I enjoy going to the occasional Padres game at Petco Park, despite never having been a big baseball fan.
The idea of this guide is to help casual baseball fans and families enjoy a day out at the ballpark with advice for how to keep costs low, buying tickets, enjoying ballpark food and a handful of other helpful tips.
Buying Discounted Padres Game Tickets
It’s common knowledge that tickets to baseball games are cheaper than those for NFL or NBA games. This can be a draw for people with only a casual interest in the game itself (or a family with kids).
These days, third-party online ticket re-sellers, like StubHub, are ubiquitous. I have exclusively used these sites to buy Padres tickets for years. The time-tested way to get the tickets with the biggest discounts is to wait to buy them until the last possible moment. Everyone’s individual tolerances for what constitutes “comfortable last minute planning” can be different, however.
These sites encourage sellers of these tickets to progressively discount them until they are sold and typically have little photos of the views from every specific seat, which can also be very helpful for people who don’t go to the ballpark often. This usually means you will get the best deals by waiting until the night before the game (or even the morning of the game) to buy tickets. You’ll have to be flexible about where you sit in the stadium.
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Tickets are sent to your smartphone instantly or you can print tickets if you prefer. That’s the upside. The downside is that all these sites charge also charge various service or transaction fees. My personal experience has been that, by waiting until the last minute to buy deeply discounted tickets, the impact of these fees is merely to reduce the final discount, and not to cause the cost to approach the original ticket cost.
PETCO Park Seating Advice
I won’t recommend specific seating areas within Petco Park, in significant part because people’s individual price tolerances and view preferences can vary so widely. That being said, I will offer the following two insights.
One regards seating in the sun versus the shade. Most Padres games start at night, typically at 7: 10 p.m. While the sun may not actually technically set until nearly 8:00 p.m. during the summer, by 7:10 p.m. it has already gone down below the height of the highrise hotels, condos and buildings of downtown San Diego. The sun shouldn’t be an issue influencing seating choice for night games.
For the handful of day games each season (I’ve always enjoyed day games), choosing a seat in direct sunlight for the entire game can really kill the experience for some people, especially for non-fans and kids.
Secondly, if you really have no idea where to sit, generally speaking, I have repeatedly enjoyed seats directly behind the right field outfield. I’ve sat in this general area many times and recommend this area for casual baseball fans because:
- You can buy tickets for about $20 each or less (I have personally paid as little as $13 in recent years).
- As a non-connoisseur of baseball, I find the views/lines of sight enjoyable while also being close to the field, so that you don’t have the feeling of being exiled to the upper deck nosebleed seats where one might watch the game action mostly on the jumbo screen.
- It’s not uncommon for balls to be hit into this area, which can cause a momentary adrenaline jolt for adults, and a genuine thrill for young kids who brought their baseball gloves.
- Balls hit in this area are essentially never line drives, but rather looping home runs (or foul balls), so the risk of being hit unexpectedly by a line drive is lower.
- My personal experience is that many casual fans sit in this area, including kids, and as a result, the tolerance for casual conversation and getting up and down (and the like) is particularly high in this area.
Petco Park Food and Drinks
For me, an essential aspect of enjoying a Padres game in person is having some food and drink in and around the ballpark. I really enjoy special ballpark food and enjoy Padres games best with a few drinks.
Buying food and drinks at any ballpark, arena, or stadium during any sporting event can get expensive quickly if you randomly impulse buy whatever catches your eye. Over time, I have learned some ways to manage these costs at Petco Park.
The first is to consider going to a Padres game at Petco Park on a Tuesday. Every Tuesday is a Taco Tuesday. Several food vendors in the stadium (most of them branches of locally famous restaurants) offer tacos for a discounted price.
In 2018, this price is $2.50 each (typically with a maximum of four tacos per purchase). For comparison’s sake, a beer is about $11 (or more) and a hotdog from a vendor walking the aisles is $7.
This means that the lines for tacos on Taco Tuesdays can get long. I dislike waiting in lines myself. So, I tend to try to go get tacos at least a half hour before the game begins. The tacos are prepared right in front of everyone in line.
Personal preferences will vary. My favorite at the last game I went to was the catch of the day fish tacos at Blue Water Seafood.
I also personally like the Mexican Wrestling iconography at Lucha Libre Taco Shop. I enjoy their steak tacos, too.
Drink and Eat Outside/Around Petco Park
Petco Park is located in downtown San Diego, adjacent to the many bars and restaurants of the historic Gaslamp Quarter. This means that there is a myriad of options for eating and drinking within a few blocks of the stadium, in family-friendly (and not so family-friendly) restaurants and bars.
If you want to have a few cocktails or glasses of wine before the game or some more varied, healthier food, I would strongly recommend getting to Petco Park at least one hour before the game starts and have a casual bite to eat outside the stadium.
Without any advance online searching for happy hours, you almost can’t help but beat the price inside Petco Park of an $11 beer.
A personal favorite of mine, because I like al fresco dining generally, is the outside, sidewalk bar at the Blind Burro. It’s literally across the street from the stadium and just one block from an entrance to Petco Park where the Padres Hall of Fame and Park at the Park are also situated (see below). So it’s very conveniently located. They also have a happy hour. Currently, they also have Baja Tuesdays, featuring $17 bottomless margaritas as well as food specials.
A favorite of mine, recommended by the bartender, are the al pastor tacos (2 for $7 on Baja Tuesdays).
Bring Your Own Water and Snacks
Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of bringing my own food inside stadiums or movie theater. Part of the fun for me is the ‘ballpark food’ experience.
But I have found that it does make sense to take some advantage of what you’re allowed to bring into the stadium. That list includes bottled water. Even when just going to a Padres game with other adults, I bring a small bag with some bottled waters, especially to day games when sitting in the sun.
While I was initially resistant to doing this, over the years I’ve realized that it’s crazy for me to keep getting up to go to a concession stand to buy $5 bottled waters, when I can bring a few bottled waters myself (almost) for free. When going with kids, this is even more sensible. (Petco Park also allows you to bring in juice boxes and milk.)
While I’ve never done it myself, Petco Park also allows you to bring in your own peanuts, popcorn, Crackerjacks and similar snacks.
Park and Ride the Trolley
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Everyone’s personal circumstances will dictate their preferred method of travel to and from Petco Park for a Padres game. Paid parking lots are available near the stadium. And, there’s always Uber.
My personal preference is to take the San Diego Trolley. It’s $6 for a round-trip ticket. There’s a stop just a couple/few blocks from the stadium main entrance.
Personally, I prefer to park (for free) at the Old Town station and take the roughly 15-minute ride to Petco Park from there. One advantage to this, I’ve found, is that, because the $6 ticket allows you to get on-and-off the Trolley, you can stop in Little Italy on the way to/from the stadium to enjoy some food and drinks, if you like, all without the need for anyone to drive or any added cost. (The same would apply to Seaport Village, and other Trolley stops.)
Free Attractions at Petco
I typically think that the free attractions inside amusement parks and stadiums and other places that you have to pay to enter initially are not great and maybe over-hyped. That being said, there are two spots within Petco Park that I think may be worth seeing and hopefully will add a little extra enjoyment (for free) to your game experience.
The first is the Padres Hall of Fame, an outdoor area with bronze plaques dedicated to each of the former Padres players and coaches who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. While this may mean little to most kids and non-baseball fans, even the most casual fan of Padres baseball over the age of 25 will likely know the name of the late, great, local Padres legend Tony Gwynn.
The second is Park at the Park. It’s located inside the stadium grounds behind the outfield. This 2.7-acre park inside Petco Park includes a big grass-covered hill (topped by a statue of Tony Gwynn) that kids can roll around on, as well as a mini baseball field.
Every time I have ever been to Petco for a Padres game, I have always seen large groups of kids and young families enjoying this area. It’s a great place for kids and adults to stretch their legs. Several vendors also sell food, beer, and Padres logo merchandise here as well.
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Petco Park Tours
If you’re not in town during a Padres game, tours of Petco Park are offered seven days a week.
What are your best tips for attending a Padres game at Petco Park?