Our first major league ballpark and our longest drive came on Monday as we beat the rush out of Los Angeles and drove down the coast to San Diego!
But First…Beer (and other things)
After stopping by the team store and grabbing some pancakes, we went exploring in San Diego. History buffs that we both are, we made for the harbor and the USS Midway Museum. The sheer size of the ship is impressive in and of itself, but the tour belowdecks taking visitors through the galleys and engine rooms of the ship is awe-inspiring. Then, you can finish your tour on the flight deck, walking amongst the planes and looking out over the calm harbor waters of San Diego.
While we waited to check in to our hotel in Mission Valley, Brett followed his nose and found us a brewery called Fall Brewing Company. It seems like every brewery out here maximizes space by putting the kegs in the tap rooms. It’s an aesthetic I can get used to — and with the warm San Diego breeze drifting in through the open front facade, it was a neighborhood brewery unlike any I’ve been to. They also had the closest beer I’ve found to a classic English bitter since I came back to the states.
If Petco Park was a medieval castle, it’s moat would be filled with beer; there are that many breweries within walking distance. We wandered into the Stone Brewing tap room and were assailed by beers strong enough to send Rocky Balboa to the mat. Not that I’m complaining — Stone’s standard IPA is one of my favorites. I branched out and tried their new tropical citrus IPA, the Vengeful Spirit. It was a miss for me — there wasn’t enough citrus flavor to cut the bitterness of the hops — but one subpar beer doesn’t damn a brewery, and Stone remains one of the best spots to stop on your way to a Padres game.
There are a couple of key things I look for in a ballpark. What’s the surrounding area like? Is there a nice vista beyond the outfield fence? Is there something that makes this ballpark stand out? Does the park have character, and does that character fit the city and the team?
Petco Park ticks all of these boxes and then some.
The park is right at the southern end of the Gaslamp District, one of the older parts of San Diego filled with expansive Victorian-era decor and architecture. The area has been revitalized and modernized with skyscrapers and hip brunch restaurants. It’s not sleepy or tired at all; here, though, life moves at its own pace, and the people see no need to rush through their day.
The view from home plate looks out onto the Gaslamp District, and well, you wanted a view?
I don’t have the room in my word count to tell you all the ways this park stands out. Tasteful sandstone architecture that seamlessly fits in with the city. A variety of brews that would make any beer snob drop his hops. A pedestrian walkway in the deep outfield for tents and stands. A sandbox — a freaking sandbox!!! — in center field.
Petco Park is San Diego. It’s beautiful without trying to be. It appreciates the finer things like beer and luxury without succumbing to arrogance. It’s modern without feeling futuristic, cheeky and fun yet still sophisticated. Petco Park is the most well-thought out, balanced park I’ve been to.
If you didn’t know that I am a closet Padres fan, you will now. This is by far the best ballpark I have been to. It was incredibly well thought out, had the perfect architecture that matched the Gaslamp District, and didn’t have a bad view in the park.
One of the first things I thought of when visiting Petco Park was how similar the center field area was to Fenway Park. Before the game, you can walk around the center field and explore the area around the ballpark. Once the gates open for the game, the center field area is closed off to the public and is used during the game as extra concourse space for fans at the game. This creates a perfect transition for the fan to full immerse themselves in the city, get a great view of the park from the grassy lawn, and have total freedom to walk without the crowd.
The ballpark has a very cool concourse with exposed sandstone and great landscaping. It has seamless transitions between different sections of the park, great food and beer, and a fantastic atmosphere. My personal favorite area in the park is the deck in center field. It features craft beer and standing room along the rail along with a sand box. While it was cold for the game we were at, it still offered a unique spot to watch a game.
This park is one of the gems in the game. There isn’t a park that I have visited that has the character and is as well thought out as this one. While things at this park are a bit overpriced, the experience itself was worth every penny. Make sure you get to the park early, there is so much to explore that you don’t want to miss