The US Open is the last of any year’s Grand Slam Tournaments in tennis. If you live near or are visiting the Northeast United States in the two weeks surrounding Labor Day and love tennis, seeing this tournament live is a must! If you aren’t near it is worth planning a trip to see, so add it to your bucket list. In my seven years of going, I have seen pretty much every major tennis player play and most from just a few feet away. Read on to see my tips for getting the most out of your trip and plan your US Open experience.
Table of Contents
- 1 Location of the Tournament
- 2 The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
- 3 Getting There
- 4 How does the tournament work?
- 5 On which date should I go?
- 6 Where should I sit?
- 7 Which session would you like to attend?
- 8 How to eat at the Open without waiting in line for an hour
- 9 Where Can I Buy Tickets?
- 10 I traveled all the way for the US Open, what else should I do?
Location of the Tournament
What is now the US Open began in Newport, Rhode Island in 1881 but was soon moved to New York state. It was not referred to as the US Open until 1968. Since 1978 it has been in its current location in the New York City borough of Queens in Flushing Meadow at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. This is where the 1964 World’s Fair was held. Queens is on Long Island across the East River from Manhattan.
The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
The complex contains DecoTurf, a fast-moving acrylic, hard court surface, which makes for exciting serve and volley games. All the courts are lit. The main court is in Arthur Ashe Stadium. It seats 22,547 and is the largest outdoor tennis-only stadium in the world. The biggest games are played in this stadium where a roof was just installed in 2016.
They also just created a new fairly large Grandstand Stadium and the new Louis Armstrong Stadium with a retractable roof. Some of the best games I have seen have been in these smaller stadiums that offer some general seating and where, with patience and planning, you can be really close to these tennis all-stars. There are also many side courts where you can find great games. The Center also has numerous restaurants, stores and vendor areas where you can have fun playing games or testing your serve.
Car: Public transportation to the area is so good, but if you really want to drive there is parking available. Expect traffic congestion.
Subway: The 7 Train from Grand Central is about a 25-minute ride right to the front of the stadium at the Mets-Willets Point Station. When I am in NYC, I use the New York Subway iPhone app, which makes finding the right subway very simple.
You can check out US Open’s Transportation page for further directions.
How does the tournament work?
The US Open is held over two weeks, with the field of competitors dwindling down until the end when there are only two individuals or teams in each category standing to battle in a final match. There are five main categories of play: woman’s singles, woman’s doubles, men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles, but you can also catch juniors and wheelchair tennis (on years when the Paralympics does not take place) during the tournament. Check out the main schedule.
On which date should I go?
As expected, the closer you get to the finals, the steeper the ticket prices get. Early on in the tournament, you can catch big players in challenge matches on the outer courts. I usually go on the first Friday (day 5 of play) because I like seeing the players play up close. By doing this I have seen almost every highly ranked player over the last 5 years: the Williams sisters playing both doubles and singles, Nadal, Federer, Azarenka, Keys, the Bryan brothers, Djokovic, Wozniacki, Tsonga, Cilic, Querrey, Halep, Keys and Rawdwanska among others.
Where should I sit?
You can buy a reserved seat for Arthur Ashe, Louis Armstrong or Grandstand Stadiums. Although all the tickets will get you admission to the side courts, the grounds and the general admission areas of the Louis Armstrong and Grandstand Stadiums, you can only enter Arthur Ashe stadium with seats bought specifically for it. As expected, tickets to Arthur Ashe stadium are the most expensive. Grounds tickets are also available early in the tournament. They allow you into the general admission areas and are a great way to see the games, even if you can’t afford to spend a lot. Sit on the south side of Arthur Ashe (around section 240) if you would like to avoid the sun for a longer period.
Which session would you like to attend?
You can purchase morning or evening session tickets. If you buy a morning ticket you can enter the stadium at 10 am (or 11 am in the finals) and you are likely to see three games in Arthur Ashe Stadium. For the night games, you enter the grounds at 6 pm and are likely to see two games. It seems to me that the more sought after men’s matches occur during the night sessions, but more of the grounds games are over so you have fewer options outside of Arthur Ashe stadium. If you buy morning sessions they don’t kick you off the grounds, so you can spend the evening in the general admission areas. I always buy day sessions.
How to eat at the Open without waiting in line for an hour
At the Open you can buy almost any food you can imagine from a lobster roll to chicken tikki masala. There are food kiosks in all the big stadiums as well as a large food court. Most people eat in the food court at regular meal times. The wait for most food stalls really is an hour long. The shortest is the Curry line. Eating off-peak or in the stadiums usually save you time in line. One of my favorite meals is the shrimp and lobster salad which is found in the Grandstand. Not too expensive for around $20 considering a taco is $10.
You are allowed to bring food into the US Open and that is a great way to save time and money. You cannot bring metal or glass containers.
Where Can I Buy Tickets?
If you are a United States Tennis Association member (the nonprofit that sponsors and runs the tournament, as well as local league play), you can buy tickets early and get a deal.
Otherwise, check out US Open’s ticket site to buy your tickets. If you are traveling to the game, these tickets do not go on sale until the summer. So you may want to buy tickets through a third party to ensure you have tickets before planning your trip.
I traveled all the way for the US Open, what else should I do?
The US Open is a great excuse to visit all of New York City. I routinely stay over in Manhattan when I go to the US Open and spend some time enjoying this cosmopolitan city with its great museums, sites and food. Check out my New York City articles for more ideas on ways to spend time! I usually stay near Grand Central Station since I can leave my bag there then get it before I catch a train home. I stay at the Roosevelt Hotel or the Radisson Martinique on Broadway.
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For more information visit the US Open official site and I hope to see you at this year’s games! Have you been to a tennis Grand Slam? Any great memories?