Fans' guide to Nats spring training, Part 2: The area

Planning to come to spring training? Or just thinking you might like to come to spring training someday, but aren’t sure what to expect? You’re in luck, because we’re giving you all the advice you need right here.

On Monday, we detailed everything you can expect at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, both on workout days and game days. If you missed it, please check out that article as well as this one.

Today, we’ll discuss everything important that takes place away from the ballpark. Consider this your definitive guide to West Palm Beach …

First, though, you have to get to West Palm Beach. You have several options.

Both American Airlines and JetBlue offer nonstop flights from Reagan National Airport to Palm Beach International Airport. United has a limited number of nonstops from Dulles, though it’s a seasonal service and doesn’t appear to start until March. And you can also get there from BWI on Southwest.

If none of those flight options work for you, take a look as well at Fort Lauderdale, which is only about a 45-minute drive from West Palm Beach and sometimes offers cheaper and more convenient fares. I wouldn’t recommend flying into Miami or Orlando, given how far away both are, unless you’re already planning on seeing other parts of the state during your visit.

If you’re not the flying type and prefer a more leisurely travel experience, Amtrak’s famed AutoTrain departs every evening from Lorton, Va., and arrives the next morning in Samford, Fla. (That’s near Orlando, so you’ll still have a bit of drive from there to West Palm Beach, but you’ll be able to do it in your own car.)

Or if you’re really a glutton for punishment, you can always hop onto Interstate-95 in Springfield and exit 980 miles (and a whole lotta traffic) later in West Palm Beach. You’re required, of course, to make a pit stop at South of the Border at the North Carolina-South Carolina state line.

Now that you’ve arrived in the area, you need a place to stay. The good news: Hotels are abundant. The bad news: They can get very pricey in February and March. This is especially true if you want to stay near The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches or Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, given how many baseball fans come for spring training.

If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper rate, try south of the ballpark, near Palm Beach Airport, or even farther south from there. You’ll have to drive more to see the workouts and games, but you’ll probably save a few bucks.

Your primary purpose for traveling to Florida in the spring obviously is to watch baseball, but that doesn’t mean you can’t budget some time to do other things. And there are plenty of options for that.

The Palm Beach Zoo is surprisingly nice and larger than you might expect for a non-major zoo. There’s another cool wildlife venue north of town: the Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach, where they rescue injured or sick sea turtles and have them on display for visitors to see up close. It’s a great service they provide the animals, and both fun and educational for the humans. If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can venture inland and take an airboat tour of the Everglades, where you are certain to encounter your share of alligators and other exotic wildlife.

And then of course there are multiple beaches and golf courses of varied elegance (and prices) to choose from, if that’s your thing.

At some point, you’ll need to eat. There’s not much in the way of gourmet dining in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark (though they did open a Wawa nearby a couple years ago!) so you’ll probably want to venture around the area to find what you’re looking for.

Downtown West Palm Beach, headlined by Clematis Street, has a hopping nightlife, with Rocco’s Tacos always popular as well as P.J. Bradley’s and Grease Burger. Hullabaloo, a gastropub, has become a favorite of ours over the years. So has Avocado Grill, which is relatively low-key with some interesting dishes. And Elisabetta’s is a more upscale Italian restaurant.

If you want to avoid the hubbub downtown, head west to the famed Okeechobee Steak House or Zuccarelli’s Italian Restaurant (where you might run into a longtime Nationals general manager). Or venture north to Palm Beach Gardens, where the dining (Spotos seafood, Carmine’s La Trattoria) and clientele are more upscale.

And if you’re craving a classic, Florida waterfront restaurant and bar, the Old Key Lime House in Lantana is a must-visit. The wait can be a bit long, but it’s worth it.

That’s only one longtime sportswriter’s opinion, though. Everyone’s got their own advice and their own local favorites. So, if you’ve been to spring training before and want to share your experiences with everyone, please do so in the comments section below.

Can Nats expect improved defense this season?
Fans' guide to Nats spring training, Part 1: The c...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to