In Travel & Visitors Guide

Hope springs eternal at Maryvale, Cactus League home of the Brewers.

In Travel & Visitors Guide

It's easy to get very close to the action, too.

2009 Brewers Spring Training guide

Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on March 3, 2009 at 5:22 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.

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Tickets range in price at the various ballparks (at Maryvale, they sell from $8 to $21), but here's an insider's tip: buy the cheapest ticket you can find. At most parks, including Maryvale, the outfield is called the berm, a sloped grassy area where you can spread out and watch the game from a relaxing incline. If you position yourself in the right place, catching home run balls is quite doable -- different teams draw bigger crowds, but not surprisingly, the attendance is frequently sparse at Brewers games -- which means it's easy to take home a souvenir.

If you want a real seat, just play it cool and sit somewhere that isn't occupied. With the exception of Cubs games at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, these games rarely sell out, and the laid-back ushers really don't mind where you plop yourself down and catch some sun.

You'll notice a big difference from Miller Park if you find yourself sitting in a real seat, however: the proximity to the field. The Cactus League ballparks are more than just intimate; you'll almost feel like you are sitting on the field. Foul balls are a plenty, so keep your eye on the game and bring your glove.

If possible, plan your trip around days when the Brewers play a mix of home and away games. All of the stadiums have their own unique charm, but some of the nicest parks include the Angels' Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Cubs' HoHoKam Park, the Royals' and Rangers' Surprise Stadium and the Giants' Scottsdale Stadium.

Beyond baseball

A week of sun and baseball may tire you out, but the fun doesn't stop after sundown in Phoenix. Tempe, the home of Arizona State University, sports a thriving collegiate nightlife, while Phoenix and Scottsdale offer a more upscale bar experience. If you must take a break from baseball, you can try a number of side trips. Some worth noting:

Daytrip to Nogales, Mexico: If you're in Tucson for a Brewers game (March 11 vs. the White Sox, March 18 vs. the Diamondbacks or March 23 vs. the Rockies), drive a little farther south to Nogales. You can walk across the border and shop or just take in the sights. Critics will tell you Nogales isn't "real Mexico," and they have a point, but it's a fun change from the ordinary. If you are really adventurous, plan a trip to Puerto Penasco (a.k.a. Rocky Point) three hours southeast in Sonora, Mexico. Just make sure you go during ASU's Spring Break.

Climb Camelback Mountain: Considered a novice climbing experience, it's still plenty challenging. Clear away a couple hours of your schedule for the free and breathtaking experience just north of Phoenix.

Play some golf on one of Arizona's 300 courses: Considered one of the world's top spots, it's a fair bet you haven't been able to break out your clubs in Milwaukee for months. Here's a link to our 2008 course review; stayed tuned for a 2009 review.

Visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, the architecture school built by Wisconsin's own Frank Lloyd Wright: It's just as beautiful as the Spring Green original but completely different. Take the tour, it's well worth it. Wright also designed Tempe's Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium.

Drive north to Sedona, a beautiful artist community near Flagstaff: It's a few hours, but it's well worth it. The landscape is like nothing you'll see in Wisconsin. Simply breathtaking and totally romantic.

Check out the cultural events the Phoenix / Scottsdale area has to offer: More info is available at the Arizona Department of Tourism Web site, arizonaguide.com.

If you get homesick: There are a surprising number of connections between Wisconsin and Arizona. Milwaukee custard king Karl Kopp owns an upscale restaurant called AZ88 in Scottsdale. He also opened a new restaurant in Phoenix this year called Hanny's. If you are a Packers fan (even out of season), there are several bars and restaurants in the Phoenix area that list themselves backers of the Green and Gold. The Buffalo Chip Saloon in Cave Creek was owned by Marla McGee, the daughter of Max, former Packers' wide receiver and radio color commentator. And a former Bayside couple owns two delis is Scottsdale called Kashman's Place.

No matter how you plan your trip, keep this phrase in mind, "It's spring training for everyone." Keep your schedule flexible and take the opportunity to relax. It's a sure bet you'll come back tan, rested and ready for the start of the 2009 baseball season with renewed passion for your Milwaukee Brewers.

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