Friday, July 16, 2010

A Trip to Pittsburgh and Toronto, eh?

Our most recent adventure was a weeklong trip--starting in Pittsburgh, then driving up to Canada and spending a couple days in Niagara on the Lake and on to Toronto for a couple days. Might sound like kind of an odd trip, and I often find myself explaining our seemingly odd destinations--reason: our goal to visit all the MLB stadiums. After this year we're down to 8! While we are certainly not the only baseball fans who have done this, I think more people would enjoy a similar "quest". Sure, we like baseball and especially seeing the stadiums. But, it's also a great way to see a wide array of cities. We've been many places we would not have otherwise gone, but for this quest. And, we've been pleasantly surprised by most.

I'll go back through and share more about this trip in general later, especially some of the Niagara portion and our tips. I will also do my best to recount some of the past baseball trips, especially for anyone who might be interested in doing the same thing, or who just happens to be going to one of the cities and wants to catch a game. I like baseball, but I can probably remember a lot more about the atmosphere, food in the ballpark and the town than most of the games...

Visits to the stadiums:

Pittsburgh: Huge sports town, and we saw them play the Phillies over 7/4 weekend so the city and stadium were hopping! (maybe a bit more than I would have preferred, our hotel was a little noisy/rowdy). Pittsburgh has a great stadium; beautiful location on the riverfront and fun to walk across the bridge which is closed to traffic for games.

My smart husband chose club level seats--perfect since we went to a day game and the heat index was about 100 F. Being able to spend time in the air conditioned concourse was well worth it! And, with the crowds, having a separate entrance (no lines) was a huge bonus (which we almost missed by the way--don't wait at the general entrance if you have club seats).

The stadium is well laid out and you can get every kind of ballpark and Pittsburgh/regional food (pierogies, Primanti brothers sandwiches, local beers). They even have an "all you can eat" section (hot dogs, burgers, sodas, etc.-limited menu)! The club section had standard food, plus ice cream, Chinese food, a custom sausage grill, and a full bar. I took note of the giant, handmade pretzel but wasn't quite that hungry (I think it was $15, so I wasn't about to eat just 1/2 of it). Food and lots of it is big in Pittsburgh and the ballpark doesn't disappoint in that regard. Great place to see a game! Obviously big sports town all around and the inner state rivalry and holiday weekend made this a big game weekend, even if baseball's not the city's highlight sport.

Toronto: My first time at the stadium but my husband's 2nd trip there. Our local friend told us the roof is rarely open, but hubby's two for two. It was a beautiful night and we got to sit under the stars (it poured earlier, so the heat had finally let up). Once again, pretty big crowds because the Red Sox were in town (so, mostly Red Sox fans). The crowd was kind of rowdy, but it seemed that was mostly the Toronto fans--I guess the Red Sox fans weren't going to be obnoxious when they were beating the tar out of the Blue Jays. Some of the hecklers from Toronto cracked me up. One guy in our area kept yelling "This is my section, not Red Sox Section. Go back to America!" which had all of us (even the die hard Sox fans) laughing (the Blue Jays fans had to laugh or they would cry, and the Sox fans had to be good sports considering the score). Even though it was a bad game, the atmosphere was great. Though it's not brand spanking new, this place does baseball "indoors" well and has some neat features. I love watching the fans viewing the game from the hotel rooms that look on to the field (gotta check that out next time!). I'm all for retractable roofs--our dome in Tampa Bay just doesn't do it for me. Toronto's ballpark has a great array of food, and decent beer (they even had a pretty decent tasting wine there).

Of course, the great thing about Toronto is it is such a fun and diverse city--and there's plenty to do before and after the game. If you're a beer fan--don't miss The Bier Market on the Esplanade (not to far from the park). Great beer selection, esp. the Belgian styles, and delicious food (try the mussels!). It gets pretty packed, but its worth standing at the bar for the beer and mussels. We've been there twice now on 2 different trips, and had the same great bartender--even in a packed bar, he takes the time to educate you on the beers, answer questions, and offer suggestions. Like any "connoisseur" you can feel his passion.

The Distillery District is another neat area--we grabbed a bite and a beer there before the game and I checked out some of the shops. Creative jewelry, hand crafted items, and artisan chocolate (tried the Hazelnut and Pop Rocks Truffle and the 30 yr aged Balsamic Vinegar Truffle-yum!). And, after the game, the Entertainment district is within a few blocks, so there's plenty to do...though we weren't quite up for the late night clubbing scene so we were heading home when most people were just heading out for a long night...

More to come...

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