This Stunning Park Opens to Face the City - via Flickr user Joey Gannon
After PNC Park opened in 2001, the Pirates went through a... drought. But the Buccos are back, drawing large and passionate crowds to their beautiful park. Yarr!
As for the stadium setting and amenities, PNC Park is one of the best in all of baseball. You can pick up some great local food at the stadium, and really take in some phenomenal views of downtown Pittsburgh from the upper deck.
The Skyline and Views are Outstanding from Pittsburgh's Cultural District - via Flickr user David Fulmer
Arriving at PNC Park
Alternative/Public Transportation to a Pirates Game
Most locals will select from the various public transport options available for PNC Park. Coming in by boat is also a memorable experience.
The cheapest option is to take Pittsburgh's subway/light rail, known as the "T". The Northside Station directly across the street from PNC's home plate entrance connects to the various T stops just across the river in Pittsburgh's "Golden Triangle". Best of all? It's free, fast, and efficient.
But for a totally reasonable price, you can also start off on the southside of the river at the Station Square Dock and take the Gateway Clipper. This relaxing ferry ride crosses all three rivers and can be combined with cheap parking if you've driven from out of town and want the ultimate Pittsburgh experience.
Pittsburgh Water Limo runs water limos, which are a bit more private, from the Lockwell One Marina. Book ahead on their website.
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. If you've never used Uber, click here and get your first ride free.
Driving to a Pirates Game
Pittsburgh is a city with a lot of bridges. Heed your GPS well - a wrong turn over the wrong bridge can waste a lot of time.
Your selection of a parking location for PNC Park is reliant on two factors: where are you coming from, and how much are you willing to pay for proximity to the stadium?
Let’s talk about where you can park for free on the South Shore. Most of the free parking is going to be on the street in and around the cultural district near the Clemente Bridge (renamed in 1998 for the celebrated Pirates' right fielder and beloved philanthropist Roberto Clemente).
Clemente Bridge and the Cultural District with Many Parking Choices - via Flickr user Brian
According to the Pittsburgh parking authority, their meters are only in effect until 6 pm, so after that you are home free. You shouldn't have any problem driving around within a couple blocks of the bridge and finding a spot if you are arriving before 6 o'clock.
If you’re coming from the north, you almost certainly want to park on the North Shore. This will allow you to get in and out of the city as quickly as possible. There are a number of parking garages or lots with easy access to the stadium for varying prices, though they are slightly more expensive. But it's worth paying more to avoid the hassle of traffic - again, only if you are coming and going north.
The cheapest parking option on the North Shore can be found at the Carnegie Science Center’s North Lot. Parking costs just over $10 for all Pirates games. The lot is over a half a mile from the stadium, but you can catch a free ride to the stadium on the “T” light rail system.
There are a few other midrange parking garages on the North Shore, conveniently located across the street from the stadium on W. General Robinson St.
If you’re searching for the Cadillac of parking spots directly next to the stadium, look no further than Red Lot 6.
This is one of the Pirates’ official parking lots, and it’s located right across the street from the stadium down the third base line. Cross over W General Robinson St and you’re at the stadium. Tailgating is allowed at this lot, and Pittsburgh fans do tailgating right. Parking at the lot costs around $25 if you just show up and pay, but spaces do sell out quickly.
Or you can ensure a spot in this popular lot with Parking Panda. They charge a premium for this lot, but that ensures you have a space waiting for you no matter what time you arrive. The convenience of this lot might justify the cost for some. If you've got numerous kids or any folks with disabilities, this lot is worth the premium.
When it comes to parking garages, if you’re coming to the stadium from any other direction than the north, things are much brighter (read: cheaper) for you. There are eight parking garages or lots scattered around the Pittsburgh downtown area that will allow you to park for less than the price of a beer on gameday.
The garage at Fort Duquesne and Sixth Street might be the best of them all. For about $7 you can park right next to the Roberto Clemente Bridge. A quick 5 minute walk across the bridge separates you from the ballpark, and it might be one of the most picturesque entrances to a stadium in the country. The experience is a sight itself. The feeling you get walking across the bridge before the game is pretty cool, and it's a relatively short walk.
Elusive Entrance to the Garage on Fort Duquesne and Sixth
There is a garage at Ninth and Penn St that costs about six bucks for Pirates games and also puts you within easy striking distance of the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
Which brings us to, at the time of writing, six total $5 game day parking options. A thing of beauty indeed.
Lots numbered 3 through 8 all cost $5 and are either within walking distance of the stadium or provide access to the local “T” light rail system, which drops you off right at the stadium. Easy.
The most stress-free choice for affordable parking at the Pirates game is using Parking Panda. This lets you find a spot ahead of time and reserve it, so you know exactly where you are going before you ever leave your house. Here is a list of upcoming games, just click the date you need to find the cheapest spots:
Best Food At & Near PNC Park
Save Money on Food
Like many other stadiums, PNC Park allows you to bring your own food into the stadium. You can also bring sealed bottled water in a soft sided cooler if you would like. No glass or cans. That is a great way for a fan on a budget to save a few bucks at a Pirates game.
Sections 201-205 are all-you-can-eat. They have separate food lines and offer many of the best treats of the ballpark - except for alcohol (you can still buy alcohol elsewhere in the park).
With Field Level Seats So Cheap, It's Worth Grabbing Food in the Park - via Flickr user Eric Beato
Food at PNC Park You Shouldn't Miss
1. Primanti Brothers - as Pittsburgh's leading deli, this local favorite with locations around the city also sells sandwiches behind section 110. Meat sandwichs are topped with fries and cole slaw, and are hearty. Come early to get the pre-made sandwiches.
A Delicious Reason to Stretch the Jaws - via Flickr user Lehigh Valley, PA
2. Pierogies - the Italians have ravioli; the Chinese have dumplings. The Polish have pierogies, which are little dough dumplings stuffed with potatoes, cheese, and onion. Eaten with butter, these are a unique flavor that pays tribute to the countless Eastern European immigrants in the history of the Three Rivers City. They can be found all over.
If you like to play with your food... play attention between innings for the Pierogies Race, where costumed-mascots of flavored pierogies run a race around the warning track.
Yup. That's a Pierogies Race. Run, Dumplings, Run - via Flickr user Christopher Amrich
Cheap Pirates 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 Cubs, 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.
The Best View on a Sunny Summer Afternoon - via Flickr user Fen Labalme
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.
Honus Wagner Cannot Be Missed - via Flickr user Britt Reints
Best Value Seats at PNC Park
PNC Park is known for having great sight lines wherever you sit. The view from behind the plate in the upper deck is tough to beat not only for a birds eye view of the field, but a breathtaking view of downtown Pittsburgh.
Another thought to keep in mind is that the right field side of the stadium is going to be the first in the shade for a summer evening game and may prove to be a little more comfortable than its left field counterpart.
If I was going, I would buy upper deck seats close to right behind the plate. In fact the outfield is so open you really get a nice view of downtown in the lower level behind the plate and down the 3rd base line.
However, another way to look at this: if you are doing a baseball trip, or coming from out of town, PNC Park is also a great place to splurge a good seats without getting killed on price. Infield box seats are some of the cheapest in all of baseball and there will be plenty available.
The Press Box is Even Higher than the Highest Fan Seats - via Flickr user Roy Luck
As discussed above, sections 201-205 are all-you-can-eat seats. If you bring an appetite, this is a way to save.
If you are overweight and tend to feel uncomfortable and cramped in stadium seats, the PNC Park has you covered. They have a fair number of seats that are on the aisle and don't have an arm rest. So you can spread out a bit and not worry about trying to cram into a seat.
These are usually in the last couple rows of the section, but if you go to the ticket window and just ask about the seats with no arm rests - they will know what you are talking about.
Where to Stay While Visiting PNC 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 PNC Park, or within walking distance of a "T" stop, especially within the Golden Triangle.
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 PNC Park
1. Statues of the Greats - Pittsburgh honors their greatest players with four statues scattered around the park, all worth finding. At the main gate stands the incomparable Roberto Clemente, looking to the skies that ultimately took his life. A statue of Bill "Maz" Mazeroski shows him in motion, rounding second after hitting the World Series winning home run in 1960. Wilver "Pops" Stargell is honored in bronze on Federal Street. And near the west entrance stands the greatest Pirate of all, baseball pioneer Honus Wagner, the Flying Dutchman.
2. Legacy Square - inside the west entrance is a square honoring Pittsburgh's many notable Negro League players. Statues and displays provide visitors with insight into the players as athletes and men of Pittsburgh.
Legacy Square Pays Homage to Pittsburgh's Negro League Past - via Flickr user David Wilson
3. Every single Friday home game during the regular season is a Free Shirt Friday! All in attendance receive a free Pirates tshirt - some focusing on specific players, some advertising the team. Many are resold on Ebay as well, so combined with a cheap last minute ticket buy, Friday home games can be very affordable.