Podcast Ep.14: Washington DC Sports October 1, 2019
Professional sports are a big part of every city’s identity and culture. Washington DC has professional teams in almost every major sports league. Rob is joined by Dave Murphy to give our best tips for checking out Washington, DC sports games. We cover the Nationals (MLB), Wizards (NBA), Capitals (NHL), DC United (MLS), Redskins (NFL), Mystics (WNBA) plus a handful of others.
Dave is Dave is an Army veteran, retired DOD geographic analyst, coach of a championship youth football team, contributor at Greater Greater Washington and (for better or worse) a lifelong DC sports fan.
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There are a lot of great fan experiences for visitors who are interested in Washington, DC sports. For each team, Rob and Dave give their favorite tips for getting to the venue and what to expect once you get inside.
Washington Nationals (MLB)
Baseball is the sport visitors are most likely to experience because of the number of games and timing of the season. There are 81 home games and they happen mostly in the spring and summer, which is when a tourism is highest in DC.
Nationals Park transportation
Nationals Park is very casual with a laid back atmosphere. They are one of the few sports venues in the country that makes it easy to ride a bicycle to the game. You can leave your personal bike in the bicycle value or use Capital Bikeshare. There is a huge Capital Bikeshare dock nearby. There is an Uber drop off spot nearby if you want to hire a ride.
Most Nationals fans arrive by Metro. The Navy Yard metro station is on the Green Line. It is only a block north of the center field gate. An important tip for using Metro is make sure to load your card with a fare to get there and back. You don’t want to wait in line after the game. Remember that there are potentially tens of thousands of people heading to the Metro at the exact same time once the game ends.
Nationals Park gameday tips
As of 2019 backpacks are not allowed into games. You can bring a purse or small bag but be aware that security will search it when you arrive. If you don’t need a bag, use the “no bag” line to speed up your entry into the game.
A key tip that not many people know about is that you can bring outside food into Nationals games. You can also bring one unopened bottle of water. There are a handful of fast casual restaurants on 1st Street SE nearby that you can stop into before the game. We like Rasa, Roti and Chopt. We don’t recommenced Chipotle as it’s a bit messy.
If you want a ballpark food experience you will find solid food choices inside the gates. The Nationals do a good job of bringing in high quality vendors and local restaurants. Dave likes Shake Shack and Ben’s Chili Bowl. He also likes the Red Porch restaurant which you can visit no matter where your seat is located.
Check out the neighborhood around Nationals Park
One of the benefits to having a baseball stadium so close to downtown is that there’s a lot to do nearby. The ballpark is right on the Anacostia River. It’s sandwiched between two great parks. There’s a ton of bars and restaurants nearby. There’s a splash pad and pool for kids and kayaking for older kids and families.
This is different from the ballpark experience many are used to. For some teams, like the Rangers or Braves, the ballparks are located in areas where you have to drive. They are surrounded by huge parking lots and fans don’t spend much time outside the stadium. Nationals Park is much more of a neighborhood park and it’s worth experiencing it that way.
Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA) and Washington Valor (Arena Football)
Capitol One Arena is the home to several Washington DC sports teams including the Washington capitals, Washington Wizards and the Washington Valor. They are all very good fan experiences. Valor games are nice and cheap. Wizards games are fun, even if the quality of play isn’t the best. And the Capitals are recent Stanley Cup champions.
Capital One Arena transportation
Getting to the arena is relatively simple because the Gallery Place station is literally under the arena. The Metro Center station is also a short walk away. It is very accessible. Just like with Nationals Park, there’s plenty to do nearby. If you’re staying downtown, we actually recommend walking over from your hotel if you’re able. Downtown DC is relatively easy to navigate on foot.
Fan experience at Capital One Arena
Unlike ballparks, most arenas are fairly similar in design. Capital One Arena does have pretty steep sections at the top. So if you are afraid of heights you might want to avoid the upper sections. However, the views from anywhere in the arena are fantastic. There really is not a bad seat in the house as far as seeing the court or the rink. If you’re new to hockey, you might actually prefer a higher seat as it’s a little easier to follow the puck and action.
The Washington Valor is in arena football team. So, this is basically indoor football played on a 50 yard field. It is high scoring action packed game. Arena football games are very inexpensive and family friendly, so it can be a great alternative to some of the more expensive pro sports. The season runs from roughly April through July which overlaps with peak tourist season in DC.
You cannot bring your own food into Capital One Arena. The food at the venue is good but not great. However, there are a large number of restaurants near the arena, so don’t feel like you have to eat at the game.
Washington Redskins (NFL)
Washington, DC visitors are least likely to check out an NFL game. There are the fewest number of games and the football season is during the months when the fewest number of people come to DC. Unfortunately these games also also among the worst fan experiences compared to other Washington, DC sports teams.
Fedex Field transportation
Getting to Fedex Field is trickier than our other venues. It’s out in the suburbs in Landover, Maryland. To get there you would use the Morgan Boulevard station on the Metro blue line. Then, you need to walk another three-quarters of a mile to the stadium. Walking along Morgan Boulevard is not a fun experience. It’s a tiny sidewalk with fast moving traffic whizzing past.
Otherwise, pretty much the only way to get to Fedex Field is to drive. Since we don’t recommend a rental car for most visitors, Uber or Lyft is an option. They have a drop off spot in the stadium parking lots. It’s actually relatively close to the stadium, at least compared to how far away the Metro station is.
Getting back from the game can be the bigger challenge. Anytime you have 70,000 people gathering in one spot, getting out is going to be a little hectic. Everybody is leaving at the same time. There’s not much you can do other than be aware and set expectations accordingly.
Washington Mystics (WNBA)
The Washington Mystics play at the Saint Elizabeth’s Arena in Southeast Washington DC. It is accessible to the Congress Heights station on the Metro Green Line. The Arena seats about 5,000 people. So, it’s a smaller arena among Washington DC sports teams. If you don’t want to shell out big NBA bucks, you can see a great game here.
About 6,500 people on average attended Mystics games back when they played at Capital One Arena. Now they’re in a facility that can’t accommodate that many people. The advantage of having a smaller arena is that the games feel “sold out” and everyone is close to the action. The downside is that fewer people can attend than in the past.
DC United (MLS)
Another sport that visitors are likely to check out is Major League Soccer. DC United is the name of our team and they just opened a brand-new facility called Audi Field. DC United has a huge fan base relative to a lot of other MLS teams. They were one of the original, founding teams and have developed very dedicated fans over the years, especially among some of the local immigrant communities.
Audi field offers a great fan experience. There aren’t as many food options as there are at Nationals Park. Although, they are similar in nature. It’s a very friendly environment. Kids can attend but like many soccer venues, there are some abrasive fans. Bring the kids if you’re OK with occasional foul language. Otherwise this is one of the best soccer experiences you can find in the U.S.
The Washington Kastles is one of the most successful tennis teams in the history of their league. The Kastles play at George Washington University. The venue is downtown and very easy to get to either on the Metro via the Foggy Bottom station or by foot if you’re staying nearby.
If you’re more into outdoor tennis, DC hosts Citi Open each summer. It is part of the is part of the ATP World Tour 500 and WTA International circuits. This means that some of the biggest stars in the game come to town and join the Washington, DC sports scene.
Frisbee, Rugby and XFL
The DC Breeze are a member team of the American Ultimate Disc League. They play April through July at Cardinal Stadium. Ultimate frisbee is a fast-paced sport. The games are family friendly and concessions are much less expensive than at some of the other venues!
Old Glory is the name of DC’s professional rugby team. They will soon join Major League Rugby as an expansion team. They also play at Cardinal Stadium. Rugby is not nearly as popular in the U.S. as in other parts of the world, but MLR is hoping that teams like Old Glory will popularize the sport.
The DC Defenders is a XFL team that will play at Audi Field beginning in 2020. The XFL is trying to challenge the NFL and establish their league as a major force in the football world.
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