Marlins Park: Baseball Gameday Guide
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The $634 million Marlins Park has yet to revitalize its sleepy Little Havana neighborhood since it opened in 2012. Instead, Marlins fans are more likely to be spotted before games over in Midtown or on Brickell or Calle Ocho.
After filling up on Versailles' ropa vieja or a pint in Midtown, fans head to the easy-in-easy-out parking in the garages next to Marlins Park or pay a few bucks to take up a spot on a lawn nearby. The neighborhood may not look as shiny as the downtown skyline, but it's safe and gets busy with fans, street vendors and a few scalpers on game day.
The Marlins are trying to get fans to congregate before games at the pavilion just west of the park. As the roof opens, it travels on tracks far above the bricks, providing a shady spot to marvel at its whisper-quiet operation. An occasional food truck posts up on the sidewalk, and an open-air beer bar and cigar shop with Little Havana–style dominoes table beckons fans.
For pregame fun and food, stop off in one of Miami's entertainment districts—the Midtown area is a 5-mile drive, and world-famous South Beach is just 6 miles away. Or check out the newer spots in the pavilion just west of the park. Here we list our picks for the best ways to get ready for baseball.
WHERE TO GET A BEER
Corona Beach House | Lifeguard-style wooden barstools surround this open-air bar in the west pavilion, just outside Marlins Park. The beachfront-style tiki hut keeps Corona on tap, of course, along with Modelo and Pacifico, which cost $9 for a small draft and $12 for a large.
WHERE TO GO WITH A GROUP
Sakaya Kitchen | The casual and always-busy Sakaya Kitchen serves up Korean-inspired fare in an order-at-the-counter concept that's appropriately quick for a pregame meal. Everyone in your group will find something on the menu, like the tender honey-orange baby back ribs, bulgogi burger or tater tots smothered in pulled pork and a spicy cheese sauce.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT
Versailles Restaurant | Versailles has been a Miami landmark and stop-off for presidents and celebrities since 1971. It seats 370 people in a cavernous dining room, boasts an adjacent diner-style counter and costs only about $10 per person. Grab a table to order palomilla steak and ropa vieja, or get a cafecito and guava pastry from the takeout window before driving a few blocks to Marlins Park.
WHERE TO GET ROWDY
Lost Weekend | South Beach's most famous dive bar sits right on one of the city's most visited and prettiest streets, Española Way. But, unlike the neighborhood's string lights hanging over the avenue nearby, Lost Weekend is notoriously dark, often loud and a great spot for a pre- or postgame party. There's a well-stocked jukebox, pool tables and great bar food, like a $9 cheesesteak good enough to make Phillies fans feel right at home.
WHERE TO HAVE A SIT-DOWN MEAL
OTC | OTC is a slick, chef-driven gastropub in the Brickell neighborhood. Expect new takes on familiar things, like Frito pie ($9), pigs in blankets ($9) and sliders made with lamb belly ($10). One of the best craft beer menus around makes OTC a good spot for a pregame drink.
WHERE TO EAT OR DRINK WITH A VIEW
Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market | It's easy to sit in the dockside booths at Garcia's and imagine what pre-boom Miami must have been like. Order affordable plates of grilled fish, like $10 for a grouper sandwich or $15 for a dolphin fillet with two sides, and watch mega-yachts pass by on the Miami River.
CAN YOU TAILGATE AT MARLINS PARK?
There's no tailgating in the garages that serve as the main parking for the park, but fans occasionally set up grills in the grass lot west of the park or on lawns of the apartment complexes in the surrounding neighborhood.
WHAT ELSE IS NEARBY?
With limited turnouts, the Marlins rarely open the upper decks, meaning even the cheapest seats aren't far from the play. Once you're inside, the Marlins ballpark food options extend far beyond standard stadium fare, offering a taste of Miami flavors.
WHERE TO SIT
All seats at Marlins Park have clear views of the field and are closer to the action than those at many pro ballparks. Seats higher up on the home-plate side of the park have stellar views of downtown through a wall of windows in center field. Outfield seats have up-close views of the love-it-or-hate-it home-run celebration sculpture, which features a rainbow mix of flamingos, palm trees, swirls, animatronic dolphins jumping and water spouts that shoot into the air.
Marlins Park Seating Chart
Miami Mex | Miami isn't known for its Mexican food, but this stand features a modern, Latin-inspired take on Mexico City street food. The tacos and nachos come topped with chimichurri pork, braised mojo chicken, pickled red onions and crumbled Jack cheese.
BEST LOCAL VENDOR
Papo Llega y Pon | This Miami restaurant might be best known for its mojo-marinated pulled-pork sandwich ($8), but maybe the most unique-to-Miami item is the heart-stopping chicharrones ($6). The chunks of fried pork belly are crisp outside but melt in your mouth like a pat of butter.
BEST DRINKS IN MARLINS PARK
Bacardi Bar | In the otherwise quiet center-field promenade sits this oval bar, with a giant rum cask jutting up from the center, that serves up stiff mixed drinks like the Endless Summer (Bacardi Superior, watermelon liqueur and sweet and sour for $12). A tip from the regulars: If you're headed back to your seats, order a double.
WHERE TO EAT HEALTHY
FIT Cart | If your stomach doesn't do gluten, or you'd just rather skip the not-so-healthy fare common in ballparks, head to Section 26 and the gluten free FIT Cart. There you'll find a fine grilled chicken sandwich ($14), a Kayem hot dog ($7.50), and beer ($9) –- all without the hint of gluten.
BEST STADIUM BAR
The Clevelander | No trip to Marlins Park is complete without a stop at The Clevelander. Just like its sister bar in South Beach, this spot features house dancers in bikinis, a DJ and a swimming pool where fans may or may bother with baseball. For those wanting to see the game, grab one of the field-level seats, where servers bring you Latin takes on traditional ballpark food, like tater tot nachos with chili, cheese and guacamole for $13. The Clevelander costs $10 to get in for ticket holders, but doors open for free after the seventh inning.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE WHILE YOU'RE HERE
What the Marlins lack in historic stature—the team has only one retired number, Jackie Robinson's #42—it makes up for in glitz. In the concourse behind home plate is the team's bobblehead museum, a glass enclosure the size of a car, full of 700 bobbing statues. Team owner Jeffrey Loria, an art collector by trade, has also dotted the park with pieces of artwork, like the Pop Art ballplayer by Roy Lichtenstein in the concourse on the third-base side. Then there's Red Grooms' much-debated animatronic home-run sculpture in center field, with its jumping dolphins and spouts of water.
Marlins Park Tours
MARLINS GAMES ON A BUDGET
Cheap Marlins tickets are fairly easy to come by. Here are some other ways to save around the ballpark:
WHERE TO GET A CHEAP BEER BEFORE THE GAME
Batting Cage Sports Bar & Lounge | The Batting Cage holds the distinction of being one of the only businesses to sprout up around Marlins Park. It entices fans with deals like a bucket of five beers for $15 on game day.
BEST CHEAP BITES AROUND MARLINS PARK
People's Bar-B-Que | People's is a beacon of soul food in the Overtown neighborhood not far from Marlins Park. Lunch plates, which include barbecued ribs and oxtail and barbecued chicken, come with two heaping sides and a low price tag, starting at $8.
BEST CHEAP MARLINS TICKETS
Prices on the team's website start at $15, but it's not hard to find upper-level seats from scalpers for as low as $5. The Marlins have ushers only in the box seats, so those willing to break the rules can easily move to a better section.
MARLINS PARK WITH KIDS
The Marlins' stadium doesn't have as many kid-centric amenities as some other ballparks. Here's where to take the little ones before and during the game.
WHERE TO GO BEFORE THE GAME WITH KIDS
Jungle Island | The neighborhood around Marlins Park isn't unsafe, but it's also not exactly child-friendly. If you're looking for a place to wear the kids out before the game, head over to Jungle Island, a 30-acre, zoo-like park that occupies a waterfront spot in Biscayne Bay.
BEST FOOD FOR KIDS
El Mago de Las Fritas | There are few Latin foods more kid-friendly than the frita, or Cuban hamburger, which combines Cuban bread, a hamburger patty and fried onion strings. El Mago de Las Fritas has one of the most celebrated around—even President Obama has eaten one, with cheese ($3.75). The menu also includes Cuban steak sandwiches ($5.75) and papitas, French fries covered in garlicy mojo sauce ($2.75) that are big enough to make a meal for most little baseball fans.
WHERE TO GET AUTOGRAPHS
Head to the park early to catch batting practice, where you'll typically find the roof open and players willing to sign autographs next to the dugouts. An hour before Friday and Saturday games, the Marlins send a player to the team store to sign autographs.
NEED A BREAK DURING THE GAME?
Marlins Park doesn't have a kid play zone, but there's an open area in the concourse in center field where the young ones can run around while you grab refreshments at the nearby Budweiser Balcony.
WHERE TO BUY GEAR FOR KIDS?
The team's two stores, in the east promenade outside and behind home plate in the concourse, offer kid-sized hats, T-shirts and jerseys.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A MARLINS GAME
Not long after a game lets out at Marlins Park, the surrounding neighborhood turns back into a sleepy section of Little Havana. But don't think the fans call it a day. This is Miami, where there's always a party nearby.
WHERE TO KEEP THE PARTY GOING
Tobacco Road | Dim lighting and dark wood everywhere make Miami's oldest bar stand out in the otherwise shiny downtown. But a party is likely to break out at any moment, either during a riotous happy hour or late at night, when bands take the stage.
WHERE TO GET A POST-GAME MEAL
Finnegan's River Brickell | Finnegan's downtown location boasts a bay-front spot that makes it part Irish pub and part waterfront restaurant. Head out back for a deck with a pool and incredible views of the city skyline and the bay.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO NEARBY?
After games, head over to the Midtown shopping and entertainment district, where you'll find a collection of some of the city's finest restaurants. Brickell also boasts gastropubs and some finer dining options. Or head over to South Beach, where clubs will be pumping and the crowd on Lincoln Road is always pulsing.
Fort Lauderdale-based journalist Eric Barton is a lifelong baseball fan who has still yet to catch a foul ball. Find him in Jupiter for spring training, sneaking down to the box seats at Marlins Park, or, more likely, catching the game at a place with good bourbon and burgers.