Great American Ball Park: Baseball Gameday Guide


The action on Reds game days begins in the heart of The Banks, a marquee mixed-use development along the Ohio River bookended by Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium, which during the fall lures throngs of orange-and-black-clad Bengals fans to the district. Colorful, modern apartment buildings dot the landscape between the two facilities, with restaurants and entertainment venues occupying street-level retail space. Most of these establishments—including a locally owned brewpub and a sports-centric bar and grill—view sports fans and downtown visitors as their main clientele.

Cincinnati is currently in the midst of a nationally recognized post-recession renaissance, and its economic and development momentum helped the city win the right to host the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. By the time baseball's best swarm the Queen City for the festivities, 4 miles of modern streetcar track will be laid, although the trains aren't scheduled to begin shuttling fans around the urban core until 2016.

The Banks is easily walkable, with plenty of underground parking, and just a short trek on foot from the city's business district or a 10-block walk to Over-the-Rhine, the beautiful historic neighborhood a mile north of Great American Ball Park. Many fans pregame near Fountain Square, the city's de facto meeting space and town square, where Reds games are broadcast live on a huge high-definition LCD screen above the Macy's building across the street.

Inside the stadium, the Reds have made considerable additions to their offerings with a strong appreciation for local businesses, such as draft beers from a growing number of nearby breweries and the addition of eclectic local bistro Taste of Belgium. And, of course, fans never have to go far to find the city's famous Skyline Chili.

QUICK LINKS WHAT TO DO BEFORE A REDS GAME

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Downtown regulars hang out before Reds games at one of their favorite spots in Over-the-Rhine or near Fountain Square, but those driving in or walking from hotels should head straight to The Banks a couple of hours before game time. The district comes alive on game days, with fans spilling out of myriad drinking and dining establishments. Many of these pregame spots have outdoor patios just steps away from the stadium. A riverfront park includes plenty of kid-friendly amenities.

WHERE TO GET A BEER
Christian Moerlein Lager House | The Christian Moerlein Brewing Company traces its roots all the way back to 1853, when a Bavarian immigrant in Cincinnati began exporting his European-style beers across the U.S. and beyond. Today, Christian Moerlein's namesake brewpub offers a smorgasbord of options: 69 bottled beers, 12 cans and 26 brews on tap, including Moerlein's Northern Liberties IPA and the popular Over-the-Rhine Ale. The Lager House's open-air patio overlooks green space where fans mingle with dog-walking condo-dwellers just steps away from the stadium.

WHERE TO GO WITH A GROUP
Yard House | This expansive Southern California-based chain restaurant can feel gimmicky at first—serious beer enthusiasts have higher priorities than drinking suds out of a 3-foot-tall glass—but the concept of plentiful draft beers, diverse American fare and classic rock on the sound system plays in any ballpark district. Cincinnati's location is just a block away from Great American Ball Park.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT
Neons | Nestled in the heart of Over-the-Rhine is Neons, Cincinnati's favorite dog-friendly patio, with outdoor TVs and an on-site grillmaster. A mile walk (or cheap cab ride) from OTR will move fans swiftly in and out of the crowd while suburbanites fight traffic near the stadium.

WHERE TO GET ROWDY
Jefferson Social | "Socializing, eating, dancing and partying." That's how the owner of Jefferson Social describes the scene inside this neighborhood bar and grill. The description holds true on game days, as fans enjoy the restaurant's extensive cocktail list and Mexican street food before and after the game.

WHERE TO HAVE A SIT-DOWN MEAL
Crave | Another of The Banks' spacious, inviting restaurants, Crave has an upscale vibe, an outdoor patio, half-priced appetizers during happy hour and plenty of non-ballpark-food options such as sushi and craft cocktails.

WHERE TO EAT OR DRINK BEFORE TAKING A WATER TAXI TO THE GAME
The Beer Sellar | This restaurant is the perfect place to take in glorious views of the Cincinnati skyline from atop a barge along Newport, Ky.'s riverbank. The Beer Sellar offers 63 taps, 120 bottles and, more important, a water taxi to every home Reds game.

CAN YOU TAILGATE AT GREAT AMERICAN PARK?
No. There's no official tailgating near the stadium, but the revelry at The Banks spills out of the open-air bars and into the streets well before the first pitch.

WHAT'S NEARBY?
INSIDE GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK

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Great American Ball Park might not have the architectural allure of a Camden Yards, but the home of the Redlegs honors the franchise's rich history at every turn—starting with 16-by-10-foot mosaic panels just inside the main gates depicting the 1869 Red Stockings and 1975-76 Big Red Machine. Just over 10 years old, GABP's quality sightlines and modern amenities are a major upgrade over the two-sport, cookie-cutter stadium it replaced in 2003.

WHERE TO SIT
There aren't many bad seats inside Great American Ball Park—even the cheaper options in the upper deck behind home plate offer nice views of the field and the rolling hills of Kentucky beyond the outfield seats. Field-level tickets down either baseline are good for scoping players up close and stretching for foul balls. The bleachers in left field, while affordable, leave fans without a clear view of the 138-foot-wide by 38-foot-high LED scoreboard.
Great American Ball Park Seating Chart

BEST FOOD
Skyline Chili | The plating of Cincinnati-style chili is ESPN's go-to B-roll during broadcasts of sporting evens in the Queen City, and for good reason: We take our chili seriously. That's why people can't resist a couple of Skyline's famous cheese coneys during a long evening of baseball. At $5 each, they're actually one of the cheaper snacks in the park. Find them in sections 103, 116, 130, 518 and 533.

BEST LOCAL VENDOR
Taste of Belgium | Over-the-Rhine's Taste of Belgium Bistro behind section 133 is now offering its famous chicken and waffles inside the stadium. It might not be traditional baseball fare, but fans will likely enjoy the restaurant's famous fried chicken breast atop a waffle baked with Belgian beet sugar and topped with Ohio maple syrup and hot sauce.

BEST BEER IN GREAT AMERICAN BALL PARK
The Reds Brewery District | The 85-foot-long bar on the third-base concourse is hard to miss, and the 60 taps, including a dozen local craft beer handles, make the choice difficult. Lean toward a local brew from Christian Moerlein, MadTree, Blank Slate, 50 West, Rhinegeist, Mt. Carmel or Rivertown.

WHERE TO EAT HEALTHY
Riverfront Club | Most stadium vendors here sell traditional ballpark fare, so going healthy isn't super easy within the concourses. But the Riverfront Club restaurant along the right-field foul line is open to all ticket holders and offers a rotating menu that typically includes lighter fare like fresh salads, seafood and veggie-heavy appetizers.

BEST STADIUM BAR
Machine Room Grille | Fans are welcome to order anything on the menu at Machine Room Grille, a tasteful pub outside section 107, and take it back to their seats—or hang out inside the restaurant during the game no matter what ticket got them into the stadium. With a full bar, more than 20 TVs and a field view, it's a solid as well as air-conditioned option for any midsummer afternoon game.

OTHER THINGS TO SEE WHILE YOU'RE HERE
The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum is the largest team hall of fame in all of baseball. Fans can appreciate the team's rich history at Crosley Terrace outside the stadium's front entrance, where statues depict Reds legends Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall and Frank Robinson.

Great American Ball Park Tours

REDS GAMES ON A BUDGET

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Great American Ball Park isn't the cheapest place in town to eat, drink or procure souvenirs, but its liberal cooler policy is a great option for families who plan ahead. (Coolers must be soft-sided and smaller than 16 by 16 by 8 inches.)

WHERE TO GET A CHEAP BEER BEFORE THE GAME
In Between Tavern | Calling itself the "original pre- and post-game destination," the In Between Tavern is conveniently located on the edge of the central business district directly across from Great American Ball Park. The game day special is five Budweiser bottles for $13. You can drink these along with a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and wraps while hanging out on the open-air patio as groups of fans rush by toward the stadium.

BEST CHEAP BITES AROUND GREAT AMERICAN BALL PARK
Palomino | Restaurants at The Banks can be a little pricey, so some of the better deals require a short jaunt into downtown. One of the best spots to enjoy pregame food and drinks is Palomino, an "urban Italian" restaurant with a comfortable, modern bar space overlooking Fountain Square. The roughly half-mile walk to the stadium won't be so bad after enjoying $2 domestic drafts, $4 Bloody Marys and $5 pepperoni pizzas.

BEST CHEAP REDS TICKETS
The Reds offer $5 value view seats for every weekday game, though they go up to $7 if you wait until game day. The team operates a "dynamic pricing" model, so it's best to consult the Reds website at cincinnatireds.com to find the latest deals.
GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK WITH KIDS

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The Reds go out of their way to make the Great American Ball Park game day experience kid-friendly, including a "family day" ticket offer every Sunday, select run-the-bases days, kids' clubs for various age groups and four mascots consistently making the rounds.

WHERE TO GO BEFORE THE GAME WITH KIDS
Smale Riverfront Park | While entertainment at The Banks is generally adult-centric, the adjacent Smale Riverfront Park offers a respite from bustling bar crowds on game days. Construction is ongoing, and the park will eventually spread west from Great American Ball Park all the way to Paul Brown Stadium along the riverfront, but residents and baseball fans are already enjoying the fruits of Phase I, which includes several kid-friendly amenities such as green space, fountains, walkways and gardens.

BEST FOOD FOR KIDS
United Dairy Farmers | Aside from chopping a $1 hot dog in half for the kiddos, Great American Ball Park doesn't offer a wealth of kid-friendly fare. One convenient—and cost-effective—option is to stop by one of the United Dairy Farmers mini-stores for a $5 peanut butter and jelly sandwich or various pieces of fresh fruit and packs of animal crackers with icing.

WHERE TO GET AUTOGRAPHS
There's no official time or place for autographs, but insiders say showing up early and hanging out near the end of the dugouts along the first- and third-base lines typically draws a handful of players to sign items as batting practice closes down.

NEED A BREAK DURING THE GAME?
The Reds Fan Zone offers various options for engaging the little ones, including Fan Zone Field and the Fan Zone Slide, which twists down a full story to the kids' batting cage area. Young fans can also pose for photos with a 14-foot replica of the Queen City Tower (Cincinnati's tallest building) and life-size statues of Reds mascots.

WHERE TO BUY GEAR FOR THE KIDS
In addition to the five in-stadium team shops and Hall of Fame, the Reds offer several kids clubs: Club Red (for fans ages 13-18), Reds rookies Baby Fan Club (birth to 3 years old) and Reds Heads Kids Club (ages 3 to 14). Each includes Reds gear, tickets and various vouchers for deals outside the stadium.

WHAT TO DO AFTER A REDS GAME
Cityscape of Cincinnati with the Roebling Suspension Bridge leading towards the downtown core and the illuminated Great AmericanArpad Benedek/Getty

Most people head home after a game, but those who stick around find the simplest option—especially after a win over, say, the Cardinals—is to hoof it 50 or so yards from the stadium turnstiles back into The Banks, where plenty of fans await. The restaurants and bars slowly die down after the initial rush of postgame revelry, but options like the Moerlein Lager House and Holy Grail Tavern & Grill stay open late and are big enough to handle the initial rush. Downtowners and those looking for a little more action hit up Newport on the Levee or the bars and restaurants in Over-the-Rhine.

WHERE TO GET A REALLY FRESH POSTGAME BREW
Rhinegeist | Locals are still learning about the transformation of Over-the-Rhine from once-neglected historic neighborhood to burgeoning urban gem, and Rhinegeist Brewery has become a pre- and postgame destination for many looking to explore the area. Sited in the original Christian Moerlein brewhouse, Rhinegeist brews its own collection of craft beers, and its massive indoor space includes TVs, picnic tables, cornhole and ping-pong tables. Kids are welcome.

WHERE TO GET A POSTGAME MEAL
Holy Grail Tavern & Grill | This locally owned restaurant is a haven for local sports fans—it initially opened near the University of Cincinnati as a UC Bearcats bar. Its relocation to The Banks brought with it more space, a more upscale vibe—its owners describe the menu as "upscale bar cuisine"—and an even bigger dedication to local sports: Xavier, Reds, Bengals and Ohio State included. It stays open until 2:30 a.m. every night.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO NEARBY?
Newport on the Levee | Long before The Banks rose up along the north side of the Ohio River, Newport on the Levee attracted visitors and sports fans to the Kentucky side. Many fans still park at the Levee to take in restaurants, bars and other entertainment options before or after the game, walking over the Purple People pedestrian bridge to and from the stadium. The Newport Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a great place for kids to check out thousands of rare animals from around the world, including penguins, sharks and massive sea turtles.


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Danny Cross is the editor of Cincinnati's altweekly newspaper, CityBeat, which covers the city's arts, food and nightlife scenes like no other. He's also an avid hometown sports fan who has been following the Reds since the days when Chris Sabo revolutionized the eyewear of the game.