BOSTON — If traveling to Boston, a visit to the oldest major league ballpark in the nation is worth it.
If the Red Sox are in town — or better yet playing the Minnesota Twins (that'll only be Sept. 3-5 this year) — it's a much better experience to see the interactions between fans and how they fill up the multifaceted parts of Fenway Park that have been updated or kept in their basic original form.
One of the big questions I always had when watching the ballpark on television was what was behind the "Green Monster," the 37-foot green fence in left field and the tallest in the majors. What I found was two rows of seats with a lengthy table in front to rest drinks, food or your hands upon. The cost for the seats vary during the season but can cost up to $500 for special games, although most of the time they are closer to $175. That's still more than box seats around home plate.
That was just a part of the mystique of the stadium that seats 37,731 fans and was built in 1912. The next oldest ballpark is the home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, built only two years later in 1914 with its ivy-covered outfield walls and a stadium that didn't have lights until 1988.
Fenway Park, added to the National Register of Historic Places in March 2012, also has most of its seating under that unique roof that surrounds most of the lower field level of the stadium. The top level is open.
What contributes to the old-time feel of the stadium are the support beams for the roof, with seats even behind them (who would want to sit there?) and the somewhat uncomfortable seating that maybe hasn't been updated much over the decades except in the rows closer to the field. Then there's the scoreboard on the bottom part of the "Green Monster" where a worker sticks their hand through to manually change the scores by inning, along with runs, hits and errors and scores from other games.
There is also a manual light showing balls and strikes. But in one of the venue's updates, there is also a huge electronic scoreboard in center field that shows photos of all the players with the same game statistics on it.
Some of the other unique newer features of the stadium are a Samuel Adams bar in right field that was packed with beer drinkers on that sunny day in mid-May. There are high-top tables, chairs and seats in that area.
Other newer parts of the stadium that adds to its luster include an enclosed second-level seating and dining area above home plate, a vegetable garden on part of the roof, stairs that take you to all parts of the stadium and views of the downtown skyline.
Also, when you peer out of the stadium you can see the crowded, narrow streets of Boston lined with older bars, restaurants and businesses that brings you back to the old-time atmosphere.
One tip: If taking the aging underground subway to the stadium, as many do, it can get pretty crowded before game time and afterwards. So go early and enjoy the scenery.
Other things to not miss in Boston
- The 52-story Prudential Tower top floor with 360-degree views of the countryside for miles in one of the nation's oldest cities founded in 1630.
- Tours of the downtown area and its historic buildings, churches and grave sites is called the Freedom Trail. Tour guides give an informative 2.5-mile walking tour while dispelling some of the thoughts many may have about our country's founders. The graves to view include Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock and five victims of the Boston Massacre with the cemeteries right in the midst of downtown.
- The set for the old television sitcom "Cheers" is also in the downtown area in a real-time "Cheers" bar with souvenirs. Norm's nameplate at the corner of the bar is even there to see.
- Duck boats with more tour guides also offer another perspective of the city's deep history. The bus/boat ends up in the Charles River, once a polluted mess that has been cleaned up in one of the nation's big success stories. Don't forget to quack to pedestrians in the open-air vehicles.
- The finish line to the Boston Marathon is permanently marked and worth seeing. A memorial to the tragic 2013 bombing by terrorists that killed three people and injured several hundred others is going up alongside the marker. The bombing also destroyed part of the nearby historic Boston Public Library, but it has been replaced with a new section that has been added to the masterful, historic original structure built in 1858.
- Tickets can be inexpensive to fly to Boston. For this recent May trip, Sun Country had round-trip tickets for $140.