The Verizon Center in the Chinatown area of Washington, DC, is home to the NHL's Capitals, NBA's Wizards, WNBA's Mystics, and the Georgetown University Hoyas men's basketball team. Built in 1997, it is a symbol of pride for the city, as well it should be, because it is absolutely spectacular.
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".
If I could score a six here, I would. While I can't vouch for the taste of everything, you will not be disappointed by the selection. Everything you could possibly think of in an arena is here. All of your regular fare is here: burgers, dogs, nachos, pizza, and so on. But everybody has that.
What everybody doesn't have is hand pulled BBQ; crab cakes; kosher, vegetarian and vegan options; salads; light sandwiches; and not-so-light sandwiches. There is a sandwich carving station that has a guy in a fancy chef's hat that will literally carve meat off before your very eyes and make you a sandwich. They have a Hard Times Cafe stand here, which, in case you didn't know, serves the best chili you've ever had, assuming you haven't had mine or my dad's.
There are multiple full service (beer, wine, and liquor) bars throughout, and the arena boasts a staggering number (I stopped counting at 45, because that is the kind of hard-nosed journalist I am) of beers on tap.
If you have a problem with the food or beer selection here, I feel for you.
So, partly because parking is really just a rumor (more on that later), but really because I love taking public transportation (no, really, I do), I took the DC Metro to the arena. To get the full effect of the experience of Capitals hockey, I suggest you do the same. The subway car hums with excitement as nearly-everyone is following the Caps' rallying cry of "Rock The Red." As you are swept along the subway concourse, up the escalator to the outside of the arena, the feeling builds to crescendo as you walk into the arena, which is mind-numbingly loud. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has done a brilliant marketing job with this club, and you can feel it. There is legit excitement here. Whoo, hold on, I need to lie down for a second; I got dizzy just writing about it. Simply amazing.
The neighborhood deserves a ten. I am a huge fan of downtown arenas and Verizon is a perfect example why. Whatever you are in the mood for is available within a block of the restaurant, in both casual and upscale. You want a burger? Done. You want a salad? Done. You want seafood? Done. You want Mexican? Done. You want Chinese? Hello, it's in Chinatown. There is a tapas bar across the street. How many arenas can say that? Come on.
Here are three great spots:
Great American food with a huge specialty drink list, which includes over a dozen different types of martinis, Bar Louie is attached to the arena near the movie theater. Big TVs all over, this is a great place to watch the Caps if you can't get a ticket, which is likely as they sell out
So, I've never been to Ireland, but I'm going to assume that Fado is just like it. Legit Irish food and drink, including a dessert that is a Black and Tan Brownie topped with Guinness ice cream (hold me), make this a must stop when visiting the arena. They also, as a side note, show tons of European sports here.
Sushi Go Round and Tapas
A few doors down from Bar Louie is the cleverly named Sushi Go Round and Tapas. As the name implies they serve sushi — which goes around in front of you on a conveyor belt — and tapas, which is just a fancy way of saying appetizers. The idea is that you pick and choose what you want, a la carte, and create your own meal. Fun and delicious.
There are more. Just go. If you are not fully satisfied I will give you a full refund on the price of this review. Plus, there is something wrong with you.
I'm not going to say these are the best hockey fans in the country, because I'm from Philly, and I'd like to go home at some point, and also I have friends in Detroit that would cut me. But I will put them in the top 5, and if you disagree, you are going to need to come to a game with me, because your opinion, while valued, is wrong. During the national anthem, they all stand respectfully and quietly, except for the line "and the rockets red glare," where 19,000 people yell "RED" in unison on that word. I just got goose bumps typing that. After the opposing team scores, the arena PA announces the goal, which is then followed by 19,000 people yelling, "WHO CARES!" After each Capitals goal, they play a goal song (which rotates with each goal, which is a bit annoying) after which 19,000 people count the number of goals and yell, "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT."
Well it can't be perfect.
The downside of any downtown arena is the dearth of good parking. Verizon Center is no exception. This is mitigated by the great public transportation, but there is no official parking at the Verizon Center. There are rumors of a parking lot under the arena for disabled parking only (good luck with that) but beyond that, you will be in a public lot in downtown DC in Chinatown, so, have fun finding a space below $25. You could try Park Whiz, but I haven't and can't really vouch for it either way. It appears to be significantly cheaper, but let's face it: if you drive, you are missing half the fun, so just take the Metro. TAKE THE METRO.
Plenty of clean bathrooms are available, including family changing rooms in select areas.
There is too much to do at varying prices around here for you not to get a great return on your investment. Inside the arena itself, prices are average for an arena, and you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, they sell out a lot, and when that happens, ticket prices go up. However, considering there is not a bad seat in the house, it is worth it.
I really would love to give this a ten here as well. This arena is walking distance to lots of DC landmarks, my favorite being the International Spy Museum. There is a legit sports bar attached to the outside of the arena in The Greene Turtle. Also attached to the arena is a spa. A SPA. And, most importantly, inside and out, are Dunkin Donuts, which serves the best quick-service coffee ever. Get out of my face with that Starbucks nonsense. Stop it.
Go get your bucket list. Add "Attend a Washington Capitals game at Verizon Center" to it. Then do it. You will not be disappointed. Unless there's something wrong with you.
Geoff Crawley is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent, moderator of The Voice of the Fan, and host of a weekly podcast.
Washington DC's Verizon Center is home to the NHL's Capitals, NBA's Wizards, WNBA's Mystics and Georgetown University men's basketball. Built in 1997, it was the start of the revitalization of DC's Chinatown. It is largely responsible for the area being one of the hottest spots in the city. In a word: phenomenal.
Tourists can park for free for 24 hours in Alexandria and from there you can take the Metro station to the arena. Beats the stress of driving in downtown Washington.
Standing directly above the Gallery/Chinatown Metro station in downtown DC, the Verizon Center was opened in 1997 to replace the US Air Arena that was located in suburban Landover. Originally known as the MCI Center, it was renamed when Verizon bought MCI in 2006, and is known as the "Phone Booth" by locals. The box office is inside the F Street entrance where there is an exhibit called "A Ticket To History" that has a few historical pictures from the area. It's not sports-related but worth checking out.
The Capitals have a variable pricing scheme with Red the cheapest games. The other categories (White, Blue, Gold) are $15 more expensive each step up the ladder. So a $40 seat for a crap game is $85 when the Penguins come to town. Check out the schedule before going so you know what the true price of tickets is.
I inquired at the box office and the cheapest available ticket was $50 for a second row seat in the upper deck behind the net. Interestingly, the upper corners are actually slightly less expensive, which is the first time I have seen this; it's smart as the seats directly behind the net are generally better than those in the corners.
Once inside, I did the requisite tour and saw very little to mention. There were no historical displays or sections. This was not surprising; downtown venues often have space limitations and seats are more important than museums. The arena has three seating levels, with the club seats taking up the 200 level which pushes the 400 level a bit further away. Still I found the view from the front rows in the upper bowl to be adequate.
There are 4 retired numbers for the Capitals and a number of Bullets' banners. The Georgetown Hoyas also have one banner commemorating their final four appearances. There used to be attendance banners for the WNBA Mystics but those were removed earlier this year after being the target of much derision.
With 100% of vendors having serious violations of the health code in that ESPN study released in 2010, I wasn't going to eat here. I didn't see anything remotely appetizing anyway, although there is a designated driver booth where you can get a free soft drink.
The scoreboard is nice and relatively new, having been installed in 2007. They show replays almost immediately, often while play is still going on, which can be bothersome as you are trying to watch the live action but want to check out the replay of that great save too. There are out-of-town scoreboards at each corner of the arena.
What I liked best was the fans. Nearly everyone was wearing red jerseys and it looked pretty cool. It might be the best example of the benefits of having the home team wear dark colours. The fans were loud and knowledgeable, but unfortunately they had little to cheer about as the Capitals were shutout in the game I saw, which hurt the atmosphere quite a bit. Overall, there's nothing wrong here, but nothing special either.
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