One of the most fantastic things about baseball, to me, is how unique each ballpark is.
No park in the majors has the same dimensions as another. The distance from home to left, the height of the wall in center and the amount of foul territory are all different from city to city.
Please note: I'm leaving out the big ones that everyone knows about, such as Fenway, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley. Those are must-see venues in your lifetime if you're a huge baseball fan. I got to see a game at old Yankee Stadium and it was one of the best baseball experiences in my life. This list is not meant to slight those places, but instead to tell you about some of the other great parks in the country.
If you've got some time to blow this summer, perhaps consider a road trip to see some of the gems of the game.
Here's a look at some of the best stadiums to visit, starting in the Emerald City.
Opened in 1999 to replace the Kingdome, the Seattle Mariners now play baseball outside on most nights.
When rain strikes, a push of a button closes the roof. Fans are not only protected from the elements, but they also don't have to deal with rain outs and rescheduling.
When the roof is closed, there are still large, open areas in left and center fields. You'll still need a sweater or blanket on a chilly night, but this retains the feeling of an outdoor game even when closed.
The sweeping views of Elliott Bay and downtown from Lookout Landing provide one of the more beautiful sights from a ballpark. These days, those views are better than the product on the field.
Food? Yeah, we got food. Grounders garlic fries are a favorite. If you like sushi, try a spicy tuna roll aptly named the "Ichiroll." Out in "The 'Pen" beyond the wall in center, you'll find new premium cuisine. I checked out "APizza" and had a slice of both the White Pizza with broccoli on it and the standard pepperoni. Both delicious.
After the game, Seattle Center is a good destination. Go up the Space Needle for a view of the Emerald City, or check out the exhibits at the Experience Music Project or Pacific Science Center. Don't forget to stop by Pike Place Market to watch a fish toss or shop for trinkets.
Home of the reigning world champions, AT&T Park became the home of the San Francisco Giants in 2000 after moving out of Candlestick Park.
The grimy, more-football-friendly confines of Candlestick Park were replaced with an opened outfield with brick facing and backed by McCovey Cove.
You can watch the game from inside the park, or brave the chilly water in a kayak and scramble for a home-run ball splashing into the cove.
You can chow on some garlic fries from Gilroy's or sip a brew at Murph's Irish Pub.
After the game, enjoy one of the best cities in America. Ferry over to iconic Alcatraz Island, wind down Lombard Street and check out the fare at Fisherman's Wharf.
This is truly one of the more uniquely-stadiums in baseball.
A modern-looking park with an old feel wedged in, there's an old warehouse that the stadium was built around. What a fantastic way to retain some of the look of the area pre-Petco.
Randy Jones BBQ and Rubio's fish tacos will fill your tummy while you take in a game at this spacious park, which also has a wonderful skyline beyond the outfield.
After the game, what should you do? Hey, it's San Diego! What else? Hit the beach, grab a drink and enjoy the sun! If you need to amuse the kiddos, you can't go wrong with the famous San Diego Zoo.
This certainly isn't a fancy new ballpark, having opened in 1962, but what Dodger Stadium lacks in pretty new looks, it makes up for everywhere else.
Situated prominently in Chavez Ravine, the park has one of the nicest backdrops in baseball beyond its center-field fence and seats, especially on a smog-free day.
You won't be staring at skyscrapers or warehouses. Regardless of being in the second-largest market in the country, you have rolling hills, trees and even some mountainous areas on those clear days.
You want food? What on earth would you eat other than a Dodger Dog?
After the game, you have endless options in the city of Angels. You can't go wrong with the Hollywood sign, Walk of Fame or Disneyland. The amount of non baseball-related activities makes a visit to Dodger Stadium that much better.
This is a gorgeous and unique park, but one you'll want to visit in April or September.
In the summer months, it can get far too hot to be enjoyable. If you go in one of the cooler months, though, you'll get mild weather, clear skies and a pleasurable backdrop.
Inside and out, the design just feels like a ballpark, but also somehow like an old fort or something way bigger than just baseball.
You can sit in the outfield and scramble for a home-run ball on Greene's Hill. Munch on some super nachos or a turkey leg.
When the game's final out is recorded, you can take the short 24-mile jaunt to Dallas for a host of activities. Check out the Zero Gravity Theme Park, Botanical Gardens or World Aquarium. Dallas isn't a small town, so you won't be bored.
The Twins ushered in their new ballpark in 2010, and what a beauty it is.
Teams are really starting to get it right with these newer stadiums, and Target is no exception. It has the unobstructed views from anywhere in the park, the downtown backdrop and lots of bathrooms and concession stands.
Not to mention, no roof! Outside baseball in Minnesota!
You've got to check out Kramarczuk for a sausage or brat, especially the "Hungarian" with sweet paprika. Or try some Asian Wok or wild rice soup at some of the other stands. This is becoming more popular at ballparks, and Target Field hits a home run: the food selection is so much better than standard hot dogs or fries.
When the game has ended, take a walk around Lake Harriet at sunset, check out the Mill City Farmer's Market or, of course, there's the Mall of America. This isn't your standard shopping mall. It's enormous and even comes with a roller coaster.
Miller Park feels so huge with its massive clam-shell roof and interior structure.
The glass backing beyond center would have been great to leave open like Safeco Field did, but that doesn't mean it's not a cool look as is.
There are great seats all over, but make sure you're in a good spot to see Bernie take a trip down the slide in left field after a home run. Also, don't miss the mascot race. It's silly, yes, but part of the allure of this park.
For food, you're in Milwaukee! Have a brat and a beer.
After the game, check out the Harley Davidson Museum, Pabst Mansion and Basilica of St. Josaphat just to name a few.
Why not see a ballgame in the neighborhood where Babe Ruth grew up? Just come in summer so you aren't facing a rainout.
Camden Yards opened in 1992. It's now one of the older "new" ballparks, and regardless of its retro look, it doesn't feel old and cramped like Fenway or old Yankee Stadium.
The warehouse beyond the fence in right field adds to this retro look, making you really feel like you're in old-town Baltimore. You can find a plaque situated where Ken Griffey Jr.'s ball hit during the Home Run Derby.
Chow on a BBQ beef sandwich from Boog's or a pretzel from Uncle Ted's. Outside the stadium there's also Pickle's Pub, a great pre-or-post-game destination.
Afterwards, check out The Walter's Art Museum. If you're not into art, Urban Pirates is a fun cruise you can take in the harbor on a pirate ship. You also can't go wrong visiting the USS Constellation or the National Aquarium.
You're not going to see a a lot of great baseball by the hometown team, but their ballpark is gorgeous and makes the stop worth it.
The downtown backdrop, with the Roberto Clemente bridge sandwiched between, take you back to a time when the Pirates were a force.
The toothbrush lights and intimate setting really add to the feel of this great venue. We just wish the on-field product was a worthy match.
If your tummy is grumbling, snag a chicken bruschetta or The Big Cheese Rip & Dip.
When the 27th out is called, venture out to the Carnegie Science Center, Children's Museum or National Aviary.
For the final stop on our trip, we hit a a place that has beauty and the beasts wrapped into one.
The exterior and interior of Citizen's Bank Park are gorgeous and unique. On the field, you have the potential for one of the best rotations of all-time.
The partial downtown and partial suburbia backdrop is a nice mix.
For food, if you're not going to have one anywhere else in Philly, you'd better grab a cheesesteak. Just make sure to look for a good one. The more stuff spilling off the top, the better.
When the game is over, you're in one of the more important cities in our nation's history. You'll need to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and all those iconic and historic founding sites. Morris Arboretum is a fun place for the family.