The Great American Ballpark Guide
Great American Ballpark is my home park. Referred to by locals as “The GABP”, You can grab the specs on Great American Ballpark here.
After you are bored with that, I am going to make you aware of the smartest ways to catch a game in Cincinnati.
Free/Cheap Parking at Great American Ballpark
Driving to a Reds Game
When going to the GABP, you will find parking is readily available in both Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. For years I said that the best place to park is the garage on 6th st. between Broadway and Sycamore. It used to be only $2 to park, but unfortunately that has raised to $5 - making it not-so-great when there are other $5 lots around.
I've also used to talk about parking at meters, particularly the ones on 3rd street (pictured above.) However, 2015 has brought some sad changes to the meter enforcement in Cincinnati. Now, downtown meters are in effect until 9PM, instead of 6 PM - except on Sunday. So on a week night, you realistically can't expect to park at a meter for free unless you want to risk getting a ticket.
If you don't go to many games and want to avoid the anxiety of driving around looking for a parking space, I'd strongly recommend using Parking Panda. This site lets you pre-pay for a space in various garages/lots so you don't have to stress about where to park. It is a pretty cool concept and you can find some cheap deals for sure. It is especially helpful when you are going to a game that is supposed to be a big crowd.
If you don’t care to walk awhile to Great American Ballpark, there is much more free parking available in Covington and Newport KY. On street parking in Covington usually isn’t metered at all, but if it is they usually aren’t monitored after 6 either. We used to live in the 600 block of Greenup St. and just walk from our apartment. Your best bets for on street parking are probably Greenup, Scott, and Garrard which all run North to South.
From there you can walk across the blue suspension bridge and enter through the right field gate. If you are walking that way, you want to take the side of the bridge closest to the stadium (right), you will get there quicker. That side gives you stairs down to the street level by the Great American Ballpark right field gate.
Due to the rise in popularity of Newport, free parking is tougher to find. In fact, the last time I was over there, they have added more meters and they are in effect until 9pm or even midnight. I like to eat at Dixie Chili, and leave my car there on the street and walk. The yellow bridge you walk across from Newport will drop you off by the US Bank Arena. Again on that bridge, walk across the side closest to Great American Ballpark for the shorter route (left). It will give you a stairway to the left field gates.
The distance from Dixie Chili to GABP is 1.1 miles, so if you think that is comfortably walkable - which I do - go for it. The metering on streets like York and Monmouth starts right about 6th street. So to park un-metered in Newport, you will have about a mile walk. You now have plenty of options so you can stop complaining about expensive parking.
You can also find some free parking in Newport like setting your GPS for 201 E 5th St. Newport, KY and end up here:
The signs on the left say that it's for residents only from 8PM to 5AM (overnight) so this is a safer play for a day game. For a night game, you might be risking a ticket, though I'm not sure how they confirm who is a resident and who isn't (or how closely they monitor it).
However for a day game, you can park here for free, walk to the Levee and wait for the Southbank Shuttle which runs every 15 minutes and only costs $1. We did this and found it very simple, safe, and cheap!
The final option I'll mention is parking at Fountain Square. After 4PM they go to a flat rate of $6, and it is a very modern facility that is set in the heart of the city.
You can pay at the pay station prior to leaving, and you are still a reasonable walk to the ballpark. You are surrounded by places like Starbucks, Rock Bottom, Graeters, etc. so there are plenty of places to go before and after the ballgame. If no other option works out, this is a nice, safe place to park.
If you are going to a weekday - day game, forget everything that I just told you about fountain square. You will want to head straight to Kentucky and park and ride the shuttle or walk using spots like the free one mentioned above. Downtown has so many garages that are employees only that it can be tough to find something.
2017 will be the dawn of a new transportation option for Reds games - the long awaited Cincinnati street car known as the Cincinnati Bell Connector.
The above-ground street car makes downtown feel much smaller, opening up park & ride options for Cincinnati that previously didn't exist. For instance, Rhinegeist brewery in Over-the-Rhine (Call it "OTR" if you're from out of town and want to sound like you're cool...) is one of the hottest craft breweries around with tons of space to hang out and pre-game with corhole, ping pong, and a rooftop bar with excellent city views.
In previous years, plenty of people still pre-gamed in OTR but they'd typically have to park once in Over-the-Rhine and then get in their car and drive down to the stadium (or Uber or walk forever). Now, the street car picks up literally right in front of Rhinegeist and will drop you about a block away from Great American Ballpark for $1-$2 each way.
Another choice you now have if you're feeling a little more active is to rent bikes for the day and cruise around downtown Cincinnati. The price is about $8 for the day and there are locations all over downtown, including right across the street from Great American Ballpark where you can drop your bike off and leave it. Click here to see all bike drop-off and pick-up locations.
Best Food At & Near Great American Ballpark
Save Money on Food
If you are cheap like me, ballpark food and your wallet probably don’t get along too well. But I am going to let you in on a secret that very few people take advantage of: You can bring in your own food into Great American Ballpark!
So please never complain again about ballpark prices! You are not a captive audience. There are tons of options around the stadium, so walk around a little. This is especially true with the Banks, which I'll talk more about in a minute.
The Reds will let you bring almost anything. I always bring my own peanuts, and I have carried in Skyline, Pot Belly, etc. many times. I have found that the "yellow shirts" of security at Great American Ballpark are pretty friendly. If you forget to bring your own snacks, everything is not lost.
It is a little business called "Walgreens." I've not heard of this before, must be a local joint. I got a 24 oz bag of peanuts for $3.99 which seemed fair to me. The other thing I liked about it, was they had the typical ballpark snacks right in the front of the store, so you can't miss it. Easy in and easy out. 406 Main St. - just a couple blocks from the ballpark.
You can also bring your own non-alcoholic bottled beverages into the stadium. This of course is only plastic bottles, and those bottles have to be unopened.
Sometimes you just need ballpark food. Its the American thing to do.
One of the best value options is the All You Can Eat option. For $20, any ticket holder can get an all you can eat wristband and get unlimited peanuts, popcorn, chips, pop, and up to 5 hot dogs. The stand you pick up from is near sectio 428, which is in the upper deck down the the right field line.
If you've got a family with kids, having a dedicated runner to go load up on snacks and drinks for your crew will quickly become a great deal after just a couple of trips. This all you can eat stand has basically replaced what used to be the popular $1 stand at Great American Ballpark.
Here is my favorite "full size" value option; Penn Station. This local east coast sub shop first opened booths in 2007, and they serve only their steak sandwich and fries at the stadium. The restaurant is hugely popular in the area, and the sandwich and fries will cost you about $11 at Great American. But the thing is a medium sandwich and fry at the restaurant costs about $8, so the mark-up isn't as outrageous as other food options.
Places like Skyline and Larosas are good, but their ballpark mark-up is about double. For instance, Larosa's pizza is about $6 a slice in the park and you can get an entire large pizza at their restaurant for about $12.
If you do want to eat Skyline, I suggest stopping by the one on 4th & Sycamore before the game. It's decorated in Reds theme and is just a few blocks from the stadium (right next to the big building with the "tiara" on top.)
This Skyline even serves beer, if that's your thing - which is not normally served at other Skyline locations.
Another new-ish development which is great for pre and post-game dining is the Banks. The "Banks Project" is a term known by most Cincinnatians as a project that seemed like it would never happen. The Banks is located in the same place that used to have a big empty pit of dirt next to the first base side of the stadium.
Food You Shouldn't Miss
While not for the budget conscious, the Banks parking garage also provides a nice premium parking option. For about $12, you can park virtually under the stadium, and minimize your walk. If you are coming in from out of town, I would recommend grabbing dinner at the Moerlein Lager House. This is an amazing looking facility, and it sits on the former site of Riverfront Stadium.
Christian Moerlein is an old Cincinnati brewery, and this is a place you won't find anywhere else. The views are also amazing from every level. Best of all, this is just steps from the ballpark. Congrats to Cincinnati for getting this one right.
Another local favorite that is now located on the Banks is the Chicken and Waffle restaurant, Taste of Belgium - I'd recommend it if you've never been.
Here is more information about what else can be found at the Banks.
Cheap Reds Tickets
At this point, nearly every Major League team has some kind of variable pricing model where depending on how in-demand a game is, the ticket prices you'll pay at the gate may go up or down.
Sometimes pricing varies from day to day, other times it is a more formal "tiered" structure where when they are playing a big draw team like the Yankees, you'll pay a premium price compared to a perennial bottom-dweller who might be in the "budget tier."
So rather than focusing on specific prices and sections which tend to change fairly often, I want to talk about general rules and strategies for getting the best deals on tickets.
1. Compare 3rd Party Sites
SeatGeek is a big time ticket comparison site that lets you compare a bunch of different ticket brokers, marketplaces, etc. and find the best price for the game you want to go to. They also have a tool that projects whether ticket prices will go up or down - AKA whether you should buy now or wait.
2. Buy Last Minute
If you've bought tickets online before, you've heard of StubHub. What you may not know however is that with the rise of print-at-home and tickets on your mobile phone via the Ballpark App that you can usually buy tickets right up to a couple of hours before game time.
As someone who has sold a fair share of tickets on StubHub, I also know that sellers are encouraged to set a declining price for their tickets. This means they'll set a starting price and then their lowest acceptable price, and StubHub will auto-magically lower the price of those tickets as the event date gets closer.
So in many cases, a game that isn't sold out will have plenty of below face value deals on StubHub that you can snatch at the last minute and then either print at home, or just use the App on your phone to get scanned into the game.
3. Avoid Craigslist
It's not to say that you can't find ticket deals on Craigslist, you can. It is just more of a peace of mind, safety issue. I'm a Craigslist kind of guy, but I also know it's easy to get screwed buying baseball tickets there.
Remember when I mentioned selling on StubHub? When you list tickets there, all you need to know is the barcode number from that ticket along with the other details on section, row, etc. - So when I sell tickets I never mail them to the buyer, they just print them at home and my actual tickets become void.
If I was a shady character, I could go sell those void tickets to an unsuspecting buyer on Craigslist for cash. The tickets look real, they are "real" in a sense - but what that buyer will find out is when they go to enter the stadium, the ticket scanner will say "thou shalt not enter thy game."
Don't be that buyer.
Stick to buying tickets from SeatGeek, StubHub, or directly from the team. You can still get deals and you never have to worry about being scammed.
Best Value Seats at Great American Ballpark
Anybody can look at a team website and find out what the cheap seats are. As I said before; I like a good deal. That doesn’t always mean buying the cheapest seats available. I am going to give you a lesson in value as it pertains to Great American Ballpark seating. The bleacher seats at Great American Ballpark are generally the least expensive, but at an evening game you are the last people to get shade.
For the majority of the season that is not a good thing, you will be baking until about 9:00. Usually seats are available in every section. In most cases you can buy the bleacher seat, and then move over to the upper deck in right field. If you want to move any lower than that, you will probably run into an usher checking your ticket until about the 4th inning. If you are moving down, for some reason the field seats between third base and the left field foul poll are usually pretty empty, that is a good area to shoot for later in the game.
Keys to moving down: - Get a birds eye view and scout empty rows, and usherless sections.
- Wait at least 3 innings, people are always late
- Once you have found the area to invade, WALK CONFIDENTLY.
- Half the battle is looking like you know exactly where you are going.
- If there are ushers around, act like you’re on the phone. They are less likely to stop you.
- In the lower sections, move to the middle of the row. It is preferable if you don’t have to get folks to stand up and let you in. The less you inconvenience people sitting there, the less likely they are to say something.By being the middle you decrease the odds of somebody coming in with those seats, (people like aisle seats) and you give yourself options to move in the same row if somebody does show.
If the game is pretty crowded, or you just don’t want the adventure/hassle of moving around, here are other value options.
View Level Right Field – These are going to set you back about $14 a piece, and personally I think that sometimes the higher up, the better. I know that is contrary to most ticket logic, but it gives you a better breeze, shade on a day game, and a better view of the river and Mt. Adams. Besides that, the crowd tends to be thinner up there, and less late people walk in front of you.
To me its important to be in the shade for summer games. Anything in on the first base side is preferable in that regard.
Sun/Moon deck Right Field - Great value for a night game. In this section you want to be as close to row A as possible, which would have you hanging over the outfield fence. This area of Great American Ballpark is more crowded than the upper deck, but you still get in the shade around game time (night games) and are very close to the field for around $20 - $30 .
If you are a bigger person and tend to feel uncomfortable and cramped in stadium seats, the GABP has you covered. They have a fair amount of seats that are on the aisle and don't have an arm rest, or the arm rest flips up. So you can spread out a bit and not worry about trying to cram into a seat. These are often in the last couple rows of the section, but if you go to the ticket window and just ask about the seats with flip up arm rests - they will know what you are talking about.
Sometimes they are considered handicapped rows, but that certainly isn't a requirement. We have had season tickets at Great American Ballpark for years with one of these seats; it's nice for a big man.
A nice 'splurge' section is the Champions Club, which is basically the entire second deck down the first base line. Particularly using the StubHub strategy I mentioned earlier, you can get these tickets for $50 or so for a low demand game, which is about half of their face value. The seats are padded and all the food and soft drinks are included - and there is typically an excellent variety of options including local favorites like Larosas and much more (not just your typical hot dog and pretzel fare).
Where to Stay Near Great American Ballpark
My favorite way to travel to a baseball game is to stay as close to the stadium as possible and walk, or take Uber so I don't have to fool with parking in a strange place.
AirBnB is the best way to find a really cool house or apartment to rent so you can hang out with your friends/family before the game and get a more authentic local experience.
Not only is it cooler than a hotel, but you can save $35 on your first stay by using my referral link.
There are 2 types of rentals - those where you rent a private room and stay with a host and those where you rent out the whole place. I've done both, and you'll have some peace of mind about the people you rent from because of the review system they have for the hosts - so you have a high degree of confidence that you won't end up on the bad side of a future Dateline NBC episode.
Best of all, you usually can find places to stay that are within walking distance to Great American Ballpark
Obviously places come and go on the site, but I've used AirBnB a number of times for sports road trips and it's become my default option when I'm traveling. Click the button below to save $35 on your first trip and see what kind of cool places are currently available near the ballpark:
Free Stuff at Great American Ballpark
Below is a list of some freebies you'll find at a Reds game. Click here to view the team's A-Z guide for more information on any of these (and more.)
During the seventh-inning stretch of all weekend home games and other special dates, the Rumpke Green Guardians consisting of 30-40 volunteers will walk the aisles collecting recyclable items from fans. The Reds and Rumpke are proud to partner on this and other recycling initiatives, which includes more than 200 recycling containers throughout the ballpark. Participants receive free entry to the game and a Green Guardian T-Shirt. If you or your group would like to be a part of the Reds Green Guardians, please contact Sean Brown at (513) 765-7061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fans attending their first game can stop by the fan accommodations booth (ask an usher) and get a free certificate printed out with their name, the date, etc. to mark the occasion.
Free games for the kids in the Fan Zone, which is located next to the Hall of Fame down the first base side of the ballpark. Speed pitch, run the bases, slides, and more all included with your entry to the game.