Ballparks: Scottsdale Stadium; Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (pictured below).
Teams: San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks
Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers, unite. With 330 days of sunshine a year, Scottsdale is the perfect place to banish the winter blues and emerge from baseball hibernation. The San Francisco Giants, newly minted World Series champs, play downtown at Scottsdale Stadium, and the Rockies and Diamondbacks will be premiering their new ballpark Salt River Fields at Talking Stick -- the first Major League Baseball spring training facility located on sacred Native American grounds. Our bet? The bats (and the balls) will really sing here.
Scottsdale combines two great American sports loves: Baseball and golf. With more than 200 golf courses in the Phoenix metropolitan area, there’s no end in sight to beautifully manicured greens, whether they are pocked with bunkers, or geometric lines of sand. But be forewarned: Scottsdale desert greens are infamous for initiating a new breed of the game: Target golf -- the maddening test of rainbowing shots in, over and near a flagpole surrounded by cacti, sagebrush and arroyos.
Go the Distance
The Metro Light Rail is all you need to get around Scottsdale, and the 76 bus line will take you to the entrance of Scottsdale Stadium. Renting a car is probably the best bet to transport you and your entourage to Salt River Fields, which sits on a huge tract of land.
Here are some creative alternatives to the high-end hotels in Scottsdale. Live it up like a player in the full-service condominium residence, Xona Resort Suites -- which provides all the comforts of home and a 2011 Cactus League package ($279, plus $50 dining credit, and a connecting bedroom for $129 a night).
The boutique Hotel Indigo Scottsdale is an antidote for those who view the resort scene as an anathema, and for a three-night stay you’ll receive a $50 gift certificate at Don and Charlie’s restaurant.
Recently renovated, and popular with the Giants’ players, the swinging Hotel Valley Ho is a mid-century modern resort that may charge steep prices, but for the late night reveler, they offer a sweet spring training deal that includes a 14 percent discount ($249/night), with all-inclusive breakfasts at highly touted breakfast joint Café Zuzu, VIP nightclub access to several hot party spots, and a Westcor shopping discount for the ladies.
The pickings are good and foodstuffs plenty near the Scottsdale Stadium -- the ideal location for a night of cheering Timmy Lincecum (or sporting a beard à la Brian Wilson) and noshing on some quality food. Try the southern stylings of Lolo’s Chicken and Waffles, which has been openly endorsed by Charles Barkley and other traveling athletes who make it a regular pit stop. The signature Lo-Lo’ s, priced at only $11 for a three-piece southern fried chicken and double-decker waffles, might just be the best thing since Domino’s pizza to absorb the six beers that somehow managed to be funneled into your stomach.
Don and Charlie’s is also a winner with the jocks and the place to be seen -- the steakhouse/BBQ joint is practically a sports museum in its own right, with enough memorabilia to justifying making an anonymous call to A&E’s Hoarders.
Strike out for The Mission Restaurant and Lounge a block away from the Giants, and rally for a nightcap at this modern Latin spot with some top-shelf tequila cocktails and fancy nibbles.
Out of Sight
With so many courses contiguous to one another, Scottsdale is practically one gigantic driving range and golfer’s paradise. Two bargain tracks for getting in a round are The TPC Scottsdale (Champions) and Papago Municipal. Golf pros tag the Champions as a must-play for the Phoenix area, especially after the course received an extreme makeover. Troon North is the crown jewel of the Scottsdale public courses, offering stunning views of Pinnacle Peak and the dramatic mountain backdrop.
Art aficionados can stroll down North Drinkwater Boulevard from Scottsdale Stadium and revel in the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art’s (SMoCA) sleek architectural lines. The Desert Botanical Gardens are a can’t-miss, and even better, you’ll learn how to name-drop all the exotic-sounding flora and fauna native to Arizona just like the locals.
Bump and grind your way over to Axis/Radius, which as its namesake suggests, offers two dance clubs in one. A cigar bar and a swanky VIP lounge make this club a favorite for Suns’ players like Steve Nash and Amar’ e Stoudemire.
The Pink Pony closed last year but has re-opened under new ownership. Pat Gallagher, former Giants president and chairman emeritus of the San Francisco Convention and Tourism Bureau, shared a bit of Scottsdale lore on the Pony: "This old steakhouse and bar boasted big steaks, waitresses with beehive hairdos, and two wines on the list (a red and a white, both chilled). Billy Martin used to hold court at the bar, with Chub Feeney, Bill Rigney, Ron Fimrite, Bruce Jenkins, David Bush, Mickey Morabito, Mike Murphy and anybody who was anybody from the Giants, A's, Cubs.”