Part of the fun in visiting an MLB ballpark is experiencing the city it’s in. It’s your chance to see some sights, try the local fare, and take in the culture. An ongoing joke with my friend Liz is that our pictures should always “capture our essences.” I found many times ballparks did just this- they captured the cities they’re in’s essence. Going to the park is great (obviously, since it’s the reason you’re visiting) but don’t sell yourself short and miss out on the park’s inspiration! While I didn’t always get to fully explore the cities I visited since I was cramming in 30 parks, I did always make an effort to see what I could.
For those who are thinking, this is going to rack up my trip cost, I say “Not so fast my friend!” (yeah I just quoted Lee Corso, happens). Here are some ways to save when sightseeing in the cities of the NL Central… and even some free activities!
- Plenty of free sights to see in downtown Chicago- The Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park (free concerts on Mondays in the summer), and the Lincoln Park Zoo.
- Illinois residents can take advantage of free days each month from a plethora of Chicago’s renowned museums.
- Out of towners can use Gold Star to search for discounted tickets or purchase a City Pass for admission to 5 of Chicago’s most popular attractions including the Skydeck and Shedd Aquarium.
- The Chicago Children’s Museum offers free days and coupons making it easier to bring the whole family out.
- If you’re feeling very ambitious, purchase the Go Chicago Card. It gives you admission to 26 of Chicago’s must-see attractions for a fraction of the cost!
- Be sure to check the Student & Budget Travelers section of the Chicago tourism site. It includes tips, events, and even hotels and restaurants for those looking to save.
- Never a dull day in the Queen City when you can explore places like Sawyer Point Park, visit galleries and shops at Over the Rhine, enjoy live entertainment and fresh food at the Findlay Market, catch a movie or a band at Fountain Square, or enjoy live music at Party at the Park.
- Museum enthusiasts can enjoy some of Cincinnati’s best without spending a dime- Cincinnati Art Museum (free ever day), Contemporary Arts Center (free Mondays 5-9), or the Taft Museum of Art (free Sundays). For a discounted pass ($12.50 adult/$8.50 child) to the Cincinnati History Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science and Children’s Museum, visit Cincinnati Museum’s website.
- If Cincy isn’t enough for you, head across the Purple People Bridge (pedestrian bridge) to Kentucky and shop at Newport on the Levee or stroll over to Covington to get your German on in Main Strasse or take an architectural tour of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.
- Houston’s visitor site has a great list of free things to do and see in the city including- a Sam Houston Boat Tour of the harbor, watch a concert, play, or performance at the Miller Outdoor Theater (BYOB too!), check out the Menil Collection or the Art Car Museum, or get a free welcome tour of the city from a Houston Greeter.
- Many of the museums are free to the public like the Menil Collection, Art Car Museum, The Contemporary Arts Museum, The Holocaust Museum, and The Heritage Society. Many of the admission charging museums have free days to take advantage of.
- If you can’t make it to a free day or are looking to visit all of Houston’s hot spots, invest in the Houston CityPass. Again the Houston tourism site is a wealth of information and has plenty of coupons and discounts for visitors to use. This includes a 40% off Astros tickets discount code!
- What trip to Houston is complete without a trip to NASA? Buy tickets online and save $5.
- Yes there are other things to do in this city than drink ;)- splash around at one of the many beaches, take a tour of the Jelly Belly factory, enjoy live music at Jazz in the Park, explore one of the city’s many farmers markets, walk the Seven Bridges Trail, or visit the Joan of Arc Chapel.
- But visiting breweries is fun too! There are a bunch to choose from like Miller, Pabst, Big Bay, or Lakefront.
- County residents can enjoy free days at Mitchell Park Domes or Milwaukee Public Museum on Mondays, select days at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and the Milwaukee Art Museum on first Thursdays.
- For more deals and discounts to local attractions visit Milwaukee’s tourism site.
- Visit Pittsburgh lays out a ton of free (and rather fun) free activities and sights to see around the city- see the stars at the Allegheny Observatory, see the yellow arch at McDonald’s Big Mac Museum Restaurant, take in a free lunchtime concert Pittsburgh Opera’s Brown Bag Opera Concerts, stroll through the Cultural District, or enjoy the view from the Emerald View Park.
- Walking tours of Pittsburgh’s history and architecture are recommended to visitors. Print a map for free instead of paying for a tour guide.
- Living in Pittsburgh is a fantastic website/blog that keeps visitors up to date on free/inexpensive events going on in the Pittsburgh area. Definitely a site to check before your visit!
- The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the city’s most well-known attractions. Make sure to visit Friday night for half priced tickets. The Carnegie Museum of Art is another art staple and admission includes the National History Museum. Discounted tickets are available for the AWM and the CMOA.
St. Louis: (Cardinals)
- St. Louis is one of the best US cities when it comes to free attractions- take a tour of the Cahokia Mounds, people watch in the Citygarden, spend a day with the animals at the St. Louis Zoo, enjoy an outdoor concert at The Municipal Opera, take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, or see the Budweiser Clydesdales at Grant’s Farm.
- The following museums all offer complimentary admission to their general exhibits- the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, the Missouri History Museum, and the Museum of Westward Expansion (under the Gateway Arch).
- The Gateway Arch is free to visit and the park around the site is beautiful and provides great views of the Mississippi River. The trip up does cost adults $10, children $5. Book online and receive free parking at the Gateway Arch Parking Garage.
- Riding a riverboat is another given when visiting St. Louis and there are plenty of cruise options. Advanced purchase is recommended and they do provide group discounts.
- Check St. Louis’ tourism site for coupons and special offers to the city’s most popular attractions before visiting. There are even deals for Cards tickets!