Baseball road trip: Destination ballparks

Regardless of your team allegiance - or even if you're new to the sport - a road trip to one of the five baseball parks between Boston and Washington, D.C., can make for a fun summer trip. Ranging from historic to modern eco-friendly, they offer visitors a memorable setting in which to enjoy a baseball game. You can also take a guided behind-the-scenes tour to see the stadiums as the players do. Get there two hours before game time to watch batting practice and maybe catch a souvenir fly ball.

FENWAY PARK , 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, 877-733-7699, boston.redsox.mlb.com

THE DRAW Opened in 1912, historic Fenway is the grandpappy of all ballparks, where "the Babe pitched, The Kid hit, and Yaz dazzled." Over the years, more seats have been added atop the infamous 37-foot leftfield wall, the Green Monster. The scoreboard is still manually operated.

TICKETS $12-$325

TOURS 50-minute walking tours are held on the hour 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, until three hours before game time. Tickets are $10-$12 and sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Details at 617-226-6666.

EAT The concessions on the concourse levels sell ballpark fare - but it's the New England clam chowder that's not to be missed.

GOOD TO KNOW The red seat in the bleachers marks where a sleeping Yankees fan was beaned on June 6, 1946, by legendary Ted Williams' 502- foot hit, Fenway's longest homer ever. When the man awoke and was told what had happened, he switched and became a Red Sox fan.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE Keeping in historic mode, take a free self-guided walking tour along Boston's Freedom Trail to see American Revolution sites. Download a map at thefreedomtrail.org.

CITIZENS BANK PARK , One Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, 215-463-1000, philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com

THE DRAW The home of the latest World Series champs, this 4-year-old stadium has a 360-degree open-air design. You can see the Center City skyline, plus continuous views of the field from wherever you are. The "Angle" is the sharply slanted outfield wall, said to cause havoc for outfielders. The 50-foot neon Liberty Bell rings for every Phillies homer. You can peek into the bi-level bullpens to watch the pregame pitching warm-up.

TICKETS $16-$60

TOURS Reservations are required for 90-minute tours that take visitors past the Phillies' dugout and glass-enclosed batting cages, among other stadium highlights. In season, tours run daily at 10:30 a.m., and also at 12:30 p.m. when there's a night game (no tours on afternoon game days). Tickets are $9 ($6 ages 3-14); reserve at 215-463-1000 or via the team's Web site.

EAT This stadium has won awards for best ballpark and vegetarian fare. The Ashburn Alley concessions offer specials before game time - at Harry the K's, all hot dogs are $1. Bull's BBQ has an outdoor picnic area and claims baseball's biggest grill. Tony Luke's sells Philly cheesesteaks.

GOOD TO KNOW The ballpark's nickname is "The Vault." The National League's largest LED video-display scoreboard is here.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE Walk along the Historic District, and visit the real Liberty Bell in its new home The Liberty Bell Center - it's free! (600 Chestnut St., 215-965-2305, nps.gov/inde)

PNC PARK , 115 Federal St., Pittsburgh, 412-321-2827, pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com

THE DRAW The prime location and design make this ballpark special. Spectators get views of the downtown skyline, Roberto Clemente Bridge, and riverboats on the Allegheny. Since the Bucs have been Pittsburgh's ballclub for 115 years, the architects at HOK chose a classic look. This 8-year-old riverfront home is the first park in more than 50 years to be built with an intimate two-deck design. No seat is higher than 88 feet, giving fans clear sight lines of the field.

TICKETS $4.93-$210

TOURS Guided tours of the stadium are held at 10 a.m. and noon on evening game days - also 2 p.m. on nongame days and one Saturday a month. Tickets are $5-$7, available at the Pirates Ticket Office (corner of Federal and West General Robinson streets) or by phone, 412-325-4700.

EAT For a casual sit-down meal during the game, the new Trib Total Media Hall of Fame Club with its playing field views and outdoor patio is open to all ticket holders.

GOOD TO KNOW The right outfield wall is 21 feet high, in honor of late Pirates rightfielder No. 21 - Roberto Clemente. On game days, the bridge is closed to cars to welcome fans walking across to the ballpark. On select Sundays, kids younger than 15 can run the bases after the game.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE Visit brand-new Roboworld, America's biggest hands-on robotics exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center ($10-$14, One Allegheny Ave., 412-237-3400, carnegiesciencecenter.org).

ORIOLE PARK AT CAMDEN YARD , 333 W. Camden St., Baltimore, 888-848-BIRD, baltimore.orioles.mlb.com

THE DRAW Completed in 1992, "Birdland" is a converted railroad center with an arched brick facade. Inspired by Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds, the retro design incorporates the adjacent B&O Warehouse, the longest building in the East. This is the first park to have a terraced bullpen.

TICKETS $8-$80

TOURS Ninety-minute stadium tours are offered several times a day. Visitors typically see the Orioles' dugout, press levels, scoreboard control room and suite levels. Tickets are $9 ($7 ages 14 and younger). Reserve online or by phone, 410-547-6234.

EAT The concessions include three deli bars. Boog's BBQ, run by a former player, features the ballpark's signature dish. In the warehouse, try the Maryland crab cakes at Pastimes Café. Be part of the live pregame broadcast crowd at the Bud Light Warehouse Bar.

GOOD TO KNOW Babe Ruth's boyhood home stood where centerfield is now. Expect to dance to John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" during the seventh-inning stretch.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE Stroll the nearby Inner Harbor of "Charm City." Visit the new 4-D Immersion Theater and Dolphin Show at the National Aquarium ($19.95-$29.95, 501 E. Pratt St., 410-576-3800, aqua.org).

NATIONALS PARK , 1500 S. Capitol St. S.E., Washington, D.C., 202-675-6287, washington.nationals.mlb.com

THE DRAW "Get your Red on at Nats Town, " as Nationals fans say. Or they could say Green. Opened just last spring, this new high-tech Major League ballpark won the Silver Status award as America's first LEED-certified stadium. Besides the recycled building materials, the main concourse is at street level, with the field 24 feet below - that makes energy-sucking elevators and escalators almost unnecessary. Catch glimpses of the Anacostia River, Frederick Douglass Bridge and Capitol from the upper levels.

TICKETS $5-$335

TOURS Stadium tours last 60 to 75 minutes and are offered several times a day. Sites visited depend on whether it's a game day. Tickets are $15 ($12 ages 12 and younger), available at the box office or online.

EAT Of the 183 concessions, Ben's Chili Bowl is a fan favorite. The Red Porch Restaurant is open to all ticket holders - the most expensive seats include a gourmet buffet and access to three private clubs.

GOOD TO KNOW Nats Town has an eclectic guest list: Billy Joel and Elton John will perform the park's first concert July 11. Pope Benedict XVI offered Mass there last year.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE Explore the latest Milestones of Flight exhibit at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It's free (Independence Avenue at Sixth Street, 202-357-2700, nasm.si.edu).

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