The Iowa Cubs are the Triple A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. They play in Des Moines at Principal Park. If you’re heading south from Minneapolis on I-35 be sure to stop for gas at the Iron Skillet truck stop in Albert Lea. The open fire rotisserie smells great and the chicken was fantastic!
The drive from Minneapolis to Des Moines is just shy of four hours. Watch your speed when you hit Iowa. State troopers generally set up a speed trap just south of the Diamond Jo Worth Casino.
After all that driving, you’re ready for lunch. Stop at Woody’s Smoke Shack on Cottage Grove in Des Moines. The burnt ends were tender and smoked to perfection. Woody’s truly is a shack with just a few seats inside, so mosey out to the patio. The resident cat will befriend if you toss a fry her way.
I’m of a mind that it never hurts to kill some time shopping. Best place to do that in the Des Moines area is at Jordan Creek Mall. It’s kind of a hybrid open air and suburban mall combo but it has an Apple Store so that always makes it worth my while. Also, I met a very interesting guy who was just sitting on a bench outside Scheels.
When in town for baseball I like to stay in downtown Des Moines. The last few years, downtown has gone hipster so there are more interesting restaurants and lively night spots. Hotels are plentiful, though my favorite is the Savery. It’s historic, the staff is helpful, and parking is available. I like being able to walk to and from the ballpark and the Savery is perfectly positioned.
No trip to the ballpark would be complete without a stop at the local watering hole. El Bait Shop is right on the way to Principal Park. The Shop has a staggering array of craft beers and attracts a fun range of people. Iowans love to ride bicycles and drink beer – in either order – so you’re likely to see people enjoying both if you drop in before the game.
You can usually get a ticket at the gate the day of the game. I prefer the Home Plate Club seats. They offer a great view right behind home plate and friendly wait staff (Beth was the gal this trip) will bring your food and beverages right to your seat. These top-shelf tickets are a bargain at $26.
The quality of baseball is great. Afterall, many of these guys are just one step away from the Major Leagues. Principal Park is family friendly with fountains that kids can play in just off the right field bullpen. The food is typical ballpark fare and there is a fine selection of craft beers on tap.
One of the most welcome attractions on a 90+ degree Iowa summer is the Coors beer box. It’s a walk-in cooler where you can select your really Tall Boy (24 oz) can of beer. Here too, you’ll find a good selection of suitable adult beverages.
I was in town for a weekend series. Saturday night the weather was typical for June in Iowa. Sunday, they got four innings in before the skies opened up. I waited an hour, then had to head out for the drive home. Just as I headed north from Ames, I caught the play-by-play on the radio. iCubs beat the Colorado Sky Sox in extra innings.
The sight: Brian Harper, former Minnesota Twin, was hitting coach for the Sky Sox.
The sound: (Or lack thereof)…No organist! Ballpark seemed a little hollow without the traditional organ player.
The smell: Iowa summers are humid. This creates a variety of potent smells at the ballpark.