We’ve got everything you need to know to plan for your trip to Nationals Park to see the Washington Nationals live in action. From top spots to grab a drink or a bite to eat by the stadium, to the best places to sit and buy tickets, this guide will give you everything you need to know before you go.
A Brief History
The Washington Nationals first arrived in DC in the Spring of 2005, giving Washingtonians a team to call their own after more than 30 years without a team playing in the District. Needless to say, the team captured the hearts of locals throughout the area from the start. However, much of the Nationals’ first ten years were mired in mediocrity, with the team often ranking near the bottom of the league. Starting in 2012, the team began winning divisions and competing but always seemed to come up short in the playoffs. But happily, in 2019 after a terrible 19-31 start to the season, the Nats caught fire and against all odds won their first-ever World Series and the District’s first since the Washington Senators brought home the pennant in 1924. While of course, we prefer World Series seasons, regardless of our record, taking in a Nats game is always great fun for everyone whether you’re going with family, or making a day of it by yourself or with friends.
The In-Game Experience (& Attending with Kids)
The Nats pride themselves on making the in-game experience as fun as possible for fans of all ages. For instance, fans can pick up a commemorative certificate at various guest services locations throughout Nationals Park to commemorate attending their first baseball or Nats game. They also offer similar certificates if you catch a home run or foul ball. One of the more popular things, especially with kids and kids at heart, is the President’s race. The President’s race features typically four racing mascot presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, that all race around the warning track of the field in the middle of the fourth inning. You can also get your photos taken with the racing presidents during the fifth inning at section 131. For fans with strollers, if the stroller can’t fold and fit under the seat, they can check their stroller at a Guest Services location, the Center Field Plaza or behind Sections 131 or 321.
Like most modern stadiums, Nationals Park has a huge variety of food and drink options for fans to enjoy. From tacos and margaritas to oysters and crab cakes, to the more traditional hot dogs and beer, there’s something for everyone to enjoy while at the game. Nats Park also has made an effort to have local vendors in the stadium including Haute Dogs, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Ben’s Chili Bowl, Medium Rare, and Shake Shack. They also feature many local beers as well including Devil’s Backbone and Port City among others.
Getting There: Metro and Parking
The Nats play their home games at Nationals Park in the revitalized Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, DC, where they’ve called home since 2008. Nats Park, as it’s often called, is very accessible from Metro’s Navy Yard station on the Green Line just a couple of blocks from the stadium’s center field gates. It’s also an easy transfer from the Blue, Orange, Silver, and Yellow Lines from L’Enfant Plaza. As for parking, the Nationals sell parking spaces in various garages and lots around the stadium, though as you can imagine the closer you are to the stadium, the pricier the parking will likely be. There are some more affordable lots and garages in the $10-$15 range that are a little more of a walk to the stadium, but not more than 10-15 minutes. You can also check out Spot Hero to check out the garages close by and to reserve your spot in advance.
Don’t forget about the baseball boat that runs from Old Town (right behind the Torpedo Factory) to a dock located behind the home plate gate of Nationals Park. Tickets on the baseball boat are $25 a person for standard games.
If you’re taking Uber or Lyft, it is generally a safe bet to have a drink after a game to let the crowd die down. Which brings us to our next section!
Where to Eat and Drink Around the Stadium
The Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront areas have exploded commercially since the stadium first opened in 2008 with the neighborhood experiencing a total rejuvenation of dining and retail options. Each season many new spots around the stadium open, giving folks even more options. With so much variety, there’s virtually something for everyone to enjoy. Below are some of our favorite options to grab a drink or bite to eat before or after the game.
1201 Half St SE
The Bullpen has been a staple at Nationals Games since the stadium first opened. This no-frills spot sits right across the street from the Navy Yard Metro and is often crowded a few hours before games even begin. The Bullpen is entirely outdoors and offers a variety of canned beers, mixed drinks, and ballpark fare. They also regularly feature local bands and watch parties during big games. While The Bullpen is not as large as it used to be, it still remains the spot to be seen before and after a Nats game.
1221 Van Street SE
Mission opened up their second location in DC after seeing success with their first location in DuPont Circle. If margaritas and tacos are what you’re craving on a hot summer day, then Mission is probably the place for you. With three bars and a huge second level, it’s spacious and therefore fairly easy to get a drink before a game. Their happy hour menu which runs until 7 pm every day of the week features margarita pitchers for $25 as well as a sampling of traditional Mexican light fare all for under $10, with draught beers at $5 as well. Salud!
12655 First Street SE
Top of the Yard is a small bar that’s on the rooftop of the Hampton Inn hotel across the street on First Street. Top of the Yard offers fantastic views of both the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument and of course, inside Nationals Park. They also have a small assortment of ballpark-esque food plus a happy hour starting at 5 pm. With no age restriction, Top of the Yard is a great spot to bring your kids as well to check out the views, especially since you don’t have to be staying at the hotel! It’s only however open during baseball season, so you’re out of luck if you want to check it out during the winter months.
300 Tingey Street SE
Blue Jacket is a great spot for craft beer lovers. This massive brewery’s indoor space is open and airy while their menu features dozens of beers brewed in-house. Last season they also opened up an outdoor patio that includes a special menu of outdoor eats to sample as well.
79 Potomac Avenue SE
The Salt Line is located down on the waterfront side of the stadium behind the home plate gate. It’s a great spot to check out for a full meal or just a pre or post-game drink, plus some amazing water views! They specialize in seafood with a full raw bar of oyster choices, but their New England Smash Burger was ranked as one of the best new burgers in DC back in 2017! Their happy hour, while not available for Nats game days, features a daily $5 draft beer selection, $5 glasses of wine, and half-price local oysters. Nats legend Ryan Zimmerman is also an owner in The Salt Line. You may even see a Nats player or two after a game. The Nats frequently celebrated at Salt Line after big wins during their World Series run.
301 Water Street SE
If the crazy pre and post-game chaos isn’t for you, then wander down to this Italian restaurant on the SE waterfront might be for you. The original location in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City recently brought their homemade pasta and wood-grilled meats down to the Navy Yard neighborhood. The outdoor patio is also definitely worth checking out in the warmer weather.
Buying Tickets and Where to Sit
There are virtually no bad seats at Nationals Park, but where you decide to sit is all about what kind of experience you’re looking to have. The seats on the 100 level closer to the field are some of the best in the house as they provide the closest vantage point to the action, though of course, these are also typically the priciest. If you’re looking to avoid the sun on the lower level, the third-base side of the stadium is typically in the shade for day games. The 200 level, the club level, is also nice if you’re looking to escape your seats during the warmer months since there’s a nice air-conditioned area behind the seating area with specialty food and drinks and a large bar area with televisions. The 300 level is also very popular as you’re close enough to the action but high up enough that you can still see the plays develop from a birds-eye view. The 400 level is typically the least expensive and farthest away from the field but is still a great place to see the game.
The Nationals also offer a fair amount of standing room tickets where fans can stand and watch the game from a variety of spots in the ballpark including a couple of different bars in the outfield concourse areas. Some of the best spots for standing include the Bud Light Loft in center field (where Sue, Marty, and Allison watched game 3 of the World Series in 2019!) as well as on the 300 level where there are elevated tables for fans to put drinks and food items. However, if you have standing room tickets for a big game and want a good spot, you’ll likely need to get there early to secure your spot!
You can buy tickets directly from the Nats website, though if you’re looking for a deal, StubHub is a great place to look the day before a game or even a few hours before the game if you’re looking to get a good deal on tickets.
Like any other sporting event, there are some things you should know so you and everyone around you have the best experience possible. For instance, don’t get up or come back to your seat in the middle of a play or at-bat. Even if an usher isn’t there to stop you, your best bet is to wait for an out before you get up or head back to your seat.
In terms of etiquette specific to Nats games, many fans typically wear red (or sometimes blue) to show their support to the team and players. The other notable things include cheering N-A-T-S after the Nats score a run.
The Bottom Line
Even though they’ve only been around for 16 seasons, Nationals games have quickly become a summer staple for folks across our region. Nats games are a great experience for anyone, whether you’re a new fan, a lifer, or a kid heading to their first game ever.