenton thinking he might take that on (on day 2!) I convinced him otherwise..... Private lessons were also on offer at just $30, something that Jye relished as he was taught to weave the horse around the barrels in the coral.
What we loved the most about this adventure was the uniqueness of the experience. The Ranch was family run and it was like we were staying at someone's home. Whilst we had our private accommodation by way of an ensuite cabin, guests all ate together in a communal dining area and sat on the main homestead's front porch pre-and post-meals to chat and share stories from the day. The kids played after dinner on the outdoor swings while the parents sipped coffee and rocked on the porch.
This stay was an unplugged experience. Whilst limited wi-fi was available from the main homestead, it was certainly not encouraged and we took the opportunity to switch off and enjoy the experience.
For more details about Dixie Dude Ranch visit their website.
You can read my Trip Advisor Review for further details.
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.