Minute Maid Park - Houston Astros
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Minute Maid Park 501 Crawford St Houston, TX 77002
Year Opened: 2000
Minute Maid Park – Welcome to the Juice Box!
In 2022 the Houston Astros are celebrating their 60th anniversary. Over the years the ‘Stros have delighted the fans in Space City with the exploits of the “Toy Cannon” Jimmy Wynn; legendary second bagger Joe Morgan; Cy Young award-winners Mike Scott, Roger Clemens, Justin Verlander, and Dallas Keuchel; and the Killer B’s: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Lance Berkman. The great Nolan Ryan held court on the mound, throwing one of his record seven career no-hitters while in Houston.
After moving out of the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Astrodome, the Astros moved into their new luxury downtown facilities at (the now-named) Minute Maid Park. From the friendly confines of their new home at the Juice Box, the Astros have made the playoffs nine times, claimed four pennants (one when they were still in the National League and three since joining the American League), and won one World Series championship in 2017.
Built on the grounds of the former Union Station train depot, the retractable-roofed Minute Maid Park still retains the aesthetics of the former railyard. This greatly enhances the overall atmosphere of the park and makes the now-over two decades-old park still feel like a novelty to visit.
In recent years, the team’s spate of success has brought them an unprecedented bout of popularity. This in turn has made Minute Maid Park the place to be in Space City during baseball season. Read on to learn what makes the Juice Box special.
Food & Beverage 5
The concessions at Minute Maid Park are truly first-rate. Virtually any food and beverage item a baseball fan could want can be had within the confines of the park. Pizza, hot dogs, burgers, chicken wings, barbecue, tacos, craft beer, cocktails – all of that and more is on the metaphorical table.
Some new highlights this year to be on the lookout for include the Elote and Pupusas stand on the main concourse. Specializing in selling Mexican-style street corn as well as their signature cheese or pork pupusas (the signature dish grilled skillet corn cakes from El Salvador), these are unique ballgame treats that lend themselves perfectly to the circumstances.
Another newcomer to look out for this year, and one that quite frankly seems like a no-brainer for baseball, is the Home Plate Pastrami food cart. This cart serves glorious hot pastrami sandwiches, covered in Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and thousand island dressing – Reuben sandwiches at the ballpark, y‘all!
One more spot I would highly recommend visitors seek out is the Crawford Dog cart located on the main concourse. This genius of a concoction takes a traditional ballpark hot dog up several notches. The grilled hot dog is smothered with locally brewed Crawford Bock bacon jam and mustard on a potato bun. Sounds great, right? You can also get a combo meal, with the dog, a Crawford Bock beer, and a bag of peanuts for $29.99.
Other spots to look out for are Saint Arnold’s Beer Garden, located in the center of the old train depot, Shake Shack, and Pluckers Wing Bar in the concourse along the outfield. Again, no matter what you’re looking for, you’re more than likely going to find it at Minute Maid Park.
Minute Maid Park is one of my favorite places to watch a baseball game for several reasons. One is the already mentioned aesthetics. The train station-imparted design features are everywhere, and greatly enhance the atmosphere. Numerous spots throughout the ballpark serve as great photo ops for fans. In addition, the ballpark has numerous team stores scattered throughout for fans looking for souvenirs and merchandise.
One of the great highlights continues to be the home run train that sits aloft on the left-centerfield wall. Any time an Astro hits one out of the park, the restored historic train runs along a track. It is truly a spectacle and one that is very popular – for good reason – with the fans.
Minute Maid Park is in the heart of Houston’s vibrant downtown. For sports fans, it really could not be in a better location. The Juice Box is well within walking distance of both Toyota Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, and PNC Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo of the MLS, Houston Dash of the NWSL, and college football’s Texas Southern Tigers. Most of these sports play during the same season as the Astros, so with some careful planning, you can probably double dip on your sports viewing on your trip to Minute Maid Park.
If you’re looking for other things to do before or after Astros games, Houston’s Discovery Green is also nearby Minute Maid Park. Opened in 2008 this 12-acre park in the heart of the city is a true urban oasis and offers visitors walking and jogging trails, playscapes for children, public art spaces, a restaurant, an open-air amphitheater, and more.
Also close to the ballpark is the famous Downtown Aquarium, which can be seen from miles away thanks to the large Ferris wheel that sits out front. The aquarium is home to over 300 unique species and is one of Houston’s most visited attractions each year. It also boasts a full-service restaurant and a full-service bar.
In terms of hotel and dining options, you have an embarrassment of options near Minute Maid Park to choose from. It is all a matter of your taste and your budget; you are sure to find something that suits your tastebuds and your lodging needs.
Last season the Astros averaged just under 26,000 fans a game at Minute Maid Park, ranking them in the top five in the Major Leagues in attendance. This jives with what I’ve seen anecdotally during my visits. Since the Astros have been on their recent run of success, they don’t appear to have ever been more popular.
The stands are littered with Astros jerseys, t-shirts, and hats. Fans bring homemade signs, show up early for batting practice, and cheer loudly throughout the game. Their energy greatly adds to the atmosphere of the games, as there is nothing worse than a quiet ballpark. These days, the Juice Box is anything but that!
As mentioned, Minute Maid Park is in the middle of Houston’s downtown area. This has proven to be a boon for fans looking for easy access to the ballpark. Houston is about a three-hour drive from San Antonio and Austin, and just a shade under four hours from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The ballpark is located right off Interstate 69 and is about a 20-minute drive from George Bush Intercontinental Airport, one of the largest and busiest hubs in the country.
Once onsite, there are five Astros parking lots for fans to choose from, as well as scores of other non-affiliated parking options. Depending on how much you want to spend and how far you want to walk, you can probably get a pretty good bargain. The caveat I always throw out for folks attending any sporting event in Houston is you must be wary of the traffic – you are going to be stuck in it at some point, so consider that as you make your way to the ballpark.
If you choose not to drive, Houston’s METROrail public transit is a really good option. There is a stop not far from the ballpark, it runs all day and only costs $1.25 to ride.
Return on Investment 3
Single-game tickets for the Astros start at $23 per person. Authorized parking through the Astros website can be found for as low as $10 per game; again, this depends on how far you are willing to walk from the stadium. Both of these are bargains for Major League teams – especially a team the caliber of the Houston Astros.
The one area where you are going to have to dip into the recesses of your pocketbook is at the concessions stands and team stores. These are on par and a little higher in some instances than other big-league clubs.
The Houston Astros, like a lot of baseball teams, do a lot to enhance the overall game-day experience for their fans. As mentioned there are a lot of photo ops for fans throughout the ballpark, and there is also the train. Another highlight to be on the lookout for includes the Astros Hall of Fame, on the concourse beyond the third baseline – this mini museum features an exhibit of great Astro and Houston players of the past.
There are also the Houston Shooting Stars, the de facto cheerleaders for the club; they patrol the stands, toss souvenirs from atop the dugout, and take photos with fans. The Astros also have their mascot, Orbit, to entertain crowds of all ages. The green alien is a favorite to take photos with and can always be counted on to liven up the fans.
I haven’t been to nearly enough Major League ballparks in my time, but among those that I have been to, Minute Maid is easily among my favorites. Everything about it is top-notch. In all candor, I think if you’re a baseball fan – hardcore, casual, or somewhere in between – you owe it to yourself to make your way to Space City to catch a game at Minute Maid Park. I think you’ll come to that same conclusion – this is a special place and one heck of a ballpark.