New York City has its fair share of professional sports teams and there’s something for everyone here as a tourist to this great city who wants to catch an iconic team play. There are so many sports arenas in the NYC area: Madison Square Garden (just “the Garden”, to locals), Barclay’s Center, Giants Stadium (now MetLife Stadium), Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Red Bull Arena, Prudential Center… and a few more all call the NY Metropolitan area “home”.
Enjoying a New York Yankees or New York Mets baseball game is a great way to spend a spring, summer or fall afternoon in New York City. For the soccer (football) enthusiast, maybe you want to catch a Red Bulls or NYCFC game instead.
This post covers the two more iconic stadiums we have here in the City That Never Sleeps: Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. These stadiums are home to the Yankees, Mets, and the newly inaugurated New York City Football Club.
However, going to a game can be a really expensive endeavor, and neither stadium is centrally located in Manhattan, so it’s a bit of a trek to go to each. I’d guess that, unless you’re a die-hard sports fan, only one event like this will be part of your NYC trip.
Going to a baseball or soccer game in New York City is a true hometown experience and I would recommend even folks who do not like sports to go check out a game. The atmosphere, camaraderie, merriment and energy are contagious – you can’t help but have a good time.
Here’s a brief rundown of each stadium, how to get to each, what to expect once you’re there, and what it’s all about.
HOME OF THE ICONS: YANKEE STADIUM
The Yankees are almost synonymous with New York City and are likely the team that comes to mind when you conjure up an image of a New York sports team in your brain. It’s for good reason – the team dominated the world of baseball from the 90’s and well into the 21st century (as well as dating back to the early 20th century – does the name Babe Ruth, or maybe Joe DiMaggio ring a bell?). The names Derek Jeter and A-Rod are household names in American pop culture – even the number 2 is sacred to some New Yorkers now. However, with great fame and a great record (until recently), comes high prices, large crowds, and tons of bandwagon fans.
How to get there
The best way to get to the stadium – Take the B (during weekdays), 4 or D subway trains in the Uptown direction to Yankee Stadium stop, get off, and follow the signs/crowd to the stadium, just steps away from the station. Keep in mind that Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx and not in a very great area – especially for tourists who are not familiar with New York. It’s not dangerous per se around game time, but use caution in the subways and on the street. Beware of people trying to sell you stuff (counterfeit goods and fake tickets) and go straight to either the few bars next to the stadium (more on that below) or to the game. This isn’t a place where you tailgate all day and it’s not much of a destination other than the stadium itself.
The Yankee Stadium Experience
You’re in the home of the greats and, although the stadium is new and not the original, the hallowed halls create a great atmosphere. The fans are from all walks of life, but it isn’t cheap to go to a game, and with some tickets well over $200 a piece, it’s pretty cost-prohibitive to take a family out to a ballgame these days.
There are a few team stores throughout the place that sell Yankees merchandise, some of which is hard to find elsewhere. But, if you can wait to buy a t-shirt, you’ll likely find it for a better price at one of NYC’s sports gear shops like Modell’s.
There are just a few rules to being a good Yankees fan – hate the Red Sox, don’t wear Red Sox gear (although you won’t get beat up if you do – at least, I don’t think you would…), and be respectful of other people at the game. Don’t stand up and walk to go get food or go to the bathroom while someone’s in the middle of batting. Bring a hat when it’s raining or get a poncho – don’t be “that guy” with an umbrella. And, most of all – HAVE FUN!
When the grounds crew come out to tend to the field between innings, pay attention! It’s a fun part of the game that you won’t see elsewhere 🙂
Maybe baseball’s not your thing. Fear not, folks. NYCFC provides a great reason to head to Yankee Stadium, coupled with European stars Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa make this team exciting to watch, even if they don’t always win.
Show up early and hang out for an autograph down by the field during warm-ups, even.
Go before the games (soccer or baseball) to visit Monument Park, a tribute to the MVPs and legends of the team throughout its history. Check out the retired numbers and bronze reliefs for each player. Monument Park closes 45 minutes prior to game time, so you’d have to get there pretty early to check it out. It only requires about 10-15 minutes of time, and it’s worth seeing.
Eating and Drinking
Chowing down on some serious nosh at Yankee Stadium is going to cost you a pretty penny. Beers are $12, hot dogs are $6 and pretzels are $4. You can get a beer in a souvenir cup and kill two birds with one stone – some merchandise and a frosty brew to enjoy while you watch the game.
We hung out in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar to get a drink and some food during a NYCFC game (at least) and enjoy the air conditioning on a hot day. You need tickets to the seats in the lounge, arranged stadium-style, so we had to go find our actual seats when the game started.
After the game, Yankees and NYCFC fans funnel out of the stadium and across the street to the iconic post- and pre-game bars like Stan’s Sports Bar, Billy’s Sports Bar, and The Dugout.
The place is packed wall to wall but if the team won, then everyone’s in a good mood and the atmosphere is great. It also pays to stick around for a bit because the Subway is going to be packed for at least 30 minutes after the game, as fans cram themselves like sardines into the cars of the 4, B, and D trains.
HOME OF THE UNDERDOGS: CITI FIELD
Citi Field was completed in 2009 as the new home of the New York Mets after the team’s former home, the famous Shea Stadium (home to one of the most historic Beatles’ performances ever) was closed after a good run from 1964 and then demolished.
Situated right next to the grounds from the World’s Fair (think Men in Black’s spaceships at the end of the first movie), the swanky, newer home for the Mets boasts a high-end food scene (even Shake Shack, hello!) and lower prices than its neighbor to the north. While the Mets don’t enjoy the same reputation as the Yankees as a consistently winning team, everyone loves a good underdog and although they haven’t clinched a World Series since the 1980’s, the Mets put on a great show for kids of all ages. [Note: When I wrote this, the Mets were not the league champs – I stand corrected now that they beat the Dodgers last night!]
HOW TO GET THERE
The best way to get to the stadium – Take the 7 express subway trains in the Main Street – Flushing direction to the Mets/Willets Point stop, get off, and follow the signs/crowd to the stadium, just steps away from the station. Keep in mind that Citi Field is in Queens. It’s a decent area but there’s not much to do around there. Cabs are likely needed to get you where you want to go after.
On a nice day, you can even take a water taxi from lower Manhattan to the game. Seating is limited to 147 passengers per Water Taxi and tickets can be picked up at Pier 11/Wall St., as early as two hours before departure. A limited number of tickets will also be available online at www.nywatertaxi.com. There’s no return taxi, so you’d need to take the subway back home.
The Citi Field Experience
Take a walk around the stadium between innings or before the game to see some of the historical plaques and read some of the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson – the only player in baseball history to have his number retired by every team and as the first African American baseball player in the major league. While the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, many consider the Mets to be the heirs of their New York City baseball history. Check out the NY Mets Hall of Fame and Museum in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, or head over to the Shea Bridge and read about Shea Stadium’s history.
Eating and Drinking
Citi Field has the reputation of having better food and better craft beer selections than Yankee Stadium, and everything’s a little bit cheaper, too.
There’s a Shake Shack and the iconic NYC BBQ joint Blue Smoke, as well as a gourmet french fry-erie (hehe), a Mexican cantina churning out tacos and other street fare, and even lobster rolls, New York deli sandwiches, and everything in between. Of course, there’s no shortage of delicious all-beef hot dogs and cold beer.
Check out the list of beers they have at this craft beer stand! They’re $9.50 if you can’t read the writing!
POST-GAME ACTION NEARBY
The World’s Fair grounds are nearby and the US Open is also played nearby. You could always head after the game to Main Street in Flushing for authentic Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine or some private-room karaoke, though. I’ve heard of this bar – McFadden’s – which is very close to the action but haven’t been there yet personally… so take that for what it’s worth!
What about you, dear Reader? What’s your favorite ballpark and when can I go there? Tell me in the comments!