With baseball season in full swing, I’m excited to take my son to a few games. It wasn’t too long ago when my husband and I were total rookies at bringing our little boy to sporting events, and I know that it can be difficult to find the motivation to take kids to a baseball game. With a little planning, luck, and reasonable expectations, taking kids to the ballpark can actually be a breeze.
[NOTE: I’m writing this with a visit to Nationals Park in mind, but you can apply many of these tips when visiting other stadiums as well.]
Here are some tips and tricks to get you through:
1. Set Expectations
You know your kids the best, so you already anticipate their needs when you’re out and about generally. But in a crowded, noisy space like a ballpark, needs may be different. Think about how you’re going to get your kids through the 4+ hours of the game—and prepare yourself for what to do during rain delays. Depending on your kids’ ages, you may need to pack some toys, books, and activities to keep them occupied—as well as take advantage of the play areas and activities offered at the stadium.
2. Decide on a Budget
Bringing kids to the ballgame can get expensive super fast, so deciding what kind of superfan you are before you buy your tickets is a great way to start. Some of my friends prefer to go all out and splurge for great seats and the works once a season and others who will wait in line 2 hours before the game for the $5 cheap seats (yes, they are still a thing!) to get their families to multiple games. If your kids are under 18, Nationals Park offers student discounts as well, so be sure to check on that before you buy. And if your child is under 2—he’s free! But the wiggle-worm has to sit on your lap, so just be prepared for that.
When deciding what price point to choose, keep your expectations in mind. If you’re testing the waters and it’s your first time taking a kid to the game, you might want to get the cheap seats. Or maybe you want to splurge because you’re worried it’s the only game you’ll get to. Do what’s best for your family—there are plenty of ways to enjoy the game without sitting right by the sidelines.
3. Know What to Bring
For us, deciding how to get to the park depends on how much we have to carry. Here’s a list of things we bring:
• Food (Outside food is allowed at Nationals Park, but there are rules. Check the website.)
• Toys and books (baseball related, of course!)
• A baseball (because we know not all kids get balls at the game!)
• Baseball gloves (in case we catch a foul ball!)
• Sunscreen and hats
• Rain jackets and umbrellas (depending on the weather)
Please note, backpacks are no longer permitted at the Nationals Stadium, but they do have storage for backpacks outside the stadium.
Comment below if you have other must-haves to add!
4. Plan How to Get There (With An Exit Strategy)
Will you metro, bus, bike, or drive? And how long are you going to stay? For Sunday games, we like to park in a walkable nearby neighborhood (not in Navy Yard—watch out for neighborhood parking restrictions on game days!) and push the stroller to the stadium.
5. Have Fun Before the First Pitch
• Have a drink at The Bullpen. (It’s all ages until 9pm.)
• Run around The Yards Park on the waterfront.
• Check out the Walking Museum of Transportation.
• Once inside the park, visit Guest Services to drop off your stroller, pick up identification wristbands (in case you get separated!), and get first game certificates for your kids!
• Watch batting practice. Check the website for details.
• Get autographs! On Sundays, catch Nats players signing autographs near the Nats dugout about an hour prior to the first pitch. Check the website for more details.
• Try to find the Presidents! Sometimes they hang out in the Centerfield Concourse before games.
• Burn off some energy at the jungle gym in the play area.
6. Nursing Your Baby in the Stadium
I breastfed openly in public plenty of times, but in the close quarters at the park, I found it to be a little awkward. Thankfully, Nationals Park has an AMAZING nursing lounge that is a wonderful place to go if you’re feeling a little shy nursing next to your stranger neighbor’s elbow. Sit comfortably in air-conditioning while watching the game and charging your phone and then change your baby on stable changing stations. It’s a relaxing environment where you can calm your child and get out of the heat. If you have a toddler, they can join you in the lounge and play at the play area.
If you’re not nursing but need to change your baby, all of the bathrooms have changing stations.
7. Have Even More Fun at the Park:
• The GEICO Presidents Race takes place during the middle of the fourth inning. After the race, catch the Presidents near Section 131 for a photo op!
• After select games on Sundays, kids can run the bases. Check the website for dates.
• Kids ages 4 to 12 can join the Jr. Nationals Kids Club for free—or they can sign up for the MVP package to receive special Nats Gear and exclusive perks!
Such a Superfan That You Want to Venture Outside of DC for a Game?
Check out these local minor league affiliate teams for a smaller stadium experience, especially if you’re not sure your little one is ready for a big league game. These minor league teams make an effort to be extra family friendly, offering lots of interaction with players and mascots and a more intimate experience.
If you’re not a Nationals fan and prefer the Baltimore Orioles, Camden Yards is a great place for kids, too. It has a great play area that’s fun for all ages, ample opportunities to find Oriole Bird for photos, and plenty of space to run around in between innings. Last season, they had a Kids Cheer Free program through which kids ages 9 and under could attend games for free with a paying adult. Check the website for details about the program for the 2019 season.
One thing my husband and I learned when taking our son to sporting events is that if you don’t try, you won’t go! Practice going to different types of events and see what works for you! Do you have tips to share? Were any of these ideas helpful? Leave a comment below to share your stadium stories!