Enjoy the best baseball, beers, and food Florida has to offer on this Sunshine State spring training road trip…
As February lingers on, most of us are comforted when we hear statements like “pitchers & catchers report next week.” It means America’s favorite pastime is about to fire back up. It means summers at the ballpark are just around the corner, but why wait until opening day to get your Major League Baseball fix? Head down to Florida and take this All-American spring training road trip to see all 15 MLB teams in the “Grapefruit League.”
We’ve planned a route to each Grapefruit League stadium, and we’re also throwing in some of the best places to grab a bite or a brew before and after the game. (Keep in mind, Google limits waypoints to ten so not all stadiums are on this route. Check out MLB’s spring training map for each stadium location.)
Champion Stadium: Braves (Kissimmee)
Tucked inside the massive empire that is Walt Disney World, Champion® Stadium is the crown-jewel of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The 9,500+ seat stadium has a retro feel and offers plenty of space to stretch out on the outfield’s grassy knoll.
Check out: Obviously, your options for places to grab a bite or a beer are nearly endless within the sprawling Disney resort areas. Your easiest option is definitely the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill. The sports bar and grill features everything you’d want at a sports bar, all just steps from Champion Stadium.
Tradition Field: Mets (St. Lucie)
Tradition Field hosts not only the New York Mets, but also the St. Lucie Mets (A). Built in the late 1980s, Tradition Field has weathered multiple hurricanes and undergone significant upgrades over the past few seasons to give fans and players a world-class spring training facility.
Oh, by the way… It just got renamed! It’s now First Data Field.
Check out: Fort Pierce
While there are plenty of chain restaurants and bars near the stadium, you’d be smart to head 30 minutes northeast to the charming Florida town of Fort Pierce.
Nestled on the edge of the intercostal waterway, Fort Pierce offers the most bang-for-your-buck in terms of local dining and special events. We highly suggest going tropical at the Original Tiki Bar or hopping over to the Sailfish Brewing Co. for some local craft beer.
Visit Main Street in Fort Pierce for a map of dining and shopping as well as a full events schedule.
Roger Dean Stadium: Cardinals & Marlins (Jupiter)
This 1998 stadium features comfortable seating for nearly 7,000 fans as it hosts both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins during the spring training season. Named for one of the nations first “mega car dealers” and WWII veteran Roger Dean, it’s new shade canopy for 2017 ensures even more enjoy their spring training vacations.
Check out: Downtown Abacoa
Baseball fans don’t have to wander far from Roger Dean Stadium to find great eats and drinks. Abacoa is literally across the street and offers excellent options ranging from the farm-to-table Aaron’s Table & Wine Bar to the tasty Cuban dishes of Copacabana.
For a morning caffeine fix, hit up locally-owned Crux Coffee Roasters, and for a rowdy night out (and possibly a celebrity sighting) post up at Jumby Bay Island Grill. Beer lovers MUST also check out Civil Society Brewing for perfect microbrews and DAS Biergarten for a huge selection of craft beers from around the state and US.
For more on downtown Abacoa, visit their webpage.
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches: Astros & Nationals (Palm Beach)
This brand-spanking-new 6,500 seat stadium welcomes both the Astros and the Nationals for the very first time this year. With ample shade, a party deck, and a sizable bar in left field, this new stadium raises the bar for spring training facilities.
Check out: West Palm Beach
Just a half hour away you’ll find all sorts of cool local gems in West Palm Beach. Our personal favorite is Grease Burger Bar. Great burgers, huge beer & bourbon menu, tons of TVs, and a cool vibe… What’s not to love?
JetBlue Park: Red Sox (Fort Myers)
One of the more unique spring training stadiums, the 2012 JetBlue Park is pretty much a replica of famed Fenway Park, complete with its own Green Monster. JetBlue’s Monster, however, features a few rows of seats in the middle, all shielded by a net. The manual scoreboard itself is even a relic from Fenway now seeing use again.
Check out: Fort Myers River District
History buffs would be asleep at the wheel if they didn’t make time for Edison and Ford Winter Estates (See what we did there… a car pun) The 20 acres of historical buildings, museums, and botanical gardens draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
In terms of food and drink in Fort Myers, we’re partial to anywhere paying tribute to automotive greats so Ford’s Garage and the Firestone top our list. Ford’s Garage pays homage to the great automaker with a vintage design featuring plenty of exposed brick, a copper bartop, and even an old Ford hanging from above. The decor combines with the burgers and booze to create a perfect experience.
And if you can’t find something to love about The Firestone, there’s just no hope for you. This monster features 4-stories of fun with Fort Myers’ only waterfront rooftop bar. Take in the views over dinner and drinks with your friends.
For more of the Ft. Myers River District, visit their website.
Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex: Twins (Fort Myers)
The Twins are back at CenturyLink Sports Complex’s Hammond Stadium for their 27th year, and the ballpark, renovated in the past few years, is looking as great as ever. With its whopping 9,300 seats, Hammond Stadium continues to be one of the best spring training fields in the country.
Check out: Fort Myers (See above)
Charlotte Sports Park: Rays (Port Charlotte)
The Ray’s spring training facility, Charlotte Sports Park, is yet another spectacular 360-degree stadium built with the fans in mind. It features a children’s play area, a bar in the outfield, and seating for roughly 7,500. The stadium is also adjacent to the Tippecanoe Environmental Park so if walking, canoeing, kayaking, or birdwatching interests you, you’re in luck.
Check out: Punta Gorda
Just a skip down the road from the stadium you’ll find the quaint little Charlotte Harbor town of Punta Gorda. For those looking to enjoy some seafood with a view of the harbor, the Laishley Crab House can’t be beat.
Slightly inland you’ll find the local favorites Jack’s on Marion and The Celtic Ray Public House. Jack’s on Marion offers everything from fish tacos to steaks, all to be enjoyed either inside or outside in the heart of Punta Gorda, and the Celtic Ray Public House lets us all pretend to be a little Irish and enjoy its live music and huge international beer selection.
Ed Smith Stadium: Orioles (Sarasota)
When the Reds left town for Arizona in 2008, the perennial spring training stadium was without an MLB team for the first time in many years. Then the Orioles, who played there in the 90s, came calling. The team inked a 30-year deal (which included a $31.2 renovation) and brought major league spring training back to Ed Smith Stadium. Today, the stadium is a top-notch venue and even pays homage to Camden Yards by using refurbished seats from the famed ballpark up north.
Check out: Downtown Sarasota
Ed Smith Stadium is just a few miles from a treasure trove of excellent bars and restaurants in Sarasota. Looking for a good lunch? Stop by Mozzarella Fella and let them make you a sandwich to die for.
For a top-notch dinner in an ultra-cool spot, Made Restaurant can’t be beat with its award-winning chef and menu.
LECOM Park: Pirates (Bradenton)
Originally named McKechnie Field for HoF manager, Bradenton resident, and Pittsburgh native Bill McKechnie, LECOM Park dates all the way back to 1923. The stadium has undergone multiple renovations with the most recent in 2013. These days, the stadium sports a massive boardwalk, a party deck, and over 8,500 seats for fans to take in a game.
Oh, and this year is a good year for craft beer lovers. Darwin Brewing (see below) is “invading” the park and taking over the taps! If you like good beer and baseball, this is heaven. From the official press release:
“This season, baseball fans may take advantage of the four DBC beers available on the all-new Growler Station® at LECOM Park’s Craft Korner. Using an industry-leading counter pressurization filling system, the reusable 32oz. growlers may be filled with award-winning DBC beer to enjoy in the stands while watching the game. Complete with Pittsburgh Pirates® branding, the growlers also make a great commemorative souvenir. Beer flights are also on tap, where guests may purchase a sampler with all four styles.”
Check out: Bradenton
Located less than a mile north of LECOM Park, Bradenton has plenty of options for the thirsty and hungry baseball fan. BEFORE you head up the street, however, you MUST walk across the street to Darwin Brewing Company for some beers that truly capture the taste of Florida and Latin America.
After throwing back a brew or two at Darwin, walk north up 9th street to the equally awesome Motorworks Brewing, the town’s first craft brewery. Using an old Hudson car dealership as their home base, their motorhead-themed beers are enjoyed in Florida’s largest beer garden while playing giant Jenga, listening to live music, putting around on their 3-hole green, or even playing some bocce ball or cornhole.
Keep hiking north into Bradenton to grab some pizza and another beer at the Loaded Barrel Tavern, a local favorite, or make a reservation for a big night of fresh seafood with waterfront views at Pier 22.
Florida Auto Exchange Stadium: Blue Jays (Dunedin)
Named one of the top 5 places to watch a spring training game by Sports Illustrated, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium continues to host the Blue Jays year after year just as it always has. While currently working out some deals for a future renovation, the current stadium is still a comfortable, intimate affair with only 5,510 seats.
Check out: Dunedin
Just up the street from the stadium you’ll find plenty to eat, drink, and enjoy in Dunedin. For your morning jolt of caffeine, stop by 9th Bar & Coffee Co. for one of their expertly crafted lattes.
For your afternoon and evening beer fix, check out the local Dunedin Brewing, Florida’s oldest craft brewery. The beer isn’t all you’ll love at Dunedin Brewing, though. Their live music continues to draw crowds, and with their food menu, you could easily post up here all night.
For seafood seekers, Dunedin has plenty of options there as well. Our personal picks are Sea Sea Riders for their delicious food and laid back vibes, Happy Bayou Bites for bringing a little NOLA flair, and Hog Island Fish Camp for their fresh seafood and old-Florida feel.
For more on what to see, do, eat, and drink in Dunedin, check out Visit Dunedin.
Spectrum Field: Phillies (Clearwater)
Built in 2004 with a seating capacity of 7,300 plus another 1,500 in the grassy outfield, Spectrum Field (formerly Bright House Field) features everything you could want in a spring training facility: a tiki-hut in left field, picnic areas, a kids play area, and more.
Check out: Clearwater/Clearwater Beach
For a great sports bar not too far from the stadium, Pete & Shorty’s has to be the go-to with its midwest-inspired comfort dishes and killer happy hour specials.
If you head west, you’ll find a plethora of other great spots like the truly funky Grindhaus Brew Lab, a craft brewery that gives tours, serves up flights, and even shows B-movies on Saturday nights. Beer lovers should also check out Capitol Beer House and their 32 taps of imported and specialty beers.
For the coolest seafood spots, go ahead and jump over to Clearwater Beach. Here you’ll find our two favorites: Pearly’s Beach Eats and Frenchy’s. Pearly’s Beach Eats may have opened just a couple years ago, but its already cemented itself as an institution on Clearwater Beach for its laid-back beach-bum atmosphere, ample outdoor seating, bright colors, and eclectic mix of surf and turf.
Frenchy’s, on the other hand, has been a household name in Clearwater for several decades now. We’re partial to the original 1981 Frenchy’s Cafe, but all their locations serve their own incredible fresh fish.
Oh, and are you looking for a funky place to stay? Why not stay at the totally retro, totally rad Frenchy’s Oasis Motel?
St. Pete and Clearwater both offer baseball fans a tremendous number of options. It’d be well-worth your time to spend a few minutes poking around Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.
George M. Steinbrenner Field: Yankees (Tampa)
In true NYC style, Steinbrenner Field is the largest of the spring training stadiums and is designed to immediately remind you of the team’s original Bronx stadium. The stadium is also fresh off a $40 million renovation to add retail space and enhance the overall game-day experience.
Check out: Tampa
Trying to give you a comprehensive guide to Tampa’s food and booze scene is best left to the folks at Visit Tampa Bay, but we will point out our top spots.
For a local brew, it doesn’t get any better than Cigar City Brewing Co. (and it’s less than 2 miles from the stadium). These folks take Tampa Bay’s colorful history of tobacco manufacturing and turn it into unique, flavorful beers. Their tap room is the perfect opportunity to try and buy. Be a hero back home when you bring back a 6-pack of one of the country’s best craft beers.
For a dinner or lunch you’ll talk about for months, Edison Food + Drink Lab is the place to go. There’s a reason they’ve won every award Tampa has to give… Their food is fresh, inventive, but served without pretentiousness.
If you’re looking for some open-air fun, then you belong at Sail Pavilion. This waterfront gem offers 360-degrees of fun for all.
For an experience like no other, head over to the Ciro’s Speakeasy & Supper Club. Just as the name implies, Ciro’s is a low-light cocktail lounge so cool, so underground you need to call them to get the password for the night and knock when you arrive. So cool.
And if you still haven’t gotten your fill of local brews, make a stop at Coppertail Brewing Co. for some of their unique crafts served in a pretty rad multi-level taproom.
Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium: Tigers (Lakeland)
Fresh off a whole slew of renovations, Joker Marchant Stadium is standing as tall as it ever has in the past 50+ years of hosting the Tigers (Lakeland has hosted the Tigers for a century). Visitors will enjoy more shade and more special areas than ever before while taking in a game at this historic ballpark.
Check out: Downtown Lakeland
Just 3 miles south of Tigerland you’ll find a nice honey-hole for all your needs. For a morning coffee fix, breakfast, or a light lunch, Black and Brew is a perfect option with its exposed brick walls and artisan menu.
For a slice of pizza, there’s none better in town than Palace Pizza with its fresh ingredients, and for a good ol’ American cheeseburger, head over to the Chop Shop. If you’re looking for a more elegant dinner, Terrace Grill at the Terrace Hotel continually ranks as one of central Florida’s best spots.
Oh, and don’t think for a second Lakeland doesn’t also offer a craft brewery for your insatiable beer appetite. Lakeland Brewing Co. tap room, aka The Old School Annex, serves up their tasty beers along with counter lunch service, a beer garden, and even a “recess” time to play with all your friends. Once again, Florida treats us with another all-star craft brewery with a spectacular taproom.
To make the most of your trip to Tigerland, check out Visit Central Florida.
So there you have it… If you have a couple weeks and a thirst for beer and baseball, hit the road this spring. Let us know how it goes…
Oh, and by the way, we’re hitting the road this spring too! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram as we wander around this spring and summer.
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