Are you thinking about attending the US Open Tennis Grand Slam in Flushing, New York? Want insider tips, ways to save money and tricks to getting better seats at the US Open? My husband and I have attended the US Open several times. We did it the “wrong way” the first time, and the right way the second time. This is what we learned:
WHEN TO GO TO THE US OPEN GRAND SLAM
Labor day weekend is definitely the time to attend the US Open. The tournament is in the round of 16 so plenty of your favorite players will still be in the draw – and the matches will be competitive. During Labor Day weekend the junior players start playing. They are impressive to watch. You can also take advantage of a long weekend and take Monday off from work or school.
HOW TO GET TICKETS TO THE US OPEN
All tickets to the US Open are based on seniority. You cannot just buy front row seats like you typically do for a rock concert (unless you get them from your well-connected father, buy them from a ticket re-seller for 5X the face price or you are associated with a sponsor).
Here’s how the tickets work: First of all, there are 3 stadiums (Arthur Ashe, Louis Armstrong and Grandstand) and about 20 smaller courts on the grounds. All of the courts and stadiums are first-come first-serve except Arthur Ashe stadium (the biggest one).
Your first year to attend the US Open, your assigned seats in Arthur Ashe stadium will be the crappy ones at the top of the stadium. The ticket office told me that it takes about 5-7 years to move to the lower level because the US Open has about a 97% renewal rate. As a result, your seats only get better if people don’t renew.
Although our seats in Arthur Ashe were at the top, we still had a blast and could see the games crystal clearly – so don’t let this discourage you from going.
HOW TO GET BETTER SEATS TO US OPEN FOR FREE
1. At every match (even the Federer and Serena matches) there were empty seats at the lower level of our section. Almost every match we sat 20+ rows in front of our assigned seat by moving down to the empty seats.
2. During most matches, people leave early. During one match, we walked down to the lower level near the exit and as a couple was leaving. I simply asked, “Do you plan on returning? If not, may I use your tickets?” They gladly gave us their tickets to re-enter. We scored FREE tickets to the courtside seats simply by asking.
3. One of my favorite parts of the US Open was watching the tennis stars up-close and personal on the practice courts and the matches being played on the smaller courts. On the courts labeled P1-P5, almost every hour on the hour we saw Serena and Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, John Isner and a dozen others warming up just feet away from where we were standing. On the smaller courts, we got autographs from David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Ryan Harrison and Philipp Kohlschriber.
My husband was standing next to Chris Evert and Boris Becker when I returned from the bathroom. So if you can’t get tickets to Arthur Ashe, you can still get grounds passes to enter the park to see matches in the smaller stadiums, watch the stars warm up, get autographs and watch junior players compete.
4. There were several great matches in the Louis Armstrong stadium. Since it is first-come first-serve, I recommend getting in the stadium early. Additionally, if there are two games you want to see which are being played at the same time, I recommend going to the Louis Armstrong game first to guarantee a seat, then move to Arthur Ashe where you have a reserved seat.
5. After all matches on Arthur Ashe, the winner is interviewed by The Tennis Channel outside of the stadium. Know where the broadcasting booth is. You can also see the star players up close if you make a dash to the broadcasting booth. See the photo below of Roger Federer. I took that photo after he was interviewed. Is it just me, or is he looking right at me asking himself ‘I wonder what she is doing later?’ 🙂
HOW EXPENSIVE IS US OPEN TENNIS?
Once you enter the tennis grounds, the food and drinks are expensive. Just to give you an idea what we paid in 2012:
Bottled water or Gatorade: $5
Turkey sandwich: $12 (at a sit-down restaurant: $18)
Vodka mixed drink: $14
TIPS TO SAVE MONEY AT THE US OPEN
- Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up at the water fountains. This alone will save you $20 each day. On the really hot days, we drank 4-6 bottles of water each.
- Pack snacks or sandwiches in a small bag or purse
- Skip the pricy hotels and book a room on Airbnb.com. We booked a room on Airbnb in a lady’s apartment just 6 stops on the train from the US Open. We paid $300 for 4 nights! A hotel would have cost us close to $1000 – so we saved $700. Furthermore, if you attend the day and night matches, you will be gone 15 hours each day, so why pay for an expensive hotel anyways?
WHAT TO BRING TO THE US OPEN
- Comfortable clothes and shoes – you will walk a lot, sit a lot and sweat a lot.
- Sun screen – only non-aerosol cans allowed in the stadium
- Cash – many of the food vendors don’t take cards
- Umbrella or rain poncho – we had a few rain delays and there is very little cover outside the stadiums
- A permanent marker for autographs
- I splurged on a $30 UP OPEN hat. It’s now worth $1 million (wink wink) thanks to the autographs now on it. So buy 1 white hat or t-shirt and ask for autographs on it instead of a piece of paper.
WHAT NOT TO BRING
- Large purses or backpacks. They are not allowed inside the US open grounds. They will force you to pay for a locker provided outside of the facility.
- Small children. The days are long and hot – and tennis is a “gentlemen’s sport” so they expect everyone in the crowd to be silent – including children. You will have a much more positive experience if you find a babysitter.
- High heel shoes. I could not believe how many women I saw walking around in heels. Your tennis club back home might be a fashion show, but the US Open requires a lot of walking. So be practical with your footwear.
OTHER RANDOM TIPS TO THE US OPEN
- Doors to US OPEN don’t open until 10am – so no need getting there at 8am (like my husband and I did the first day!). The lines go very fast. No need waiting in the heat.
- Immediately inside the gates to the right there is a TICKET UPGRADE window. If you want to pay the extra money for better seats (if they are available), you can make a dash for this ticket window as soon as the gates open.
- Oftentimes there are rain delays, so be mentally prepared to stay very late or miss your favorite player completely. I recommend buying tickets for more than 1 day to avoid having your heart broken. If a game is cancelled due to rain, it will be played the next morning.
- If the US Open does not seem do-able due to your schedule or budget, the best bang for your buck is the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, OH. It is a Masters 1000 event (just one level below a Grand Slam) and all of the big tennis stars are there. Plus, the players are much more accessible at the Western and Southern Open than at the US Open.
If you are a tennis fan, add the US Open to your bucket list today – it is well worth the trip and money!
Have you attended the US Open and have additional tips to share? Post them in the comment box below.
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