News & Politics

An Insider’s Guide to Nationals Park

How to have the best fan experience possible.

Photograph by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.

Dedicated Washington Nationals fans know baseball demands strategy, this wisdom of experience, and flinty economic calculation. And that’s all before you find your seat. Here’s a guide to getting to, eating at, and having the best fan experience around Nationals Park.

  • Parking close to the stadium can cost up to $47. Those willing to walk a few blocks can try the lot under the Southeast Freeway, which costs $10. Looking for an upscale spot? The Capitol Skyline Hotel’s garage, an eight-minute walk away, sets you back $20.
  • Escape high prices at the stadium by eating and drinking before you go in. Justin’s Café, tucked into a bland apartment building at 1025 First Street, has a strong beer selection and is less mobbed than Bluejacket and less fratty than the bro-filled Fairgrounds.
  • Fans who come on two wheels get valet treatment. An attendant below the parking garage on First Street will park and watch over about 200 bikes during every game, free of charge. Just remember to retrieve your ride no more than an hour after the last pitch.
  • Be sure she’ll say yes: The Nats will hit you up for a hefty donation to the team’s Dream Foundation before putting your proposal on the scoreboard. A live camera shot will likely cost as much as the ring.
  • The line for mass-market suds can cost as much as a half inning—and industry-leading prices. Better beer is quicker. It took us less than three minutes to get a locally made brew from District Drafts kiosks behind sections 119, 139, 223, and 309.
  • Nats Park is “actually kind of tough” for catching foul balls, says Zack Hample, a professional “ballhawk” who has snagged only one during 20 visits since the park opened in 2008. Hample recommends sections 120 and 125 ($200) or, one level up, 211 and 216 ($65 to $80) so you can run down for stray balls.
Illustration by Todd Detwiler.

When to hit Shake Shack: The popular burger outlet can be a half-hour commitment at Friday-night games—about five outs in baseball time. Line up in the second inning, when the Nats score least (on average) this season, and you’ll be back in your seat for the statistically high-scoring sixth.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed. This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.