June 14, 2012 at 8:18 AM ET
As summer gets into swing, the Miami Marlins are stepping up to the plate in a swanky new baseball stadium, with a South Beach-worthy pool, two 450-gallon aquariums, and guacamole-jalapeno-topped Tater Tots.
It’ll take time for the Marlins Park to establish its own traditions and records, but the rookie stadium already reflects its flamboyant hometown. “Baseball stadiums are epicenters of community pride,” says Wayne McDonnell, clinical associate professor of sports management at New York University. “It’s an extension of who they are; each park has something that the others don’t.”
The best ballparks play to their particular strengths, whether it’s an easily accessible location with skyline views, exhibitions honoring bygone greats, or craft beers served by fire pits overlooking left field. Some classics like Fenway Park, which celebrates 100 years in 2012 and still has hand-operated scoreboards, keep baseball’s history alive, while others have introduced decidedly modern features like the synchronized music and light show that follows every home run at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
The fusion of sports with entertainment has grown tremendously over the last decade, and as a result, you no longer need to bleed your team’s colors to embrace the ballpark experience. With around 70 million people pouring into parks each season, many stadiums are rivaling amusement parks. “When you walk through the turnstiles, you’re getting one-stop shopping for the entire family,” says McDonnell.
Kids can unleash their inner baseball star via MLB 2K12 consoles at Target field in Minneapolis, for instance, or tackle the Coca-Cola Superslide, 465 feet from home plate at San Francisco’s waterfront AT&T Park. Adults, meanwhile, can enjoy wines sourced from nearby Napa Valley and paired with Dungeness crab sandwiches.
The fun may not always be old-fashioned these days, but it’s still part of the all-American tradition of a day out at the ball game. As Walt Whitman put it: “Baseball has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere. It is the place where memory gathers.” So take yourself out to one of the best baseball stadiums and start building those memories.
More from Travel + Leisure