The recent mediocrity of the Nats, the Redskins, and friends has also allowed for early draft picks and the big names they bring to town, while requiring owners to make games more fun, since victories can rarely be relied upon. So who is worth buying tickets to see?
Hockey, College Hoops, and Tennis
The Washington Capitals (NHL) and the Georgetown Hoyas (NCAA) play home games at the Verizon Center (601 F St., NW; 800-745-3000; verizoncenter.com) and consistently have the most success of any of the local teams. While tickets are neither cheap nor easy to get—though resale sites and scalpers do offer them, and they can sometimes even be bought on game day at the box office—these games deliver the rowdiest crowds, most intense competitions, and highest likelihood of a win.
The Verizon Center is also easy to get to by Metro. The Gallery Place-Chinatown station (accessible on the Red, Yellow, and Green lines) sits underneath the arena, and the surrounding area offers tons of restaurants and bars for before and after games. Caps season runs through April 7, 2012; the Hoyas play through March 16.
Tennis fans will note that the Washington Kastles (the 2011 champs of Billie Jean King’s brainchild, the World Team Tennis league) boast a pair of household names: Venus and Serena Williams. Washington’s only consistent winners, the Kastles were undefeated last season, and they return with both Williamses and Bobby Reynolds this summer. The WTT season runs July 12 through 24, and home matches are played at the shiny new Kastles Stadium at the Wharf (800 Water St., SW; 202-483-6647; washingtonkastles.com), which opened last summer.
The Bad (but Enjoyable)
Baseball, Soccer, and Basketball
The Nationals (MLB) have spent their tenure in Washington at or near the bottom of the NL East, but top draft picks in 2009 and 2010 and other acquisitions and improvements over the past couple of years are brightening the team’s outlook. In the meantime, Nationals Park (1500 S. Capitol St., SE; 202-675-6287; washington.nationals.mlb.com) offers great food options such as Ben’s Chili Bowl and Shake Shack, and the much-beloved Presidents Race.
The Navy Yard Metro station (Green Line) is the best way to get your whole family to the game. Parking is limited and can be expensive, but fortunately tickets are not. The Nationals sell $10 seats at the box office and online, and often offer specials. The 2012 season runs April 12 through October 3.
DC United (MLS) matches at RFK Stadium (2400 E. Capitol St., SE; 202-587-5000; dcunited.com/stadium) are also family-friendly and easy to get tickets to. The team’s regular season runs March through October, games are generally on weekend evenings, and tickets start at $23. Serious supporters can be found banging drums in the lower deck, while more-casual fans can sit back and enjoy the game in a stadium that’s not overly packed. RFK is easily accessible by Metro (the closest station is Stadium-Armory on the Blue and Orange lines), and parking spots are plentiful.
The Washington Wizards (NBA) have had minimal success and maximum drama over the past several years, but John Wall’s presence alone has helped increase their quality of play at the Verizon Center, and as other players begin to come in and improve, it’s become increasingly worth the price of admission (as low as $15) to watch the home team, not just the visitors. The current season runs through April 26, 2012.
The Washington Mystics (WNBA) will spend this season looking to improve on the team’s abysmal 2011 record of 6-28. The Mystics play home games at the Verizon Center about four times a month May through September, and ticket prices start at $17.
As frustrating as their performance has been recently, the Washington Redskins (NFL) keep playing football, or at least trying to, and Washingtonians keep showing up to watch, despite the spotty fan experience at FedEx Field (1600 FedEx Way, Landover, Maryland; 301-276-6000; redskins.com/fedexfield). The Skins lose more often than they win, but the fans come in droves regardless. This makes tailgating a blast but getting into and out of the stadium a pain; once you’re inside, you may see anything from an easy victory to a total bloodbath.
FedEx Field is Metro accessible (the closest stop is Morgan Boulevard on the Blue Line), if you don’t mind walking a mile or so to the gates. If you’d rather drive, there’s cash-only satellite parking nearby in addition to the permitted lots surrounding the stadium, but it’ll set you back about $35.
Our suggestion: If you find yourself with discounted or free Skins tickets for some reason, definitely use them—but if you have to pay full price for tickets and parking, you’re better off catching the game at a bar or restaurant in town. The season usually runs September through January.