Memorial Day 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, Aubri 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. Monday morning Aubri dropped me off at a Red Line stop and it was a quick ride north to Wrigley Field (Addison stop).
As soon as you exit the station, you’re in Wrigleyville and a stone’s throw to Wrigley Field. You can also take the Blue Line to the Addison stop and just outside the station hop on the #152 bus that will take you right to the ballpark. On weekends and night games fans can park at DeVry University for only $6 and ride the shuttle (CTA bus #154) to and from Wrigley. Another option for fans who don’t mind a bit of a walk is if you park far enough down Addison, you can score free street parking. My sister and I did that last year and the walk wasn’t bad, the neighborhood is really nice. There is parking next to the stadium for $25, but it’s very limited.
When you visit Wrigley, plan on making it an all-day experience, since Wrigleyville itself is an anomaly. Bars and restaurants line the streets around the ballpark and I have yet to see them not packed with Cubs fans. My favorite bars to visit are The Cubby Bear (can’t enter under 21, even for food) and Sluggers. The Cubby Bear is very open and has multiple levels and bars decked in Cubs memorabilia. Sluggers is right next door to The Cubby Bear and though the downstairs was packed when I went upstairs to play in the game room, it was completely empty. Batting cages by myself didn’t seem very fun, so I headed over to the ballpark.
Wrigley Field is really small compared to other baseball stadiums I’ve visited, so my walk around the park was rather quick. The outside is a hodgepodge of brick, fencing, stone, and green and tan steel. Short read brick walls line the outfield and the green bleachers hoover out over them. A large statue of Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray stands outside the bleacher gate (center field) and only fans with bleacher tickets can enter here. Behind right field is a large opening that allows fans passing by the park an almost a full view of the game action. Along the streets behind the outfield are old houses with bleacher seats on their rooftops. These are sold independently and usually in packages including unlimited drink and food, providing fans with a fun alternative to a game in the park.
There are multiple gates around the park for fans to enter- D (right field), K (left field), and the most popular F (home plate), due to its location under the iconic red marquee sign. To the left of the sign are plenty of ticket windows and where I stopped and bought my ticket for the game ($21.28). Across from this gate is The Cubs Store and the giant yellow noodle that made headlines earlier this season. There are statues of Cubs players around the park and next to Gate D is the Captain Morgan Club with a large patio and live music for fans to enjoy. This is also where many of the buses and shuttles line up after the game.
Once I entered the stadium from Gate F, I walked across the narrow concourse and up the steps to the 100/200 level to catch the end of the Padres batting practice. Wrigley Field is by far my favorite ballpark to visit, everything about it screams America’s past time. The park is so small and intimate, that even in the upper deck you feel like you’re right in the game action. I wish I could tell you there isn’t a bad seat in the house, but there are a ton of them thanks to the many poles holding up the upper level of the stadium (old ballpark fail). Make sure you check your ticket for obstructed view warnings, though chances are if you’re sitting in the 200 level, your view will be affected a little bit by these even if you’re not directly behind one.
I walked up along the wall to right field to get a closer look at the ivy that covers the outfield wall. Here is the only “video board” in the whole park and even it seems outdated by modern park standards. The main scoreboard sits atop the center field bleachers and is one of the focal points of the ballpark. The large green structure still keeps score of the game and scores across the country by hand (as does Fenway) and you better know how to tell time since the clock on top is analog. Both foul poles fly the Cubs’ retired jersey numbers and are adorned with the red words, “Hey Hey,” in tribute to legendary Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse. As I made my way around the infield I passed the two designated areas along the baselines for the bullpens before ending up in left field. I kid you not there was a group of guys pointing out the seat where Steve Bartman interfered with Moises Alou in 2003. My message to Cubs fans- let it go, guys, let it go! Shaking my head, I made my way down to the main concourse.
The concourse is very narrow and cramped with concession stands and apparel stores. On the corners of the outfield are entrances to the bleacher sections for those ticket holders and ramps up to the upper levels of the park. On the third baseline is a table for kids to make signs for their favorite Cubs player and on the first baseline is a booth for fans of all ages to pick up First Timer’s Certificates. There was a pretty long line for these, but it’s a cool way to commemorate your first visit to the ballpark. In the right field corner is the Sheffield Grill, which is a sit-down restaurant in the park.
I walked up the ramps behind home plate to the standing room that surrounds the 200 level seats to watch the game. The entire walkway around this level is free game for fans willing to stand, though you’re supposed to stay behind the yellow line (no one from the park seemed to care about this rule). There are great game action views from the first baseline and third baseline that are close to concession carts, but I decided to park myself behind home plate for half the game. I had a good view of the whole field of play, it was shaded, and the wind wasn’t as bad here. Wrigley is fairly close to the lake, so it gets really windy. If it’s not that warm of a day or a night game, bring a coat! Along the bottom of the suite level, there are plenty of TVs for fans to catch replays since there isn’t a video board. This also helps compensate for the obstructed views.
Around the 5th I did a quick sweep of the upper deck, running into a guy from high school (small world right?). The view from these seats is pretty decent, though again there is some obstruction from the poles. There isn’t any standing room up here because there’s no room for it. The only space on this level is a small concourse jammed with concessions under the press box. On the other side of this concourse is a door to a rooftop porch with a few more concessions and area for fans to loiter.
My stomach was rumbling, so I headed down to the main concourse to get a Chicago hot dog and soft pretzel. My hot dog was $6.50, the pretzel was $3.50, and my soda that came in a souvenir cup was $5.25. Wrigley is one of the more expensive parks to eat in, so if you bring your family, try to eat before the game or you’ll end up spending a lot in concessions.
After I got my food (took a bit for them to make the hot dog), I headed back up to the standing room just in time for the 7th inning stretch. This is what makes the trip to Wrigley complete! “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is led by a celebrity or athlete and the crowd is completely jubilant during it. Fans seemed to agree that this was the peak of the entertainment because as soon as it ended, most of the stadium cleared out.
I stayed until the end to make sure the Cubs clinched the victory, 11-7. Counting this game, the Cubs are 4-1 when I’ve been in attendance- should probably pay me to visit more! This game was a bit longer than I expected and there were eight home runs (including one by my man Alfonso Soriano!), wasn’t sure if I was watching baseball or t-ball. I rode the Red Line switching to the Blue Line at Jackson back to my cousin’s place before heading home.
For my trip to Chicago (both parks), I ended up spending $72 on gas, $10 on tolls, $59.28 on tickets, $10 on a metro card, and $43.25 ($194.53 in all). 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). No complaints from me about Wrigley Field. It is the Mecca of baseball parks and any fan of the game needs to plan a trip here asap! And to the jerks calling for its destruction, shame on you!