Writer's Note: Two things—I'm writing this in hopes that it becomes a series of guides for stadiums around the country. If you know your home park and want to share your knowledge, please start another Clever Fan's Stadium Guide! Secondly, I'd like this to be a collaborative effort with other Clever Fans, so please post your tips to comments and I'll edit the article as we go along. So here goes...
I'll start with a bold statement: AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, is the best park in baseball. I will admit, I haven't been to every park in the country, so I encourage you all to prove me wrong.
But I think anyone who's attended a game at AT&T will agree with me that it's among the best, if not the best. So, here's my guide for making the most of your experience at AT&T Park.
Getting Here: Due to traffic, the best way to get in and out of the park is on foot. If you take the BART into San Francisco, get off at Embarcadero station and walk south along the water for 15 minutes to get to the park. Alternatively, you can take the light rail (MUNI) which drops you off right in front, but be warned, it's jam-packed before and after games.
If you're driving, expect to pay $10-30 for parking. The stadium parking is the biggest ripoff, of course, running $30 and isn't even the closest parking available.
Try some of the lots on Townsend St. or go north on 2nd or 3rd streets, where lots usually run less, from $10-20. If you're allergic to paying for parking, you might get lucky on Townsend St. to the west of the park, but walking back to your car after a night game is a slightly dicey proposition.
Attire: Orange and Black, duh. For night games, bring a couple of layers—if the fog rolls in, temperatures can drop by 20 degrees within a matter of minutes. A fleece blanket is a great way to get cozy, if you bring a date to the game.
Best Seats in the House: Now, this is a matter of personal preference, of course. Some people swear by the bleachers for the "ambiance." If you're going bleachers, I recommend sections 137-139 for the best views and the best chance to catch a home run.
My personal favorites are sections 101-103, down the first base line. Not only are you in prime foul-ball territory for right handed batters, but you're in front of the visiting bullpen. Hearing the insults hurled from the techno-savvy Giants crowd (sucks to be a visiting player with a profile on Wikipedia) is worth the price of admission in of itself.
If you've got box seats, well aren't you lucky. Make sure you take your special elevator up to your level, located outside the 2nd Street Gate.
The cheapest seats are generally in the View Reserved sections—from there, you get a bird's eye view of the game, but expect to freeze your butt off once the sun goes down and the wind starts blowing.
You'll burn a hot dog's worth of calories climbing all the switchbacks to get to your seats. But there's no better view of the East Bay and the water, especially at sunset when the Oakland hills reflect the light back toward the park, making the hills look like they're made of copper glitter.
For the 2009 season, make sure you check out the K-Zone ticket offers for a chance at really cheap seats.
The really, really cheap seats are actually free! You can watch the game (in 15 minute increments) through the fence in the right field wall. Walk around to the back of the stadium and look for the CHW clinic.
Cuisine: Two words—garlic fries. If you've never been to AT&T, this is a must. Look for the monstrous green booths that say GARLIC FRIES. Unfortunately, there's usually a huge line so plan accordingly.
However, there is a booth tucked away underneath the center field wall that gets less traffic—if you're in the bleachers, it's the place to go. If you're elsewhere in the park, it may be worth the walk.
The best place for dogs is the Bratwurst cart near the Third Street Gate—they're freshly grilled, and you can get some grilled peppers and onions to top off your sausage.
And if you're feeling rich of wallet and low of cholesterol, I recommend trying out Crazy Crab'z—this, more so than the garlic fries, represents San Francisco best: tasty and expensive.
Unlike some other parks, there's an obscene number of beer options—all kinds of import brews, Gordon Biersch's entire selection, but my personal favorite is Anchor Steam, brewed locally in San Francisco. Little known fact: San Francisco's tap water is so clean, Anchor Steam uses straight tap water to make their beer.
If you're feeling like a cheap date, you're allowed to bring food and drink into the park. Just don't bring glass or metal bottles—plastic is fine. Heck, I've walked in with large sport bottles full of beer.
Bathrooms: Laugh all you want, but this is an important aspect of any good ballgame experience. You don't want to be standing in line when the Giants hit one into McCovey cove, do you?
The best bathrooms in the park are under the center field wall. Less traffic=more game time. Pick up a funnel cake on your way back (but wash your hands first, please!).
Pre-and-Post-Game Dining: AT&T park is located in the part of San Francisco called South Beach, better known as "Yuppieville." That means a lot of "not-as-great-as-the-price-would've-indicated" restaurants, such as Momo's, Paragon, and Acme Chophouse.
However, there are a number of good dining options a short walk away from the park:
- Pete's Tavern, across the street, is your typical pub fare but made surprisingly well.
- Hi-Dive, on Bryant and Embarcadero, is a great little bar for drinks and tasty eats.
- Tres Agaves on Townsend and 2nd is another yuppie hangout but their fish tacos are amazing. Plus they've an entire page's worth of margarita options, can't go wrong with that.
- 21st Amendment Brewery on 2nd and Brannan brews their own beer and has excellent bar food to boot. Try the Cuban sandwich and a Watermelon Wheat beer.
Other: If you've got a wetsuit that's collecting dust in your closet, try renting a kayak from City Kayak in the South Beach Harbor. Hang out in McCovey Cove with the other adventure seekers at the off chance of snagging a home run ball hit into the water.
That concludes our tour of AT&T Park, home of your San Francisco Giants. Comments, tips, feedback and suggestions all welcome in the comments area! Last but not least, the above photo was taken by Sara (a.k.a @gidget on Twitter), opening day, 2009.