By Emily Harrington
St. Louis’ Busch Stadium and the Cardinals program do an exceptional job at accommodating families. Such a good job in fact, that in 2011 they were ranked fifth on a list of the top 15 most Major League Baseball family-friendly stadiums.
Many games offer freebies for the youngest ticket holders. Last year we went to a game that offered free ice cream, a chance to run the bases and a free mini Build-A-Bear giveaway. Plus, there’s Fredbird. Who doesn’t love a dancing red bird?
Here are some tips if you’re interested in taking the family to a Cardinals game:
First, get tickets to a game that is a good starting time for your family. Children younger than 3 don’t need a ticket. However, only ticket holders will receive a promotional item. If you didn’t get a ticket for your little one, you won’t get a promo. Avoid cranky time or naptime or a game that is too late. The later games tend to be more adult, too, in terms of atmosphere and giveaways. However, the kid areas are wayyyy less crowded at a night game than let’s say a 1 p.m. game on Saturday. Sidenote: Prairie Farms sponsors Ice Cream Sundays. This means two hours prior to every home game, you can enjoy games, prizes and free frozen treats, while supplies last, in the Ford Plaza (main concourse through gates 5 and 6). Cardinals Kids Club members will receive front-of-the-line access!
Second, take the MetroLink train to and from the game. It’s a convenient and fun way to get there provided you aren’t within walking distance.
Third, join the Kids Club ($40 fee per child). The membership includes two tickets to a game, an official invitation to the members-only autograph party at Busch Stadium, front-of-the-line access for Kids Run the Bases, 10 percent discount at the official Cardinals Team store, exclusive merchandise and more!
Fourth, visit Ballpark Village before the game to grab something to eat, wear or just stretch your legs. After all, you’ll be doing a lot of sitting.
Fifth, keep it light. If you need a stroller, bring an umbrella version. They must be compact enough to fit under your seat. If they are too big, they must be checked at Guest Relations. You can bring a bag. (The bag must be under 16 by 16 by 8. Backpacks are prohibited unless it’s a diaper bag.) You can bring snacks, meals and drinks (sealed in clear containers). This will save you some major moola. If you do need to buy food, go to the outfield’s Family Pavilion. They have less expensive meals for kids! You will pay $7.50 for a hot dog, chips and a drink. This is where I’ll be. There are 13 family-friendly restaurants scattered throughout the stadium.
Sixth, when they get antsy — and they will — play on the attractions in the Family Pavilion on level 1, between gates 5 and 6 (most for free). The pavilion is opened 1 ½ hours prior to each game. You can visit until the end of the game. (Beware because there’s a Build-A-Bear strategically placed right outside the entrance to the pavilion.) They also have family restrooms with changing tables and nursing areas. You must have shoes off/socks on to participate in the soft tot area. The area is designed for kids 42 inches and shorter (this is similar to our mall’s Tot Lot). The larger climbing structure was like a surprisingly cleaner McDonald’s Play Place. And much bigger! Once my youngest son got a taste of the big structure, he was immediately bored with the little structure. Other parents were looking at him like he was too small, and he probably was. I tried to keep a close eye on him, but you do lose sight of them in the habitrails. Just use your best judgment. There is someone policing the area. I would, however, watch the entrance to the play area carefully. Your kid could easily escape, and they might get lost in the commotion.
The first game we took our son to, we didn’t bring socks. We had to buy a $12 pair of souvenir socks. In addition to socks, remember parent supervision is required in this area! You also can’t bring in any food/drinks in the play areas. You can also pay to play virtual reality home run derby and speed pitch here.
If you can’t make it, try to find the Cardinals Caravan when they come into our town.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.