Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Nationals Park 1500 South Capitol St SE Washington, DC 20003
Year Opened: 2008
A National Pastime
In 2005, the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and changed their name to the Nationals. For their first three years of existence, they played their home games at RFK Stadium, which had previously been home to the Washington Senators. In 2008, the Nats moved into a stadium of their own, Nationals Park, which represented a significant improvement over RFK. The stadium is located only a few blocks south of the U.S. Capitol, which is visible from parts of the upper deck.
Food & Beverage 4
Nationals Park has a wide selection of food that will guarantee you will not go hungry. Options include traditional items like hot dogs, burgers, and pizza as well as more unique items like falafel, freshly made donuts, and sushi. Several of the concession stands also sell half smokes, a D.C. specialty that is somewhere in between a hot dog and a smoked sausage. There are also foods to serve various dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and kosher items. PETA has consistently ranked the stadium one of the best in the majors for vegetarians.
The prices are a bit high, though considering this is a major league park, that is not unexpected. The roving vendors typically only accept credit cards, and many stands require you to order either on your mobile device or at a kiosk nearby. Additionally, some stands may be closed for certain home games.
All seats at Nationals Park are chairbacks, except for a few tables in centerfield where fans can eat and drink by the nearby bar. Some of the seats down the lines may have an obstructed view of the corners due to other seats jutting out, but for the most part, you’ll have a good view no matter where you sit. There is a giant scoreboard in right-centerfield above the concourse, as well as a smaller out-of-town scoreboard built into the right-centerfield wall.
One of the more unique traditions at Nationals Park is the Presidents’ Race. In the middle of the fourth inning of every game, costumed versions of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt will emerge from the center field gate and race around the warning track to a finish line by the first base dugout. During the race, they will frequently get into various hijinks, such as playing dodgeball, getting attacked by a giant ice cream cone, or having their First Lady attack the other racers with her handbag. The Racing Presidents and a bald eagle mascot named Screech can be seen on the concourse, stands, and field throughout the game as well, interacting with fans and encouraging them to get loud.
Nationals Park is located in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Although this used to be a very bad part of town, that has changed since the stadium went up and it is now a perfectly safe, up-and-coming area. There are several bars and restaurants located within walking distance of the stadium, including Mission and Buffalo Wild Wings. A BetMGM sportsbook is located right next to Nationals Park, outside the centerfield gate and attached to the parking garage but cannot be accessed directly from the stadium. Fans who wish to place bets there must do before they enter the stadium or after they leave.
Downtown D.C. is a short Metro ride away and has a lot to offer as well. The best part is that most of it is free. Whether it’s walking along the national mall or visiting one of the many museums, there is so much you can do here. All government-run attractions are free, but some of the privately-run ones are not. Just keep in mind that if you want to tour the Capitol or White House, you will need to book in advance.
Nationals fans arrive late and leave early, even at the best of times. Fans will still be filing in two or three innings into the game and will start filing out by the sixth or seventh. Even for the limited amount of time everyone’s inside, there will still often be huge swaths of empty seats, especially now with the team at the bottom of the National League standings.
The fans who do show up can get loud at times, with some of them waving their hats and chanting “N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS!” after every run, but involved fans seem to be in the minority here. It seems to be a place to hang out with friends rather than pay attention to the action on the field. Although Nats fans are friendlier than what you’d experience up I-95 in Philadelphia or New York, there is a happy medium between abusive and uninvolved, and sadly Nationals fans seem to be more at the uninvolved end.
Crowds have seemed to shrink significantly since the Nats championship in 2019 as the team has fallen on hard times – there will usually be many empty seats, and if they are playing an NL East rival, visiting fans will make up a significant portion of the crowd. This is disappointing to see given how large the crowds were during the World Series run just a few years ago.
Nationals Park is conveniently located right next to the Navy-Yard Ballpark Stop on the Green Line of the Washington Metro. Although this may seem convenient, there are frequent Metro shutdowns that may reduce headways to 24 minutes or more or even shut down stations entirely.
These shutdowns are most prevalent on weekends or over the summer, which is of course when most people go to baseball games. Be sure to check the WMATA website before you head out if you plan on going this way. There are extra trains after games to accommodate the crowds, but the trains can still get pretty packed. Also, note that the supplemental trains only go a few stops in downtown before turning around to take more fans home.
Although fans who plan to transfer to other lines should have no problem, fans who wish to remain on the Green Line past Mount Vernon Square should check the destination sign of their train to be sure it is heading to Greenbelt, or simply get on the first train that comes and transfer later if need be.
Fans who are outside the D.C. area don’t need to drive to the ballpark, as they can drive to a suburban station and park there. Parking at Metro stations ranges from $3 to $6 depending on the station and is free on weekends. Fans coming from the south may wish to park at Branch Avenue in Southern Maryland, as you will be heading in the opposite direction from most fans at the end of the game, so your train will be significantly less crowded. Also, you will not need to transfer. Fans coming from the north may want to look into parking at Greenbelt or another station on the northern part of the Green Line, which at least avoids a transfer.
If you do plan on driving to the stadium, parking can be $50 or more. Taking an Uber or Lyft may end up being cheaper than parking, depending on where you’re coming from. Keep in mind that prices for rides close to the stadium after the game can skyrocket in price due to increased demand. If you can, we suggest walking a few blocks away from the stadium, which should bring the prices back down close to normal.
Return on Investment 3
Like many teams, the Nationals use variable pricing for tickets, so prices can vary depending on the opponent, the day of the week, and if any promotions are going on such as bobblehead giveaways. Expect them to start around $17 for upper-level seats and go up to over $400 for VIP seats behind home plate which include suite access.
One additional option is to buy $5 grandstand tickets on the day of the game. These seats go on sale two hours before the first pitch, 30 minutes before gates open, and there are a limited number of them available. If you do go this route, plan to arrive super early to get online if it is a high-demand game, and at the very least, be there when they go on sale. Note that everyone in your party must be present when you purchase the tickets. This is done to avoid scalpers from purchasing them and immediately reselling them.
Concessions are a bit pricey, but about what you’d expect from a major league venue. Parking is ridiculously expensive, but as you have plenty of other options, that isn’t too big a factor here.
While prices have not gone up by much since the Nationals' championship run, the quality of the experience has decreased, with reduced crowds, fewer gameday amenities, later gate opening times, and a lower quality of play on the field. While the return on investment is still decent, it isn't what it once was, especially if you want to sit someplace better than the $5 cheap seats.
There is a Ring of Honor on the wall between the upper and terrace levels with the names of former Nationals greats as well as legends from Washington’s previous baseball teams, the Washington Senators (both incarnations), and the Negro League’s Homestead Grays.
Look for all the banners and murals with pictures of Nationals players past and present. A third star for the Presidents’ Race, as it is one of the more unique and entertaining traditions in baseball. A fourth and final star for the chance to see a major league game for only $5, even if the seats aren’t particularly good.
After the second incarnation of the Washington Senators moved to Texas in 1972, Washington, D.C. was without a baseball team for over 30 years. In 2005, the Nationals came to town, and in 2008, they got a brand-new stadium. Since then, the excitement has worn off and the crowds have steadily declined, especially as the Nationals’ performance on the field has gone downhill. That being said, Nationals Park is still a nice stadium for fans to take in a Major League Baseball game.