What took me so long to visit AT&T Park in San Francisco? I’ve visited the city dozens of times over the last 17 years since it opened as PacBell Park in April 2000, but for some reason, I’ve never been able to catch a game. This week, I finally made it, and boy was I impressed.
The Park is located on the southeastern edge of the city, about a mile from Market St. This provides easy, walkable access from many of the downtown hotels. As you approach the field, the number of bars and restaurants start to increase and they were all pretty busy with pre-gaming fans.
I snapped up a $4 ticket on SeatGeek. That’s right, $4. You can’t even get a coffee for that in the city. Sure it was upper deck outfield, but I wasn’t planning on using a seat. There’s always too much to explore in a new park. Why pay anything more?
On the plaza, they immortalized the Say Hey Kid, Willie Mays, in his home run pose.
Behind the statue, and attached to the stadium sits the Public House – a conveniently located bar, just about 30 yards away from the gates. Excellent choice for pregame festivities with a huge selection of craft brews on tap.
Inside, I visited with a husband and wife team that goes to plenty of games – and they even follow the Giants around the country. They certainly sounded like Wandering Spectators to me! I asked for their suggestions on things to see and do in and around the stadium and they were happy to share their favorites.
Their first recommendation was along the southern side of the stadium, between right field and and the famed McCovey Cove – named after the famed Giant, Willie McCovery. There, you can take a quick walking tour of many key milestones and records for the Giants. The plaques are embedded in the walkway that leads up to the boat dock and marina.
It’s along this path that you can also catch a free sneak peak through the chain link fence and look into right field. It reminds me of the pictures you used to see of kids peaking through a knothole in the wooden fences. Here, they encourage it. There’s a small area under cover with security providing access – no ticket required! What a great idea!
Once inside the stadium, it was very clear you were in California! Where else would there be a culinary garden that includes an olive tree and many other edible plants? It turns out, San Diego has their own culinary garden. Shocking, I know.
In the outfield behind the scoreboard sits Anchor Plaza – a ode to Anchor Steam Brewery. Here, you can get your taste of the favorite local beer along with some local flavors in food as well. Nirvana for the Wandering Spectator! The Anchor Taproom serves up several flavors of the breweries favorites. It’s surrounded by well-designed booths offering up many local dishes like the Crazy Crab’z Dungeness Crab sandwich served on, what else, but grilled sourdough bread. It was quite tasty. Other offerings include Clam Chowder sourdough bowls, fish tacos, nachos and more.
The Asian culture is all over San Francisco, so it was no surprise to see and hear a Japanese dance troupe performing before the first pitch.
Wandering around the stadium, I was shocked, but not shocked to see the famed Buena Vista Irish Coffee being served up. At this point, I’m almost completely sold on AT&T Park. They seemed to have thought of everything to give their guests a true local experience.
But then, the local touches just kept coming. Next up, a cable car allowing fans to take pictures without having to risk falling off a moving car! Of course, it had to be painted in Ghiardelli Chocolate colors.
And another, where else would you find it but in California feature? A California Wine Bar. But let’s be honest, not many people are going to park and getting a hot dog and wine. Are they?
Taking a lap around the lower concourse you come upon the trophy case. Three gleaming beauties – the first ones since moving to San Francisco in 1957. Of course, as the New York Giants, they earned another five Titles dating back to 1905!
Still making my way around the concourse behind home plate, the local theme continues. North Beach, named after the Italian section of San Francisco, serves up the famous Stinking Rose 40-clove Garlic Chicken Sandwich and other Italian specialties. This is among several other local restaurants.
I always make a habit of asking the ushers for their inside tips. They’re a great source of information that’s not often easy to find. Today, they suggested a few places to check out the views and told me that since it’s my first time at the park, stop by guest services for a free gift – a photo of the stadium and your own personalized certificate.
It was finally game time! I continued my stroll around the park to take in as many angles and viewing points as possible. Each one was better than the next. The view of McCovey Cove, the Bay Bridge, the City Skyline or the Bay in general. All were incredible and quite distracting from the game itself.
As I made my way back to the upper deck, I just had to pick up some Garlic Fries and a Gordon Biersch Marzen. This is the combination that made Garlic Fries famous! If you didn’t know, Gilroy is a small farming community south of San Francisco that hosts an annual Garlic Festival.
Another quirky feature at the park are the kayakers out in the Cove. If you don’t know, many times, home runs to right field will end up in the bay and the kayakers are there to scoop them up. Not tonight though…
One last monument outside the stadium is one of Juan Marichal. He pitched for the Giants for 13 years and was part of the “Greatest Game Ever Pitched” – and epic 16-inning shutout dual with Warren Spahn that ended with Willie Mays homering in the bottom of the 16th to win, 1-0.
As I was leaving the park, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. This place is amazing. Great food, great drinks, great views and friendly fans (at least to me).
Oh, and by the way, the Giants lost 3-1 after a first inning 3-run home run by Ryan Zimmerman.
If you are ever in San Francisco, you have to check out AT&T Park. Don’t wait 17 years like me.