This past holiday weekend I made one of my last road trips to Chicago to attend games in both U.S. Cellular Field and Wrigley Field. The drive to Chicago from Columbus is just over five hours and there are some tolls once you enter I-90 ($1.50) and Chicago ($3.50). If you can coordinate your trip so you’re not arriving at peak traffic times or you’ll be waiting in line for a while. I stayed with my cousin and her fiancé in Bucktown which is maybe a 15-minute walk to the Damen stop on the Blue Line on the “L.” Using the “L” is your best option for traveling cheaply to and from both ballparks. I bought a $10 pass, though if you plan on doing a lot of traveling buy a 3-day pass for unlimited rides. Hopping on the Blue Line, I transferred to the Red Line at Jackson and headed south to U.S. Cellular Field (35th Street stop).
Exiting the station to my right, I walked over to the ballpark passing a couple of season ticket holder lots full of tailgaters to a ticket office across from the stadium. There is an apparel store- Chicago Sports Depot, ticket office, and Bacardi at the Park in a large building across from the park that attaches via walkways above the street. This gate was one of three options for fans to enter the stadium and the live entertainment was a high school band from Ohio. This band was actually pretty awesome, no bias! After I watched the band perform, I purchased my ticket for the game- $38 for a lower bowl ticket. Stadium warning: if you want full range of U.S. Cellular, you have to buy a lower bowl seat. Weak.
The outside of the ballpark reminds me of a giant sandcastle with the sand colored stone, arches, and façade details. The green accents on the windows, ivy and candy above the scoreboard are all a nice touch of color to an otherwise monotone building. Champions Plaza is the main focal point outside the stadium, though you can’t enter here with a regular ticket. In front of this entrance is a neat sculpture dedicate to the team’s history and a popular photo op. To the right are the day’s scorecard and area for live music. We were graced by a couple singing children’s songs, it was rough. Not sure why they were there since Radio Disney had a set up at the next gate, but whatever, cleared people quickly. Between gate 2 and 3 was the club and suite entrance and bike parking (motorcycles and regular bikes). They also have a dog drop off here, so if you bring your furry friend you can check him at the door.
If you like walking up ramps, you’re in luck because this park has a ton of them. Both main gate entrances (2 & 3) lead you up escalators or ramps to your section. The 100 level is for lower bowl ticket holders only and they have ushers checking your tickets to get in. Once in, I walked down the field to look around and got a serious close up of Indians players. They were really friendly with fans, which is pretty cool. Being a Yankees fan, I’m used to the players keeping a distance (probably because more than 10 fans swarming for autographs).
After the anthem, I went up to the main concourse to explore the lower bowl. The concourse isn’t split up like many parks, the concession stands line both sides and there isn’t a plethora of standing room around the baselines. I watched the Tribe bat from an area behind home plate before moving on to the outfield. Walking to the outfield I passed a wine stand– for the classy fan and a U.S. Cellular stand– haha.
The outfield area is really open and had some happy surprises for me. There are a couple of concession stands including a place for Chicago hot dogs, but the coolest spot is The Private Bank Bar in center field behind the batters eye. Lined with statues commemorating former ChiSox legends, the area behind the batters eye is a fun alternative to bleacher seats. The porch is open to the public, as is the seating on top of the bar. If it wasn’t 91 degrees and sunny, I would have watched the entire game from my seat above the bar. In much need of a way to cool off, imagine my surprise when I saw a public shower just chilling under the scoreboard. It was one of the features preserved from Comiskey Park and is there for just this purpose- cooling off fans. I didn’t go all the way in but splashed some water on my arms and shoulders before continuing on to the shade of the left field standing area. Behind this area are steps up to the Fundamentals area in the 500 concourse. This area is for kids 14 and under to work on their baseball skills.
After watching a few innings in the shade of the standing room I noticed the Miller Lite Bullpen Sports Bar behind right field and descended on the ramps to check it out. So neat! The bar abuts the visitor’s bullpen, both inside and outside. Man would I love to be in there during a big game, the heckling must be epic! The outside patio of the bar is two levels giving fans a close-up to the action on the field. While I was there, I met a security guard, Manny, who during his break gave me a quick tour of the suite and club level. He and really all the staff I met during this visit softened my dislike for the Sox. They were all so friendly!
After my tour of the suite level, I made my way up to the 400/500 level. That concourse was pretty empty on the wings but packed behind home plate. I liked the murals of the team’s history that covered the walls of the concourse. There was a lot of cool stadium art around the park, mainly at this level and in the ramps. The view from the 500 level seats is decent and this whole section was shaded, which was a plus on a day like this! I hung out here for a little taking in the rest of the almost endless action (Sox won 12-6) before heading back into the city to meet up with my cousins.
When I met up with my cousins at the Jackson stop, we walked to Millennium Park where I finally visited that infamous Bean. I’ve been to Chicago at least six times but never made it over here. I was missing out! The Bean is probably the best city sculpture ever constructed and Aubri told me it’s even better at night when all the buildings are lit up. Next to the Bean is an amphitheater that holds live concerts and down the street is Michigan Ave for shopping and the Navy Pier. All are great free options for family friendly entertainment.
For my trip to U.S. Cellular, I ended up spending $36 on gas, $5 on tolls into Chicago, $38 on a ticket, $10 on a metro card, and $28 on dinner and drinks (DMK Burger Bar– delicious). Spending $117 seems a little high, but really not bad considering the ticket makes up a big chunk of it. If I didn’t need free range of the park, I would have opted for the $18 upper bowl seat. If I wasn’t staying with my cousin I would have stayed at this awesome hotel in the city- Longman & Eagle or the Westin near the airport (conveniently on the Blue Line). This trip to the “Cell” was a pleasant surprise after my last trip and I definitely would consider another trip back. Preferably another Friday night game, the fireworks show is baller!