A quick and useful guide to making the most out of your trip to the desert
Pitchers and catchers report to Mariners’ spring training headquarters in Peoria, AZ., on Sunday, with position players due to arrive Feb. 18. The Mariners begin their spring training schedule on Feb. 27 in the annual charity game with the San Diego Padres (the Mariners will play 17 of those games in Peoria).
If you are heading — or thinking of heading — to the desert to watch spring training, Top 5 List has created a quick guide so that you will not have to wade through mountains of Googled irrelevancy to find what you want.
In a bonus Top 5 list, we offer, by way of Phoenix-area natives and veteran spring training attendees, a tutorial on what to do when you arrive in the Valley of the Sun, where to stay, where to dine, where to play golf and what not to miss.
WHERE TO STAY: There are more than a dozen hotels near the Peoria Sports Complex, where the Mariners (and San Diego Padres) train every spring. Here are five, starting with the most expensive: Residence Inn by Marriott is close to the Arrowhead Country Club (approximately $150 per night) . . . Hampton Inn Glendale/Peoria (it’s in what’s called “The New Times Square of the Desert” and runs about $110 per night; Glendale is where former Mariner Randy Johnson resides and the site of University of Phoenix Stadium) . . . Comfort Suites Peoria (it’s about one block from the complex and near Phoenix International Raceway and the Turf Paradise racetrack; about $100 per night) . . . La Quinta Inn and Suites (near the complex and Arrowhead Country Club; Victory Lane Sports Complex is also nearby; about $95 per night) . . . Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites (approximately $90 per night) is between the complex and Surprise Stadium, where the Kansas City Royals train.
RESTAURANTS: SPNWs John Hickey, a veteran gourmet as well as a veteran of numerous Arizona spring trainings, recommends Tee Pee (its on Camelback in Phoenix and serves, according to John, “very down-home” Mexican); Don & Charlies (a legendary Scottsdale spot with great baseball memorabilia on the walls; lots of baseball people go there for steaks, ribs and lamb chops); Cutters (in Peoria, about a half mile from the Mariners facility, and serves steaks); Tuchettis (in Phoenix on Camelback: good Italian); Abuellos (in Peoria about a half mile from the Mariners facility. Specialty of the house is “Los Mejores”, a succulent combination of wood-grilled, bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin medallions and bacon-wrapped shrimp, stuffed with fresh jalapeño and blended cheeses). Note: If you are a first timer to spring training and can only choose one of the above establishments, make it Don & Charlie’s. It has been a popular hangout for decades. It was at Don & Charlie’s that Lou Piniella used to hold court while he managed the Mariners.
DESERT GOLF: The Greater Phoenix area has more than 200 golf courses. SPNWs Bob Sherwin, who is still trying to break 80, recommends Palm Valley and 500 Club. Palm Valley is located minutes from downtown Phoenix and is one of the most complete golf facilities in the Southwest. Of the 500 Club, the Arizona Republic wrote, “The 500 Club offered a positive experience from start to finish. The whole course has a ton of spectacular holes” . . . Golf Digest awarded a five-star rating (out of five) to the Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia, remarking, “Superb. Golf at its best. Pay any price to play it once in your life” . . . Westbrook Village Golf Course features the “Lakes”, a traditional golf course, and “Vistas,” a links-style course . . . Two of the area’s better courses are found in Scottsdale at Troon North Golf Course, which is actually two courses, “Pinnacle” and “Monument.” Golf Magazine raters ranked Pinnacle as the No. 1 course in Arizona and No. 21 in the nation.
ATTRACTIONS / AMUSEMENTS: Our Phoenix-area contacts recommend the following: When you are not watching games or gobbling guacamole, Take a Hot Air Balloon Sunrise Flight and check out the painted desert . . . Take a day trip (at least four hours one way) to the mother of all natural attractions, the Grand Canyon . . . Take a drive north from Peoria to Sedonas inspiring Red Rock Country and browse the shops and galleries . . . south and east toward Tucson, take a sunset tour of the Sonoran desert, which comes with champagne and a Cajun shrimp cocktail . . . Try the Four Peaks Hummer Tour: you’ll ride in the shadow of Arizona’s most majestic peaks. You’ll see Saguaro Lake, Weaver’s Needle, Superstition Mountains, cactus and wildlife . . . Experience Phoenix: here’s a tour that will take you to see the major sights in Phoenix and Scottsdale, and you will visit the Heard Museum of Native American Culture . . . Take a trip to Tortilla Flat: Leaving from Phoenix, follow the scenic Apache Trail (Route 88) at the base of the Superstition Mountains (somewhere in those mountains, supposedly, is the Lost Dutchman Mine). You’ll visit Goldfield Ghost Town and have time for lunch and browsing at Tortilla Flat . . . The Desert Botanical Garden, recommended by Julia Akoury Thiel, who shot many of the photographs in our Destinations pages, is located in Phoenix and is home to one of the world’s most spectacular living collections of the world’s desert plants.
TICKETS / RESOURCES: You can purchase tickets to Mariners games via the Mariners website . . . tickets can also be purchased by calling 800-677-1227, or in person at the Peoria Sports Complex box office located at 16101 N. 83rd Ave., Peoria, AZ., 85382 . . . Individual game tickets are from $6 to $23 . . . Check out the Mariners Cactus League schedule here . . . Cactusleague.com features a story about the history of the Cactus League . . . The Mariners have participated in the two most-attended games in Cactus League history. Check out the top 20 biggest Cactus League crowds . . . .Daylight Savings Time goes into effect on Sunday, March 13, but Arizona does not change its clocks. As a consequence, through March 12, Arizona will be on Mountain Time and all the games will start at 1:05 MT and 12:05 PT.