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Fly to Mesa for the Spring Training Opener at the New Cubs Park

This week: A travel website smackdown, a fun President’s Day hotel deal, and five tips for easier flying

Warm up for summer at the Cubs’ new $99 million field in Arizona   Photo: Courtesy of Foskett Creative Photography

For some, the light at the end of a long winter is baseball’s spring training season. This year, Cubs fans who travel to Mesa, Arizona will get a special treat: The team’s new 15,000-seat training facility, Cubs Park (2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy.), which opened in January.

The $99 million complex spans 140 acres across a former golf course and includes seven side practice fields and some 5,000 parking spaces. There’s also an 88-foot tall video board, luxury suites, two party decks, a pathway from the clubhouse to the field for close-up views of the players, and, nods to Wrigley Field, such as a left field Budweiser deck with rooftop seating. A smattering of local food trucks will line up during the games just beyond the center field wall, and, nearby, visitors can also have fun at the new Mesa Riverview Park, an awesome city park with a 300-foot rock climbing wall, 75-foot-zip line, and 50-foot rope climbing tower.

On Thursday, February 27, the Cubs play the Arizona Diamondbacks for the first home game at the park. Can’t make it to the season opener? Sixteen more are scheduled through the end of March, including a final game against the White Sox on March 27. (Check the full training schedule here.) Game tickets go for $8 to $38, roundtrip fares to Phoenix are less than $200 through March, and temps in sunny Mesa are hitting the upper 70s. Why wouldn’t you go?

Where to stay: There are many hotels nearby in Mesa but make the 20-minute drive to the 740-room Arizona Biltmore (from $299) and enjoy the property’s Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design (by the Wright disciple Albert Chase McArthur). Book a room at the boutique-style Ocatilla, a hotel within a hotel that’s right on property. Have an atmospheric dinner at Wrights and sip prohibition-style cocktails in the recently opened Mystery Room (Sunday evenings only).

Where to eat: From March 14 to 16, enjoy the full hometown experience at the park’s Chicago Fest ($10) with a Taste of Chicago Food Court and Mike Ditka’s restaurant, Chicago blues and polka stages, and an interactive Chicago history exhibit.

Travel News

What’s the Best Airfare Metasearch Site?

From airline sites to aggregators to online travel agencies like Chicago-based Orbitz, USA Today compared seven leading online airfare sites to find which ones offer the lowest prices and the best search tools. See the results at USA Today.

This President’s Day Deal is Good All Year at the Blackstone Chicago

Anyone who shares a birthday with one of the nation’s 44 presidents can get a fun deal now through January 15, 2015. Here’s how it works: Book a room anytime during this period at the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel, which has a deep history of hosting president’s since 1910, and pay a rate equal to the age you celebrated this year on a president’s birthday.

Five Ways to Make Your Next Flight Easier

How do you nab the best seat (try SeatGuru.com), avoid delays (book the earliest flight of the day) and side step the hassle of airport security (sign up for the TSA PreCheck traveler program)? Get more tips in Travel + Leisure’s “Five Ways to Make Flying Easier.”

Escape the Incessant Chatter of a Hyper-connected World in Scotland’s Inverie

“After he left me at the trailhead, a quiet fell with the abruptness of a tsunami,” writes Lisa Abend of her solo trek deep into the most remote of the Scottish Highlands. “It wasn’t silence. Birds chirped and water ran in small, stony falls down to the loch. But there was no human sound except for the crunch of my feet on the trail. The weather was gorgeous: bright sunshine, a warm-but-not-hot temperature. The view was even better: wildflower-covered hills jutting down to shiny blue water. And when I went to check my phone for the weather forecast, I had no connection. For the first time in months, I felt relaxed and at peace.” Read the full story at Afar.


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