Baseball Fan or Not, Attending a Game at Petco Park Is a San Diego Must-Do
As a San Diego native, my formative memories of watching the Padres play were at the old Qualcomm Stadium with a simple hot dog, a hard bleacher seat and maybe, if they were winning, a riveting round of the wave. Childhood experiences are rarely surpassed by experiencing the same in adult life, but an afternoon at a San Diego Padres game at Petco Park, my first visit in over 20 years, proved to be one of the few exceptions. Surrounded by the downtown skyline, Petco Park is a utopia of top-notch food, drinks and activities enhancing an already-buzzing day of baseball, making every game day a “W” for the city, regardless of what the scoreboard reads. Earlier this year, Petco Park was crowned the No. 1 ballpark in the nation by USA Today, and we’d have to agree. After last year’s come-from-behind playoff win over the Dodgers, where roars echoed through every local downtown bar and living room across the county, San Diegans will never forget where they were that day. Here’s exactly why the Padres game experience will smash any preconceived expectations out of the park.
Eat (and Drink) Your Heart Out
Must-Order: The Hot Hen Sandwich and a Souvenir Beer Bat With Juneshine Mango Daydream
For many baseball fans, a ballpark hot dog brings on a wave of nostalgia, but at Petco Park, peanuts and hot dogs aren’t the only things on the menu. The downtown stadium is known for its abundant array of food and drink vendors, housing some of the best craft restaurants and drink options the city has to offer. I warmed up with Tri-Tip Nachos from section 105’s Seaside Market: tortilla chips topped with Diego queso, sour cream, Seaside BBQ sauce, green onions and, of course, the highest-quality Burgundy Beef Tri Tip. Personally, my favorite always comes between two buns: don’t miss The Hot Hen Sandwich stadium exclusive—a juicy agave-dipped fried chicken smothered in signature Fuego Sauce with pickles and Fresno chile slaw between a fluffy brioche bun. Find it at San Diego’s Finest Hot Chicken in section 316, or get it with a local brew at The Draft by Ballast Point near section 105 on the Garden Level! Speaking of beverages, I went with the souvenir beer bat: both the Juneshine Mango Daydream and Pizza Port California Honey Ale filled it beautifully between innings. These highlights are just the tri-tip of the iceberg; the stadium is a foodie’s dream! Fans can also feast on housemade sausage sandwiches from Grand Ole BBQ, fresh rolls from Negihama Sushi, steamed pork buns from world-renowned Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung and, of course, Hodad’s famous burgers.
Game-Day Viewing Spots
Best Viewing Spot: Craft Pier by Ballast Point
When it comes to catching a ball game at Petco Park, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The stadium features a variety of epic viewing spots (open to anyone with a ticket!), including The Loft, located inside the Western Metal Supply Co. Building on the second level, where Budweiser beer flows and you can shoot a game of pool with your pals. Another hotspot for hops is Alpine Beer Company, an expansive rooftop taproom, with craft brews and scenic views of the Coronado Bridge! And possibly one of our favorite spots to watch the Padres do their thing is at the Craft Pier by Ballast Point, which sits just behind the wall in right-center field. Inspired by the local beach lifestyle, this space is perfect for mingling and features open seating with Adirondack chairs along the front row and high-top tables with chairs throughout the space. Looking for a more private experience? The park also offers a ton of semi-private unique spaces for groups, like the Toyota Beach (just below the Craft Pier), Sunset Patio over first base and the Templeton Rye Barrel Deck that sits level with right-field. And, of course, there’s always the Premier Club Suites, Tower Loft Suites and Terrace Suites if you’re feeling extra fancy.10/13
Giveaways on Giveaways
Giveaway of the Season: Padres Hawaiian Shirt (June 14)
While I’ll always recommend showing up to the game in all-out Padres attire head-to-toe, don’t fret if you don’t own any Padres swag. At select games throughout the season, the first 40,000 fans in attendance benefit from epic giveaways with branded items ranging from classic bobbleheads and replica jerseys to trendy bucket hats and belt bags! Upcoming giveaways include a chic Padres Belt Bag (June 5), a colorful Padres Hawaiian Shirt (June 14), a Yu Darvish (legendary pitcher) Bobblehead (July 24) and more. Many of these items also feature the vibrant color scheme of the team’s new City Connect uniforms. Nike has worked with each MLB team to craft a kit that expresses the characteristics of the team’s home city, and the Padres uniforms were inspired by the vivid landscapes in the San Diego and Baja California communities. If you’re into surprises, leave it up to chance, or you can plan ahead and check their giveaway schedule to determine which days you really want those tickets.
A Star-Studded Roster
Favorite Player: Josh Hader (pitcher with a fastball that can reach up to 97mph!)
I’ve always had the same mantra when it comes to convincing my girls to go to a Padres game. It’s what I call The Three Bs: brews, brats and the “Boys of Summer.” And whether you know the Padres’ roster like the back of your hand or this is your first time catching a game, having a favorite player makes for an easy cue to cheer, even if you’re constantly unsure if your team is even winning. Just remember this: when you see Manny Machado go up to bat, cross your fingers for a homer, and when you see Josh Hader take the pitcher’s mound, get ready for a close-out. If your favorite infielder is Ha-Seong Kim, prepare to share: he gets his very own chant when he goes up to bat! Want to seem like a true fan? Check out the full active roster here!7/7
Pregame + In-the-Park Experiences
Don’t-Miss Event: Party in the Park: BeerFest (on Fridays when there’s a home game)
When it comes to Fridays in San Diego, there’s always something to do—from hiking and surfing to checking out new restaurants and sipping the day away at breweries. Dull moments simply don’t exist, but I think Petco Park should be at the top of your Friday-do list.6/27
Kick off your weekend properly with a pregame party in the park! Skip the stadium’s surrounding bars and go straight to Gallagher Square (located field-level) inside the park. Mingle and move about the open grassy area, complete with live music and drink specials starting as low as $5. Admission is free with a game ticket, and the party starts right when the gates open (two hours prior to first pitch). If you’re bringing the kids along, make it a family Sunday at Petco Park’s KidsFest, where the same area will be filled with inflatables, games, face painting, a mini field where kids can play wiffle ball and more. If the little ones are sad to take their seats, there’s more to come: kids 14 and under are invited to get on the field and run the bases after several Sunday home games, with lineup beginning after the 8th inning!
After not attending a game for 20 years, I have to admit today’s Padres game experience hits it out of the park. Move baseball to the top of your summer-do list—attending a San Diego Padres game is a must this season!