Love sports and want to get out of the winter chill for a bit? Try flying down to Florida for a bit of baseball and warm weather as spring training gets underway. You can catch all 15 teams in Major League Baseball’s Grapefruit League in one unforgettable road trip. Plus, see some things that are cool away from the game.
We recommend flying into Fort Lauderdale. You can always fly into Miami, but the ease of access and closer proximity to the first destination makes FLL a better choice. Regardless of the city you fly into you’ll need a rental car to head to the first place on our road trip. And if you don’t want to drive throughout the whole but still want a lot of baseball, then fly into Tampa, which is near many of the destinations.
1. Jupiter, Florida
It’s just an hour drive north on I-95 from Fort Lauderdale to visit Roger Dean Stadium, springtime home of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, in Jupiter. After you’ve watched either the Fish or Cards play, we recommend visiting the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s not only a nature center that showcases Florida’s wildlife, but it also includes a wildlife hospital to care for the sick and injured. It’s free to visit the Sanctuary, but donations are gladly accepted.
2. Port St. Lucie, Florida
From Jupiter, we head to Port St. Lucie to catch the New York Mets play at Tradition Field. You shouldn’t get too lost finding the place since it’s right off the interstate. But once you’ve had your fill of baseball, head east to the beaches of Hutchinson Island. The island is home to 23 miles of immaculate beaches and sand dunes right on the Atlantic Ocean. A great place to relax after a full day of baseball.
3. Viera, Florida
Another hour up I-95 takes us to the town of Viera, Florida, and Space Coast Stadium, spring home of the Washington Nationals. And you can’t come to this part of the world without visiting the Visitor Complex at Kennedy Space Center, located 28 miles from the ballpark. You can stare down Space Shuttle Atlantis in person, try to launch your own space shuttle (virtually, of course), and even have lunch with an astronaut.
4. Kissimmee, Florida
Let’s head west to Kissimmee, and Osceola County Stadium for a spring match for the Houston Astros. Depending on the time you head to catch a game in Kissimmee, you can walk over to Silver Spurs Arena for live rodeo events. But you can also hop aboard an airboat for a tour of the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. Either option will keep you entertained.
When it comes to family fun for a spring game, the Atlanta Braves have the top spot. The Braves play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. And while the game is why you’re here, we won’t hold it against you for visiting the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or one of the other great theme parks at the resort.
Find out more: 5 tips for the best Orlando vacation ever
6. Lakeland, Florida
Drive west on I-4 to check see the Detroit Tigers get ready for the season at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida – their spring home since 1934. Another must-see in Lakeland is Florida Southern College’s Architectural District. Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed nine of the buildings on the school’s campus. Oddly enough, the school does not have architecture as a degree option.
7. Tampa, Florida
Tampa might be the home turf of the Rays, but it’s Yankees turf during the spring at George M. Steinbrenner Field, where the dimensions mimic the old Yankee Stadium. After seeing the Bombers do their thing on the field, head over to Ybor City for a solid night on the town. This neighborhood has been around since 1885, when it was founded by cigar manufacturers. You can still get a hand rolled stogie here, but it’s now better known for restaurants and nightlife. One such restaurant being the Columbia Restaurant, which has been treating guests to Spanish cuisine since 1905, making it Florida’s oldest restaurant.
8. Dunedin, Florida
The Toronto Blue Jays have called Dunedin their spring training home since they started play in 1977, playing their games at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. When not watching the Jays on the field, we recommend the Clay & Paper Gallery of Art for a unique experience. The gallery boasts handmade artwork that’s made in the US, which you can buy.
9. Clearwater, Florida
It only takes 14 minutes to drive from Dunedin to Clearwater’s Bright House Field to see the Philadelphia Phillies take the field. And while there are many great things to see and do in the area, nothing Clearwater Beach. This beach is arguably the best along the Gulf of Mexico, but a trip to see the performances at Pier 60 put it over the top.
10. Bradenton, Florida
It’s a 53-minute drive from Clearwater to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play spring ball at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. While the ballpark is considered one of the best for spring training in the state, the real treasure of the area is De Soto National Memorial. You’ll learn about native inhabitants and Spanish newcomers, headed by Conquistador Hernando de Soto, during a half-hour talk with one of the park’s rangers. Plus, there are several gorgeous nature trails that let you see this area where the Manatee River empties into Tampa Bay. The fact that it’s free is just icing on the cake.
11. Sarasota, Florida
The Baltimore Orioles have been coming to Sarasota for spring since 2010, and it’s easy to see why. The weather’s great, and Ed Smith Stadium’s recent renovations give it a modern touch with classic Florida architecture. But no trip to Sarasota is complete without a trip to the Ringling Museum of Art. John Ringling (one of the brothers that owned “The Greatest Show on Earth”) opened the museum in 1931. You can visit his winter home on the property (Ca d’Zan – “House of John”), the Circus Museum, or the many other galleries on the grounds.
We fully understand how much fun it is to catch the Tampa Bay Rays play spring games at Charlotte Sports Park. Yet we can’t help but looked toward the water, and get a little anxious. That’s because nearby Charlotte Harbor was named one of the “10 greatest places to sail” by SAIL Magazine. There are several sailing charters you can take out into the harbor or out to explore the Gulf Islands. Quite the way to relax, really.
13. Fort Myers, Florida
Drive 50 miles down Interstate 75 and you’ll find Fort Myers, spring home of the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. And while we dig the replica of the “Green Monster” at Red Sox’s JetBlue Park, we feel there’s some fun educational stuff to be seen in this part of the world. You can visit the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford at the (wait for it) Edison & Ford Winter Estates. In addition to their homes, you’ll also find a tropical garden, Edison’s lab, and museum fill with various inventions and exhibits.