Minute Maid Park - Houston Astros
Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Minute Maid Park 501 Crawford St Houston, TX 77002
Year Opened: 2000
Houston Astros – Minute Maid Park
It’s a little hard to believe, but the Houston Astros have been playing at Minute Maid Park for over two decades. In that time, the Astros have seen periods of both success and decline, have changed leagues, sent players to the Hall of Fame, and captured Major League Baseball’s (MLB) ultimate, the World Series, twice.
The Astros most recently raised their championship banner commemorating winning the Fall Classic in 2022. This current run of success has launched the Astros into the upper echelon of franchises in MLB and has firmly cemented Space City as a baseball town. Through it all, the Juice Box has managed to stay fresh, inviting, and be a true homefield advantage.
Food & Beverage 5
One of the true strengths of Minute Maid Park is its concessions offerings. Fans attending Astros games can literally find anything and everything that they could possibly want to eat or drink. Every level of the ballpark is chock full of tasty choices – these include such chains as Shake Shack, Pluckers Wing Bar, and Papa John’s.
Some new highlights that opened in time for the 2023 season to look out for include La Stella Trattoria, an Italian spot selling oversized handheld sandwiches (think meatball, Italian sausage, and chicken parmigiana); Peaux Boys, which sells Cajun-inspired fare like Cajun fries, breaded catfish, and shrimp po-boy sandwiches; and Kuesadilla, with cheese, chicken, or beef stuffed quesadillas.
In terms of beverages there are several full-scale bars, including the Saint Arnold’s Beer Garden and the Karbach Brewing Company’s Love Street stands (both local Houston breweries). No matter what your tastes are, you’re going to eat and drink well at the Juice Box.
Since the earliest days of the ballpark, the Astros have done a great job in making games at Minute Maid Park feel special, even during the lean years. There are so many unique features scattered throughout the ballpark that fans are sure to find something new on each visit.
There are no less than four full-sized team stores in the ballpark for fans to purchase their ‘Stros goods, including a shop that sells custom jerseys and engraved bats on the spot. In the outfield, fans can see the championship banners and retired jersey numbers of Houston’s past greats.
Speaking of which, the Astros Hall of Fame Alley is located on the walkway along the left field line – there are a series of cabinets with displays about the former players; it’s a great trip down memory lane for fans. There is also the Home Run Porch in left field that extends slightly out onto the playing area; this gives fans over there a great chance to catch a souvenir. There is also an old-fashioned Phillips 66 gas pump that keeps a running tally of homers hit by the Astros during the season.
The signature feature has always been the home run train stationed high above left-centerfield. Playing into the ballpark’s history of being the former home of Houston’s downtown train depot, the refurbished steam engine rolls up and down the track every time an Astro goes yard.
You can also find a photo op-worthy location virtually around every corner, but the main draw is the layout of the ballpark itself. There isn’t a bad sightline in the building, and fans will especially appreciate the retractable roof during the dog days of summer in H-Town.
Minute Maid Park is located right in the middle of Space City’s vibrant downtown area. It virtually shares a parking lot with Shell Energy Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo. It’s also down the road from the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets. Both seasons overlap with the Astros, so you might be able to catch an additional game while you’re in town.
With the ballpark right in the heart of the metaphorical action in the city, you’ll have a wealth of opportunities to choose from in terms of attractions, dining, and lodging. Starting with things to do, visitors are always recommended to take in the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The premier museum in Houston – and arguably in all of Texas – the facility has five floors of permanent exhibits, featuring astronomy, space science, Native American culture, paleontology, energy, and Texas wildlife, alongside multiple rotating special exhibitions.
My next recommendation is also a great spot to visit to get out of the brutal heat and humidity of H-Town – more than 26 million people visit The Galleria shopping center each year. It is the largest of its kind in the state and one of the largest in the nation at over 2.4 million square feet, housing 400+ stores, restaurants, and hotels.
With Houston being the fourth-largest city in the United States, and also the most diverse city in Texas, your dining options before or after games at Minute Maid Park are really only limited by your tastes and your budget. As mentioned there is an abundance of options just in the downtown area, with many being a short drive from the ballpark. These include Irma’s Original, an award-winning, tried and true Tex-Mex spot a short walk from the Juice Box. Another nearby option, albeit a little more upscale, is The Pearl Restaurant & Bar; offering up an array of seasonal, fresh dishes and cocktails (check out their Sam Houston dish; it’s insane), The Pearl is also a city favorite.
For lodging, the locations that are the closest are probably some of the pricier ones. These include the Westin Houston Downtown and the Homewood Suites by Hilton Houston Downtown. Both are 5-10-minute walks from Minute Maid Park. There are plenty of other options throughout the area, however.
There has always been a special connection between the Astros and their hometown fans. However, this recent run of success has seen fan interest increase exponentially. Currently Houston averages just a hair under 38,000 fans per game, which ranks them in the top 10 in all of MLB. The fans that come to games are virtually all decked out in Astros gear; tons of jerseys can be seen, some even breaking out the old school “rainbow” style gear. It’s a loud and energetic crowd, and is one of the better ones that I have personally experienced.
Being in downtown Houston allows fans to easily get to Minute Maid Park. Located near the on and off ramps for Interstate 69, fans driving in have easy access to the ballparks’ parking areas. Speaking of those first, there are only four official parking lots associated with the ballpark, but there are numerous options at local businesses to park in their lots as well. The cost of parking (discussed more in the Return on Investment section) varies depending on how far you’re willing to walk.
If you are driving in (please be wary of Houston traffic; you will get stuck in it at some point, so plan accordingly), the ballpark is around a three-hour drive from both San Antonio and Austin, and a little over four hours away from Dallas and Fort Worth.
It is also 20-30 minutes from both George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. Both are massive airports with flights coming in and going out all day long to locales all across the globe. Alternatively, if you choose not to drive to the game when you get to town, the Houston METRO has a stop right in front of the Juice Box.
Return on Investment 4
Single-game tickets for Astros games at Minute Maid Park are still pretty affordable at just $22 per person. While this would be in the upper concourse, it’s still not a bad seat and you can still see all the action on the field.
If you choose to use one of the parking lots tied to the ballpark, that cost will run you between $30 and $40. As previously mentioned, however, many local businesses open up their lots on game days, and you can find spots there for as little as $15 if you’re willing to walk.
Concessions are on the higher end of the spectrum, so if you want to eat and drink heartily during a game, you’re going to have to open up the wallet quite a bit. However, all this together still ends up being a bargain as these are reigning, defending, World Series champs, and they’re still really good.
Besides the many special features that Minute Maid Park and the Astros offer that I have already mentioned, they also have two more, their mascot Orbit and their own pep squad, the Coca-Cola Shooting Stars. Since returning to the field in 2012, Orbit – who is said to hail from the Foul Territory of the Grand Slam Galaxy – has become a favorite across MLB. He can be seen riding across the field and firing off a t-shirt cannon, dancing on top of the dugout and high-fiving fans in the stands at every home game. The Shooting Stars are also present during home games, and participate in the seventh inning stretch sing-a-longs, as well as tossing out souvenirs to fans in-between innings.
I have been coming to Minute Maid Park since it opened 23 years ago and it is still one of my top three ballparks. It has a lot to offer fans, and it still just frankly looks great. I would definitely recommend putting the Juice Box on any baseball fans bucket list. If you find yourself in Space City during the season take in a game; I think you’ll come away with the same appreciation that I have.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477.