Fenway Park - Boston Red Sox
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
4 Jersey Street
Boston, MA 02215
Year Opened: 1912
The Lyric Little Bandbox
The Boston Red Sox rightfully bill Fenway Park as “America’s Most Beloved Ball Park”. Still going strong even after over a century of use, no ballpark has been more honored in film, literature, and song than Fenway Park. With its numerous quirky angles and unique features, Fenway Park has been often imitated, but never duplicated. Fenway’s old-school charms consistently rank it near the top of any ballpark chaser’s list, and it has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city of Boston in its own right. Fenway Park is such an iconic venue that even casual baseball fans can recognize its unique design.
Fenway Park takes its name from its neighborhood. The term “fens” is an Old English term for a marshy area. If you walk a few blocks southeast of the ballpark you will find yourself in the Back Bay Fens, one of these marshy areas.
Established in 1901 as the Boston Americans, The Red Sox are one of Major League Baseball’s oldest and most successful teams, winning 9 World Series on top of 14 American League Pennants, 10 AL East Division titles and 8 more Wild Card berths. 39 former Red Sox players are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Food & Beverage 5
Even though Fenway Park has taken great strides in recent years to keep up with the trends of establishing gourmet options within their concession offerings, many longtime Red Sox fans will still insist your best bet for food at Fenway Park are the numerous sausage carts that line the ballpark on all sides. For a new visitor to the area, this is where you should stop for that authentic Fenway experience. The prices are cheaper than on the inside, and the quality is, dare I say it, better.
That’s not to say there are no quality options within Fenway Park. The team takes over Jersey Street starting ninety minutes before first pitch. Here fans will find several stands offering some of Fenway Park’s more unique offerings, including El Tiante’s Grille, The Fenway Fish Shack and A Taste of Boston, which features a rotation of local vendors.
While there seems to be concession stands crammed into every nook and cranny of the ballpark, the majority of concessions can be found on the Big Concourse in right field. From the overrated Fenway Frank to Legal Seafood’s famous clam chowder, there’s something for everyone at a Red Sox game. Visitors to the area will be happy to find locally sourced items scattered throughout the menu. Fans looking for gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan offerings will be able to find plenty from which to choose. A complete Fenway Park concessions guide can be found here.
Longtime Fenway Park concessionaire Aramark is rolling out several new items for the 2022 season, including Sal’s Pizza, buffalo chicken spring rolls, a jalapeno Cheetos hot dog, turkey gyros, Grillo’s Pickles, Platanos Maduros, Fluffer Nutter Fries, and the Doritos walking taco. New to the outdoor concessions on Jersey Street are MingsBings, a vegan offering created by James Beard award-winning chef Ming Tsai.
Coca-Cola products are featured at Fenway Park (An insider’s tip from Stadium Journey: If you plan to visit Fenway Park more than once this season, purchase a souvenir cup. They come with free refills all season long).
As you might imagine, the beer game is strong at Fenway Park. Sam Adams is the official beer of the Red Sox, so you can find all of their outstanding brews served here alongside other popular national brands. Visiting fans looking for local micro-brews will be more than satisfied with the available choices.
It’s hard to top the game day atmosphere at Fenway Park, which has become one of Boston’s top tourist destinations regardless of whether or not the Sox are in town. Fans flock from all corners of New England and beyond to spend a day at the ballpark. Taking in a game at Fenway has become a must for anyone traveling to Massachusetts.
Fenway Park is loaded with features designed to entertain both the casual and the die-hard fan. Outside the ballpark are several statues of Red Sox greats Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and “The Teammates.” Retired number banners, World Series banners and American League pennants line the exterior of the ballpark along Van Ness and Jersey Streets. Both Lansdowne Street and Jersey Street are mobbed with fans hours before first pitch.
Jersey Street is closed off to traffic before games, and is loaded with concession stands, live bands and what may be the largest souvenir stand in the country. The old ticket booths here have been transformed to exhibits featuring memorabilia from each of the Red Sox’ World Series championship teams. Also located here is the old bullpen buggy, a popular spot for photos.
Red Sox ownership claims that they have invested over $300 million into Fenway Park since purchasing the team in 2002. Longtime Sox fans can tell you all about how cramped, dark, and dank the concourse used to be. Fans visiting Fenway today will enter into a wide, bright, infinitely more modern concourse. Concessions, souvenirs, displays and activities for young and old alike are packed into virtually every corner of Fenway Park.
With families in mind, the team has created an exclusive entrance just for kids (Gate K, located in center field). From the third through seventh inning, Wally’s Clubhouse offers kid-friendly entertainment and activities. Virtual reality booths, speed pitch booths and a life-size replica of David Ortiz made out of Legos are just a few of the attractions here.
Balancing the old-school mentality of the long-time Red Sox fan with the need of younger fans for constant stimulation is a tricky act, but the Red Sox do a good job of working out these disparate goals. Video boards throughout the park keep fans engaged and entertained between innings while respecting Fenway traditions. In their efforts to upgrade the Fenway Experience, the Red Sox have expanded their augmented-reality offerings throughout the ballpark.
There’s no doubt about it: the neighborhood around Fenway Park is changing. Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and skyrocketing rents in the area, Fenway institutions such as The Baseball Tavern, Boston Beer Works and The Fenmore Grill are no more. Heck, even the Hotel Buckminster right up the street from the ballpark is closed. But that does not mean the Fenway neighborhood is in decline.
Fenway-area favorites such as the Cask ‘N Flagon, Game On!, The Bleacher Bar and Loretta’s Last Call still draw big crowds before and after Red Sox games. Numerous dining options line Boylston Street, Brookline Avenue and Kenmore Square on all sides of the ballpark. Some highlights include Sweet Cheeks Q, Citizens Public House and Oyster Bar, Eventide and Tiger Mama.
Longtime visitors to Fenway Park may bemoan the fact that the area has become more upscale and many of the legendary dive bars and holes in the wall have disappeared. For fans who would rather save their appetite for a location outside the ballpark, there are plenty of high-quality places from which to choose.
Boston’s small geographic footprint and expansive public transportation system means that even if you do not stay right near the ballpark, it is still easy to get to. Visitors who would rather stay nearby will find Hotel Commonwealth, Residence Inn by Marriot and The Verb excellent choices in the shadows of Fenway Park.
Visiting fans interested in exploring more than just Boston’s baseball scene will find much to do beyond the immediate Fenway neighborhood. Explore the Freedom Trail, a walking trail through the city that links several historical locations. Tours of the Boston Harbor are well worth a look, as is Faneuil Hall, a colonial meetinghouse that has been converted into a shopping and tourist destination. Museums, galleries, and tours of all kinds are located throughout the city, making Boston one of the top tourist destinations in the country.
Red Sox fans are known for their dedication to their team, and they pack Fenway game after game. Even though the Red Sox don’t always sell out Fenway Park, that does not mean that tickets have suddenly become easy to find. Attendance for the 2021 season was a shade under 30,000 per game. If traveling from out of town, be sure to get your tickets in advance, or be prepared to pay outrageous ticket broker or scalper prices. If looking for last-minute bargains, check out the scalp-free zone on outside Gate C on Lansdowne Street.
One downside to Fenway Park’s status as an attraction in itself means that a portion of every crowd is there to be seen as much as to take in the action. You will undoubtedly see more casual fans at Fenway than in other parks, and the crowd here seems to be in constant motion, roaming the aisles and concourses throughout the game, which can be very distracting and aggravating to the hardcore fan. Despite the less than stellar reputation of some Boston fans, you can feel comfortable bringing the whole family to Fenway.
Some Fenway traditions have taken on a life of their own, such as the singing of Sweet Caroline in the middle of the 8th inning, which has been happening on-and-off since the mid-90’s, and at every game since 2002. Make no mistake, Boston fans are into the game to a greater degree than just about any other fan base. The atmosphere at Fenway Park is as electric in April as it is in August.
As anyone who has ever tried to get around the crooked, cramped streets of the city of Boston will tell you, leave your car at home if at all possible. If you must drive to Fenway Park, be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you are going. Delays, traffic jams, and seemingly endless construction projects are daily facts of life for Bostonians.
Every Bostonian has their own “secret” way to get to Fenway Park, and no two are alike. Every one of the 4.87 million citizens of greater Boston believes their route is the quickest. Simply put, they are all wrong. And no, I am not going to tell you my secret route to Fenway.
The best method for getting to Fenway Park is to take public transportation. The MBTA, or “T”, as it is known locally, provides several different methods for baseball fans to get to the game. Most fans will take the subway, as the B, C, and D versions of the Green Line stop at Kenmore Station, a short five-minute walk from Fenway Park.
If traveling from the western suburbs of Boston, take the commuter rail, which stops right across the street from Fenway Park at Yawkey Station. There are similar trains which travel into the city from the northern or southern suburbs, but which will require a transfer or two on the subway system to arrive at the aforementioned Kenmore station.
If taking a bus is more your speed, several city routes stop within a short walk of Fenway Park. Routes 8, 9, 19, 60 and 65 stop at the corner of Jersey Street and Brookline Avenue. In addition, route 55 stops on the back side of Fenway, at the corner of Ipswich and Boylston streets.
The MBTA website lists all public transportation schedules and accompanying fares, whether travelling by bus, subway, train, or even boat.
During the John Henry regime the Red Sox have continually updated and modernized this historic park, adding new seating and concession areas in previously unimagined places. For the 2022 season, the newest location is the Truly Terrace, an 8,800 square foot open-air concourse at the back of the bleachers. Included in this new section are barstool seats, standing room areas, new restrooms, a bar and concessions that feature visual recognition and smart checkout systems. Also included within this new construction are the new NESN studios, from which the television crew will broadcast their pre- and post-game shows. Above the Truly Terrace is the 521 Club, an indoor space available for functions. A new video board, twice as large as its predecessor, completes the new space.
Return on Investment 3
Going to Fenway Park has always been an expensive proposition. Given the park’s small capacity and the team’s incredible popularity, it’s a supply vs. demand graph come to life.
The 2021 Fan Cost Index ranks a trip to Fenway Park as the second most expensive in all the Major Leagues, behind only the Chicago Cubs. According to the FCI, four average-priced tickets, two small beers (why would you be purchasing a small beer, anyway?), four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking, two programs and two caps will cost you a total of $364.38. That being said, there are ways to make a trip to Fenway Park more affordable.
Check out various ticket-resale websites for cheaper tickets. The scalp-free ticket zone, located at Gate C outside Lansdowne Street, features ticket holders looking to sell their extra tickets at face value or lower. Avoid the expensive neighborhood parking by taking the T to Fenway Park. The Green Line’s B, C and D trains stop at Kenmore Square, a short walk from the ballpark. A one-way fare is $2.40. As mentioned before, a souvenir soda cup features unlimited refills throughout the season. Grabbing a bite to eat at one of the sausage carts that line the streets around Fenway Park enhances the Fenway experience and saves a few dollars.
Fenway Park has gone completely cashless for the 2022 season. Credit cards or touchless payment using smart phones are the only accepted payment methods. Even the ever-present Fenway hawkers are equipped with cashless point of sale devices. Card-to-cash machines are located throughout the park for fans who need to convert their cash.
Any ballpark that has been in use for over a century is bound to have had a memorable moment or two on its resume. The Red Sox proudly display their best moments throughout the ballpark, in manners both obvious and subtle. New visitors to Fenway should earmark some extra time to take in as much of the ballpark as possible.
Banners and plaques commemorating Red Sox pennants and World Series championships are present both inside and outside the ballpark. Flags honoring every Hall of Famer to play in Boston line the outside of the park along Van Ness Street. Red Sox retired numbers are hung along the right field façade and again along the outside of the ballpark.
Located by Gate B on Van Ness Street are statues honoring Red Sox legends Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and “The Teammates” (Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Ted Williams).
Historical touches abound throughout Fenway Park, starting with the lone red seat in right field commemorating the longest home run ever hit at the ballpark to the plaques located throughout the park highlighting milestones and important features of the park. Even long-time visitors to Fenway can find something new if they explore the grounds long enough.
The Green Monster, Pesky’s Pole, Wally and Tessie, Sweet Caroline, Fenway Franks, the Big Concourse, Patriots Day, Dirty Water, Fenway Farms, the Citgo Sign, Kenmore Square, Lego Papi, Lansdowne Street, the triangle, the bullpen buggy, the street vendors; the list of things to see and do at Fenway Park goes on and on…
How old is Fenway Park? It opened the same week that the Titanic sank. While other cities are building billion-dollar complexes to replace ballparks that are only 20 years old, in Boston they are simply finding new ways to put modern touches on this classic diamond.
Fenway Park is not perfect. It’s cramped, it’s crowded, and it’s expensive. Yes, some seats sit right behind poles and some seats face the wrong way. Still, ask any ballpark aficionado where they would like to see a game, and Fenway Park will likely be among their top choices. Fenway Park’s mix of historical touches, quirky features, and modern comforts is unmatched anywhere. Other cities try again and again to find the magic formula that has existed in Boston for 111 years now.
Simply put, Fenway Park is the standard against which all other ballparks are measured.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.