Itinerant Fan

Petco Park

In San Diego, known as “America’s Finest City” and with good reason, watching live sports takes on a little bit different vibe than in most other cities. Visitors are quick to notice that residents of San Diego are a little more laid-back, and why wouldn’t they be? With nearly perfect weather most of the year and fine food, picturesque beaches and so much more at their disposal, you can forgive them if sports fandom isn’t on their mind all the time.

When they have reason to be, though, San Diegans can be just as spirited as any other sports fans. The hometown Padres don’t often give them reasons, with no championships and just two World Series appearances to their name. But they do have a spectacular ballpark in the heart of downtown that often gets mentioned as one of the finest in all of MLB. 

Petco Park is really worth visiting as much for what’s inside it as what surrounds it, as it boasts several features unique among major-league ballparks. Though it has been a few years since the Padres have been a playoff contender, as of 2017 they’re all San Diego has in terms of major pro sports after the Chargers pulled up stakes and headed north to Los Angeles. That may be good enough to bring more fans back to the ballpark.

We picked one of the best times to visit the ballpark — when the eyes of baseball fans everywhere were on it for the 2016 All-Star Game. We’re not sure Petco has ever looked better.

  •   The Approach

    Downtown San Diego is a beautiful spot and going through constant improvements, full of things to do for adults and children, residents and tourists alike. Petco Park is right in the middle of all that action, alongside the city’s famous Gaslamp Quarter, near the Convention Center (which each summer hosts the uber-popular ComicCon), and within walking distance of many hotels, high-end lofts and more.

    If you’re visiting the city, a downtown hotel offers the perfect convenience (one, the Omni San Diego across the street, is attached to the park via pedestrian bridge). But know that downtown hotels can be pricey, especially when big events such as ComicCon are happening.

    If that’s the case, staying outside downtown and coming in via public transit is certainly viable. The San Diego Trolley, the city’s light rail system, runs to many points outside downtown worth visiting, such as Old Town and Mission Valley, and can be used to reach Petco Park via the 12th and Imperial Station, a major transfer point that serves all three lines. Consider buying a one-day pass for $5 (the same cost as two one-way fares) to avoid the rush of fans trying to buy fares after the game.

    Drivers can access downtown San Diego via State Route 163 aka the Cabrillo Freeway, which turns into Tenth Avenue and leads directly to the ballpark’s doorstep. You can find more detailed driving directions here. Once there, you’ll find a number of nearby lots — some of them are permit-only but others are open to the general public.

  •   The Build-Up

    The options for pregame merriment around Petco Park are nearly endless, with blocks upon blocks of restaurants, bars and shops nearby, suited for nearly every age group, taste and budget. With development ongoing in the area, new options pop up all the time, so if you have some time before first pitch, do take a little stroll around the area and check out everything there is to offer.

    Fifth Street in the Gaslamp Quarter is generally regarded as the center of nightlife in downtown San Diego, but there are a number of options closer to the ballpark. Try walking along J Street just north of Petco for just a few of those bars, which on more well-attended gamedays can be teeming with fans and partiers alike. Or, check out one of the nearby hotels for bar action, some of which are on the rooftops (in the case of the nearby Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, the rooftop bar offers a partial glimpse of the Petco Park field). 

    Restaurants are scattered throughout the area as well, particularly between the ballpark and the convention center as well as the blocks stretching northward toward Horton Plaza. If you’re hungry, try to find some San Diego-specific eats, such as fish tacos, carne asada fries and California burritos. Or, just wait to head inside the ballpark, where you’ll be able to find all those items and more. 

    For a guide to restaurants in downtown San Diego, click here.

  •   The Ambiance

    Petco Park tries very hard — perhaps a little too hard — to be architecturally interesting, and thus walking around, finding your seat and all that can actually be more of a challenge than the average baseball fan bargains for. Getting to the main concourse requires a walk up steps from some gates but not from others; random columns, stairs and ramps make for windy walks through some sections; you have to find pedestrian bridges to get to some areas in the upper concourse; and there are random breaks in the seating bowl in various spots on both main tiers. 

    Put aside logistics for a second, though, and Petco is really a beautiful facility — and its quirks only lend to that beauty. The most obvious feature worth mentioning is the Western Metal Supply Building in left field — an actual old office building that, instead of being torn down to make way for the park, was left standing and incorporated into the venue’s design. The building houses the Padres team store and includes party suites, including one on the rooftop, and one of its corners serves as a de facto foul pole in left field. You can walk through it on the main concourse, and it feels a little bit like walking through a Disneyland prop. But how many other ballparks can you do that at?

    Then there’s the Park at the Park, the patch of green space behind the batter’s eye in center field that, yes, is an actual park. Fans buy cheap tickets to picnic there during games (albeit with an obstructed and very distant view of the field), but at least there’s a big screen displaying the game and a number of food and merchandise venues at your disposal. And yes, when there are no games, the park is open to the public.

    Though the seating bowl can feel huge, views are terrific — both of the field and of the downtown skyline beyond the outfield. One thing to note, though: During the late afternoon and just before sunset, the sun can beat down hard on the upper-deck seats along the first-base side, so consider avoiding those seats unless you’re OK with sunbathing while watching some ball.

    By the time you reach your seat, you might be too full from all the options available to you. In addition to the usual hot dogs and nachos, check out items such as the tri-tip sandwich from local institution Phil’s BBQ; fish tacos from locally based chain Rubio’s; California burritos (distinguished by the inclusion of fries inside the tortilla); burgers from local surf-themed outlet Hodad’s; and even poke (raw fish served on top of rice). Also, look out for the many booths serving Ballast Point beer, another local favorite.

The Particulars

Home Teams
San Diego Padres

100 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101

Year Opened


Upcoming Events
All times local
Seattle Mariners at San Diego Padres
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
12:40 pm
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Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Friday, May 3, 2019
7:10 pm
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Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Saturday, May 4, 2019
5:40 pm
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Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Sunday, May 5, 2019
1:10 pm
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New York Mets at San Diego Padres
Monday, May 6, 2019
7:10 pm
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