When Open, the Roof Creates a Strange Skyline for the Park - via Flickr user Roy Luck
Minute Maid Park is home to the Houston Astros, and is obviously named after a juice company, but while it is no Astrodome, this is a pretty nice facility. This guide is going to focus on the smartest way to catch a game which will save you time and money.
Choo-choo! - via Flickr user Eric Kilby
Arriving at Minute Maid Park
Alternative/Public Transport to an Astros Game
Another option depending on which direction you are coming from is the light rail system. Houston's light rail has various park and ride locations where you can park for free or really cheap, and then pay a couple of bucks to ride into downtown. The stop you are looking for is Main st. which is about 6 blocks from the stadium.
The purple and green lines both stop at the Convention District Capitol light rail station. This is the closest station. If you are riding the red line, Preston Station is the closest to the "Juice Box", but it's still a 6 block walk after.
Something else worth considering if you want to park for free at the Astros game is the free shuttle to Minute Maid park from Ninfa's. This is a Mexican place that does a free park and ride for patrons to Astros games and Rockets games.
If you want to skip public transportation, but don't want to drive, Uber is a great option. The best place to meet your uber is the taxi stand located on Avenida de las Americas near Texas Avenue, just one block South of Minute Maid Park. If you have never used Uber, get your first ride free here.
Driving to an Astros Game
Street parking is a cheap option. There are metered spots right next to Minute Maid Park which you should avoid, these spots will tow after 6pm on a game night because of their proximity to the stadium. Your best bet is to shoot for parking meters at least a few blocks away. If you get there around 5 pm (or 2 hours early) you should be able to feed the meter a buck or two to get you past 6 o'clock, at which point you are good.
If you are planning on paying a little bit to park, you can definitely do it for about the price of a beer. I would still recommend sticking to the plan of arriving early, because not all parking is created equal. One great lot with a pretty limited availability sits on Avenida de las Americas right next to the Convention Center.
The Parking Garage on Avenida de las Americas Across from the Convention Center
Either way, there are an estimated 25,000 spots within walking distance, so I would look on the street first, and then drive some blocks in search of cheapo lots. I would say that greater than 80% of the time you can get it done for a beer or less.
Another solid option for Astros parking is 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.
Here are reservable parking spots available for upcoming games, just click the date you need:
Best Food At & Near Minute Maid Park
Save Money on Food... Outside the Park
Minute Maid Park is not very budget friendly when it comes to food and drink rules. They don't permit you to bring in any food or drink, which is pretty rare in MLB ballparks. Concession prices are always ASTROnomically high at Minute Maid Park, but there isn't a shortage of bars and restaurants around the stadium which can save you some money.
More Likely Than Not, You're Stuck with Ballpark Grub - via Flickr user M&R Glasgow
If you search the area and find a place you want to try, I would give them a call beforehand to see if they have parking or a free shuttle to the game as some places in the area do.
Food You Shouldn't Miss at Minute Maid Park
1. Texas Smoke: You're in Texas. Eat Texas BBQ. This seems obvious. What doesn't seem as obvious is that you will want to focus all your attention on the BBQ brisket-topped baked potatoes. Check them out by sections 125 and 406.
2. El Real Tex Mex: You're not too far from the border, so enjoy the delicious, authentic flavors of the southwest. You can find them on the club level by section 215 or on the main concourse near section 125. Make sure you try to towering nachos with their marinated chicken or beef.
3. Club Level Restaurants: If you are looking to splurge and have tickets for the club level, check out some of the options. The Urban Bistro at section 226 offers a wide variety of high-end gastro-pub food to help you forget you are at a ballpark. Bake and Scoop by section 219 has delicious baked goods and high quality, creamy ice cream, but you go there for the cinnamon buns and just deny it later.
Cheap Astros 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.
The Park Feels Awkward with its Roof Closed - via Flickr user Roy Luck
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 Minute Maid Park
The cheapest seats at Minute Maid Park are cheaper than a beer, which is pretty good. Personally, I think the rest of the ticket prices shoot-up pretty quickly from there. So those cheap seats may not be so cheap for a special event like Opening Day or a big series during the year. I have said plenty of times that the best value is not always the cheapest seat, but in this case I think it is.
If you are going with the cheapest seats, I would go for sections 405 - 407 in left field. Those last few sections are wrapping around the edge of the stadium and provide a nice view of the action. You also get an easy view of the scoreboard and the big screen, which I love. The jumbo trons provide so much good information and fun between innings that you can really miss a lot if you don't see it during a game, so for me its a must have.
Make Sure You Get Those Left Field Seats to See the Scoreboards - via Flickr user Eric Kilby
If you sit in the outfield seats in right, all of that is behind you which is inconvenient. Another cool thing from here is a view of the train behind left field which is a unique feature of Minute Maid Park.
Where to Stay While Visiting Minute Maid 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 Minute Maid 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 Minute Maid Park
1. Crawford St. Plaza: this area outside the Crawford St. gate, honors the memorable players with plaques, banners, and statues. Find Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio in bronze putting together a double play. Also check out the neat baseball brickwork laid into the sidewalks around the plaza and the large concrete balls that line all the entrances.
2. Home Run Porch: head out to the left field deck and take home a free souvenir, if you can catch one. Even if you can't, find the old-fashioned Phillips 66 gas pump that keeps a running tally of every Astros home run hit at Minute Maid Park since 2000.
Adding the Home Runs Up Since 2000 - via Flickr user joevare