Nationals Park Guide – Where to Park, Eat, and Get Cheap Tickets
Nationals Park Largely Lacks the Retro Vibe, Instead Featuring Modern Styling - via Flickr user rsmdc
Nationals Park is one of the newer stadiums in all of baseball, and plays home to the Washington Nationals. The area around the park should be developed in the next few years, but delays have frustrated many locals and alienated out of town visitors.
Still, everybody knows that this is a welcome change from old RFK stadium, which was pretty rough. Although D.C. is an infamously expensive city, you can go watch the Nats for a pretty reasonable price.
Nationals Park is also a certified Green stadium, which really makes me feel better about seeing a game there. I can hardly watch the Reds from the upper deck in Cincinnati due to the pollution.
Feel Good About Your Footprint While Having a Great Time - via Flickr user Keith Allison
Arriving at Nationals Park
Alternative/Public Transportation to a Nationals Game
With DC laying claim to one of the largest metro-rail transit systems in the country, getting to Nats Park on public transit is easy and affordable if you are staying at the many AirBnB rentals available across the area.
If you’re not from the area, reference this quick planning tool for getting to and from the game on Metro.
Metro services most suburbs in the DC area and its “Navy Yard-Ballpark Station” stop delivers you right outside of the stadium via the Green Line. There are some parking fees at their “park and ride” stations, but you should still come out ahead vs. driving to the game considering the cost of parking in the lots and garages in the area.
DC's Metro Connects the Park to All Parts of the Capitol - via Flickr user RJ Schmidt
Try the locally owned "Ballpark Bus" that will pick you up from a couple of local restaurants and take you to the game and then back to your car after the game. It's a fun alternative to driving that you can check out here.
You can also ride your bike to this green park! Nationals Park offers a FREE bike valet located inside of the entrance to Garage C, on First Street SE near N Street SE. The valet accepts bikes 2 1/2 hours before game time and will close one hour after the completion of the game.
Another option if you happen to be staying nearby is to avoid the crowded subway car and the stress of traffic and grab an Uber ride. Walk a block away from the stadium to make pick up easier. If you've never used Uber, click here and get your first ride free.
Driving to a Nationals Game
If you’re driving to the game, the possibility of finding a metered street parking spot exists, but it is confined to a small section just north of the stadium. Additionally, the street parking rates for this area are adjusted during game days such that it doesn’t really make sense to circle the block for a high demand space. For four hours of parking, you’re looking at around $20 total. This was done to reduce congestion and encourage people to take public transit.
Here is a rundown of street parking regulations around Nats Park if you want to get a headache.
I’m in the business of giving away my secrets, so I’ll let you in on a little parking gem I know about near Nats Park. There’s a parking lot right across the street from the stadium at 1620 S. Capitol St that only charges just over $20 for regular season games. It’s the best bang for your buck for Nats games.
You can even reserve a guaranteed spot there through a service called Parking Panda. Don’t say I never did anything for you, Savvyites.
Parking at 1620 S. Capitol St.
For others who are unconcerned with price and simply interested in convenience, the area is saturated with parking lots and garages that would be happy to take your money. Some of the Nats official lots are right next to the stadium, but will run you nearly $50 on game day.
Parking Panda is a cool service that’s really popular in DC. They allow you to pay ahead of time for guaranteed parking spots. You can drive to the stadium knowing exactly where you’re going to park, how much it will cost, and that a spot will be waiting for your arrival. Pick a spot that works for you, complete the checkout process, and they’ll email you the parking pass:
Best Food At & Near Nationals Park
Save Money on Food
A great way to save money at Nationals Park is by taking your own snacks and food with you. You can take them in a soft sided cooler no bigger that 16x16x8. You can also take sealed plastic bottles of water with you into Nationals Park. No glass, no cans. The size limit on this is one liter or less.
The area around the ballpark is really rough when it comes to food options within walking distance. If you want to bring food, you'll need to bring it to the area. If you want to eat live, either do it elsewhere and then come in, or eat in the ballpark.
Food You Shouldn't Miss at Nationals Park
By far, the best bite in Nationals Park is found at Ben's Chili Bowl, found at sections 110 and 141. Their chili-cheese-dog flavor-explosion-mess is really just an opportunity to feature Ben's famous "half-smoke" chili. The dark, burned, heavy smoke is especially great on late night fall games with a cider or sweet ale.
Nationals Park also boasts great concession variety. The prices are typically outrageous, but they have some common favorites like Shake Shack, Jammin' Island BBQ, and El Verano Taqueria. There is also a cool stand that highlights some Major League favorites from other stadiums. This is near section 117 and offers great selections.
There are a Number of Fun Food and Drink Options Behind Center Field - via Flickr user Mr.TinDC
Cheap Nationals 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.
Enjoy the Wide Open Feeling of Nationals Park - via Flickr user Rudi Riet
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 in Nationals Park
Probably the best bang for your buck is in the Infield Gallery. Sections 321-314 have great views of the skyline but get a lot of hot sun in the summer. Sections 313-306 have a bit more shade but lose the view. Both have a great view of the strike zone.
A great value ticket at Nationals Park is upper RF Terrace 222. I love these for a few reasons. You are down the first baseline, with an excellent view of the entire field. Secondly, these tickets are much closer to the field than the upper deck tickets down the left field line, but they have a lower price. In my opinion you can’t go wrong in this section.
Nationals Park Enjoys a Wide, Open Feel - via Flickr user Dave Newman
The cheapest seats are outer left field upper deck seats. The seats aren’t terrible, but I think you will be much happier shelling out an extra few bucks for something like the seats I mentioned above.
You may have hipster friends in DC who tell you the "Red Porch" (section 100) is the place to sit. While the outfield view isn't bad, it's not worth the price tag unless you also take advantage of the food discount at the Red Porch Restaurant. But what really kills this area is the attitude - this is more of a singles bar than a baseball game.
Welcome to the Red Porch - via Flickr user m01229
Be warned: sections 136 and 137 have some seats that are obstructed by the foul pole.
Where to Stay While Visiting Nationals Park
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 any subway line connecting to Nationals Park.
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 the Nats Game
1. Statues of the Greats - take selfies by statues of the city's best players at the Centerfield Plaza. You can find the greatest hitter in the history of the sport - Negro League Star Josh Gibson. Next to him, find one of the most intimidating pitchers ever, Walter "Big Train" Johnson, depicted with a motion statue. If you dare, pose by the "Capital Punisher", outfielder Frank "Hondo" Howard.
2. Every time the Nationals score six or more runs in a home game, guests may bring their ticket stub or season plan holder card to any local Hard Times Cafe - excluding Nationals Park location - within two days of the game date for a FREE order of wings.
3. The GEICO Presidents Race takes place during the middle of the 4th inning and features George Washington, Tom Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Taft. After their race, the Presidents appear in their photo station in the Family Fun Area to pose for free photos with fans.
Go Go Geico Presidents! - via Flickr user Kelly