Citizens Bank Park: Baseball Gameday GuideCitizens Bank Park is nestled in South Philadelphia's sports complex, amid a sea of parking lots. On Phillies game days, when upwards of 40,000 people pour from the subway, their cars and even something called a Taxi Crab, the area brims with passionate, red-capped and red–shirted fans. Fun starts about two hours before the first pitch and winds down quickly after the final out.
Xfinity Live!, a sports-theme entertainment center open even on non-game days, puts a literal exclamation point on the sports complex, whose other occupants are Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL Eagles) and the Wells Fargo Center (the NBA 76ers and NHL Flyers). McFadden's, a sports-bar chain, has a location at Citizens Bank Park—no game ticket required. All of this is adjacent to Philadelphia's historic Navy Yard, where developers are adding dining options for guests and workers in government buildings that have been converted to hip corporate offices.
Citizens Bank Park—there's no consensus on a nickname, except simply "the ball park"—is a splendid example of the modern-retro design that came into vogue in the early 2000s, with brick façade, grass field and excellent sightlines. Hungry fans have all of their bases covered with the food court of Ashburn Alley beyond center field; a sit-down restaurant in left field called Harry the K's; and Bull's BBQ, past right field. More important, perhaps, is the fans' hunger for another championship season since the World Series win in 2008.
Citizens Bank Park allows outside food and drink (no bottles or cans), so many fans grab sandwiches from their favorite shop in South Philly or Center City before hitting the subway. If you want a true fan experience, get here two hours before game time and head into Xfinity Live! or McFadden's, or just go inside to Ashburn Alley (which opens two and a half hours before game time), where the Citizens Bank Park food stands offer discounts.
WHERE TO GET A BEER
Alley Brewing Co. | How about a stand with 18 fine craft beers on draft—that's actually inside the ballpark? Aramark, the Phillies' stadium concessionaire, seriously upgraded the suds selection for 2014 at its two stands in Ashburn Alley (at Section 102, next to the bullpens, and a new outpost at Section 148), and the bottle selections are impressive, too. The signature Alley Brewing Co. lager is brewed locally by Victory.
WHERE TO GO WITH A GROUP
Xfinity Live! | This is a collection of sports bars and a beer hall across the street from the ballpark, where the excitement builds at NBC Sports Arena, with its 32-foot screen. You're coming with 10 friends? No problem. There's room for hundreds of people.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT
Medora's Mecca | This little corner spot just a few blocks away from the stadium—and in a real neighborhood, no less—is a destination for mussels in red sauce and other home-spun South Philly Italian specialties, served by caring, salt-of-the-earth folks.
WHERE TO GET ROWDY
Chickie's & Pete's | High ceilings, lots of beer and TVs, signature crab fries and a grown-up game room next door called Play2: The party never stops at this popular South Philly sports bar, located a healthy walk (but quick drive) from the ballpark. Order a beer and Chickie's & Pete's Taxi Crab will shuttle you to the stadium's front door or to the subway for free.
WHERE TO HAVE A SIT-DOWN MEAL
Ristorante Pesto | A visit to South Philly is not complete without dinner at one of its fine Italian restaurants. Pesto has several attributes: It's a block from the Broad Street subway (a five-minute train ride to the stadium); the dress code ranges from jeans to suits, so your Ryan Howard jersey is fine; you can either BYOB or order reasonably priced drinks; and the eggplant rollatini is can't-miss.
WHERE TO GRAB A SANDWICH
Tony Luke's | Join the truckers and other cognoscenti at this easy in-and-out sandwich stop just off I-95 about five minutes from the stadium. Though Tony Luke's also has a stand in Ashburn Alley (behind Section 147), you'll save a couple of bucks and absorb the Philly sandwich culture by buying your eats at the flagship.
INSIDE CITIZENS BANK PARK
Great views, a solid line-up of Philly eats and a slew of healthy dining options pair perfectly with a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.
WHERE TO SIT
There really isn't a bad seat in the house, even if you're in the bleachers over the center field wall, looking at home plate. Sitting behind home plate, or even up and down the lines, offers a view of the Philadelphia skyline. On day games, the best seats are on the left field side. The sun will get in your eyes on the first base/right field side, especially during sunset. The main scoreboard, however, is in left center field, so there's a trade-off: sunburn vs. entertainment.
Citizens Bank Park Seating Chart
Harry the K's | The sit-down restaurant beneath the left field scoreboard, named for the late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, is an oasis of civility, with a menu that borders on the creative. Try the Over Easy Burger—an Angus beef burger topped with an oven-roasted tomato, pepper jelly and a fried egg. Or smoked-brisket grilled cheese, with house-made pulled brisket and pepper jack cheese.
BEST LOCAL VENDORS
Federal Donuts and McNally's | No way to choose between the ballpark's outpost of local chain Federal Donuts, which sells a box of Korean-fried chicken along with a hot doughnut (Section 140), and the offering from Chestnut Hill bar McNally's (behind Section 141), whose stand sells its signature Schmitter sandwich (steak, spicy salami, cheese, onions, tomatoes and special sauce served on a kaiser roll).
BEST BEER IN CITIZENS BANK PARK
Alley Brewing Co. | A baseball pitcher's stats include "IP"—as in innings pitched; these stands in Sections 102 and 148 run an enviable IPA—as in India Pale Ale. With 18 varieties on draft it's a better selection than most city bars. Get your draft or bottle in a cup and, if you ask, they will put a lid on it so you don't spill while going back to your seat.
WHERE TO EAT HEALTHY
All over the ballpark | Citizens Bank Park has been rated No. 1 in Major League Baseball by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for vegan and vegetarian selections. The black-bean burgers at Harry the K's, and the salads and fruit from the Philly Fresh stand behind Section 139 are shining examples.
BEST STADIUM BAR
High & Inside | Drink in air-conditioned comfort at this calm, bi-level pub behind home plate (Sections 320 and 420), where wine (!) and beer are offered.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE WHILE YOU'RE HERE
Ashburn Alley offers a vivid history of the team via its All-Star Walk, Memory Lane and Phillies Wall of Fame, historical markers along the brick facing near the food stands. Start eating your sandwich or filch your kids' crab fries while soaking up trivia about the team's past.
Citizens Bank Park Tours
PHILLIES GAMES ON A BUDGET
On Sundays, the South Philadelphia Market stands offer a $10 Family Pack from the time gates open until first pitch. Choose a combination of three items (regular popcorn, soft pretzel, hot dog or regular soda) for $10. Also on Sundays, starting in the fourth inning, sundaes and root beer floats are discounted to $5 at Harry the K's.
WHERE TO GET A CHEAP BEER BEFORE THE GAME
McCusker's Tavern | This neighborhood bar is a local favorite, great for game day conversations, familial service and cheap drinks.
BEST CHEAP BITES AROUND CITIZENS BANK PARK
Stadium Bar at the Holiday Inn | An easy walk to the gate, this bustling sports bar inside the Holiday Inn is a great stop for a burger or blackened chicken quesadillas.
BEST CHEAP PHILLIES TICKETS
StubHub, of course, has ticket deals—and since the Phillies are not a contender this season, the discounts are steep and plentiful. But you can't beat a $14 standing room or bleacher pass. Again, there are no bad seats or spots to watch the game.
CITIZENS BANK PARK WITH KIDS
There aren't a lot of great pre-game family restaurants in this part of town; you can grab a bite in Center City or elsewhere in South Philly.
WHERE TO GO WITH KIDS BEFORE THE GAME
FDR Park | If the weather's good, pack food and baseball gloves (you'll need 'em to try snag a foul ball) and head to FDR Park, across Broad Street, about three blocks west of the stadium. There's a fountain and open space for picnicking and playing catch. It's best before nightfall.
BEST FOOD FOR KIDS
Kid-friendly meals are the deal at the Phanatic Phamily Phood Stand (behind Sections 318 and 418): PB&J sandwiches, kid-sized pretzels, Go-Gurt and Chococones. The Dessert Alley behind Section 140 stocks cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, cupcakes, milkshakes, ice cream bars, funnel cake and Philly-style water ice (aka Italian ice).
WHERE TO GET AUTOGRAPHS
You might be able to snag an autograph during or after batting practice or during running and stretching drills if you hang out near the tarp rolls by the dugouts. Players usually won't say no to a kid, and it's always good form to refer to players as "Mr.," rather than by first name. Forget about a post-game autograph, since players' cars are secured in a covered garage next to their private exit.
NEED A BREAK DURING THE GAME?
Hit the Phun Zone, a soft kids' playground near the First Base Gate. It's geared to ages 8 and under, and closes after the 7th inning.
WHERE TO BUY GEAR FOR THE KIDS
Kids will love the second level of the Majestic Clubhouse Store, which sells merchandise themed to the Phillie Phanatic, as well as requisite shirts, hats and toys.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A PHILLIES GAME
pvsbond via Flickr
After a game, most people leave the stadium and go home. SEPTA's Broad Street Line is frequently overwhelmed, and you'll sit for 15 minutes while trying to escape your lot—unless you've parked far away and feel like hoofing it.
WHERE TO KEEP THE PARTY GOING
Xfinity Live! | Even after a night game, you can catch the West Coast games (and other sports) on the big screens at this hyper-complex across from the ballpark.
WHERE TO GET A POST-GAME MEAL
McFadden's | There's no real need to head out after the game, though most people do. The sports bar attached to the stadium stays open till 2 a.m. and the kitchen is open for pub grub till 11 p.m.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO NEARBY?
Besides the sports bars, there's pretty much nothing else going on in the area after the game. It's best to hop on the Broad Street subway to the Tasker-Morris Station and walk a few blocks east to East Passyunk Avenue, a happening strip of bars and restaurants. Or continue to Walnut-Locust station or City Hall and do some shopping and dining in Center City.
Michael is the producer of Philly.com/food, a restaurant columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Zagat's editor in Philadelphia.