Baseball has a long history and it is full of inspiring stories though this one would definitely not qualify, but this story is about baseball and it is also about hotels so I thought it fit. I am on a quest to visit all 30 MLB stadiums. MLB stadiums were not that great when I was growing up. Most stadiums were like Riverfront and Jack Murphy--cookie cutter stadiums from the 1960s and 1970s with very little personality but with the ability to be both a baseball and football stadium. But then along came Camden Yards, which changed everything. Its retro look inspired many MLB teams to follow suit and in just a handful of years, new stadiums began popping up everywhere--distinct stadiums with unique personalities; stadiums that feel worth a special visit and actually reflect the city they are in with local food and views of the city integrated into the stadium.
Visiting these baseball stadiums seemed like a perfect way to explore America (a baseball game combined with some sightseeing and a local restaurant or two). And Marriott (with its locations everywhere) made it the perfect hotel brand to utilize during this journey; the wide range of prices offered by Marriott brand hotels was also a very contributing factor in deciding to go all-in with Marriott though this is not a commercial. Some hotel experiences have been better than others.
The Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel has an outdated exterior that seems to fit more with those cookie cutter stadiums of old rather than the new Busch Stadium, which has a classical look and offers a great view of the Gateway to the West from your seat. There is one interesting thing about that perfectly fine hotel though; it was a filming location of the George Clooney movie Up in the Air, which is about the ultimate loyalty traveler. This Renaissance is not that close to the baseball stadium, but you need to drive a lot anyway to experience the best of the city like great St. Louis fine dining at Niche or to have some great BBQ at Pappy's Smokehouse, which is next to Saint Louis University (a nice place to buy a t-shirt with a great logo).
While Busch Stadium perfectly captures iconic elements of St. Louis, I do not think the food at AT&T Park is reflective of San Francisco's great cuisine that many claim. However, the San Francisco Marriott Union Square's Concierge Lounge features a wide variety of upscale pastries at breakfast and the pastries are much better than one would likely expect to get with a complimentary breakfast. San Francisco is known for having great bakeries (like Tartine in Mission) so the loyalty perk at this Marriott is not just a perk but kind of a reflection of the city as well; by the way, the Concierge Lounge also provides a great view of a very iconic public gathering place in San Francisco.
While many cities have been building new stadiums, Kansas City renovated old Kauffman Stadium instead. And while the renovations are nice (more local food vendors and a great video scoreboard), it still feels very much like an outdated stadium. Courtyard by Marriotts sometimes feel that way, but that is definitely not the case with the Courtyard Kansas City at Briarcliff. This upscale Courtyard is unlike any Courtyard out there--complete with glass showers and great views of Downtown Kansas City (home of some good local restaurants like Bluestem).
I am halfway through my stadium tour and I do look forward to checking out more iconic MLB stadiums like Fenway Park and that game changing Camden Yards. I also look forward to checking out a few Marriott brand hotels as well like Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards, which I timed nicely (a day game followed by evening appetizers at this Marriott's Concierge Lounge). I hear the Executive Lounge is good at JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead so that should be a good experience too. And the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel sounds like a real interesting one--suites with a stadium view of Rogers Centre (Blue Jays).
Definitely a lot more stadiums, cities, restaurants/bakeries, and even hotels to visit and I look forward to experiencing all of them.