Have you noticed traffic getting worse throughout the Valley already? Maybe you've seen some of the older snowbirds begin to leave and a new crowd of visitors take over the Phoenix area's streets, highways, restaurants, malls, and bars. If you have, then you likely don't even have to check your calendar to see what time of the year it is.
You already know that Cactus League spring training is coming.
With 15 Major League Baseball organizations taking over 10 different stadiums, spring training is one of the busiest times in metro Phoenix. It's a chance for much of the country to escape frigid February and March temperatures and get an early look at the baseball teams they'll cheer on for the rest of the year. It's also an opportunity for the Valley to show off everything it has to offer to a crowd that otherwise might never see it.
Areas including Old Town Scottsdale and Glendale's Westgate Entertainment District will be crawling with fans, and hotels from Talking Stick Resort to Goodyear will likely be full for the better part of March. Businesses will be counting on the extra baseball-related income to last them through the slower summer months, and uninterested Valley residents will be cursing the amount of traffic on the 101 (and all the drunk tourists at their favorite clubs and dive bars).
Make the best of it, and ask all of your now-crowded preferred spots if they've got any deals going on for the preseason.
Whether you're in it for America's favorite pastime of baseball or America's favorite hobby of drinking excessively, we put together a guide with everything you need to know about the Cactus League.
When and Where: Cactus League games begin on Friday, February 23 (practices are already underway) and end on Tuesday, March 27. They take place at stadiums all over the Valley. Both a schedule of all the games and a map of the stadiums are available through the Cactus League website.
Price: Prices vary by stadium and section, but lawn seats (which are perfect if you don't actually plan on watching the game) typically cost around $10. If you can find a game that has them available, seats behind home plate will set you back roughly $50, and there are numerous options for suites and packages, if you're looking to spend a lot more. Your best bet is to visit the Cactus League website for tickets, which are categorized by team, or check Craigslist and/or eBay, if they're sold out.
Teams: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers
Age Limits: Spring training games are family-friendly affairs. Sure, there are beer garden-like areas at many stadiums. But bottom line: You're just at a baseball game. Kids often have luck getting autographs and seeing their favorite players up close, so bring your Little League star.
Getting There: Leave early and prepare to pay for parking. Scout nearby parking ahead of time and use it to your advantage. If you're going to Uber or Lyft, expect a surge around the start and end of game times. Your best bet for ridesharing is to go early, grab lunch (or dinner) near the park, walk in, and then grab a beer or seven after the game while the surges die out. Don’t forget that, depending on the stadium you're visiting, the Valley Metro Rail can be your friend, too.
Parking: Most stadiums have plenty of parking available, but it'll be a pain to get in and out, and probably cost you some dough (like any other sporting event). If you can, park in a nearby neighborhood and walk a few blocks. It’ll likely be faster than the time it takes getting out of the lot. But be courteous – and aware of signage.
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Weather: It's Arizona in February and March. Which means if you're going to a late game, you might want a jacket. But during the day, you'll probably need sunscreen and, let's face it, a tank top. Check the weather on whatever you're using to read this.
Bring: Sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, and other sunburn-preventing devices to day games. Maybe a Sharpie and a ball or something for players to autograph if you're into that kind of thing. It's a baseball game – you've probably at least seen part of one on TV. Side note: This is also the one time it’s slightly acceptable for an adult to bring a baseball glove to a game.
Don't Bring: Any of the dozens of things most stadiums outlaw. Check the stadiums' sites for specific lists, but obviously things like weapons, drugs, and giant coolers should be left in the car.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version, which first appeared in February 2016. Josh Chesler and Lauren Cusimano contributed to this article.