by Gabby McMillen
When baseball fans think of their favorite pastime, they think of sitting in their home team’s stadium enjoying a ballpark hotdog as the summer sun beating down on them. For many baseball enthusiasts, the season arrives early with training and pre-season games taking over the state of Florida. The Grapefruit League
, made up of teams from all over the country flock to the Sunshine State during March to play ball and size other teams up before the baseball season begins in April. However, not every breathing moment for fanatics can be filled with baseball. Each team destination in Florida holds its own secret treasures for everyone to enjoy.
The tomahawk chop draws Braves fanatics from all over the country to Atlanta during the season. During training, Braves followers can see their heroes practice in Kissimmee
. Lovers of the wilderness can check out Florida Eco Safaris
, where visitors can take a coach ride through the eco-ranch to observe the many fauna and animals. Visitors can also ride horseback through the ranch with a guide to observe Florida’s seven ecosystems. The daring can see the ranch from above as they zip line
through the trees at up to 20 mph. People who aren’t as interested in the world of wildlife can visit the Kennedy Space Center Complex
, where they can see how the first man landed on the moon, see the components of a space shuttle, and even meet a real astronaut.
Baltimore Orioles fans can travel to Sarasota
to see their team warm up for the season. During hiatuses from baseball, Orioles travelers can have a taste of the circus aboard Big Top Tour Buses
. On this bus, a professional circus performer will lead the tour of the sites and special places that dubbed Sarasota the “Home of the Big Top”. On Sundays brunch is also available. Another fun attraction is the Golden Apple Dinner Theater
, where families can watch classic performances such as Oklahoma!
. The audience also receives a buffet-style dinner.
The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins share the city of Fort Meyers
during spring training. Twins and Red Sox enthusiasts can enjoy some beach fun at Bonita Beach Park
. It features a boardwalk and swimming holes with picnic areas and gazebos. The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium
boasts of 105 acres on the Lee Island coast. Many exotic birds reside in the Audubon Aviary, and the nature center hosts a variety of snakes, different insects, and the regions only planetarium.
The Detroit Tigers travels far south to Lakeland
to enjoy some sunshine as well as warm up for the season. Kids and adults alike can explore Legoland
, a theme park geared towards families as well as LEGO fanatics. Enjoy 150 acres of rides, shows, and everything LEGO. For a more laid-back day in Lakeland, baseball visitors can tour Fantasy of Flight
and view over 40 rare and vintage aircrafts restored to flying condition.
Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals followers are able to venture to Jupiter
to watch their teams gear up for the season. Of course, Cardinals fans will be praying for another stellar season and another World Series Championship. Jupiter has bragging rights to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
, where visitors can tour, enjoy the tranquility of scenic waterfalls and eat dinner at the museum restaurant. An active day can be spent by taking a fishing trip through Blue Heron Fleet
, which is family friendly and offers guided tours.
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter worshippers can follow their beloved New York Yankees to Tampa
. While visiting, art lovers can enjoy the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
, where artists can feature all forms of their artwork. It also includes an arts and craft workshop for children. For visitors with a love of everything Italian, the Italian Club of Tampa
hosts Festa Italiana
, where over 35 different Italian restaurants showcase their food and where live music is provided.
Lovers of the Phillies can venture to Clearwater
to watch their beloved team prepare for the 2012 season. The adventurous can dive to see the Pinellas #2 Reef
, where the Blackthorn and Sheridan boat wrecks can be seen. Adults with a love for wine
can join a taste tour and enjoy tasting stations, discount bottles of wine, and an array of cheeses, focaccia and flatbread pizzas.
The small town of Bradenton
on the Atlantic Coast plays host to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Early risers can take a tour to watch baby loggerhead turtles as they leave their nest and make their way to the ocean for the first time. The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
holds a variety of sea life, including rays, sharks, seahorses, and eels. It also houses a giant squid and has an area where visitors can pet starfish, rays and other sea animals.
The Tampa Bay Rays only have to travel a few hours to Port Charlotte
. This South Florida city houses the Gilchrist Park Waterfront Music Jam Session
, where tourists can listen to bluegrass, jazz, country and folk music. The park is waterfront and is free on Fridays. For those who like to explore, take one of three (or all three) self-guided walking tours
available in Punta Gorda.
The Toronto Blue Jays have journeyed thousands of miles to visit the small town of Dunedin
on the west coast of Florida for training. Blue Jay lovers are able to frequent Honeymoon Island
, where there is a state park that hosts picnic areas, areas for fishing, quiet swimming spots, and safe harbors. Active visitors can trek the renowned Pinellas Trail
, a 15-foot-wide, 40-mile haven for walkers, skaters and bikers. It runs straight through downtown Dunedin. Along the way, travelers can get a quick bite to eat from a local eatery or a cool drink.
Players for the Washington Nationals have traveled cross-country to the small coastal town of Viera
. Nationals fans can take an afternoon to look back on the history of our men in blue at the American Police Hall of Fame
. Tourists can see the set up of a crime scene, forensics lab and several interactive displays. The general public can also take a helicopter ride and use an indoor gun range. Visitors with a sweet tooth can visit Grimaldi’s Candy Factory Tour
, where guests can see how their chocolate is made and sample their famous chocolate chip cookies. Located in neighboring Rockledge, reservations are required for this tour.
Whether baseball devotees are in Florida for a couple of days or for all of spring training, each host town offers many things to keep everyone busy and entertained when not cheering on their favorite team.
photo credit: baseball glove, flickr, creative commons by theseanster93