Spring Training with Kids: Plan Your Baseball Trip for 2024 and Beyond

Cathy Bennett Kopf Avatar
Crowd on lawn at Scottsdale Stadium, a Cactus League MLB spring training site

There’s nothing better than planning a spring family vacation to some place warm and sunny like Arizona or Florida in the dead of winter. And, if your family is into softball or baseball, a spring training trip is a great way to kick off a new season.

The MLB spring training season typically begins in February and continues until the regular season on Opening Day in late March or early April. This year, a number of exhibition games at Major League ballparks will be played beginning on Sunday, March 24 through Tuesday, March 26. The 2024 regular season will begin with all 30 clubs playing their opening game of the season on Thursday, March 28, 2024.

Here’s what you need to know to plan a family vacation to one of the MLB spring training sites across the US. Choose the Arizona Cactus League or Florida’s Grapefruit League and get ready for fun in the sun. The ballparks are intimate and the tickets are cheap(er).

Field view of George M. Steinbrenner field, spring training for NY Yankees
George M. Steinbrenner Field is the spring training home of the NY Yankees. Photo credit: Pixabay/Michelle_Raponi

Choose the Cactus League or the Grapefruit League

There are two spring training leagues. The MLB Cactus League teams practice and play in Arizona and the Grapefruit League teams play in Florida. Two decisions will factor into your family’s choice of destination.

First, where does your favorite baseball team play? The Grapefruit League teams in Florida are:

  • Atlanta Braves – Venice
  • Baltimore Orioles – Sarasota
  • Boston Red Sox – Fort Myers
  • Detroit Tigers – Lakeland
  • Houston Astros – West Palm Beach
  • Miami Marlins – Jupiter
  • Minnesota Twins – Fort Myers
  • New York Mets – Port St. Lucie
  • New York Yankees – Tampa
  • Philadelphia Phillies – Clearwater
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Bradenton
  • St. Louis Cardinals – Jupiter
  • Tampa Bay Rays – Port Charlotte
  • Toronto Blue Jays – Dunedin
  • Washington Nationals – West Palm Beach

The Arizona Cactus League celebrates its 77th anniversary in 2024. And, unlike the Florida teams which are spread out all over the Sunshine State, the Cactus League teams are centrally located in the Metro Phoenix area. Here’s the lineup:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Oakland Athletics
  • San Diego Padres
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers

What if there’s a conflict? Let’s say you are diehard fans of the 2021 World Series champion Atlanta Braves who train in Florida, but you just found cheap airline tickets to Phoenix. What’s a baseball-loving family to do?

Try to woo the kiddos to check out the Cactus League by dangling the opportunity to see Los Angeles Dodgers’ phenom Shohei Ohtani up close and personal. Or give in and shell out for higher cost tickets to Florida.

Dual water slides at the kid-friendly Tower Pool at the Wigwam Resort in Arizona
Dual water slides at the kid-friendly Tower Pool at the Wigwam Resort. Photo credit: The Wigwam

Where to Stay for Spring Training Season

Whether you choose a family resort, campsite or Airbnb for your spring training trip depends on a number of factors. If you’re traveling with a large number of kids or you’re bringing Grandma and Grandpa, a vacation rental might be more practical. You’ll have all the comforts of home, including a full-size kitchen for meal prep, if you’re looking to save some cash. And you’ll have a backyard to practice the throws, hits and catches you saw at the game.

Or, if your vacation plan includes plenty of downtime spent relaxing poolside or at the beach, a kid-friendly family resort might be a better choice. These are our favorite family resorts in Arizona and these are the ones we recommend in Florida. 

Prefer to get back to nature when you’re not at the ballpark? Whether you prefer traditional camping or favor a little bit of glamping pampering, there are options for you too.

Include Spring Training on a Longer Road Trip

Maybe you’re only interested in going to one or two games as part of a family road trip. Here are two options:

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon: A stop for a spring training game is a fun activity to include on an Arizona road trip. Because most of the Cactus League games are centrally located in the metro Phoenix area, it’s an easy option to include on the front or tail end of a trip to see the Grand Canyon.

Spring Training Near Disney World: The Atlanta Braves used to hold spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista. That ended in 2019. So, fly in or out of Tampa before heading to Disney World. There are several spring training sites in the area and the Tigers stadium is on the route to Orlando.

How Much Does it Cost to Go to a Spring Training Game?

If you’ve shied away from taking the kids to a Major League baseball game because of the high ticket prices, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of spring training tickets.

Although ticket prices vary from team to team, you’ll find they’re substantially less expensive than what you’d pay for a regular season game. For example, you might have to take out a loan to attend a NY Yankees game in the Bronx. Field level tickets for a Saturday May game vs. the White Sox will run you about $235 … each. That’s just for the tickets. But you can sit close to the action at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for about $50 on weekdays and $70 on weekends.

Look for packages and promotions too. Based on past seasons, you might find dog-friendly days at the ballpark, combo ticket/meal packages or St. Patrick’s Day specials.

Open Practice Times

Major League spring training games are substantially cheaper than their regular season counterparts. But, there are also opportunities to see your favorite players for FREE during the annual warmups in Florida and Arizona.

Open practice times are held by the teams. You can watch the pitchers practice their curve balls and the sluggers take BP – that’s batting practice for the rookies. The best resource for dates and times are the individual stadium websites.

What to Bring to a Spring Training Game

Sunscreen. Hats. SPF clothing. This is particularly important if you are heading to Florida or Arizona directly from your living room couch in Chicago or New York. Your skin will welcome the sun’s rays for about five minutes. And then it will revolt. It’s one of the biggest mistakes northerners make on warm weather vacations in the winter!

I highly recommend choosing seats on the shady side of the stadium you’ll be visiting. You won’t squint and sweat your way through the game. Check the stadium website for shade information. For example, the Peoria Sports Complex, spring training home to the Padres and Mariners, notes that shaded seating is available in Club Seat sections 305-308 and Upper Box sections 309-319 with additional availability in Upper Box sections 200-215, 217 and 219, rows HH and above.

More fun things to bring? Team jerseys, of course. And mitts. Unlike regular season games in gigantic stadiums, your chances of catching a foul ball at a spring training game are pretty good. My kids brought a dozen back to their grandparents’ house after one Tampa Yankees game.

If you’re going to the Grapefruit League games in Florida, don’t forget cool weather and rain gear too.

Best Chance to See Your Favorite Major League Player?

Get to the game before the opening pitch. The superstars may only play a few innings, just like during preseason football games. However, my kids never noticed that they were watching no name players trying to make the team. The worst player on a MLB team is still awe-inspiring to a Little Leaguer.

If you get there early, you might be able to snag an autograph. Have a ball and a Sharpie ready and hang out along the field level fence. We’ve found the bullpen pitchers particularly eager to sign.

Also, keep an eye on your kids. If you note them losing interest, don’t hesitate to pick up and go. Remember, you’re not walking out on pricey tickets. Better to miss a few innings than to run the risk of a junior meltdown.

Safety First

The spring training stadiums are small, compared to major league ballparks. That means balls, and possibly bats, can come jetting into the seats.

Be alert at all times.

Kid-Friendly Fun at Spring Training Ballparks

Be sure to check stadium maps to scope out the family amenities available before heading to the stadium. Some have lawn seating. That’s a great option if you’re going to a game with toddlers. Why not give your littles the space to enjoy a 7th inning stretch for the whole game?

Other spring training complexes have play areas like the Detroit Tigers’ home in Lakeland, Florida. Publix Field has a kids’ playground, complete with a Tiger bounce house and whiffle ball field.

Taken a spring training baseball trip with kids? Got tips? Share them in the comments below.

Cathy Bennett Kopf serves as the Daily Editor of SheBuysTravel, reporting to Editor-in-Chief Cindy Richards. She began travel writing after serving as the unofficial (and unpaid) vacation coordinator for hundreds of family and friend trips. She launched her blog, The Open Suitcase, in 2012 and joined the SBT (formerly TravelingMom) team in 2016. A lifelong resident of New York, Cathy currently resides in the scenic Hudson River Valley. She’s a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the International Travel Writers Alliance and TravMedia.
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