The US Open is A LOT. I don't know if I've become more tolerant (doubtful) or if the place has just worn me down. But I think 2019 was my best ever experience at the last slam of the year.
I tend to spend most of my Labor Day weekends at the tennis, and 2019 was my 8th trip to the Open so it's by far the tourney I've attended the most. I always loved watching the tennis but felt the last slam on the tennis calendar was just hard work. But in the past 5 years, the grounds at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center have undergone so many changes that the tourney has really improved.
Here's my updated summary of how to tackle the US Open. Per usual I'll summarize the grounds, ticketing experience, food and the crowd. I'll also touch on the stadiums, transportation and practice courts.
|Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden|
Ticketing:First things, first. You can be as organized or last-minute as you want with the US Open. Some years, I bought a package and made a deposit in February. Other years, including the past two years, I have decided to go and less than 48 hours later I was there! In 2019, I ordered accessible tickets for the first time for our Labor Day weekend, and then I bought resale tickets for both finals literally minutes before I walked into the gates on the day. So, the options are limited though none of them are cheap!
- Ticket packages: If you want to buy a package, be sure to sign up for the US Open emails and get a notification when deposits are being accepted. In 2016, we made the deposit in February for the Holiday Weekend Mini Plan, and then we could choose our seats in June. I have only ever bought this package, but it gave us all sessions on Arthur Ashe stadium starting Friday night of Labor Day weekend and ended with Monday's night session. I did get an email in October 2018 announcing that deposits were being accepted for ticket packages for 2019.
- Individual tickets: This year, individual sessions went on sale to the public on June 3. There are AMEX presales if you have one so be sure to sign up for the US Open emails so you can take advantage.
|Swag from this year's US Open|
- Accessible tickets: In May 2019, I registered for us to be put in the system for accessible seating because my mom was coming with me. It was quite the process, but thankfully we ended up with the tickets we requested. I was told by staff that in 2020, Ticketmaster was going to take over the system which is great news because the website was really hard to navigate.
- On June 3, I was sent a link and password to login to the US Open Accessible Seating System.
- Basically, you choose the price point you want and then you just hope you get those tickets. My response when I placed the order: "This is to confirm we have received your ticket request. It will now be reviewed and if for whatever reason your order cannot be fulfilled, you will be contacted by your USTA point of contact. Submitting an order does not guarantee it will be filled." And HERE is the real kicker: "If the price you have selected is unavailable your order will be filled with the next best available price" Whoa. Next available? So I could have ended up with a hugely costly ticket and they say they have a right to do that? What a messed up system.
- I got an email on July 18th telling me that my tickets were now available. So about 6 weeks to find out if you actually got the tickets you requested. Let me tell you, that doesn't really please me. I don't understand why it's not first come, first served?
|View of Ashe Stadium near the Grandstand|
- Resale tickets: The US Open allows (or Ticketmaster allows?) all tickets to be resold, even accessible seats, at any value the ticket buyers desires. So, there are always tickets on resale should you wish to spend more than face value. It's such BS. Of course, if you're patient and lucky you can get some good deals if someone is selling their tix and they either aren't selling or a big name isn't playing. I tend to stick to Ticketmaster resales, because fees are less than Stubhub and there's a Ticketmaster office right onsite as you near the gate coming off the subway. I needed their help on the day of the men's final as my mobile ticket bar code wasn't available so it's nice to have that support should you need it.
|Walking toward the main entrance coming from Mets-Willet Station|
- It's New York - your best bet is always going to be public transportation, tho Uber is certainly an option depending on what time you come and go.
- I always stay in Flushing, so we took an Uber ever morning to the site and got dropped off at Mets-Willet Station. From there you can walk down the boardwalk toward the East Gate, which is the main entrance for most people attending the US Open.
- Be warned - if you tell the taxi driver to take you to the US Open they are going to take you on a scenic drive through Flushing Meadow Corona Park where the taxis are allowed to drop off, and you are going to have a decent walk to the grounds. You'll also have a long walk from the subway station or LIRR stop, but at least your cab ride will be shorter!
- I come in along the busy boardwalk, and then if I'm alone I walk along the left side of the entrance and walk toward the South Gate. This gate is less nuts, and you get to walk by the Unisphere which is always so pretty. If you do choose to go into the East Gate, you'll wait awhile especially if you have a bag. If you are with someone with accessible needs, you are allowed to go into the credential line. I found staff this year very attentive to mom and her cane so we had no issue entering all 4 days together with barely a wait. On finals weekend, I went into the South Gate on Saturday, and East Gate on Sunday. The lines were both pretty short so getting in was a cinch.
- Getting out at night can be a bear, so plan wisely. As we stayed in Flushing, we just took the subway one stop and then got an uber to our Airbnb. It worked for us, tho we did try and get an Uber the first night and I didn't realize there was also a Mets game going on so that was not fun. Several drivers accepted the pick up and then cancelled, and the final driver just couldn't get near me so we ended up taking the 7 and an Uber home.
- The LIRR is a great option if that's convenient for you. It does cost a bit more, but I always preferred the train to the subway if it worked out. There's a ticket office on the boardwalk.
- As I said earlier, there have been so many changes to the grounds in the past 4-5 years and to me they are all for the better! There are so many ways to get around from one place to another, which is key given the tens of thousands of people onsite at any given time.
- One way the grounds have improved are places to sit. My favorite place is near the South Gate - the Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden. There are tables, lawns to lie on, trees and shade and it's so peaceful there. There are also benches across from the entrances to Louis Armstrong which are fun for people watching and to watch the bigger screen showing matches or scores. The fountain is a popular place to sit and watch the biggest screen on the grounds on the side of Ashe Stadium. When I attend a tennis tourney, I tend to clear the gates around opening time and stay pretty late so I like to find places on the grounds to sit and chill for a bit during the day.
- I have already gone into all the food options just below, so I won't go into much detail here other to say that there options on the grounds have just multiplied over the past few year. Much improved!
|Arthur Ashe Stadium|
- Stadiums: So much to say here. Arthur Ashe Stadium is huge. It's the biggest stadium in tennis and it seats 23,771 so clearly getting in and out is a challenge. Unless you can afford courtside seats (not me in this lifetime), you'll be sitting in the 100 or 300 section. You'll have to go all the way to the top to get into these levels, tho if you are lucky to be a guest in one of the suites you'll clearly have a different experience. I've only ever been in the USTA Presidential Suite for a work event and got to watch Arthur Ashe Kids Day from that section (dreams - read my recap here).
- If I had my way, I'd be in the 100 section (called Loge) each time, but it's really overpriced especially now that there are only 2 day matches (it was always 3 matches in the day session until 2018 when the new Louis Armstrong opened. You are not allowed into the Loge section outside of changeovers so it's more civilized viewing here.
- The 300 section is called the Promenade and for ticketing purposes it's split between Lower and Upper Promenade. This is tennis hell. There are no ushers here and people come in and out constantly. But this is where the 'average' fan can afford to sit, it's just so many rows (A-Z) so just constantly blocked views by people coming and going. If you have to sit here, buy Lower Prom if you can afford it, and try to avoid the aisles since you won't be able to see whenever anyone walks up and down the steps.
- I always used to suggest people buy an Ashe ticket as opposed to any other ticket because it doesn't cost much more than a grounds pass, you can get into any stadium on this ticket, and you are always guaranteed matches due to the roof. Now that Louis Armstrong has reopened and also has a roof, this is also a good option (tho LA does have a general admission area). Previously a grounds pass wasn't a great option in the rain but now that there's LA with the roof that is a better option). I just always buy Ashe because my faves tend to play there. I don't always buy a night session ticket anymore just because you can always get a ticket if you want to last minute without issues.
|Louis Armstrong Stadium|
- Louis Armstrong reopened in 2018 and it's a really great stadium that seats 14,000! This year I watched the five-setter between Monfils and Shapovalov here and that match was made for this smaller (albeit still big) stadium. The lower section is all reserved seating, but the whole upper section is general admission so it will fill up when a good match is set to be on the OOP.
- Grandstand was also rebuilt and opened again in 2016. The lower section is reserved and upper section is all GA so this is another great court (seats 8,125) that's more intimate and with great views no matter where you sit.
- Court 17 is fairly new as well (it opened in 2011) and it's around 2500 or so. This area of the grounds is so great now because of the picnic tables, food stalls and proximity to the food village. Court 17 is open to any ticketholders.
- Practice Courts: The US Open completely redid the practice courts in 2014 and the changes were amazing. In previous years, the only way to see the 5 practice courts was through a fence on the end. You could sort of stand on an adjacent court to look down on the courts but that wasn't great either. So when they bulldozed the old courts and rebuilt the practice courts they really improved them. Now you can view through the fence on the ground, or go up and sit above the courts. (be warned it get pretty hot up there). There is an elevator up to the stands should you be with someone who needs them.
- The best bathrooms are located by the practice courts - so many stalls.
- There's a water bottle refill station by the bathrooms too.
|Dumpling Galaxy (we were HUNGRY)|
The food at the US Open used to be awful IMO and over the years the food court offerings have gotten so much better and more diverse. There are also so many more food areas which has help keep the chaos at bay when you need to get some food and want to actually sit down to eat it.
|Vietnamese Sandwiches from JoJu|
- First off, you can bring food in. This year I brought in a bagel sandwich one day, plus various snacks and fruit each day. You can even bring in a fillable water bottle with water in it! (I'm still side-eyeing you IW). Steer clear of metal bottles - I brought in a Nalgene bottle every day and it was always full. No issues!)
- The main Food Village is located between Louis Armstrong Stadium and Court 17. There are about 10-12 different booths selling everything from pizza and curry to Korean rice bowls (my fave) and ice cream. This is the biggest seating area on the grounds and it can get nuts here.
- Arthur Ashe Stadium - most fans go all the way up in Ashe to their seats and there are food options all the way around the stadium concourse. The variety has increased here too. We had Vietnamese sandwiches, burgers, chicken tenders and more. The usual suspects too - pizza, sandwiches, wraps, plus snacks like pretzels, popcorn, etc.
- Louis Armstrong is a good option as there are two sets of food vendors here. Go up the escalator one floor from the grounds and you'll see 3-4 vendors on your left. On the opposite side of the stadiums are another 3-4.
- Grandstand Food Village - this is a hidden gem area with seating that is a new addition when the new Grandstand debuted in 2016. The food area here is maybe 4-5 vendors and there are plenty of tables. It's a nice chilled area though the food offerings aren't my personal fave - it's mostly chicken sandwiches, burgers, tacos etc. Still.
- Backyard x17 - I don't remember many vendors over here but now there are 3-4 options and some new picnic tables. I got some very overpriced dumplings here this year, and meant to try the crepes here. Again, a nice change of pace from the crowded food village.
|Picnic area with shade at the Backyard x17|
- There are also some food options close to the South Gate entrance - I didn't try it but Wichcraft looked good and busy. The tourney calls this the South Plaza Food area.
- Coffee: Lavazza is the coffee of the US Open, and I saw two places to buy it on the grounds (one bigger booth just past the food village and a smaller stall back toward courts 4-6) and a few vendors inside Louis Armstrong also sold it.
- Booze: No problems here! There are endless bars, stalls and booths inside the stadiums selling beer and the famous Honey Deuce. I usually visit the Honey Deuce stands or grab a drink at the cocktail bars outside Ashe, but there are lots of more upscale (well, sit-down) restaurants and bars should that be what you are after.
- The US Open crowds got quite a lot of criticism this year, especially due to the very frequent views of tennis fans walking to their courtside seats as play was mean to to be starting. It did seem to be more problematic this year, and you really can't place every bit of blame on the usher/stand control. I am not sure if the USTA pays them (I tend to ask - Miami pays their ushers, whereas other tourneys, such as Auckland, use volunteers).
- This year, since we had accessible seats we were seated right where people entered for the 100 section. The ushers were roping off the entrances, but some people just truly don't care and do what they want, and from what I experienced the ushers tried their best. I saw many people verbally attack the ushers for not letting them in, and talked to one usher who had had enough. She said people were just so rude to her and I believe her.
- I did stand control in 2011 at the Auckland men's and women's tourneys and people definitely got mouthy with me when I explained they were only allowed in during changeovers. Many casual tennis fans just don't understand the rules, the etiquette, etc. And they tend to not care or be in the mood so they don't like being told what to do.
|Just one in a crowd|
- I do think that the first 90-second changeover in a set needs to be longer than 90 seconds. So many fans need to be let in after those first three games that I think we need a bit of flexibility.
- I think many tourneys need to put signs at the entrances explaining that they are only allowed in when the players get a 90-second break. I think it would help a lot.
- I also think they need two people per entrance in Ashe Stadium so that they can actually help direct people to their seats. This is especially helpful for the Promenade because once you go up the stairs you can no longer see the section numbers so it can be really confusing, even if you are going to your 8th US Open like me!
- The men's final - I have to say, the men's final was incredible but that crowd was LOUD! So many people near me were screaming (and I mean SCREAMING) out during play. I plugged my ears a few times because drunken men were incredibly annoying near me and it was really a drag.
- I hear people complain about tennis in that fans are told to be quiet, that in any other sport you can be as loud as you want. Well, good for those sports! Tennis doesn't need to be like any other sport, and to me a reason why people coming in and out of their seats at all times bothers me is because they make me MISS PART OF THE MATCH! It's not all about players being disturbed. I get disturbed when people are standing in front of me when the match is going on. It's annoying to have to stand up again and again during play because someone in your row frequently comes in and out. So, when I can, I will pay more money to be in sections where people are only allowed in during changeovers. It's just a better experience for me when I have paid a lot of money to be there live.
Okay, that's enough. I hope this blog post is helpful for anyone considering a trip to the US Open. If you have additional questions or comments, leave a note here or tweet me at @StephintheUS
|Oh yeah look Rafa won this year! #Vamos|