Fenway Park: Baseball Gameday Guide


There's nothing quite like Red Sox Nation. It's a state of mind, and Fenway Park is the mecca. The "nation" itself extends worldwide—seeing someone sporting a Red Sox cap when you're far from home is like seeing water (or a Fenway Frank) in a desert. Like the Sox themselves, Fenway might not be the flashiest stadium, but it definitely has the most heart.

Fenway is the oldest stadium in the country, and generations of fans have filed through the turnstiles on Yawkey Way. The Green Monster is the distinctive left-field wall, higher than most outfield walls and vexatious to many hitters, whose possible homers turn into singles and doubles. The Green Monster is also home to an enormous scoreboard that's still changed manually, just like in the old days. (There are some modern improvements: a new social media wall displays tidbits from Red Sox fans' Instagram photos and tweets during games.) As ever, an enormous Citgo sign hovers high above the field, a beacon for fans around the world.

Red Sox fans are loyal, passionate and loud. There's also the scrappy toughness that comes from years of missing out on the World Series title, which endures despite the recent wins. Crowds are generally gregarious, friendly and intense. You don't want to get into an argument with a Sox fan because they know their stats and their history cold. Cynical Sox lovers say that you can spot fair-weather fans by their pink caps.

Fenway Park is a unifying force for the community, sewn into the fabric of the city. This hometown pride comes alive on game days. It doesn't hurt that the location is terrific: Fenway is in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from Kenmore Square. It's easily accessible via the Kenmore Square T stop. You'll walk over the Brookline Avenue bridge, which crosses the Massachusetts Turnpike, and you can't miss the crowds.

If some people say Bostonians are unfriendly, well, they've never been to Fenway before a Sox game. Giddy crowds swell the streets—everyone from college students to couples to families to grizzled old-timers. Maybe people are in an especially happy mood because games at Fenway signal the unofficial start of summer after a brutal winter. Walking up Brookline Avenue toward Yawkey Way, it's all good vibes and sunshine.

QUICK LINKS WHAT TO DO BEFORE A RED SOX GAME

AP

Fenway's in a terrific central location, and there are plenty of bars to hang out at before game time. Lansdowne Street and Brookline Avenue bars like Game On and the Cask 'n Flagon tend to attract tourists, thanks to their proximity to the park. To avoid crowds, try spots a few blocks out like The Lower Depths, which has a huge array of customizable tater tots, or Cornwall's, a hangout for diehard fans. People usually arrive a couple of hours before game time, and Fenway's gates open 90 minutes prior.

WHERE TO GET A BEER
The Lower Depths Tap Room | This laidback dive is popular with college students, suburbanites who want to relive their days of urban glory and fans of tater tots (the bar is famous for its tater tot platters). There are more than 150 bottles and a rotating selection of 16 drafts. It's also a great place to pig out on ballpark fare without paying ballpark prices. Get the "White Trash" hot dog topped with beer cheese dip ($6) and tater tot poutine ($11). It's cash only.

WHERE TO GO WITH A GROUP
Sweet Cheeks Q | This no-frills barbecue parlor from Top Chef contestant Tiffani Faison is an amazing antidote to ballpark fare: load up on a hulking platter of excellent Berkshire pork belly with two sides (broccoli cheddar casserole is a must) for $19. Going with a group? Order the Big Rig, a massive $450 barbecue-and-side platter designed for up to 10 people.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT
Cornwall's Pub | This cheery, unassuming spot is a block from Fenway Park—yet it manages to feel like a find. The British pub is a bit louder and rowdier than The Lower Depths, making it a good choice for a group of fans. And it's tough to go wrong with a $6 pint of Guinness.

WHERE TO GET ROWDY
Blazing Paddles at Game On! | This ping-pong parlor is on the lower level of the Game On! sports bar. The tricked-out bar has Ferrari-red ping-pong tables and automatically replenished buckets of balls (and "runners" who retrieve them). There's a professional player on staff at all times for pointers, and the classic bar grub is better than it has to be, given the prime location next to Fenway Park.

WHERE TO HAVE A SIT-DOWN MEAL
Island Creek Oyster Bar | This exceptional seafood restaurant inside the Hotel Commonwealth is the best pick for a hearty pre- or post-game meal. Don't miss the lobster roe noodles ($34), a grown-up version of mac and cheese, dotted with meaty lobster and short rib. The restaurant draws hordes of culinary cognoscenti (many of whom could care less about a Sox game), so book in advance.

BEST VIEW OF RED SOX NATION
Eastern Standard | This classic brasserie fronts Kenmore Square. There's a large heated patio, perfect for watching Sox fans strolling toward—or spilling out of—the stadium. Those in the know order the classic burger medium rare, with cheddar and fries.

CAN YOU TAILGATE AT FENWAY PARK?
Sorry, nope. There's no tailgating allowed at the stadium, but most revelers hit the many bars on Brookline Avenue and Lansdowne Street (Boston Beer Works, Game On, Jillian's) to pre-game. Yawkey Way, where vendors sling everything from T-shirts to hot sausages, feels like an outdoor block party. The alley becomes an extension of the Fenway Park concourse during Red Sox home games and other special events. It's blocked off to traffic three hours before game time and limited to ticketholders once the ballpark officially opens. Pre- and post-game, it feels like New England's own Mardi Gras.

WHAT'S NEARBY
It's not all about baseball here: the New England Conservatory of Music, a national historic landmark, is a 20-minute walk from the ballpark. Also nearby are the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in case you want a different sort of Boston culture.

INSIDE FENWAY PARK

AP

WHERE TO SIT
Diehard fans tend to sit in the bleachers, where things can get raucous (to say the least). In 2002, Fenway added 274 seats atop the beloved Green Monster, which are extremely popular. Field Boxes, also known as the "lower bowl," have excellent views and are coveted among fans with money to spend. Many season-ticket holders sit in the Loge Box, to the right of home plate. Other hardcore fans tend to congregate in Section 40, close to center field. Some Grandstand seats have slightly obstructed views due to poles. Fans recommend visiting preciseseating.com, which ranks every seat in the park based on sightlines.

Fenway Park Seating Chart

BEST FOOD
The Sausage Connection | The Sausage Connection is a local institution that serves sausages (what else?) laden with peppers and onions—plus an array of hot sauces. Opt for the stinging Inner Beauty sauce.

BEST LOCAL VENDOR
Tasty Burger | The Third Base Deck's lower level has a Tasty Burger stand with hamburgers and shakes in vanilla, chocolate and Green Monster mint. There's also waiter service at high-top tables next to windows that overlook Lansdowne Street. Tasty is beloved for its wackily topped burgers (Fritos, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks), and they'll be asking fans to request special game-day burgers via social media.

BEST BEER
Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck | The Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck, which has great views, upgraded its menu this year with new dishes like a breakfast burger with fried eggs and mozzarella, an open-faced beef tenderloin sandwich and poutine. Naturally, there's plenty of Budweiser. You have to buy tickets in groups of four for table service here. Native Boston brews like Harpoon and Sam Adams are available at the EMC Club, the Big Concourse, State Street Pavilion, Right Field Concessions and at stands along Yawkey Way.

WHERE TO EAT HEALTHY
Fresh Whole Fruit Cart | Healthy food at Fenway? Blasphemy! If you must, hit up the Fresh Whole Fruit Cart at Gate A for a guilt-free snack. Or visit the Fish Shack on Yawkey Way for local seafood, cooked to order. Starting this year, the Big Concourse will sell a vegetarian sandwich with grilled portobello mushrooms, arugula, tomato jam and fried onions.

BEST STADIUM BAR
Jerry Remy's | OK, technically it's not inside Fenway Park (there are no real bars in the park). But Remy's rooftop deck is a great place to take in the action if you don't have seats. It's just above the right-field wall and outfitted with plenty of flat-screen TVs.

OTHER THINGS TO SEE WHILE YOU'RE HERE
The best way to see the ins-and-outs of Fenway is through a one-hour tour, available every day. The best are Day Game Premium Tours ($30 per person), where you'll meet mascot Wally the Green Monster and pose on the warning track. These are available on afternoon games before 3 p.m. Tour or not, definitely make your way to the right field stands: Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21, to be specific. Legendary player Ted Williams hit a record-setting 502-foot homer here in 1946, and the seat is painted red in his honor.

Fenway Park Tours

RED SOX GAMES ON A BUDGET

Alamy

The website Sons of Sam Horn is a good diehard fan resource for gossip, news and last-minute tickets, which can be a good deal.

WHERE TO GET A CHEAP BEER BEFORE THE GAME
Tasty Burger | Tasty has a stand-alone restaurant on Boylston Street, with a huge assortment of canned beers for $5.75 and mugs of local Narragansett beer for $4. Students can take advantage of the Starvin' Student special: a burger, a can of beer and fries for $10 (Student ID is required).

BEST CHEAP BITES AROUND FENWAY PARK
El Pelon Taqueria | This excellent taqueria on Peterborough Street, the Fenway area's unofficial Restaurant Row, serves enormous burritos for about $6. (Ask for the El Guapo, a massive steak burrito stuffed with fried plantains.)

BEST CHEAP RED SOX TICKETS
For the lowest price in general, buy bleacher seats ($15 and up). The Red Sox also offer Sox Savers tickets for select games in April and May ($10 and up). For the brave, scalpers are also known to congregate (secretly) around Lansdowne Street. Students can snag $9 standing room tickets or $20 seats to "student theme nights" on redsox.com/student.

To watch a game on the sly, visit the Bleacher Bar, underneath the centerfield bleachers and open to the public.

Insider tip: "Bleacher Bar manages to keep a couple of decent beers on tap and comes with the added bonus of being able to watch the game for free from field level (though they impose time limits if there's demand for seating.) For early season weekday games, you might get to take in most of the game this way." -Drew Starr, Red Sox fan since 1998, @thedrewstarr

FENWAY PARK WITH KIDS

AP

WHERE TO GO BEFORE THE GAME WITH KIDS
Visiting the small, historic street of Yawkey Way offers plenty of kid-friendly entertainment before games at Fenway. Stilt walkers, balloon artists, face painters and live music are just a sampling of what families will find on this street that bears the stadium's address.

BEST FOOD FOR KIDS
Corn & Co. or the Big Concourse | Corn & Co. has a new stand at Gate A with specialty popcorn flavors like cheese and caramel. The pizza, fried dough and lemonade at the Big Concourse will also keep young fans happy (plus they have gluten-free options).

WHERE TO GET AUTOGRAPHS
Sox players are almost always friendly and happy to sign autographs, usually after batting practice. Also visit Autograph Alley inside the Yawkey Way Store before entering the park. They host a former Sox player, coach or personality before each game. Diehard fans sometimes loiter after the game at the corner of Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street, home to the players' parking lot. Occasionally a player will stop to sign an autograph.

NEED A BREAK DURING THE GAME?
Visit the Kid Nation Clubhouse, accessed via Gate B, which is open from the third to the seventh inning. There's entertainment, a toddler play area, seating and visits with mascot Wally during the fourth inning. Kids 2 and under enter the park for free.

WHERE TO BUY GEAR FOR KIDS
The Red Sox's official Yawkey Way Store is your best bet for pint-size game gear.

WHAT TO DO AFTER A RED SOX GAME

AP


After a game, most people hate to see the party end, whether the Sox win or lose. There are plenty of bars in the neighborhood, and the MBTA recently extended its operating hours to 1 a.m. on weeknights and 2:30 a.m. on weekends.

WHERE TO KEEP THE PARTY GOING
Jillian's & Lucky Strike Lanes | This Lansdowne Street three-floor megaplex offers billiards, bowling, friendly crowds and free-flowing beer. Nearby, there's Tequila Rain, a nightclub popular with the 20-something set, as well as Lansdowne Pub.

WHERE TO GET A POST-GAME MEAL
O'Leary's | Longtime fans love O'Leary's, a quiet pub near the Brookline-Boston border, within easy walking distance of the park. The food is above-average Irish pub grub, and the bartenders are extremely friendly. There's also live music on weekend nights, and the bar stays busy until last call at 1:30 a.m.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO NEARBY?
The Kenmore Square area is home to countless bars and restaurants. Some fans choose to grab a bite at places like India Quality (a great budget Indian restaurant) or Eastern Standard. Others head around the corner to Lansdowne Street, lined with bars, nightclubs, and pool halls.

--
Fenway writer Kara Baskin's dreams of athletic glory ended when she was cut from her seventh grade softball team, but her husband and son are both die-hard Red Sox fans. She writes frequently for The Boston Globe and Boston Magazine.