The Opening Day Adventure
Thursday, March 28th, 2019
The beginning of the spring season in the DC Metro Area doesn’t kick off officially until after Washington Nationals opening day. For the 2019 iteration of one of my favorite yearly traditions, I booked a hotel down at the ritzy Wharf neighborhood of southeast DC and planned a day filled with baseball, music and fun. Come along with me on my spring opening day adventure.
We arrived at the metro several hours before game time so we could get a bite to eat before first pitch. Taking the train out of Vienna is the best option due to the traffic, and the fact that parking overnight in DC costs at least $40.
As the metro sped passed the crawling traffic on I-66, we relaxed in our 7,000 series metro car. If it has been a while since you’ve taken public transit into the city, some of the metro cars have been updated for a more efficient, and sleeker look. LCD screens and electronic maps and messages make it easier for tourists, or locals for that matter, to figure out where they are going.
Before we knew it, we were walking out of L’Enfant Plaza and down 12th street towards the Maine Avenue Fish Market. I always grew up knowing this area as “The Wharf” and the recent upscale rebranding of the neighborhood took on that familiar name.
For crowded Nats games, the limited number of restaurants and bars around the stadium are slow and packed with people. So instead of dealing with the crowds, my favorite place to grab a bite is at the old fish market.
Back in the day, this unique section of DC was bustling, and on weekends, Jimmy’s Seafood was the place to be. The owner, Jimmy, would stand on the street outside his barge market, passing out free samples and lemonades to the people. Everyone loved Jimmy. Unfortunately he passed away several years ago, and the place just isn’t the same without him. However, it is still a great place to get a fresh fish sandwich and some gigantic hushpuppies without breaking the bank, so we did just that.
After lunch, we walked down through the upscale and new area of the neighborhood, wondering how the fish market will survive with all the overpriced food and drink surrounding it. Just thinking about property values and the future of the area, I’d recommend you get down there as soon as possible before you miss out on one of the integral parts of living around DC.
Our next stop was the Hyatt Place Hotel, our accommodations for the night. We dropped off our bags and headed next door to Hank’s Oyster Bar. We had some time before first pitch so we decided to grab a drink…a VERY expensive drink. While we were sipping our overpriced beers a bunch of “Nats bros” loudly entered the empty bar area, ordering a round of oyster shooters. Before the waitress could finish with their order I was already ordering mine.
I was excited to try another version of an oyster shooter until it was pointed out to me that the main ingredient was…bloody Mary mix. I HATE tomato juice and anything like it. However, I was a trooper, and when the drink came out I swallowed it down quick. If you want to know how that went, just watch the video, and then remember that the entire day I felt like an oyster was floating around whole in my stomach.
What seemed like a million dollars later, we were off on our 1 mile hike down to the stadium. This walk used to be quite sketchy, but nowadays the entire area has changed. We joined the dozens of fans who had the same idea and eventually approached the stadium. LINES EVERYWHERE!
There are only a few entrances into National’s Park. At each of these entrances there are only a few lines. At the start of those lines is a metal detector and bag search. And DC sports fans…they don’t arrive on time. So 30 minutes before first pitch, there were 30,000 people trying to funnel into the ballpark at the same time. It was a disaster and needless to say, we were not in our seats at first pitch.
When we finally did get into the stadium, the first stop was the beer stand for a delicious Dogfish Head…the cashier rang up the 16oz beer that sells for $4 at the Dogfish Head Alehouse by my house in Fairfax…SIXTEEN DOLLARS! Dagger.
I took my beverage around the concourse and to my favorite seats. The middle level (uncovered) seats in right field, just by the foul poll and only 2 rows from the railing. Max Scherzer was on the mound and pitching lights out, but the Nats still couldn’t pull out a victory.
During the game at some point, I decided to check on StubHub to see what was playing at the Anthem, a new concert venue that is getting rave reviews. Tonight’s act…Jawbreaker! I’m not too familiar with Jawbreaker, but their lead singer was in one of my favorite bands ever, Jets To Brazil, so when I saw that tickets were about 1/4th of face value and under $20, I jumped on it.
After the game we discovered that the Aslin Beer Garden was gone, and there still aren’t many options around the stadium. So we decided to just hit up the Bullpen (a large bar/event outside the game) so we could listen to some live music. At the time we didn’t realize it, but this would be our first of THREE concerts on the day.
Following the madness at the Bullpen we went up to the roof of the Hampton Inn, to a somewhat secret bar called Top Of The Yard. This rooftop oasis has a great view of the ballpark, the river and the surrounding DC area. (sadly, some solar panels added to the Nats Park parking garage have detracted from the view). Another recommendation…check this place out ASAP. Oh, I almost forgot. We ate at the unique DC hot spot called…CAVA (lol).
Soon it was time to head to the hotel for official check-in, so we walked back over to the Wharf. On the way up to the hotel we noticed that there was a new music venue in the basement, and wouldn’t you know it, there was a bluegrass show that same night.
After settling in at the hotel, we took the elevator down to Union Stage, a new music venue in DC. We had a pizza at the bar upstairs and then went downstairs for the free bluegrass show, a band called Big Timber. I LOVE bluegrass shows, to the annoyance of many people, but I had a great time.
Next up was the finale for the day…Jawbreaker…and my first ever visit to Anthem. I had heard how incredible this music venue was, but I was utterly shocked when I stepped inside. It is AMAZING. Unlike the 9:30 Club, this place is a mansion. Lots of space. Lots of bars. Lots of comfort. Super upscale, yet still a concert venue. That being said, nothing is as amazing as an intimate show at a small club like 9:30, but this different scene is also interesting and fun.
I learned a little about Jawbreaker and how back in the day they were punk superstars who’s career was ruined when they toured with Nirvana; fans considered them sellouts and everything fell apart. It turns out this was their once in a lifetime reunion tour, and people, albeit a bit older, were psyched.
I enjoyed the show tremendously, and by the end I gained the courage to push my way to the front of the stage and into the mosh pit. Just as I arrived, they played their hit song Boxcar, one of my favorite punk songs ever, and as soon as the first note hit I was flying in the air smashing into everyone and singing along.
It turned out that was the end of the show, and after that incredible day, it was also the end of our night. We headed back to the hotel and fell asleep within seconds. What an opening day!