So, when you have a 6 hour layover in Cincinnati, what are you to do? Write a quick review of your visit to Washington Nationals Park from the night before, of course!
I was in DC (Arlington to be more specific) for a work conference and is my habit for years on end, I check the local baseball schedule to see if the local team is in town. Major or minor league doesn’t matter, getting out of the hotel for the evening is a must. In the summer that means, hopefully a baseball game. Nothing like a baseball game to feel like I’m really in a city. Other than out of town AA meetings, I feel more connected at a ball game than just about anywhere in a new town.
Though with the Boston Red Sox in town, that was a bit tested. Red Sox fans travel really well, and that’s great, sort of. Unfortunately, Red Sox fans are the American League equivalent of Cubs fans. There is an obnoxiousness that goes beyond simply cheering for their teams. There is this weird attitude of surprise that as visiting fans, they aren’t particularly welcome. The centuries of losing are long gone. No one cares about your history, or your rivalries, or just about anything they bring. Shut up, drink your beer, cheer for your team and go home. Visiting Red Sox and Cubs fans are like the guy no one invited to the party, that doesn’t know when to shut up and doesn’t know when to leave.
The park itself is pretty solid. It isn’t a retro park, thank god. We’ve got enough of those. In many ways, it’s what the White Sox wanted with the new park, but missed. Yes, there is a fair amount of brick work, but walking around, the modern feel really comes through. There is a preponderance of steel around the park that looks and feels very clean. The upper deck concourse acts as the division between the 300 and 400 level seats. And unlike old and retro parks, the Nationals seats go out, instead of straight up. Yes, the seats are a little further away, but it has a great open feel. The roof, what there is of one, is also more stainless steel (might be aluminum.) Wrought iron is used sparingly.
I walked around a bit and the view of the field is top notch, another reminder of what the White Sox got wrong unfortunately. One of the best things about White Sox field is the lower concourse where you can see all the action as you move around. The upper concourse at National Parks is like that, but with a very open air aspect to it. Even better (are you reading Brooks Boyer) are standing stations where a person can eat and drink while watching the game and not doing the “please don’t spill my nachos cha-cha” while trying to sit down.
Which brings me to the food. Good, not great; affordable compared to Chicago. I can’t comment on the beer selection, but there were quite a few microbrews represented and little pub-like places to grab a beer and bite. As for my bites, an Italian sausage which was ok and a decent nacho, with barbacoa. Unfortunately I heard a few people complain that the nacho place ran out of meat, relatively early, like the third inning. Same went for the sausages, they were out early.
One of the absolute best things about the park was that it was accessible by public transit. Even though I took the wrong train on the way, it was an easy error to correct and I made it in plenty of time. The ballpark stop was maybe a block from the entrance and getting in was a breeze. As far as leaving, and I’m guessing I’m in the minority here, but the walk back to the train was a little Shakedown Street. The vending was dominated by folks selling water, but there were hats, t-shirts and a few other items for sale as well. I hope the guy selling $2 waters from Sam’s Club isn’t put out of business so the Nationals can make a few extra bucks. He’s not hurting anybody and probably needs the money a lot more than the baseball team.
If you find yourself in DC, I recommend getting to the Nationals Park. Tickets were easy and cheap on Stubhub and it was a great place to see a game. A nice respite from walking on the Mall or sitting in a conference room.