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Official Review by Jonah Berman, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
In 2005, when TD Bank purchased the naming rights to the basketball venue on Causeway St. in Boston, they hoisted a large banner on the building that read "Go ahead, call it the Garden again." For sentimental value, it was a smart move. Its previous name, the Fleet Center, was one of those generic, corporate titles that meant nothing to fans. So yes, you can call it the Garden again (the caveat being there's now a "TD" in front of it). All that said, nothing compares to the old Boston Garden. The TD Garden is missing the old quirks that made the real Garden what it was, but has also improved on those same quirks that made the old venue a sometimes difficult place to watch a game.
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The Garden offers your typical stadium fare, but not a whole lot of frills. You'll find the requisite peanuts, pretzels, hot dogs and nachos, (at typical stadium prices) along with a reasonable variety of beers, including hometown favorite Sam Adams. There's a bar behind Loge 17 that's a good halftime watering hole, or a place to head in the 4th quarter if the game has gotten out of hand.
The Garden is an exciting place to see a game, but a lot of that has to do with the team's recent run of success. During much of the 90's and early 2000's, when the team was struggling, it was rare to find the stadium rocking. Now, the pre-game show is quite a spectacle, and when the lights go out after the visiting team has been announced, and Kevin Garnett's face shows up screaming on the jumbotron, the crowd has no choice but to get revved up.
While it doesn't rival the scene at the Staples Center, you'll often find a number of homegrown celebrities or local professional athletes sitting courtside. Recent spottings have included Donnie Wahlberg (a regular), David Ortiz, Vince Wilfork of the Patriots, Ellen Pompeo of Grey's Anatomy, and Bill Belichik. Of course, to get anywhere close to them, you'd likely be forking over $300-plus per seat.
Much like the Fenway area, the neighborhood around TD Garden is vibrant and provides a multitude of options for pre and post game dining, drinking, and partying. For those looking to explore, the North End (Boston's little Italy) is a short walk, as is the Quincy Hall/Faneuil Market area.
Right across from the Garden itself, one local favorite is Halftime Pizza, where you can get a slice of cheese for $2.71 and a tall Sam Adams to wash it down. For those looking for a more historical sports experience, The Fours Restaurant and Sports Bar has been voted #1 Sports Bar in America by Sports Illustrated, and its walls are covered with local sports memorabilia.
If you're looking for a dance party, Hurricane O'Reilly's or the Harp are both good options. The Greatest Bar has four floors of fun, and a newer outpost is DJ's at the Garden. Finally, for the brave, try Sullivan's Tap or the Penalty Box. Just make sure to put on your best Boston accent and act like you're a local.
Fans at the Garden are passionate and knowledgeable enough to follow the game. However, the unfortunate truth is that with the C's recent success, many of the old diehards have been priced out, replaced by local celebs (see above) or moneyed elite who don't have as much history with the team. No question that the joint was rocking during the championship run in spring of 2008. But during a regular season game in mid-February, C's fans are up to the task but not overly impressive.
Getting to the TD Garden is fairly easy. You can take the "T", our downtown subway, and either the green or orange lines will drop you off right across the street. If you're coming from further out, the commuter rail drops you off literally right inside the building. You can visit Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for schedules and more information. Driving to the garden is not quite the nightmare that driving to Fenway is, but you're still looking at $25 and up to park anywhere close to the Garden. Public transport is your best bet, without question.
Tickets are not easy to come by these days, and that often means you'll have to pay more than face value to get them. But you're paying to see a high-quality product, and while TD Garden lacks the history of the old Garden, it's a comfortable place to see a game and sight lines are good no matter where you sit.
The neighborhood and Celtic aura earn this venue a few extra points. There's no other arena in the NBA where you can look up and see 17 championship banners, at least not yet...
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