Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Patriots Training Camp 2009

So who's ready for some football? Even though summer has seemingly only just arrived this week, the boys of autumn are ready to strap on the pads for training camp. The Patriots have announced that training camp will open on Thursday, July 30 and run through August 18. As of now, the schedule is for two-a-days each day from July 30 to August 5 with morning practice from 9:30 to 11:15 AM and afternoon practice from 3:45 to 5:30 PM. 

Based on past years, you can lay good odds that the schedule is going to change (either that or Coach Belichick is really going to work these guys from the get go). The schedule is always tentative based on the desires of the coaching staff and oftentimes the weather. Therefore, if you're interested in going to see practice, by all means check the schedule on the Patriots web site and double-check it by calling the team's hot line at 508-549-0001.

The practice is free to attend, and the parking is free as well. There are concession stands that sell food, drinks, and beer. Be prepared to pay normal stadium prices for food and beverages, however, if you buy it there. In past years parking has been in lot 22 along the west side of the stadium and it's a short walk over to the fields.

Along the west side of the stadium has also been the Patriots Experience, filled with interactive games that allow fans to test their kicking, passing, and tackling skills on a variety of obstacle courses, football tosses, and other similar challenges. It's a popular draw for kids. And while you're in the area, you may also want to check out the stores and restaurants at the ever-expanding Patriot Place or combine a trip to Training Camp with a visit to the Hall at Patriot Place, which is an absolute must for Pats fans. (For a good, cheap meal, I highly recommend Five Guys Burgers at Patriot Place.) 

There are bleachers along the side of one practice fields on which to sit. Another popular spot is on the hillside that lies behind the end zones of the practice field and in front of the stadium. The players enter and leave the field near that hillside, so it's a good spot to get autographs, and players will often sign along the front row of the bleachers when practice is over. Wherever you sit, you're pretty close to the action. If you have a camera with a good zoom lens, you should get some good shots. 

For more tips on enhancing your experience at Patriots Training Camp--and for all the information you'd ever want to know about spectator sports around Boston--check out The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fenway--It's Not Just for Baseball Anymore

Well, it's finally official. Hockey is coming to Fenway Park this winter. The Boston Bruins will take to the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 1, 2010, in the Winter Classic. The makeshift rink, which will be laid on the edge of the infield between first and third bases, will be open for public skating for two days and may also host a BC-BU game. Hopefully, some snowflakes will be fluttering down under the watchful eye of the Citgo sign to set the proper mood for the festivities. It would have been cooler if the Bruins were facing off against the Canadiens, but NBC, who is broadcasting the game, undoubtedly preferred an American market for the opponent. 

It will be interesting to see what views are like of the rink inside Fenway Park. My guess is it will be pretty similar to baseball games where the left-field grandstand seats provide some of the best perspectives and far right-field grandstand will be fairly lousy. Bleacher seats won't be close to the action but might be a decent value. One difference is that the field box seats probably won't be the best seats in the house since they will be too low to get a great view of the action.

While Fenway Park is known as a baseball cathedral, the Winter Classic will by no means be the first time a non-hardball sporting event has taken place in the shadows of the Green Monster. The Patriots played in Fenway between 1963 and 1968, and Boston College and Boston University took to the gridiron there as well. Other pro football teams that called Fenway home were the Boston Bears, the Boston Shamrocks, the NFL's Boston Redskins (before they moved to Washington) in the 1930s, and the Boston Yanks in the 1940s. (Can't imagine Fenway hosting a team called the "Yanks" these days, can you?) The Boston Beacons of the North American Soccer League played home games at Fenway in 1968. The ballpark even hosted a basketball game in July 1954 between the Harlem Globetrotters and George Mikan's All-Stars and a professional wrestling card on June 29, 1969, that featured George "the Animal" Steele. 

For more information on the Boston Bruins, the history of Fenway Park, and the long-lost history of outdoor hockey in Boston (there's another stadium in Boston that once hosted outdoor hockey), check out The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston.

Free Ferries to the Boston Harbor Islands

If you've never been out to the Boston Harbor Islands (or even if you have and want to go again), there's a great opportunity to do so this Friday, July 17 because ferry rides to Spectacle Island and Georges Island are FREE. There is an expanded ferry schedule with boats going from 9 AM until sunset. It's unusual for the ferries to still be operating that late so it provides a rare opportunity to catch the island views as the sun sets. Advanced reservations for the free tickets are filled, but walk-up tickets are still available. Click here for all the details. (There's an article about the free ferry rides on Boston.com featuring one of my photographs. And if you need a perfect traveling companion to the islands, pick up Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands, which is filled with the fascinating histories of the islands and the practical info you need for exploring each island.) 

The Highland Street Foundation is sponsoring these free Friday summertime admissions to all sorts of Boston-area attractions, such as the Franklin Park Zoo, Plimoth Plantation, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Click here for a complete list of upcoming free Friday events. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Seeing the Tall Ships in Boston

The first of 40 Tall Ships have begun their arrival in Boston for the Sail Boston festival that will run July 9-July 12. While there won't be a grand parade as there has been in past years, many of the ships are expected to sail into port on Wednesday, July 8. One of the great places to view the arrival of the ships will be the Boston Harbor Islands, in particular Spectacle Island. The 157-foot north drumlin of Spectacle Island has, in my opinion, the best view of the city skyline and the harbor. It should provide an unbelievable vantage point to see the forest of masts against the backdrop of the city.  

In addition to its normal ferry service from Long Wharf Boston and Quincy, the national park area will be running expanded ferry service from Squantum Point Park to Spectacle Island on July 8. Click here for the schedule for the special ferry service on July 8. For the full event schedule for the Tall Ships weekend, click here