What’s the only thing better than watching the game in your living room on your new flat screen TV with some friends and some brews? Watching the game in person, of course. But unlike people, not all stadiums are created equal. They come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of odd quirks and insane amenities, and are built to withstand all varieties of weather and wear. For pro sports experiences like none other, here are twelve of this country’s coolest, most historic, and most tricked out stadiums and arenas. Get your homemade signs and bbqs ready.
13. Marlins Park in Miami, FL
Home to the Miami Marlins
People often make fun of Marlins Park, but it does offer a number of unique features. It’s in Florida, where it can get so humid that it feels like you’re sitting in a bowl of warm Jello, so Marlins Park obviously needed a retractable roof to get people to come see a game in the sticky Summer heat. What Marlins Park did not need was bulletproof aquariums behind home plate, and yet they have them anyway. It may be an absurd and opulent flourish, but it is undeniably a compelling aesthetic experience to watch a pitch as a tropical fish swims between you and the pitcher. Other amenities like an extravagant nightclub swimming pool, a themed home run structure, and a local flavors food court may not be unique to Marlins Park, but they do make the stadium feel very “South Beach.”
12. Citi Field in New York, NY
Home to the New York Mets
We know you’re mostly going to Citi Field to see the Amazin’s play ball, but it doesn’t hurt that along with seeing the Kings of Queens in action, you get the classic Mr. Met with his silly shenanigans, some phenomenal Danny Meyer cuisine (Shake Shack, hell yes), the “Big Apple” that pops up in the outfield when the home team hits a home run, and the inspiring Jackie Robinson Rotunda. While you’re there, take a picture next to his big blue 42 and honor perhaps the most important ballplayer of all-time. His words, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on others,” are engraved along the rotunda’s upper ring.
11. Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI
Home to the Green Bay Packers
Known as “The Shrine of Pro Football,” Lambeau Field is the oldest NFL stadium, and many would argue it’s best. You can often tell a sports venue’s worth by the number of nicknames it amasses. In addition to “The Shrine of Pro Football,” Lambeau is also known as “Titletown USA” and “The Frozen Tundra.” That latter nickname gives you a clue as to when you should try and visit this venue. There’s nothing more “Green Bay” than seeing a Packers game in the freezing snow. The game becomes more primal, as though you’re watching ancient tribes battling instead of modern men playing ball. Of course, even if you go on a non-wintry day, it’s a surely sight to see the “Cheeseheads” in their natural habitat, not to mention it’s got some of the best tailgate food in the country. Who got da brats?
10. Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, CA
Home to the San Francisco 49’ers
Sure they’re having an awful year but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting this brand new temple built by tech (dollars, that is). What was supposed to be the Home of Harbaugh (The Home of Tomsula just doesn’t have the same ring to it) is one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the country. Boasting in-stadium wifi, a massive glass-enclosed club level with Yahoo-sponsored Fantasy Football areas, more flat screen TVs that you thought existed in nature, and some damn tasty garlic fries, Levis stadium appeals to both tech-heads and gridiron diehards alike.
9. Detroit Events Center in Detroit, MI
Home to the Detroit Red Wings
It’s not built yet, but when finished, Detroit Events Center will be a Hockey arena in a league of its own. The plans are “revolutionary,” according to many in the know. It will have a glass roof which will act as an “indoor street,” a concourse which will be open year-round. Though the new arena will obviously be state-of-the-art, what you’re really going to see the Red Wings for is some surreal octopus-throwing. We assume the new arena will officially prohibit the throwing of octopi on the ice (much as the team’s current Joe Louis Arena does), but we hope they will likewise unofficially endorse it because a Red Wings game just wouldn’t be the same without flying cephalopods (perhaps the wildest and most must-see sports tradition).
8. Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
Home to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Los Angeles Kings
Maybe their arena is named after an office supply store because when the Lakers play at Staples Center they mean business. Surprisingly the Clippers don’t play at an actual Staples down the street but share the arena with their hometown rivals. It doesn’t quite have the same name recognition, but the Staples Center acts as the West Coast’s version of Madison Square Garden. Embracing the celebrity ethos and glitz of Hollywood, Staples Center’s VIP services and in-arena nightclub are pure LA. It also has the distinction of being the only arena to house three major sports teams, and there’s no greater sports venue for celebrity sightings. Catch a Lakers game and you’ll likely see Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, or Jack Nicholson. The Clippers may argue there are also celebrities at their games, (does Frankie Muniz count?) but as Jack would say, “They can’t handle the truth.” Good thing the Clippers have that whole winning thing going through.
7. Yankee Stadium in New York, NY
Home to the New York Yankees
Of the newly-built sports venues, Yankee Stadium remains one of the only to hold out and not take a corporate name. Of course, that may be because the Yankees are a giant corporation unto themselves. If “The House That Ruth Built,” “The Cathedral of Baseball,” the original Yankee Stadium, was still standing, it would be higher on this list. That said, the new stadium is still undeniably impressive. Its Monument Park behind center field is an almost religious place worthy of pilgrimage for many baseball fans. The stadium also sports the best baseball museum outside of Cooperstown, which includes its famous “Ball Wall.” Even if the stadium wasn’t as awe-inspiring as it is, you’d still have to go just to witness the most successful franchise in sports history.
6. AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX
Home to the Dallas Cowboys
Love him or hate him, Jerry doesn’t F around. The largest column-free room in the world, AT&T Stadium is a visual wonder. Though its regular seating capacity is around 80,000, it can be converted to seat up to 105,000, making it the stadium with the largest official capacity. In 2009, a game here set the record attendance for the NFL with a crowd of 105,121. With an impressive retractable roof, an enormous HD Jumbotron that stretches from one twenty yard line to the other, and insane art collection, and a $1.3 billion price tag, AT&T Stadium proves true the age-old adage that everything is bigger in Texas.
5. Fenway Park in Boston, MA
Home to the Boston Red Sox
The oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, Fenway Park had its 100th birthday in 2012 and is drenched in history. The Green Monster, a 37 ft. wall in left field is one of the park’s classic features. A ladder which leans against the wall is the only one of its kind in fair play in the MLB. The seats atop the Green Monster are some of the most coveted seats in the park (the Lone Red Seat in the right field bleachers is another). Fenway Park is a reminder of the ballparks of yesteryear. Watching a game here almost feels like hearing whispers in a cornfield. The whispers would say: If you go to Boston, you must come.
4. AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA
Home to the San Francisco Giants
What it lacks in sentimental history or elite amenities, AT&T Park more than makes up for in its amazing view. San Francisco Bay in all of its gorgeous glory lay just past right field. It’s actually the only ballpark accessible by boat—via McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay. Oftentimes, during gameplay, you can see a number of kayakers out in the cove with fishing nets hoping to catch a home run ball. A “Splash Hits” counter at Levi’s Landing lets fans know how many home runs have splashed into the bay since the park’s inception fifteen years ago. Currently, the number is at 68 (with 35 of those by one man, Barry Bonds). AT&T Park is also one of the only sports venues kind enough to allow onlookers who don’t have tickets to watch the game from outside the stadium. The waterfront promenade may not offer the best views of the game, but you can’t beat the price.
3. Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO
Home to the Denver Broncos
When it comes to sports venue views, none are better than the one afforded by Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Rocky Mountains overlook the field like a mother at her son’s practice. No wonder there’s a home-field advantage here for the Broncos. Not only are their players more used to the thin air a mile above sea level in Denver, but with those imposing mountains backing them up, it’d be hard for them not to get a charge from it. Also encouraging is the “Mile High Thunder,” when fans on the upper decks stomp their feet on the metal flooring to show their support and to keep warm. The stadium itself was designed to mirror the mountain range beyond, making every game a breathtaking cordillera of carrot orange.
2. Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
Home to the New York Knicks & the New York Rangers
The “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden has gone through a number of incarnations. The first of these was actually at Madison Square (hence the name). Though the location has moved a few blocks away (and the Knicks suck), the awe the arena inspires has never dissipated. This arena has the most history of any sports venue outside of Fenway and Wrigley. Not only does it have a hallowed place in the annals of basketball and hockey history, but it also is famous for the original Ali-Frazier fight, the first Wrestlemania, the Sun Myung Moon mass wedding, numerous political rallies on both sides of the aisle, and a litany of memorable concerts, including John Lennon’s last live performance, the Concert for Bangladesh, and the Sly & the Family Stone show where Sly got married on the MSG stage.
1. Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL
Home to the Chicago Cubs
Not quite as old as Fenway Park, but with the same bygone-era feel, Wrigley Field just entered the 100-year-old club last year. Nicknamed “The Friendly Confines,” something about this place does feel...well...friendly. With an ivy-covered outfield wall and a hand-turned scoreboard, it might not be as old as Fenway Park, but it has touches that may be even more nostalgic for the aging baseball junkie or the young fan who wants to feel what it was like to watch a game like grandpa did. Harry Caray may not be singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” anymore, but a seventh-inning stretch here just feels different than it does anywhere else. Plus, the surrounding Wrigleyville neighborhood is one of Chicago's best beer, food and game day locales. It’s a venue so great that even after a long game, you’ll enthusiastically quote Ernie Banks and say, “Let’s play two.”