Minute Maid Park Baseball Gameday GuideMinute Maid Park (also known as "The Juice Box"), home of the Houston Astros, is located in downtown Houston, the fourth largest city in the country. The Astros have ranked at or near the bottom of the pack for the last few baseball seasons, but that doesn't stop fans from turning out on game day. The team uses a dynamic pricing model, so ticket prices fluctuate with demand. Check the Astros' website for the latest prices. The team also offers family packages that include tickets, a parking pass, food and drinks.
The stadium itself has a distinctive boxy, modern look that sets it apart from other ballparks. A large white retractable roof is crisscrossed with blue support beams to keep fans cool and dry on hot or rainy days. It retreats back to open everything up when the weather's nice. Although Minute Maid Park is nothing like the Astros' former ballpark, the Astrodome (nicknamed the Eighth Wonder of the World), it's still an impressive place to catch a game.
City sports fans are pretty familiar with the area around Minute Maid Park—the neighborhood is also home to the Toyota Center (Houston Rockets) and BBVA Compass (Houston Dynamo). Overall, it's not a very exciting pregame setting, as the downtown Houston business crowd tends to head out of town around 5 p.m. There's nearly always some construction going on downtown, but Minute Maid Park sits on the edge of the district, which makes it relatively easy to get to. There are a handful of bars within a few blocks of MMP, including the B.U.S., Home Plate, Lucky's Pub and Little Woodrow's. Since there aren't too many restaurants or entertainment venues around the stadium, many fans opt to save their energy (and money) for the festivities, food and fandom inside the ballpark.
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Despite Houston's large size, arriving to a game at MMP is pretty easy, as is parking. Most fans head to one of the few bars that are within walking distance of the stadium, and hang out there to meet friends before the game. Many of these bars also have shuttles to the stadium.
When it's time to head into the ballpark, use the entrance at home plate, also known as the Diamond Club entrance, which usually has the shortest lines. (All ticketholders can enter here).
WHERE TO GET A BEER
Lucky's Pub | Voted Houston's Best Sports Bar, and located just a few blocks from Minute Maid Park, Lucky's has more than 100 beers to choose from. It also gets rave reviews for its pizza and burgers, and offers better and cheaper parking options than the stadium itself. (There's a free shuttle to MMP). This is one of the best spots to find fans who may be selling or giving away extra tickets.
WEHRE TO GO WITH A GROUP
Little Woodrow's | Between the saloon-like wood-paneled bar and the longhorns on the wall, you'll know you're in Texas here. The bar has ample seating and doesn't get too crowded, and there's a large patio area for enjoying the Houston weather before it gets too hot. They don't offer food, but you can order delivery pizza or bring your own food in. Just across the street from Lucky's Pub, it's also within easy walking distance to the ballpark, and offers happy hour specials on game days.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT
Mojeaux's Louisiana Drinkery | Just a few blocks away from MMP sits a spot with a New Orleans vibe. Mojeaux's serves dishes like red beans and rice, and chicken-and-sausage gumbo. You will see a few sports fans here before a game, but the crowd is mostly a bunch of locals kicking back after work.
WHERE TO GET ROWDY
Home Plate | "Getting rowdy" in this town means drinking fast and high fiving or chest bumping—Houston Astros fans aren't really the face painting or sign-carrying types. At least not yet. Directly across from MMP, Home Plate has a baseball theme and three stories of sports-obsessed space. Game day specials keep the drinks cheap and flowing. Lucky's Pub (above) is another good place to get your pregame drink on, as is Little Woodrow's.
WHERE TO GAVE A SIT-DOWN MEAL
Vic and Anthony's | If you want to enjoy a nice sit-down meal like a true Texan, then steak it is! The original location of this steakhouse chain is located diagonally across the street from MMP. No sports bar hooligans here; think white tablecloths and black leather chairs, with steak dishes starting around $40. Call ahead for a reservation.
WHERE TO DRINK TEQUILA
El Big Bad | A hot spot in downtown Houston, El Big Bad not only offers an outstanding Sunday Brunch, but also has 50 tequila infusions and an afternoon or night game–friendly daily happy hour from 3-7 p.m. Add one of the house infusions to a margarita, or try one of the other handcrafted tequila cocktails, like the Dark & Earthy, a mix of beet-infused tequila, ginger beer and lime juice.
CAN YOU TAILGATE AT MINUTE MAID PARK?
Minute Maid Park does not allow tailgating, but there are local bars that have great specials, and for some games, such as Opening Day and on holidays, there are sometimes street fairs around the stadium.
INSIDE MINUTE MAID PARK
Minute Maid Park is one of the cleanest ballparks you'll visit in the Majors. Take a few minutes to walk around and check out all the diverse food options, along with all the great options for beer. (Skip the mainstreams and go with a local Texas beer here.)
WHERE TO SIT
All seats at MMP offer unobstructed views of the entire field. Sit in Sections 125-128 if you want a view of downtown Houston (especially when the stadium roof is open). This is also a great spot to watch Friday Night Fireworks, which make for epic pictures. You don't even need tickets for these seats to see the fireworks here; fans are allowed to move to better seats after the game to get the best view. If you're hoping to catch a homerun ball, check out the Crawford Boxes in left field, which are low to the field and a shorter distance from home plate.
If you sit in right field, the players here love to look up and talk to fans, and if you're sitting along first base side, you've got a good chance of a player throwing you a ball on their way back into the dugout.
Minute Maid Park Seating Chart
Casa Nacho | This stand in section 111 features traditional and enhanced nachos such as the Astros fan favorite: monster chicken nachos, which comes with beans, pico de gallo, queso and jalapeno poppers. For $17.75 make it a deal with the Kickin' Nacho combo, which comes with a bottle of Bud Light.
BEST LOCAL VENDOR
Texas Smoke | Famed chef Bryan Caswell's venture with chef Ronnie Killen can be found in section 124. (Caswell was a former contestant on The Food Network's 'The Next Iron Chef.") The duo serves country-style barbecue, burgers, brisket sandwiches and loaded baked potatoes, all for under $10. All the tasty Texas classics in one spot. You can also grab a chopped BBQ sandwich and a Bud Light (or other domestic can beer) for $19.
BEST BEER IN MINUTE MAID PARK
Saint Arnold Beer Garden | Located behind the Crawford Boxes and with lots of room to spread out, the Saint Arnold Beer Garden is the best place to grab a beer at MMP (and the most central if you're meeting up with friends sitting in other sections). Saint Arnolds is Texas' oldest craft brewery; on a hot day their German-style Kölsch Lawnmower is a light and refreshing option. If you're a fan of IPAs go for the Elissa, which is very hoppy, with a properly balanced, malty body.
WHERE TO EAT HEALTHY
The Green Fork | Salads are made right in front of you at The Green Fork, in section 116. Choose from more than 20 fresh ingredients, or try the taco salad ($12), Astros signature Caesar ($8) or the heart healthy salad ($8).
BEST STADIUM BAR
Corona Cantina | The Corona Cantina (behind section 119) features Corona, Modelo and Pacifico on tap. Yes, Corona on draft—Houston is one of only three test market cities serving this beer on tap, so grab one at your next Astros game. There are a few tables here, but you can't see the field, so it's more of a quick grab-and-go kind of bar. The Saint Arnold Beer Garden is also a great bar scene, as is the Budweiser Patio Deck in centerfield, which has a good view.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE WHILE YOU'RE HERE
The plaza on Crawford Street has statues of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio (both retired Astros players), and there are historic displays in the Union Station lobby that rotate in and out, such as all the jerseys ever retired by the Houston Astros.
Look for the 90-foot-wide inclined section of center field named "Tal's Hill," after the former Astros president. It's the deepest center field in all of Major League Baseball, and not only does it take extreme talent to run up the hill while tracking a ball, players also have to keep an eye on the flagpole in the middle of the hill in order to avoid collision. Opposing outfielders aren't big fans of the hill or the pole, especially since they don't have much time to practice on it.
Also pay a visit to the home run gas pump along the main concourse in left field, which has been counting Astros homers ever since the team moved to the stadium in 2000. If you're near the pump when an Astros player knocks one out of the park try to run over and see the number change right in front of you.
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ASTROS GAMES ON A BUDGET
Baseball parks are not known to be cheap in any town, and Minute Maid Park is no different. Here are the best ways to save a few bucks around the stadium.
WHERE TO GET A CHEAP BEER BEFORE THE GAME
Lucky's Pub | You can grab happy hour specials at almost any bar in town, but Wednesday nights at Lucky's Pub are "smitcher" nights, when you can get a small pitcher of your favorite Bud products for only $3. The promo lasts all night; come back for cheap beers after the game. On typical weeknights, Lucky's happy hour specials feature $2 domestic drafts, well drinks and house wine.
BEST CHEAP BITES AROUND MINUTE MAID PARK
Houston Food Truck Park | Though it's about a mile from MMP—not necessarily walking distance—the Houston Food Truck Park offers a range of cheap eats like tacos, BBQ, sliders and more.
BEST CHEAP ASTROS TICKETS
The ballpark's less-than-stellar attendance records over the past three or so years means cheap tickets (as little as $11 on Astros.com) are always available at MMP unless the Yankees or Red Sox are in town. For the best deals, ask a friendly face walking into the ballpark—odds are good they have an extra ticket or two to get rid of. There's also a tent across from Lot A (right behind the Clocktower entrance) that sells cheap tickets, but you can also try your luck at the Box Office on Texas Avenue, since the games rarely sell out.
There are also various package deals, including Coca-Cola Value Days on select Monday-Thursday home games and the Kroger Family 4-pack on select Sunday home games.
MINUTE MAID PARK WITH KIDS
Minute Maid has loads of games and kid-friendly areas. The music selection at MMP is also fun for fans young and old—listen for everything from old-school TV show tunes to Top 40 hits.
WHERE TO GO BEFORE THE GAME WITH KIDS
Discovery Green Park | Just a few blocks from the ballpark is Discovery Green Park, with all kinds of kid-friendly outdoor activities. Gateway Fountain is fun for the little ones to splash around in, and The Lake House sells burgers, hot dogs and ice cream. Bring a blanket for a picnic, or bring your own ball and glove to play catch.
BEST FOOD FOR KIDS
Minute Maid Squeeze Play | Since MMP is such a family-friendly atmosphere, kids' meals can be found in almost all sections. Check out Minute Maid Squeeze Play for the kiddos in section 130, which offers menu items like crustless PBJ, whole fruit and hot dogs (all $2.25) as well as cotton candy ($5.50) and Frozen Minute Maid Chills ($4.75).
WHERE TO GET AUTOGRAPHS
Your best chance to snag an autograph from an Astros player is to hang out down on the first-base foul line where the players warm up before the game. A few of the guys will come and sign autographs for fans, but no guarantees. If you sit behind the visitors' dugout, behind the third base side in section 112, for example, many of the visiting players will throw up a game ball to kids and fans between innings.
NEED A BREAK DURING THE GAME?
Minute Maid Squeeze Play, in section 130, is a popular area for the kids to run around inside the ballpark. Just outside the main doors (you don't need to scan your tickets in or out to get there), there is a huge playground with a big, winding slide and a dugout bench with a Craig Biggio cut-out next to Orbit, for photo ops the kids will love.
WHERE TO BUY GEAR FOR THE KIDS
Clothing for your little ones is scattered throughout the team stores, with the biggest selection found in the team store at Union Station and the one behind home plate as well as at the premium-seating Insperity Club.
WHAT TO DO AFTER AN ASTROS GAME
Most fans leave the downtown area immediately after the game, if not during, no matter what the score. Midtown, a section of town about two miles away, is a popular night spot/bar area where many fans go for post-game beers.
Friday nights are a good time to stick around after the game to take in Friday Night Fireworks. You'll get a great view of downtown Houston; it's the perfect setting for a date or family night.
WHERE TO KEEP THE PARTY GOING
Elsewhere in Houston | Houston is a pretty big city, but once the game is over the downtown scene tends to die down. Bars in immediate proximity to the stadium, like Home Plate, are a great place for a final beer in the area, but you can also check out the neighborhoods of Montrose, Midtown, Green Street or Washington Avenue.
If you're staying downtown, check out The Original OKRA Charity Saloon. For every drink you buy, you get to vote for a charity; at month's end a tally is taken and the winning charity receives the proceeds. Or try Goro & Gun. Both bars are about 8 blocks away. If you don't want to walk you can take a pedicab for a few bucks.
WHERE TO GET A POSTGAME MEAL
Most of the restaurants in the area stop serving food around 10 p.m. (sometimes 11 p.m. on weekends). The same is true of the bars, but Lucky's Pub has a late-night menu, as do a few of the bars in Midtown, like BlackFinn, on Bagby Street. (Try the the ying-yang shrimp.)
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO NEARBY?
Downtown Houston doesn't win many awards for the most happening scene, or the safest when the sun goes down; it has a high rate of car break-ins and thefts. Check out the redeveloped GreenStreet district, or head to Midtown after the game.
Jayme Lamm is a sports and travel writer based in Houston whose work has appeared in ESPN, CBS, USA Today, Women's Health and many others. She spends most of her time covering sporting events for The Blonde Side and caring for her 23-pound teacup Chihuahua, Denali.