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Strasburg. Harper. Zimmerman - the young studs of the Washington Nationals, who play their home games in Nationals Park, one of the youngest stadiums in the majors. Opening in time for the 2008 season, the home of the ‘Nats’ is a tremendous upgrade over their previous residence, RFK Stadium. At a cost of $700 million, the Nationals home is a first class facility located in the Southeast waterfront area of the Anacostia River.
The Nationals have found recent success by building through the draft and some key free agent acquisitions. 2012’s playoff run has pushed attendance at Nationals Park to an all-time high, drawing over 32,000 fans a game in 2013, up from 24,000 two seasons prior. Overall capacity is a little over 41,000, so there is still some work to do to fill up the stadium on a nightly basis.
As a fan, this is one of my favorite stadiums. Overall, it delivers a great experience and with a few tweaks, it could be best in class.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Wow, where to start? Each time I attend a game at Nationals Park I have to walk around twice - once on the Main Concourse and again around the Mezzanine Level - just to remind me of all of the food options that are available. In order to ensure you don't have buyer's remorse and miss out on something better than what your first instinct takes you to, I recommend you get to the park early and do the same. Nationals Park not only offers all of the gut-busting ballpark standards, they also have vegetarian and gluten-free options for those that are looking for a healthier alternative.
There is a ton of good food at Nationals Park and I can't even begin to list an all-inclusive list here. The team does a good job on their website with their concessions guide, but I do want to share my personal favorites with you as a starting point for your gastronomic journey.
For the main course, head over to Blue Smoke located behind 238. Barbecue lovers will rejoice here, as you will find pulled pork, ribs and brisket, along with fried chicken and delicious sides. Don't let the cost of the meal scare you away - the portions are plentiful, especially for a ballpark, and you will more than likely find yourself sharing with someone else or taking the rest home with you. If you're looking for something with a little more variety, Taste of the Majors at section 117 offers items from many of the other cities in the league.
Behind sections 112 and 135, you will find a cure for your sweet tooth at Dolci Gelati - a cool treat on a warm summer day in a variety of flavors. If you prefer a more traditional ice cream, Turkey Hill at 115 offers ice cream and sundaes in a mini souvenir helmet.
Sam Adams Brewhouse behind section 111 is a good stopping point for your beer needs, but if you are looking for more of a bar atmosphere, the Red Loft Bar behind section 244 has a good selection and also offers a great elevated view of the ballpark. If you are the designated driver, Coca-Cola products are served throughout the stadium.
These are some recommendations - do yourself a favor and take some time to get around the stadium and really experience what Nationals Park has to offer.
I love the atmosphere at Nationals Park. Get there early and take time to walk around the stadium and check out the different vantage points. Behind home plate, you can check out views of the Anacostia River and from the upper deck in left field you will see the Washington Monument and US Capitol. Don't forget your camera!
Getting inside the park is typically a smooth experience. As you approach the main gate at center field (which opens 2 ˝ hours before game time), you will notice a large, round scoreboard that updates you on the game in case you are running late. Center field is the main gate, but there are multiple gates located around the stadium that you can use. The gates use self-serve scanners where you simply scan your ticket and enter the stadium. There are attendants that can assist you, but I have never had an issue entering this way. Once inside, you will find a friendly staff that carry signs asking 'How May I Help You?' This is a nice touch and makes these team members very approachable.
Getting around the main concourse can be crowded during well-attended games, but it is not unbearable. Seats are the typical hard plastic fold-down variety and each comes with a cup holder. Nationals Park runs south (home plate) to north, so take that and your sensitivity to sun into consideration when purchasing your tickets, especially as it sets in the evening. The best sections I have found for evening games in the summer are 108-118, which run down the third base line. The sun sets behind you, you have a great view of the main and out of town scoreboards and you can look directly into the Nationals dugout on the first base side. There are also some great concession stands located behind this area, most notably Ben's Chili Bowl behind 110.
If you are looking for something a little more upscale, you can purchase club seats on either the second level or behind home plate. Of course, this will increase the cost of your experience, but they do come with amenities that the other general seating area does not. You can read more about those options here.
Once you've bought your food and are in your seat, you will notice a beautiful HD scoreboard in right-center field that will provide you with up to date stats on batters and pitchers, along with replays of game action. When buying your tickets, don't sell yourself short and sit out in that area, as you will not be able to take advantage of this supplement to what is happening on the field. If you do end up with a less than ideal view of the main scoreboard, there are additional scoreboards along the first and third base sides that show all of the basic information along with pitch speeds. In the concourse behind the main scoreboard is a large display that shows live game action, so if you are purchasing concessions or walking through that area, you won't miss any of the action.
Lastly, be careful about leaving your seats between innings. The marketing department does a great job of keeping fans engaged during these breaks in the action and it doesn't feel like overkill. In the middle of the fourth is the President's Race - this is the highlight to me and a can't miss experience. You will also see the team mascot, Screech, out and about throughout the game, and he is a definite attraction for the kids.
So why only four stars here? The surrounding neighborhood and fan interaction play into atmosphere to me as a fan, and there are a few opportunities here. Read on for more details...
Nationals Park is the cornerstone of a revitalization effort along the Anacostia River in Southeast DC. Unfortunately, the buildup of business around the stadium has been slow. A few restaurants have opened nearby, most notably a Gordon Biersch, where you can sample some tasty beers brewed on site. Located outside the center field gate is The Bullpen, where you will find a beer garden, live music and games for all ages. Admission is free and food and drink costs less than inside the stadium, so it is a decent pre-game entertainment option. Other than that, there are not a lot of things to do within a five-minute walk of the stadium.
However, being located in the nation's capital, there is no shortage of things to do. I could write a whole other review just on what to do while you are in DC, so if you are visiting the area take some time to plan other events while you are here. Washington.org is a great starting place to get the most out of your time spent in Washington, DC, and has some great recommendations for things to do in the area.
When you go to a Nationals game, you will get a good vibe from the fans as you walk up to the park and see a majority of them decked out in team gear and excited about the main event. There is usually a good buzz at the first pitch, even though a lot of fans are still filing into their seats well into the second or third inning. The thing that brings a typical Nationals crowd from great to average in my opinion is many of them are focused on everything but what's happening on the field. This topic has even been mentioned by local talk radio and bloggers, as fans have been spotted reading books, scratching lottery tickets, and generally being uninterested in the product on the field. Of course, you can find instances of that in any stadium in the world, but my experience is that a lot of fans tend to multi-task at Nationals Park. As a fellow fan, I find the game experience more enjoyable when the people sitting around me are just as engaged as I am.
Overall, Nats fans are pretty respectful of visitors - unless the Braves or Phillies are in town. Philly fans tend to invade Nationals Park (not as much now as they did in the past), so it makes for some interesting banter between rival fans. I have not experienced many chants or cheers that are special to Nationals Park, although the singing of 'Take On Me' during the seventh-inning stretch always seems to get the crowd pumped and is something to look forward to. It's a fun song and was the walk-up music for Michael Morse when he played here. There have been locals calling for the removal of the song since Morse has left town, but I hope they keep it.
The best way to get to Nationals Park is to take the Metro, the subway system that services the Washington, DC area. Take the Green Line to the Navy Yard stop, and the center field gate is a ˝-block walk from there. You can't get much more convenient than that! This is a popular option, so be prepared for large crowds when the game is over and you are heading home.
If you insist on driving to the ballpark, leave early and be prepared for traffic. You can access from either I-295 or I-395, as both have good signage to direct you to the stadium. There is parking available close to Nationals Park, and you can purchase parking passes before you head out here. There are also independent cash lots available, but expect to pay anywhere from $30-$45 if you want to be relatively close to the stadium. If you are visiting the area or are not comfortable with traffic, you are better off taking the Metro.
Getting around the stadium is relatively easy. The main concourse is at street level, so the majority of fans do not have to climb steps to get to their seats. If you are in the upper levels and want to take an escalator, you will find them behind Sections 113 and 134. For those needing ramps, head to 107 or 131 for access. There are a sufficient number of restrooms and there are six family restrooms located throughout the park.
Attending a game at Nationals Park can lighten your wallet in a hurry, which is typical for any professional sporting event. A lower level ticket starts at $45 for a LF/RF corner seat and go up to $170 the closer you get into behind home plate. Upper Level and Outfield seats cost from $15-$36. A family of four with average-cost seats, combined with parking and a basic meal of hot dog, chips and beverage are looking are looking at a price tag of about $250 for the evening. There are deals to be found on the team's website, so I would recommend checking those out before purchasing tickets. Of course, you can always check other online channels for fans looking to sell their tickets and your friendly 'independent brokers' can always be found outside of the Metro station before you get to the stadium.
The marketing department of the Nationals deserves another mention. Over the past few years they have done an awesome job of turning this area on to the team and the stadium - #Natitude has become a catch phrase as well as a Twitter hashtag. This is well done, and I look forward to seeing how they keep this momentum going in the future.
Overall excellent customer service needs to be noted here also. From the gate attendants to the ushers and food service, my experience is typically a positive one at Nationals Park.
After entering the center field gate, you will find the Family Fun Zone to your right. It's designed for the younger kids, but it is a good place for them to burn off some energy before settling in their seats for the game.
Nationals Park is a completely non-smoking facility. Fans wishing to smoke must exit the stadium through specific gates and receive a wristband for reentry. At many stadiums, smoking is allowed in certain sections of the main concourse, and as a non-smoker, I appreciate this move by the Nationals.
If you are in the area and are a fan of baseball, Nationals Park needs to be part of your itinerary. I have attended many games over the years and have never left having had a bad experience. An upgrade of the surrounding neighborhood and a little more enthusiasm from the fan base in attendance will drive this stadium to being a top-notch MLB experience.
On approach, Nationals Park looks like a large, round office building. There is a real feel of the old 70's multipurpose stadiums like Veterans, Three Rivers and Riverfront Stadiums. But once inside, it is clear that this is every bit the modern stadium, complete with great food, drinks and activities. Oh, yeah, they play baseball here, too. The best way to describe it would be to imagine that Three Rivers and Camden Yards got together and had an ugly baby with a great personality and disposition. It never cries, is always happy and laughing, but, man, is it hard to look at.
This could be a great place for baseball. The food is fantastic and if/when the team puts something competitive out there the city could be a wonderful town. For now, this is a great park to work in during a visit to the nation's capital.
The Nationals have seriously upgraded their digs since the days of RFK. I had the opportunity to see a game there a number of years back, and if the baseball team wasn't bad enough, the aesthetics made it a less then pleasurable experience. However, their new park has all the beautiful views and amenities that all of today's parks do, a fact that makes it a bit cookie-cutterish, but the game viewing-experience is nice enough you forget about that. There are not many bad vantage points I could see (though the friends I went with said that the back of the upper deck does not make for a good view at all), and bargains can be had quite easilyâ?¦we sat along the first base side in the 200 level ($32 a ticket face value) for well below that via StubHub. I would imagine that until the team becomes relevant for a while that these bargains will continue to abound. Getting to the ballpark is very easy from all areas of D.C. The Metro drops you off right outside the park, and extra trains run the day of game. The view of the Potomac was quite nice, though if you are looking for a bar after the game, good luck. Foodwise, I had the best thing I ever eaten at any park here, at a place I believe was called Jammin' BBQ, though don't quote me on the nameâ?¦just know it's located behind the left field side of the main scoreboard. I had the jerk ribs, which came with some potato wedges and fried plantains, and a dish of cole slaw. The cost was high at $16 (especially as there were only 6 ribs) but they were meaty, and absolutely mouth-watering, with a great dry rub combined with an amazing sauce. The hot dogs were good; Washingtonites must love their dogs, as the lines for them were huge park-wide, while lines for BBQ pulled pork and brats were walk up and order. There are many decent beer selections, especially if you are like me, a beer snob who would rather go without then lower myself to cheap Bud or Miller swill. They had Leinie's, Sam Adams, Newcastle, Guinness, Bass, and many others, as well as the choice I went with, a house Home Run Ale, which the vendor said was "sort of like Bass"â?¦it was good. No matter the beer, they cost $8, so you might as well get the good stuff. Beyond the game, you have the D.C. equivalent of the Milwaukee Sausage race, the Presidents Race. I wondered why all the souvenir stands sold the Teddy Roosevelt stuff for $2 more then Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson, and found out that Teddy is everyone's favorite, because in the year's since the park has opened, he has never won a race, making him infinitely popular as a lovable loser. (as a Cubs fan, I could appreciate this) Walking in the main gate is a great view, with cherry trees and player sculptures in the foreground, and the full view of the park in the background. Nats fans are starting to come aroundâ?¦they seem to like the manager and the fact the team spent some money in the off-season. It's easy to see the fans start really coming if the team stays over .500 for any length of time. All in all, the experience is a bit over-priced, but if you are smart, you can get in cheap and add quality baseball to your D.C. trip.
Nats Park is nice, but does not stand up to Camden Yards which is just up I-95. It is difficult to get to by car, the METRO is OK but a zoo after games if there is any crowd. While I enjoyed my visit, I still prefer Camden Yards to catch a game.
With a winning team I might be more willing to make the journey, it might just make the difference.
I gave up on MLB after the strike (believe it or not, I generally don't hold grudges, but that's a different story.) So, despite living an 8 minute walk from the stadium, I've only been there twice--for the annual Congressional baseball game.
Don't go for the baseball--go for a cheap chance to wander around the park, contribute to a good cause, and witness a truly decent aspect of American politics. Despite "politics as usual," this annual event has been running strong for decades, and it symbolizes pure decency and bipartisanship, reaching across the aisle, sportsmanship, and setting differences aside.
Sadly, the event isn't widely publicized outside of Congressional circles. But do a little googling and you'll find the date. Then just show up. You won't need a ticket in advance. There will be maybe 5000 other people there cheering for democracy. Considering that, in any given year, there are usually a few former athletes in Congress, you'll get to see a couple of people who understand the game at least. And it's always fun to see what local team's uniform your Congressman has chosen to wear.
The stadium itself is a nice, new, modern stadium. It's everything you'd expect from a 21st Century stadium, but nothing that will wow you. The Stadium site was chosen to revitalize a bad neighborhood. It's definitely doing that, but much more slowly than many would have hoped. The Metro is a convenient option, but parking at Nationals Stadium has proven to be much less of a hassle than many originally feared.
Beatiful park but the crowd seemed to be more interested in talking about business rather than cheering on the team. Ben's half smoke chilli dog is a sign from god. It's messy and georgious. The president's race is truily unique and the field and sightlines are perfect. Neighbourhood is lifeless.
The stadium is very nice and the fans are excited now that the team wins. Even with the team's success, you can get cheap tickets on StubHub a few days before the game. DO NOT buy from the Nationals, especially since they raised prices in 2013.
If visiting from out of town, stay at the Marriott Courtyard. It is only a few blocks from Nationals Park (walking distance) and just one block from the subway station. The neighborhood is safe. Washington DC does have one of the better subway systems so getting in and around the area is pretty easy and affordable.
I would recommend visiting Gordon Biersch for a pre or post game drink or meal. There’s a Red Porch Food & Spirits just inside the center field entrance gate at Nationals Park that is worthy of a visit for a beer and bite to eat.
There is a lot of construction around the ballpark (2014). They are knocking down a building and I’ve heard they will be constructing a retail outlet including a hotel, movie theater, and shops. I heard three different stories on what will be constructed in the area so we’ll see what finally gets built.
The fans (at least in the 300 section) are knowledgeable and very welcoming. Just near section 309 is a cart (Distinct Brews) offering craft beers and is worth visiting if local brews are your preference.
1500 South Capitol St SE
Washington, DC 20003
1000 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20001