It’s been awhile since I have considered the US Open a bucket list item for tennis fans. Blame it on the US Open being in my backyard for the few years I lived in New York City. While I can’t pretend to be a USO novice, I do feel like I discovered some new things this time around.
Tickets – Tickets for Ashe & Armstrong are available in advance and during the tournament. For those on a budget, the promenade level (300) with average ticket costing $80 will be your most reasonable option with this view
Otherwise, you can choose to check out matches on Armstrong which brings you a bit closer to the action:
This year, I secured the Holiday Twilight mini-plan in advance just to make sure I had tickets for the 1st few rounds when there are more matches. This plan allowed me into the gates at 4 pm (2 hours earlier than evening ticket holders) which means no lines to enter the grounds and some day matches still happening before the evening session. I will get this plan next year!
I supplemented my mini-plan tickets with some from Stubhub during the 2nd week of the US Open. If you are flexible, wait until the day of and purchase tickets about an hour before the start of the matches. I was able to pay $35 (value, $80) for day session Ashe tickets on Tuesday; $14 (value, $80) for day session on Wednesday (included Stan vs Kei); and $27 (value, $115) for the women’s semi-finals on Friday. I usually recommend the grounds pass for first timers, but I think a day ticket for Ashe maximizes your options as you will get to see some main court as well as side court matches. If you can wait to purchase your tickets during the event, ticket specials are often available via outlets like Gilt City, Timeout NY, Travelzoo, and other online retailers.
The best way to get to the US Open is the 7 train. It costs $2.25 each way. If you are coming from Manhattan (30th St. Penn Station) or other boroughs, and you don’t want to navigate the subway, then the regional lines via the Long Island Railroad will work as well. My one-way ticket from the US Open to Manhattan was $4.50. Cabs and car services are costly and will have you stuck in traffic for longer than you want. The lines to get the cab were also too damn long.
Food/drinks – there is plenty of food on offer at the USO and if you are able to budget $40 per day for food and water, by all means, sample some of them. This year I splurged on a new addition, a fancy grilled cheese sandwich ($12) with bacon. So yummy that I had no regrets!
I also celebrated Federer’s win against Agut with a stop at Wine Bar Food, just outside the entrance of Ashe. I was treated to the flaming ouzo shrimp and a glass of Proseco ($30) by a friend. The dish consists of three shrimp atop fried potatoes and peppers. It is well worth sampling on your visit to the Open. If you don’t feel like dropping that much cash, drop by Subway and pick up a $5 sandwich and keep it moving.
Player practice/autograph hounding
Hands down the best addition to the US Open site is the viewing gallery that allows you to sit and watch players practice. Some folks call it an eye-sore but it’s a useful if not aesthetically pleasing upgrade. In previous years, you were stuck looking at players through the mesh gates that now stand at the bottom of the gallery hallway. Like other tournaments, the US Open now publishes the practice schedule for players for you to plan accordingly. I watched Federer with Edberg and Serena with Patrick and Sascha and I had no problems getting a seat. Immediately after practice, you can now seek their autographs in a well-guarded & nicely managed gateway leading into Ashe. The guards were personable and full of advice to help everyone get a selfie or an autograph. Try not to trample the kids that inevitably end up in front of you!
Shelter from the rain Let’s be honest, the US Open will inevitably have a rainy day and you’ll need a place to escape. My favorite spot is the Heineken Bar located just outside Court 17. It’s typically uncrowded and many believe you need a pass to enter. You don’t! Grab a seat in one of the lounge chairs and watch the rain delay match running on the screen. This Bar is also perfect for those times when you need a break from the crowd.
Finally, be aware of what not to bring so that you don’t have to deal with the hassle of checking a bag or having to dump your aerosol sunscreen (yes, a tube is your best bet).