Last Updated: September 6th, 2023 by Aaron Gwynn
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We learned about the history of San Diego from Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, but the home of the Padres has more recently been defined by tragically mediocre baseball. This is all despite having arguably the most exciting player in the game.
Nonetheless, Petco Park is a gorgeous park in a great neighborhood that, while infamous for being a pitcher friendly field, is still well worth visiting no matter how good the Padres happen to be.
Petco is Beautiful on a Sunny Summer Day – via Flickr user ant0197
Things You Shouldn’t Miss
- Find the giant statue of Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre himself, in the Park at the Park.
- The Western Metal Supply Co. building, which was incorporated into the left field stands when Petco was built, is the coolest set of bleachers in the MLB.
- Find the retired numbers (6, 19, 31, 35, 42, and 51) hanging up above the batter’s eye.
While becoming a hotter ticket in recent years, as long as the home team isn’t playing the Dodgers, you should have no trouble getting a great seat.
You can always bring food into the park, but the real smart move is to get to the area early and take advantage of the amazing restaurant and bar scene in the Gaslamp district around the park.
Arriving at Petco Park
Alternative/Public Transportation to a Padres Game
One charming option is to take the San Diego Trolley. The Orange, Blue, and Green lines are all options, stopping at the 12th and Imperial, Park (12th) and Market and the Gaslamp Quarter Stations.
If you’re coming from farther afield, avoid the traffic and take the COASTER train from North County. Use the Santa Fe Depot station.
Qualcomm Stadium and other suburban stations offer free parking and are serviced by the Green Line. Hop off at the 12th and Imperial, or Gaslamp stops and you’re right at the stadium.
There are many relatively convenient bus routes that serve Petco Park, including Routes 12 & 901 which stop right at the ballpark’s front door at Park Boulevard and 10th Avenue. Routes 4, 12, 901, & 929 also stop at the 12th St./Imperial Transit Center, just two blocks away. Routes 3 and 5 stop along Market Street, just a short walk to the ballpark. Call (619) 233-3004 for schedules and more details.
If you’re coming from Orange County or Los Angeles you can take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner.
The Gaslamp District of San Diego is a cool place to hang out. Your best bet is to enjoy the thriving bar, restaurant, and boardwalk scene down around Petco, and then grab an Uber back to your bed after a great time. If you haven’t used Uber before, get your first trip free.
Driving to a Padres Game
If you enjoy the convenience of traveling to the game in your own car, there are a ton of parking options in the area.
First, let’s start with the possibility of free street parking. The area to the West of the stadium, up to 7th St., is going to be out of the question as meters run until 8pm. To the East, however, you might find some luck. Meters run until 6pm east of 7th St., and it’s possible that you might stumble upon an empty street spot with a few laps of the area.
Metered Parking and Cheap Lots are Available Near Petco Park
Metered Parking and Cheap Lots are available near Petco Park certainly are worth inspecting, but make sure that you pay attention to parking signs as to avoid being ticketed or towed.
If you’re not into circling the block, there are more than 30,000 off-street parking spots at garages and lots within a 20 minute walk of the stadium. The Padres website does a great job of listing out these options, their prices, and the distance from the stadium.
Another easy way to solve the parking dilemma is by paying ahead of time for a guaranteed spot through a service called SpotHero. This website allows you to compare available options in the area and book a spot of your choice. They’ll email you the parking pass and you can drive to the stadium knowing exactly where you’re going to park, how much it will cost, and that a space will be waiting for you. Check out their options for Petco Park in the window below to get started.
The Legendary Western Metal Supply Co. Building – via Flickr user Kevin Tostado
Best Food At & Near Petco Park
Save Money on Food
You also have the ability to bring in your own food to Petco Park. You can bring a small, soft-sided cooler and you can actually bring bottled water in 20 oz bottles if it is factory sealed. No cans, no glass, no alcohol, but it’s a great way to save money at the park.
Over the past few years, Petco has begun to develop a reputation for being a foodies paradise. They have dozens of varieties of high-quality and unique food vendors to choose from. From tri-tip nachos to fish tacos, to freshly prepared sushi, to gourmet pizza, Petco has it all. If ballpark hot dogs are not for you, rest assured you’ll be able to find something that satisfies your cravings, even if you have to empty your wallet to do so.
Food You Shouldn’t Miss at Petco Park
1. Phil’s BBQ: this saucy pit stop is near section 113. Check out the Broham pulled pork sandwich, Baby Back Ribs, and El Toro tri-tip sandwich.
2. Baked Bear: out by section 104, this custom ice cream shop is purely baseball delight. Get your favorite flavor between two warm cakes for the best ice cream sandwich you’ve had in your life. Paired with a colorful sunset, and it’s the kind of snack that memories are made of.
3. While not inside the stadium, I would highly recommend a quick stop off at Lolita’s before the first pitch. Right next to the stadium, they have a wide variety of cheap and delicious Mexican options to get you ready for the game.
4. One of the things that Petco Park is most famous for is the craft beer selection, but the prices for these local beers are rather exorbitant, ranging from $13-$18 for a single beer. If you’re a drinker on a budget, the best thing you can do is go to one of the handfuls of BeerFest games: on Friday nights throughout the season there are $5 drink specials offered pre-game in Gallagher Square from 4:30-6:30. The variety, value, and atmosphere of these pre-game events are a blast.
Petco Park Seating Chart
We’ve created the seating chart of Petco Park above to help you better understand some of our recommendations below. Feel free to download this image and use it, we just ask that you credit Ballpark Savvy and link back to the page where you found the image.
Cheap Padres 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 the Padres are playing a big draw team like the Dodgers, you’ll pay a premium price compared to a perennial bottom-dwellers 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.
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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.
Petco, in the Gaslamp District, Can Be SoCal Cool – via Flickr user Danny Baza Blas
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.
The Upper Most Decks Can Feel Far Away; You’re Better Off with the Bleachers – via Flickr user Chad MacDonald
Best Value Seats at Petco Park
In my opinion the ticket prices at Petco Park don’t offer that much value (comparatively speaking), but there are a few notable fun/cheap ways to enjoy the game:
Petco has the best standing room sections of any MLB park. Everywhere you walk throughout the park you will be able to find somewhere where you can watch the game with a great view. There is also the Park at the Park (aka Gallagher Square) which is a grass berm out in center field and provides a decent view, but you are kind of free to roam around which is nice. It is known as “Park at the Park” – clever. Like many teams, the Padres now do dynamic pricing which means the price can fluctuate from game to game based on demand.
A couple of other general points about the best value tickets at Petco Park. The left field line is usually in the shade first in the evening, if that is important to you. San Diego has beautiful weather most of the time, but if it’s a warmer day game I think seats in the shade are worth their weight in gold.
One general tip is that is oft forgotten is that Petco Park can be rather chilly in the evenings, even during the summer. In fact, Petco Park has one of the lowest average temperatures in all the big leagues because it’s almost never above 70 degrees during night games. So make sure to bring a hooded sweatshirt and/or blanket for evening games.
You also want to avoid the seats behind the left field fence because the scoreboard and big screen are right behind you; and that stinks. Modern day baseball is so much enhanced by the between inning fun and the in game information from the big screen. This is especially true if you are taking kids.
So if you are just buying seats, I say the behind the plate/left field line beats the right field line in the summer. For a good value section in the upper deck, think about section 315. Generally the price drops as this is “outfield” upper deck, but it is as close to the infield as you can get without paying that little extra. Whenever in the upper deck, always get the lowest row you can.
Left Field Seats Avoid the Worst of the Sun in the Summer – via Flickr user SD Dirk
The Padres do have some discounts available that vary from year to year, so you can check the team website to see if there are any current promotions. I think the vast majority of the time, you can buy tickets from a trusted third party and pay less than face value. If you are buying in advance, you may want to check Score Big and if you are buying last minute you might get the best deal on Stubhub.
Where to Stay While Visiting Petco Park
My favorite way to travel to a baseball game is to stay as close to the stadium as possible and walk or take an Uber so I don’t have to fool with parking in a strange place. So many ballparks have great hotels within walking distance making it easy to stay nearby.
I use Tripadvisor to find a hotel with good reviews near any ballpark. I prefer this option over any other because I actually search for the park I am visiting and Tripadvisor gives me hotels, restaurants, and other attractions near there. Petco Park is located in San Diego and the city is packed with stuff to do and see.
Obviously, there are a lot of hotels in San Diego, but I can search for Petco Park here and get the 10 Closest hotels to Petco Park and then pick what I want based on ratings and prices. This saved me a lot of time and I didn’t end up getting ripped off on the price or end up in a sketchy place where I didn’t feel safe.
San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter – image via Marriott.com
The closest hotels do not always come with the lowest cost but you get what you pay for when it comes to accommodations. Remember that you aren’t paying for parking or transportation
San Diego Mariott Gaslamp Quarter is in the famous Gaslamp distance and a very short walk from Petco Park. This hotel has a cool rooftop bar and views of the park! If you go about half a mile away to the Comfort Inn Gaslamp Convention Center, the walk is longer but you save about $100 a night. This hotel has great reviews and includes breakfast. Yay for free food in this expensive city! And remember the trolley runs around this area too!
If you do decide to go the hotel route, the Omni Hotel is connected to the ballpark and has surprisingly low rates on game days.
Free Stuff at Petco Park
1. Military Honors: with the Naval and Marine bases near San Diego, Petco regularly hosts military events with giveaways and promotions. On the outer concourses, near the batting cages, is a miniature replica of the USS Midway. Nearby, find the murals honoring MLB players who also served in the military.
2. Hall of Fame: this exhibit honors notable players, broadcasters, and team owners. You’ll find it located at Padres Hall of Fame Plaza (left field entrance of the park behind the Western Metal Supply Company building). It got a nice facelift for the 2016 All Star Game, and is a worthwhile visit now.
3. Park at the Park: For the price of bleacher seats, you can picnic out in the Park at the Park – an amazing way to save a ton of cash if you are bringing kids. Save money on food and they’ll run themselves tired. Best of all, kids under 3 feet tall are free. Find career .338 (!!!) hitter Tony Gwynn setting the scene.
4. If you have children, they should sign up free to be a Compadres Kid at one of the Guest Services stations scattered throughout the park. The Compadres Kids receive fun little prizes, baseball cards, etc. for each game they attend.
5. As with many parks, the Padres have the Designated Driver program which offers a free soda in exchange for signing up. Do so by heading to a Guest Services at Sections 108, 208, and 313.
6. The whole stadium has free Wifi, so that’s something!