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Spring Baseball 101: How to Catch a Game in Chicago

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Spring Baseball in ChicagoI can’t prove it yet, but I’m certain Chicago has figured out how to transmit commands directly into the brains of its visitors so that upon arrival, you feel compelled to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, buy a sausage overladen with toppings, and if it’s springtime, catch a baseball game.

Seeing the Art Institute and sampling a hot dog are indeed compulsory and logistically speaking, relatively easy for Chicago visitors to pull off without much fuss.

Taking in a Chicago baseball game is almost as easy, believe it or not, and doesn’t necessary require a ton of planning or money. While it’s always a good idea to try to buy your game seats before you leave home, it’s entirely possible to snag last-minute tickets online once you arrive or at the stadium on game day. Consider the following basics if you’re hoping to catch a game while in the Windy City.

The Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field (333 W. 35th St., Chicago)

Why go: If you get shut out of a Cubs game and want to stay within the city limits. Or if you’re a Sox fan.

Distance from Chicago Art Institute: Yes, the Art Institute is both a mandatory experience and a handy landmark for visitors who need to get their bearings: U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park) is 20 minutes south of the Art Institute via the Red Line subway.

Ticket availability: Often purchasable on game day. Children under 3-feet-tall are admitted for free if they sit on a parent’s lap.

Tailgating permitted? Yes.

Outside food permitted in stadium? Yes, if carried into stadium in clear bags.

Concessions: Chicago comfort foods, including an impressive lineup of sausages, and even vegetarian options like veggie dogs.

How cheaply can you get in? Prices vary according to who’s playing and where you sit, of course, but by way of example, for the April 7 Sox game against the Seattle Mariners, the cost of  an upper corner, right-field side seat is $7.18.

The Kane County Cougars at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark (Geneva, IL)

Why go: Delightfully off the beaten path, plus the novelty of seeing the Cougars play their first season as a Class-A affiliate of the Cubs.

Distance from Chicago Art Institute: The ballpark is 40 miles and 40 minutes west of the Institute by car.

Ticket availability: Often purchasable on game day. Children 2 and under are admitted for free if they sit on a parent’s lap.

Tailgating permitted? No.

Outside food permitted in stadium? No, though the ballpark will make exceptions for guests with special dietary needs (i.e. kids with food allergies).

Concessions: Usual suspects including kid-friendly chicken tenders and fries, as well as grown-up-appropriate choices like bison burgers and margaritas.

How cheaply can you get in? An April 8 box seat for the Cougars game against the Clinton LumberKings (entering their fifth season as a Class-A affiliate of the aforementioned Mariners) is $12.

The Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field (1060 West Addison, Chicago)

Why go: Whether your loyalty rests with the Cubs or Sox, the magic of Wrigley Field is undeniable.

Distance from Chicago Art Institute: Wrigley is 20 minutes north of the Art Institute via the Red Line.

Ticket availability: Varies wildly according to who’s playing and time of the season, so buy as far in advance as you can. Children 2 and under are admitted for free if they sit on a parent’s lap.

Tailgating permitted? No.

Outside food permitted in stadium? Yes, in any kind of soft bag (it doesn’t have to be clear) or soft-sided cooler. Hard-sided coolers are not permitted in the stadium.

Concessions: All manner of sausages from Italian to Polish, including a dog topped with Fritos.

How cheaply can you get in? For the April 8 game against the Milwaukee Brewers, the least expensive ticket available (when I wrote this) was a $46 seat in the terrace reserved outfield. But, it pays to spend a few minutes checking alternate days: For the Cubs’ April 9th game, also against the Brewers, terrace reserved outfield seats were just $14, and upper reserved outfield seats were still available for $9.

Have you been to any ball games in the Windy City?

MORE from ShermansTravel:

8 ballpark bites to try across the country

Read more about things to do in Chicago

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