Part of the fun in visiting an MLB ballpark is experiencing the city it’s in. It’s your chance to see some sights, try the local fare, and take in the culture. An ongoing joke with my friend Liz is that our pictures should always “capture our essences.” I found many times ballparks did just this- they captured the cities they’re in’s essence. Going to the park is great (obviously since its probably the reason you’re visiting) but don’t sell yourself short and miss out on the park’s inspiration! While I didn’t always get to fully explore the cities I visited since I was cramming in 30 parks, I did always make an effort to see what I could.
For those who are thinking, this is going to rack up my trip cost, I say “Not so fast my friend!” (yeah I just quoted Lee Corso, happens). Here are some ways to save when sightseeing in the cities of the NL West… and even some free activities!
- Phoenix’s tourism site has a whole page dedicated to free things to do and see in the Valley of the Sun like shopping at Mill Avenue District and Old Town Scottsdale or enjoying art and galleries during the Artlink First Fridays.
- Plenty of mountains and trails to hike for those looking for beautiful city and desert views. Nature lovers should also check out the Rio Salado Audubon Center, Japanese Friendship Garden, or the Tempe Beach Park.
- Visit Phoenix has plenty of coupon and discount codes for some of the city’s most popular attractions and even airport transportation!
- Climate control is sometimes a must so visit one of the free museums: Arizona Railway Museum, Arizona Military Museum, Arizona Capitol Museum, African American Multicultural Museum, ASU Art Museum, or the ASU Museum of Anthropology. Visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix every first Friday between 5-9 pm or the Arizona Museum for Youth every first Sunday noon-4 pm for free admission.
- For weekly events, concerts, children’s activities and more make sure to visit AZ Central’s website.
- Denver’s tourism site puts together a fantastic compilation of 50 free summer activities for visitors including First Friday Art Walks, Outdoor Movies in the Parks, U.S. Mint Tour, or Red Rocks Hall of Fame & Trails.
- The city is home to some nifty free festivals! If you’re in town make sure to stop by the Denver Chalk Art Festival, Cherry Blossom Festival, Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, or many many others.
- Summer concerts are aplenty in Denver so music enthusiasts will want to visit the City Jazz Park, Skyline Park Lunchtime Concerts, or Confluence Concerts.
- Get your beer on with free tours at the Coors Brewery or Great Divide Brewery. Is tea more your thing? Then take a free tour of Celestial Seasonings.
- Need free or cheap events during the week? Check out Doing Denver for Less. The site has weekly lists of such activities!
Los Angeles: (Dodgers)
- LA’s tourism site lists 100 free (and fun) things to do broken up into groups like activities, arts and culture, attractions, health and beauty, museums, recreation, and summer concerts. They also provide discount codes to Universal Studios Tours, the Grammy Museum, and more!
- National Geographic also provides plenty of free suggestions to tourists and residents alike. Want to attend a class or movie? Visit Free Things to do in LA.
- While beaches like Venice and Newport might be major tourist hubs, try Manhattan Beach for a more relaxed atmosphere and shopping!
- For discounted admission to LA’s most popular attractions visit Smart Destinations or Hollywood CityPASS.
San Diego: (Padres)
- The city’s tourism site has plenty of suggestions for visitors including a visit to Balboa Park, Mission San Luis Rey, the Gaslamp Quarter, or buying fresh produce at one of the many Farmers’ Markets. If 50 ideas aren’t enough, National Geographic has a few more tips for tourists!
- Life’s a beach in San Diego and you can pick from 33 different ones! Swim, surf, walk the piers, explore reefs, climb rocks, or just sunbath- they’ve got you covered!
- No to the beach but yes to the outdoors? Hit the trails at Torrey Pines State Park or Mission Bay Park.
- Golfers should try Balboa Park’s Municipal Course or Coronado Municipal Golf Course both are under $100 including cart and club rental on weekdays.
- For coupons and discounts for just about anything the city has to offer like whale tours to bar crawls to surfing lessons, make sure to check out the city’s tourism website.
- For discounted admission the the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios, it is recommend to buy them together. The CityPASS is rather expensive, though it includes all three plus admission to Disneyland in Anaheim. Also the Go San Diego card is worth looking into as well.
San Francisco: (Giants)
- National Geographic again with great free suggestions for enjoying the city like walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf, seeing the famous sea lions at Pier 39, or indulging your sweet tooth at Ghirardelli Square. The city is incredibly walkable but taking a trolley at least once is a must! For family-centric ideas visit the SF tourism site.
- Take a free ride in a sail boat or get a cheap lesson from the Cal Sailing Club or stay on dry land with free guided tours of the city by San Francisco City Guides.
- Try and take advantage of free first Tuesdays at local museums- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, MH de Young Memorial Museum, Cartoon Art Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, or Legion of Honor.
- Check FunCheap SF for up to date events going on in the Bay area while you’re visiting.
- For discounted admission to some of the city’s most popular attractions buy the San Francisco CityPASS. It also includes unlimited cable car rides for 7 days!