A tour of baseball's cathedral
If baseball is a religion, then Yankee Stadium is its grand cathedral. In its 85 years of existence, "The House That Ruth Built" has played host to some of the greatest moments in baseball history—as well as the greatest players.
But with its destruction imminent, and a new stadium slated to open in 2009, now is your last chance to take in the history of baseball's grand old lady. As game tickets are hard to come by, there's no better way to do so than to take the Yankee Stadium tour.
Check out my slide show and read all about my tour of Yankee Stadium after the jump.
I discovered the benefits of attending ballpark tours as opposed to actual games last year when my wife and I visited Seattle. The Safeco Field tour was much shorter than a game (45 minutes vs. three-plus hours) and easier to schedule (10 a.m. vs. 7:30 p.m.). The tour also granted us access to areas a casual fan would never see. And it was a huge bonus not having to sacrifice a night of our trip for two teams we couldn't care less about.
Back home, I told my wife that as a lifelong Yankees fan, I had to tour Yankee Stadium before it was destroyed. Recently, I was fortunate enough to make the trip to the Bronx.
The Classic Tour begins at the Yankee Stadium press gate. Your guide will lead you up the winding ramps to the Press Box, where you can sit in the same seats as the reporters who cover the game. You get a firsthand look at how a sportswriter sees the game.
From there, it's down an elevator to the Yankees' clubhouse, where the players dress, eat, shower, and work out. No photography is allowed in this inner sanctum, but there's plenty to see. Lockers line the walls, and above each is a replica of the famed Yankee Stadium frieze. If you look closely in the back left of the room, you'll see the locker of beloved team captain Thurman Munson—untouched since his tragic death in a plane crash in 1979.
Next you'll head to the field level for a chance to sit in the dugout. You can see what every major league ballplayer sees when he's not out on the field. You'll also see why most of these players lean against the railing during games rather than sit down. It turns out the view from the bench isn't all that good!
You'll then walk along the outskirts of the field (be sure to stay off the grass!) to left field and Monument Park—the most famous location within Yankee Stadium. It's a shrine to all of the legendary players who have donned the pinstripes over the years. You'll find monuments to Hall of Fame players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle, as well as plaques for non-players, like the one for long-time stadium PA announcer Bob Sheppard.
Depending on the season, there are more than half a dozen tour guides. If you're lucky, though, you'll get Tony Morante. Not only is he the head honcho of the tour department, but he's also been a Yankee employee for fifty years, so you know he's got his share of really good stories!
The Yankees haven't officially announced an end date for the tours, as they haven't even finalized when the old stadium will be destroyed. They're still in the midst of planning special events to commemorate the end of an era, including a Papal Mass on April 20 and the hosting of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 15.
MORE INFO Yankee Stadium tours are held most days except on weekends when the Yankees are home and weekdays when the Yankees have a home day game. Through March 16, 2008, prices are $15 for adults and $8 for children (14 and under) and seniors (60 and over). The tours end then, and resume on April 8, with prices rising to $20 for adults and $15 for children and seniors. For full details, visit the official site of the New York Yankees.
Hotels Underwater: Sleep with the fishes
The world's first and only underwater inn is the Jules' Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Fla. Guests scuba dive about 20 feet to enter the inn, which is a converted naval station. You enter through a pool and an air lock; once inside, you breathe and walk around normally. At night, escaping air creates a soothing, bubbling sound that is supposed to encourage your body to have an astonishingly restful sleep. Typical rate is $375 a night, per person. As a rule, only certified divers can visit. But, for a fee, you can learn enough about diving to qualify to float down to the entrance. And for an extra charge, you can get an advanced diving certification during your stay. Breakfast and dinner are served at set times. The lodge typically hosts two couples. (jul.com) Multi-room underwater hotels may be on the way. Four companies claim that they will open hotels underwater within the next few years in Fiji, Istanbul, Korea, and Dubai.... HotelChatter has been tracking many of these announcements and doesn't believe a word of them. Even if the hotels do materialize, they won't be for budget travelers. Room rates will start at about $1,500 a night. Here's some info on these proposed hotels...[UPDATE Apr. 10: This post originally showed images of these underwater hotels.] What: An underwater, seven-story hotel in Istanbul. Not yet officially named. Where: Beneath the city center.[CORRECTION 3/25: This blog post mistakenly said Istanbul is the capital of Turkey. I regret the error.] Every room will have views of the ocean. When: 2010 (supposedly) Rate: $1,500 a night, and up Name: Poseidon Undersea Resort What: 24 rooms, about 40 feet below the surface of a lagoon. Designs keep shifting; according to a recent layout, the site will include a lagoon, an airstrip, and an elevator that will descend from the surface, beachfront bungalows to the underwater suites. Where: Off the coast of Fiji When: 2009 (supposedly) Rate about $2,100 a night, but you'll probably have to book a package, such as $30,000 for a couple sharing a room for two nights, plus a five-night stay at a related resort above water. Name: Hydropolis Underwater Resort What: Designed and built in Germany, it will be taken apart, moved to the waters off Dubai, and then rebuilt underwater into two parts: one part on the sea ground, and the other floating in the sea. Where: 27 acres of seabed in Dubai When: 2009, supposedly Rate: Expected to be more than $1,000 a night. Not yet announced. Name: To be announced, once it receives government approval What: A luxury hotel 65 feet under the sea surface, with 200 suites. Where: Gyeongju, South Korea, about 500 miles southeast of Seoul When: 2015 Rate: To be announced.
Rome: The Forum's no longer free
For about a decade now, anyone in Rome could wander among the city's most famous ancient ruins, known by the shorthand "The Forum," for free. But starting next Monday, March 10,* entrance tickets will be required. The Forum will be included in the ticket covering the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It will cost 9 euro -- about $14, or more if there's some kind of special show going on. BUDGET TRAVEL TIP To skip the frequently long lines for entry to the Colosseum, buy your tickets at the Palatine box office (200 yards away, on Via di S. Gregorio 30). Once you have your ticket, you can proceed past the line and straight to the entry turnstiles. BUDGET TRAVEL TIP 2 If you're visiting in the peak season of July, you may want to prebook your tickets through Pierreci (011-39/06-3996-7700, pierreci.it) and pick them up directly at the Colosseum will-call window, but there's a $2 surcharge. I'm personally sorry to hear about this because the policy will discourage locals from visiting the site. Especially during the off-season, you would see Roman families spontaneously visiting the amazing grounds, mingling with tourists. On a brighter note, ... also on March 10, four rooms at the Emperor Augustus's palace on the Palatine hill will reopen to the public. The frescoes in the rooms, including his studio and main hall, have been magnificently restored, according to the Chicago Tribune. The stop is included in the Forum/Colosseum/Palatine ticket. *UPDATE 3/5, at 1pmET: I mistakenly typed March 8 instead of March 10 on first posting. [Photo: Courtesy of Eye of Einstein, via Flickr]
Beijing: Tremendous new airport terminal
Today, Beijing opened an enormous, multi-billion dollar airport terminal. Its two-mile-long concourse, linked by a shuttle train, and a new runway, will enable the airport to handle 24 million more people a year than before. The terminal's design is controversial. It is meant to evoke a dragon, with ceiling windows cut as though they were triangular scales. But at night, the terminal looks like something out of Star Trek. Merely a decade ago, ultramodern designs like the one were shunned by Maoists as bourgeois and un-authentically Chinese. In a twist, Americans visiting China this year will not be using this terminal. This year, U.S. and Canadian airlines will instead drop passengers off at to the other two older terminals, according to Reuters. Unless you're flying on an international carrier, such as Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air Canada, you probably won't see this terminal. However, all travelers, including Americans, will soon benefit from a new train, which zip travelers downtown in just about 15 minutes. This subway line opens later this spring. MORE At budgettravel.com/beijing2008 (Image: via Let's Visit Asia)
Oscars: Red carpet recap
Many of our favorite travel-inspiring films of 2007 were also winners at last night's 80th Annual Academy Awards: Once (original song), Ratatouille (animated feature), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (costume design), Atonement (score), and The Bourne Ultimatum (sound mixing and editing, film editing). The Coen brothers' blood-soaked thriller No Country for Old Men, shot primarily in western Texas, snagged four awards, but there aren't many scenes we'd suggest recreating… Want to know which opulent Left Bank restaurant was the model for Gusteau's in Ratatouille? The Dublin street where a young Czech pianist approaches an Irish musician in the sweet love story Once? Or the park that Sir Walter (Clive Owen) and Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) race through on horseback? Get the scoop on these locations and others where the award-winning films were shot (not necessarily where the stories are set!) by reading our latest Movie Quest installment. And check out the slide show starring our globetrotter, Bud Travel. RELATED Star Maps: Where Celebs Hang Out in L.A. and N.Y.C.