Ranking the 28 active parks I’ve visited. You read the title.
In my opinion – obviously, it’s my site – baseball is the best in-person sports experience of all the major pro leagues.
NBA games are equal parts athletic brilliance and mid-possession concert (everybody clap yo’ hands!👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼). NFL games are personal tests of will to see how many commercial breaks a person can endure at a stadium. NHL games are super fun, but you’re indoors and there to mostly focus on the action because of what’s essentially a running clock. Soccer requires you to constantly focus because of what’s literally a running clock.
Major League Baseball, though: the nicest and most unique venues. The sunshine. The best and most varied food options. The casual strolls. The chance to have a conversation or check your phone when you’re bored, but also lock in on the game when required. American dream here, people.
This is a longwinded way of saying these are the reasons I’ve made it one of my life’s works to catch a home game of all 30 MLB teams. After visiting Tropicana Field to watch the Tampa Bay Rays last weekend, I’ve now visited 29. And since the playoffs start this week, figured now’s a good time to rank them. Well, 28 of them. The Texas Rangers are the only team left, but the Atlanta Braves moved to SunTrust Park after I saw them at Turner Field, so I’ll have to go back.
Please note this isn’t based on some intricate personal scoring system I created. Just my favorite parks on memories and experience. Worth mentioning: the immediate surroundings of a park and the entire gameday experience count; the extended benefits don’t. So, Yankee Stadium does not get a boost for having New York City. Wrigley Field, does, though, because Wrigleyville.
If I’m back in town and the home team is playing, I won’t kill myself to go back
28.) O.co Coliseum, Athletics (visited 2016)
It’s a football stadium in the middle of nowhere. It does have a unique sort of “watching baseball in a graveyard” vibe that at least makes it feel singular but, no.
27.) Angel Stadium, Angels (2010, 2016)
Great weather and nice fans, but beyond the rock wall in center and parking only costing $5 when I went, nothing really notable here. Plus, there’s zero surrounding-area buzz off the Interstate.
26.) Rogers Centre, Blue Jays (1998)
Went there as a kid, so I’m sure it’s more fun to party before and after games as an adult. But I don’t remember it being that special, although a hotel in center field will never get old.
25.) Kauffman Stadium, Royals (2011)
The park itself isn’t half bad, especially considering its age. Love the fountains and the big screen. Plus, there’s a mini-golf course for kids way out in center. But it’s one of the most depressing gameday arrivals in the bigs, surrounded by nothing more than parking lots, Arrowhead Stadium, and I-70.
24.) Progressive Field, Indians (2014)
At the time I visited, this place showed its age, what with lack of “other stuff” to do, closed concourses, and weak food options. Good location in an underrated city, though, and renovations have since added more social areas. Might get bumped up if I revisit.
If the tickets were cheap, sure, I’d go back
23.) Nationals Park, Nationals (2014)
Vodka soda. It’s a good enough drink, but with no defining traits. You’ll find a little buzz in the surrounding neighborhood, but their “Bullpen” tailgating area is where it’s at.
22.) Marlins Park, Marlins (2016)
Love the home run sculpture and damn you Jeter if you move it. The bobblehead collection and food choices intrigued me, but it felt very sterile, particularly with the roof closed and a residential neighborhood around it.
21.) Miller Park, Brewers (2011)
The slide! Seeing the roof is cool, and the brats taste great. Absolutely nothing to do around the stadium, which is a bit cookie-cutter for being so new but, being Milwaukee, the fans tailgate, which gives this place an endearing touch.
20.) Citi Field, Mets (a million times)
They tried so hard, the Mets, and it’s a nice place. But it still feels like someone else’s (the Brooklyn Dodgers‘?) stadium and, outside of two bars attached to the stadium, you’d have no reason to visit the surrounding area before or after a game. Bring back these guys!
19.) Busch Stadium, Cardinals (2012)
For some reason, it just bored me. Nice skyline outfield view with the arch in the background, and make sure to check out the 360 hotel rooftop bar across the street. But for a stadium less than 15 years old, the lack of uniqueness struck me.
18.) Minute Maid Park, Astros (2010)
It’s in a somewhat decent enough part of town, but the quirky features are what give it its ranking. It’s a crime they got rid of Tal’s Hill, but at least we still have the home run locomotive and the interesting roof. Otherwise, just tends to blend in with the others in this section.
17.) Great American Ball Park, Reds (2012)
Between building on a river and the giant outfield flame stacks for every strikeout, it’s like they tried to make a hip new stadium, but it feels a little contrived. The buffalo chicken mac and cheese makes up for a lot, though.
16.) Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox (2011)
For some reason, I absolutely loved this place. It certainly helped that a front office staffer let me hold the World Series trophy when I visited. The 360 concourse (way ahead of its time), the shower in left field, the weird, lit-up pinwheels on the scoreboard. It’s like the friend you wouldn’t want to hang out with every weekend, but don’t mind catching up with twice a year.
15.) Yankee Stadium, Yankees (a million times)
The new park itself is a little too overwhelming, museum-like, and lacking any of the palpable charm of its predecessor. But the food options remain good and, so long as you don’t stray too far afield, there’s actually a great pre- and post-game atmosphere in the surrounding blocks.
14.) Safeco Field, Mariners (2016)
Probably the nicest retractable roof of the bunch. Good surrounding area for pre-and-post game options, and having CenturyLink Field in viewing distance adds a feel of city pride. All the green makes you feel super Pacific Northwesty, too, in a good way.
13.) Citizens Bank Park, Phillies (2005, 2015, 2018)
Really cute park with some cool nooks and crannies, plus the NBC Sports Arena complex offers all the extracurricular activity you need. It’s in Philly, though, which means prepare to deal with Philadelphia sports fans. But also: cheesesteaks.
If I’m in town, I’d go out of my way to catch a game
12.) Dodger Stadium, Dodgers (2013)
It’s old, it’s dated, it’s hard to get there. But damnit if there isn’t something about that Chavez Ravine backdrop and 1960s decor that makes you feel like Don Draper on a business trip. Plus, the oddity of walking into the stadium at the upper deck and seeing the field below is such a cool ballpark experience.
11.) Target Field, Twins (2013)
In true Minnesota fashion, I got to the stadium soon after the gates opened – and the game was snowed out before first pitch. Still, I got to take a lap, enjoy the bars/concessions that were open (great food options), and I liked what I saw. Plus it’s right downtown, can’t beat that.
10.) Chase Field, Diamondbacks (2013)
Um, they sell footlong hot dogs covered in mac-and-cheese with bacon bits. The pool is a fun feature, even if you obviously can’t swim in it. Stadium feels a little impersonal due to its huge size, but it’s certainly unique and they did well to have a lot of social stuff in the area to do before and after. But that hot dog…
9.) Comerica Park, Tigers (2014)
Yeah, Detroit’s seen better days and that downtown still needs a comeback. But from the awesome tigers guarding the gates to the neat Tiger Den seats on the main concourse, and the brick wall in center, and the open-to-anyone bars in right field, there’s so much character here. Everything looks and feels new and the bacon-on-a-stick is fire. And there’s just enough pre- and post-game activity nearby to not totally downgrade the experience any further.
8.) Tropicana Field, Rays (2018)
You’re damn right. Is it ugly? Cavernous? Do they play on a carpet? Yes 3x. But the staff was so friendly they gave free candy to kids. So many good sightlines, and I couldn’t believe the number of activities (Rays Touch Tank!), sections to explore (Ted Williams Museum, a bar/arcade combo, Budweiser Porch), and varied food options. It’s like the player who knows they don’t have talent, so they just outwork everyone else. Plus, some of St. Pete’s best bars are just a couple blocks away.
7.) Coors Field, Rockies (2013)
Still a modern-feeling park despite its age, with cool features like the Rock Pile and the Purple Row, not to mention the in-house brewery in right field where Blue Moon was invented. I scored beautiful center field seats for $5, and the surrounding downtown area is one of the best and most fun in the country.
6.) Camden Yards, Orioles (2017)
Everything I said about Coors Field, except the warehouse, Eutaw Street, and a much cozier feel put it ahead.
If I’m visiting, it’s a can’t-miss
5.) Petco Park, Padres (2010, every game of 2016)
The Western Metal Supply building, center field park and beach seats, light tower suites, and sandstone facade all add character. Incredible food and tons of beer choices, though you’ll pay a premium. Gaslamp is a post-game stumble away, and they used to have the best pre-game TV talk show host in sports.
4.) Fenway Park, Red Sox (2006)
Everything you’ve heard about it is true. The fans are intense but the buzz electric. The seats are cramped, but the Green Monster inspires awe. “Sweet Caroline” is kitschy, but actually pretty fun in person. Of course you get the charm and the history and – say what you will about Sox fans – the atmosphere they bring to Lansdowne before, during, and after is unlike almost anything in the bigs (see No. 1).
3.) PNC Park, Pirates (2008, 2014)
The rare park where you’d actually prefer to have the highest seats possible, because you get the most stunning view. Best part is, the stadium is so intimate (only two decks), you still don’t miss a thing. The river skyline takes your breath away, the food and beer are great, and there’s plenty to keep you busy in the surrounding blocks before and after a game. Oh, and they serve my favorite non-Bud Light beer ever.
2.) AT&T Park, Giants (2010)
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. If this list were based just on the parks themselves, this would be No. 1. Television doesn’t do the bay justice, and the argument between the view at PNC and AT&T is like arguing Jordan or LeBron – it’s a matter of taste, and there is no loser.
What sets AT&T apart for me is both the more eclectic food offerings (#SanFrancisco) and the unique ballpark trappings like the giant Coke bottle and baseball glove in the outfield. Plus, open bodies of water (oceans, bays, seas) > closed bodies (lakes, rivers, ponds) every time. Oh and the game I visited, they threw boxes full of real, hot pizza into the crowd between innings. Boss.
1.) Wrigley Field, Cubs (2011)
It’s Fenway, but with more welcoming fans and a more festive atmosphere. Maybe it’s the history of day games and sunshine, or how Chicagoans just appreciably perk up when the weather’s nice, or the way Cubs fans always maintained a hopeful optimism despite years of losing. But being in and around Wrigley just makes you feel…happy.
When the ivy is blooming and “Go Cubs Go” blasts over the speakers, there are fewer more enjoyable places on Earth. And there’s a Taco Bell across the street! Then you have all night to play in Wrigleyville, the most fun outside-the-ballpark area in the majors.