My family visited Nationals Park on a comfortable, end of summer evening. My husband, twin boys and I arrived at the opening of the Center Field Gates 2 hours prior to the beginning of the game.
Note: The Center Field gate is the only gate that is open 2 hours prior to the game. The other gates at Nationals park open 90 minutes prior to start of the game.
The area surrounding Nationals Park is called the Yard and seems to be an up-and-coming area. I would imagine that in the next few years there will be more attractions outside the park to visit and lots of interesting places to eat and drink.
MUST-DO #1: The Presidential Mascots
Of course, at the Nations capital the mascots are the former Presidents of the United States! As we walked into the Center Field Concourse, the kids could meet Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt (my favorite), Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.
The kids loved the silly Geico President’s Race that takes place on the field in the middle of the 4th Inning. “George”, “Abe” and “Tom” are super competitive and have lots of tricks up their sleeve for race time! If you would like a photo op with the Presidents, make your way to Section 131 after the race (bottom of the 4th inning) to meet all the presidents at once and the Geico Gecko.
MUST-DO #2: The Pitching Fishbowl and Batting Practice Homeruns
My husband and boys loved that fans can stand around the bullpen and watch the pitchers from the visiting team warm up by Section 101 & 102. I’m not so sure that the players and coaches like the attention prior to the game, but nonetheless the pitching coach threw a ball to the boys, which made them so happy!
Prior to the game, it was fun to stand by the outfield seats and catch “homeruns” during batting practice. While we were standing by the fence in left field a ton of balls were flying out of the park. Right or left field, it doesn’t matter…just remember to bring your glove!
MISS: Parking was a Pain
We decided to drive to Nationals Park and pay for offsite parking because it was an evening game and we didn’t want to drag our tired children on the metro after 9.
We bought space at a parking lot prior to leaving the house, but I would recommend driving down and comparing prices near the stadium. We paid $20 for parking, and saw cheaper parking lots for around $10. Some online reviews make it seem like the Metro stop was a long walk from the stadium. This is not true at all! The Navy-Yard-Ballpark (Greenline) Metro stop was a few minutes from the Center Field park entrance, and much closer than any off-site parking lot. I would definitely take the metro next time, even with tired kiddos.
MUST-DO #3: The Coca- Cola Social Lounge
The kids loved making using the cool media stations. One kiosk used the kid’s pictures to transform them into their favorite Presidential mascot.
The other station let the kids design their own bobblehead using preloaded tablets! For both social media experiences you enter your phone number and the finished product is texted to your phone.
MUST-DO #4: Have fun at the Budweiser Terrace
Take the escalator up the Budweiser Terrace and enjoy! We were at the game during 2000’s night, and a band was playing some nostalgic tunes by the stage area. My kids loved chilling out by the cooling station, and dancing along to songs from my college years. The best part is that while your kids are dancing and laughing, you can enjoy a nice cool beer in the shade or at the comfy outdoor lawn area in front of the stage.
BONUS TIP***Husband Favorite***: The hour before the game the Terrace had Happy Hour, so drinks were discounted! I’m not sure if this is always the case, or if this was because we were at an evening game…but who doesn’t love a good deal on beer at a baseball game?
HIGHLY RECOMMEND: Eating at the Budweiser Brewhouse during the game
About 15 minutes before the game, we went to Budweiser Brewhouse to be seated on the patio. It gave us great views of the park, and I appreciated what I would call “elevated stadium food” for dinner. In addition, since my son has food allergies, I was able to verify the ingredients in the food with the chef.
We stayed at Brewhouse for the first 4 innings, eating leisurely with wonderful views of the game. And honestly, the cost of dinner was only slightly higher than the concession stands.
MISS: PLAY AREA and VIRTUAL REALITY STATION
The playground area was empty when we walked by, and my kids were not interested in playing in that area. But, I could see this area as a fun way to break up the game with young children. As a parent I appreciated the staff member by the entrance, who could monitor for safety.
To the left of the playground were carnival style games and a virtual reality station. My kids were really looking forward to attempting the VR, but it was out of service. I was told by the staff member that the VR station had been malfunctioning frequently.
I will note that my friend who attended the All-Star game stated that the VR game was really cool (and that she threw her back out trying to hit a homerun!) I really wish this station had been open.
OUR VISIT SNAPSHOT:
A rain delay ended our visit early, and made the long way back to the offsite parking lot seem longer.
However, Nationals Park boasts one of the most intentional and interactive fan experiences. Every staff member we met was friendly, happy and went above and beyond to make my children smile.