Vacations With the National Pastime

Plan an end-of-summer family vacation or father-son getaway to visit famous baseball landmarks across the country.

Throughout the years, baseball has seen heroes come and go, records established and broken, scandals, redemption and a century-long World Series Championship drought for the Chicago Cubs. Through it all, at the heart of the game, are fathers and sons. The simple pleasures of playing catch, perusing box scores, taking in an afternoon game; in whatever form, baseball has given generations a means of bonding.

As a baseball-mad kid, I couldn’t get enough of the game, constantly begging for a trip to the batting cage or the baseball card shop and pleading to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. and the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. Partly to silence the constant drone of my appeals, but mostly so we would have time together, my dad took me to both. These baseball landmarks, and others like them, offer an opportunity for fathers and sons to share the joys of baseball and time together.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

My father and I visited Cooperstown on a fall weekend trip when I was in junior high. We flew into the nearby Albany airport, rented a car and headed 70 miles west to the one-stoplight-village in central New York. As my bedroom decor (baseball shrine) would attest, I was ecstatic. Throwing our luggage into the hotel room, we immediately went to the Hall of Fame. From the Plaque Gallery to each exhibit, we had the place to ourselves, surrounded by legends. Exploring the museum, going through the memorabilia shops on Main Street, talking baseball for an entire weekend, I could hardly ask for a better time with my dad.   

Travel Tips: The Hall has many kid-friendly programs and exhibits. Flip-up panels throughout the museum promote discussion between parents and kids, the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse has games, videos and toys for children ages 2-8 and self-guided scavenger hunts can be completed for a pack of Hall of Fame baseball cards. If you go during the off-season, you’ll have more space throughout the museum and village. On certain weekends, the Extra Innings Overnight even lets kids and parents spend the night in the Plaque Gallery, explore the museum after hours, have a private showing of The Baseball Experience in the Grandstand Theater and watch a ballgame or movie in the Bullpen Theater.

Summer, though, is the height of baseball season, and while you’ll have large crowds to deal with, you could also witness induction ceremonies and enjoy activities on nearby Lake Otsego, like canoe rentals at the Otesaga Resort. If less baseball-inclined family members are along for the trip, other attractions include The Farmers’ Museum, Glimmerglass Opera and the Fenimore Art Museum.

Field of Dreams Movie Site

It may not be heaven, but Dyersville, Iowa is home to the field created by Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella in the film Field of Dreams. My family and I stopped here on a cross-country road trip, among several families enjoying an August afternoon at the field. Several dozen viewings of the film didn’t dampen the experience. The iconic farmhouse sits on a gentle slope beyond the first base foul line, a pristine diamond calls for a game, endless rows of corn reach toward the sky beyond the outfield—attesting to the line, “people will come.” To “have a catch” here is baseball at its simplest, and perhaps finest (though my brother may not remember it so fondly—something to do with a rogue ball finding his nose instead of his glove).

Travel Tips: Constructed on two adjacent farms, left and center fields were initially replanted with corn by the family that owned the land. The field has since been returned in its entirety and is now wholly owned by the Lansing family, who also own the house depicted in the movie. Open April through November, the field is free to all and not rented out for any organized activities. If you go later in the summer, the corn will be high enough to take photos of people emerging from between the stalks as the players do in the movie.

The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum

George Herman “Babe” Ruth was born in 1895 in Baltimore, Md. The row house where he was born, near Oriole Park at Camden Yards (home of the Baltimore Orioles), now holds a large collection of artifacts from the Great Bambino. Interactive exhibits provide insight into the life and career of the game’s most famous player. Discounted admission tickets can be purchased for entry to the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and nearby Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Since 1884, according to legend, Hillerich & Bradsby Co. have created the most famous of baseball bats, the Louisville Slugger. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (you can’t miss the world’s largest baseball bat leaning against the building) in Louisville, Ky., gives everyone a chance to learn about the history of what is now the Official Bat of Major League Baseball and possibly see them being produced. (Check the museum Web site for production schedules throughout the year.) Everyone touring the factory receives a miniature souvenir bat; if you’d rather have a full-size model, personalized bats can be ordered.

Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum

In Williamsport, Pa., Little Leaguers past and present can visit the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum. The Hall of Excellence pays tribute to former Little Leaguers from Bruce Springsteen to Cal Ripken, Jr. to Tom Selleck. There are also many interactive exhibits, batting and pitching cages and the adjacent Howard J. Lamade Stadium, home of the Little League World Series, where each August the game elicits a mixture of unadulterated joy and tears to mark summer’s end. 

Destinations: Dyersville, Cooperstown

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Baseball