Guide to Arizona’s Spring Training
Head to Phoenix in March for baseball, and stay for the dining, spas, and outdoor adventure.
Mild temperatures aren’t Arizona’s only draw in March. Just a short flight from the Bay, Phoenix is where baseball fans flock to watch their teams battle it out during Spring Training—and to catch a glimpse of the players off the diamond. Follow our guide to the best places to eat, drink, and play—whether you’ve been to more A’s games than Banjo Man, consider Lou Seal a personal friend, or are just looking for a good time.
1. Athletics Appeal
Less than a half hour southeast of downtown Phoenix lies the sleepy suburb of Mesa, the Spring Training home of the Oakland A’s. The artsy vibe and funky restaurants and shops in the city’s downtown make it a great launching point for upscale small plates, paddleboarding, and outdoor concerts.
Catch a Game
Cheer on your Oakland Athletics at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Order a few Ike’s sandwiches (a Bay Area shop specially invited to the stadium), and forgo traditional seats by bringing a few blankets to spread on the grass behind the outfield. There, you’ll find a killer view of the game and the most enthusiastic fans. Need to stretch your legs? Stroll around the perimeter of the stadium, and catch some A’s players perfecting their swings on one of the practice fields. $10–$35, Mesa, mesaaz.gov.
At the cemetery directly across the street from the stadium, you can visit the graves of Ernesto Miranda (of Miranda rights fame) and Waylon Jennings, the ’60s country music star who wrote and performed The Dukes of Hazzard theme song, “Good Ol’ Boys.” Mesa, mezaaz.gov.
Cartel Coffee Lab
Cartel is all about creating a community over house-roasted and globally sourced coffees and teas. Step into the urban-industrial Tempe location, where you can watch an expert lovingly work the roasting machine. But be sure to pop next door, where the tiny Cartel Brewery develops its own line of craft beers. Tempe, cartelcoffeelab.com, cartelbrewery.com.
Desert Botanical Garden
The desert is anything but dead and dry. At the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix’s Papago Park, a little north of Tempe, you can wander through more than 50,000 plants native to the Arizona landscape. Stop by on Friday evening for Music in the Garden, to hear tunes ranging from ‘60s British tribute bands to bluegrass and folk. $22 Phoenix, dbg.org.
Step through the sliding doors of the recently restored Graduate hotel, a kitschy spot across the street from Arizona State University, and you’ll feel as if you’ve stumbled onto the modern-day set of Austin Powers. This retro-chic hotel features an eclectic collection of funky, colorful furniture and wall decor; even the hallway carpet is a trippy kaleidoscope pattern. The Graduate pays homage to its neighbor ASU: Pages of Darwin’s Origin of the Species cover the check-in desk, and room cards are old school IDs. Starting at $178, Tempe, graduatetempe.com.
Head west of Mesa to Postino Annex in Tempe for laid-back vibes, wine, and the best bruschetta and cheese selections you’ll ever lay taste buds on. The restaurant blends an ever-rotating, globe-spanning wine list with Italian panini, salads, and small plates. Mondays and Tuesdays after 8 p.m. are a steal, with any house bottle of wine and one of the inspired bruschetta boards for $20. Tempe, postinowinecafe.com.
3X Outdoor Fun
Arizona Outback Adventures
Spend an afternoon floating down the Salt River in Usery Mountain Regional Park on a stand-up paddleboard. Starting at $65, Phoenix, aoa-adventures.com.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Watch the sun rise over the ridge on an early morning desert hike. The best access is the Gateway Trailhead on the outskirts of Scotts-dale. Beware of jumping cactus: These little buggers are painful and attach themselves to loose clothing. mcdowellsonoran.org.
A 50-minute drive from Phoenix, Peoria’s Lake Pleasant is one of the few places in Arizona where you can try fly boarding. As a Jet Ski pulls you along, you’ll soar a few feet into the air, with your feet strapped onto the board. Rent WaveRunners or a ski boat from Pleasant Harbor for a day on the water. Peoria, pleasantharbor.com.
2. Giants Territory
The Giants’ stadium is located smack dab in the center of Scottsdale, a swanky city just east of Phoenix. Without disturbing Old Town’s charm, upscale dining, high-tech golf, and glamorous hotels have made downtown a perfect match for the team and its loyal fans.
Catch a Game
Watch the Giants play at the recently remodeled Scottsdale Stadium, which sits in the heart of Old Town, overlooking Camelback Mountain. For the best (and most expensive) seats in the house, try Charro Lodge’s party deck; the ticket price includes all the food and drinks—even alcohol—you could want during the game. If you don’t like to sit in the sun, snag seats along the third base line, where it’s mostly shady during the game; or go early, and put your blanket under one of the trees on the stadium’s grassy lawn. $10–$70, scottsdaleaz.gov.
Citizen Public House
This trendy restaurant’s street-facing patio is the perfect place for a refreshing cocktail from the award-winning list. Order the chopped salad, which has its own Facebook page and was named one of 11 must-try dishes in Phoenix by Food Network. The dining room’s leather booths can’t be beat for an indulgent dinner. Start with the Gorgonzola mac ’n’ cheese, before diving into an entrée of pan-seared scallops served with roasted sweet corn grits, bacon, and cola gastrique. citizenpublichouse.com.
We do men
Male-focused We Do Men spa uses tequila, cacti, and other natural ingredients to hydrate, heal, and rejuvenate skin. Book your guy a treatment—such as the “What a Prick” facial—and tag along for a massage or skincare treatment. The wall of male-centric products is surprisingly unisex: the Cacti Mud Mask by RA for Men or Schmidt’s Cedarwood and Juniper deodorant will delight both genders. wedomen.com.
The pros are practicing their swings, so why can’t you? Hit the high-tech driving range at Topgolf Scottsdale at Riverwalk for a variety of golf games, plus pool, shuffleboard, Xbox Kinect, and more. In addition to hitting balls on the 240-yard field, you’ll find food and drinks at the 65,000-square-foot nightclub meets driving range. $25/hour, topgolf.com.
Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Spa
Keep the bungalow-style rooms and full-service spa at this hotel in mind for next season: The 201–room destination resort is set to open April 2016, after the teams head home for the regular season. Located in Paradise Valley, just two miles outside of Old Town, Andaz’s rooms will offer mid-century desert-inspired decor, views of Camelback Mountain, and private terraces with outdoor showers. Starting at $450, scottsdale.andaz.hyatt.com.
Booked well in advance, W Scottsdale is the place to hang with Giants players. Play a hand in the Spring Training Poker Classic next to the pros: Giants players have been known to buy in, especially for a good cause. Not a good bluffer? The W’s second-floor pool is the place to spot players’ WAGS (wives and girlfriends) taking a dip or sipping a cocktail. Starting at $389, wscottsdalehotel.com.
3X Scottsdale Ale Trail
Two Brothers Tap House and Brewery
This year-old, 10-barrel brewery is run by two brothers, who also own and operate Arizona Beer and Cider Company. Sip a beer cocktail or split a Tap House BBQ pizza made with pulled pork and goat cheese on the outdoor patio. twobrothersbrewing.com.
An open-air beer garden, plentiful bar games, and 28 craft beers on draft—in a pint, boot, or stein—make this brewpub worth a visit. Made-from-scratch brats and Haus pretzels served with beer cheese fondue are menu highlights. brathausaz.com.
Goldwater Brewing Co.
Pull up a stool at the L-shaped bar, and sample an original brew such as The Desert Rose, a crimson-red beer made with cactus fruit. This new taproom and brewery crafts more than 60 beers from family recipes. goldwaterbrewing.com.
3. Off the Diamond
If you’re a fan of both Bay Area baseball teams and don’t want to pick a side, downtown Phoenix is the perfect neutral territory for you. Plus, it’s the place to be if you’re more interested in where the players party, eat, and hang than you are in the game.
This arts-centric district, referred to as “RoRo,” has a host of new galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and live music venues in restored historic buildings. Stop into one of the many shops: Mercantile salon and vintage boutique (phoenixmercantile.com) operates in a former speakeasy, where you’ll find handmade goods ranging from asymmetrical sea green Avva Tumblers and Teroforma whiskey stones to modern geometric jewelry. Or explore the Phoenix Art Museum (phxart.org), which hosts festivals, live performances, and independent films. rooseveltrow.org.
Phoenix’s coolest bar is in a basement: Down a flight of dimly lit stairs hides this intimate watering hole, where photo-lined walls, private booths, and tree stump tables strengthen the hipster vibe. Sit at the half-moon bar and order an original cocktail named for a Phoenix politician, like The Big Nowakowski, a playful spin on the White Russian. To make a night of it, head to the adjacent Crescent Ballroom, an intimate venue for music, film, spoken word, and comedy shows. valleybarphx.com.
Mother Bunch Brewing
Did you know that the first home brewer was a woman? Mother Bunch Brewing in downtown Phoenix pays homage to possibly the hippest woman who ever lived, with its historic brick walls, industrial decor, and of course, the beer. Run by a husband-and-wife team who left their day jobs to pursue beer making, Mother Bunch gives off the cool, laid-back vibes of a casual beer bar–meets-restaurant. Pair the MB Summer Sunset Session with three mini mac ‘n’ cheeses. (Sriracha tri-tip, Mother Bunch ale, and blue cheese–bacon were our favorites.) motherbunchbrew.com.
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort
This 27-acre property in Phoenix is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Scottsdale, Mesa, and Tempe—but it’s easily an island of its own. The resort has an on-site spa and fitness center, gourmet restaurant, and four-acre water park. Schedule Tocasierra Spa’s signature facial, which includes a hot oil and rosemary scalp massage and a glass of champagne. Rocket down one of River Ranch’s waterslides, and float along the Lazy River in a tube, all of which is open to the public. Guests can relax out by the hotel pool and order drinks from the swim-up bar and grill. squawpeakhilton.com.
Royal Palms Resort and Spa
Leave the kids at home, and book a room at the Royal Palms for ultimate relaxation and romance. With large Jacuzzi tubs, private balconies, and a Mediterranean vibe, the Montavista Terrace rooms are as luxurious as they are welcoming. Wander through the resort’s tiered garden terrace, which houses reflecting pools, fountains, and outdoor fireplaces. Or rent a poolside cabana, and order drink service from the Cabana Café. royalpalmshotel.com.
James Beard Award–nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza blends authentic Mexican cooking with her colorful personality at this eatery. Start with the pomegranate seed–topped Barrio guacamole and the Roselle cocktail—crafted with house-infused hibiscus blanco tequila, jasmine, and lime—and finish with a massive suadero burrito filled with slow-cooked brisket. barriourbanophx.com.
3X Player Spotting
Scottsdale’s Old Town
The old standbys—Don and Charlie’s, The Italian Grotto, the renovated Pink Pony—are reliable spots that still see plenty of ballplayers. Anyplace that serves a steak, particularly Mastro’s City Hall Steakhouse, Olive & Ivy, and Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, will draw its share of athletes (and their hangers-on).
The Hotel Bar
Many popular hotels, including The Camby Hotel, host Major League talent. Other hotels, especially the W Scottsdale (see here) and the Hotel Valley Ho, also see their share of pros sidling up to the bar.
Out on the Town
To spot Athletics players, swing by Desert Eagle Brewing Company, or haunt the restaurants on downtown Tempe’s Mill Avenue, where the green and gold are known to congregate after the games. —Ian A. Stewart