Opening Day in San Diego is Friday, April 7. To fully embrace the Padres home-opener weekend you need to know: how to arrive and where to park; the most proximal places to eat and drink; and possibly where to stay overnight (and have breakfast/brunch the next day).
Yup, these are the priorities. Fully realize that this year’s young Padres squad is not being described as “World Series-bound.” Or even “Wild Card-sniffing.” But Opening Day in San Diego is a rite of spring. And last year, Petco Park in the East Village was voted the best in Major League Baseball. Plus, Chargers owner Dean Spanos left San Diego with just the one major pro sports team.
So come downtown on Friday ahead of the 3:40 p.m. game start time. Enjoy the free Opening Day Block Party. That four-block stretch of vendors (including beer garden) happens Friday, April 7 from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and repeats on Saturday, April 8 (11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.).
Petco Park’s capacity is 42,445. A predicted 25,000 folks will frolic at the block party. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran of the downtown scene, here’s an insider’s guide to picking the best venues and surviving Opening Day in San Diego.
OPENING DAY PARKING
Yes, the public parking lots ratchet up the prices for Opening Day and for all Padres game days. So don’t drive straight down the 163 freeway and merge onto 10th Avenue in a beeline to the closest lots to Petco Park.
The 1,000 spaces at Tailgate Park are $30 on Opening Day and all Saturdays. Underground parking at the San Diego Convention Center is $25. Rather, the best bargain for a lot that’s within easy walking distance is Park It On Market, at $15 for the day.
Better yet, take the MTS trolley. It stops at three locations near Petco: 12th and Imperial; Park and Market; and Fifth and Harbor.
And know that along with paid ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, there is a downtown free shuttle service called FRED (Free Ride Everywhere Downtown). If you find street parking in Little Italy or the Marina District, you can flag these shuttles down, or summon them by an app. Be advised, waits can be up to 10 minutes. Don’t count on making Opening Day first pitch on a plan to use the FRED app.
A word to the wise on hailing those colorful, boom-box-toting pedicabs: Don’t do it. If you must, negotiate a price before settling into a seat. And if you’re a bicycler yourself and headed to Petco on two wheels—kudos! Avoid Market Street and stick to Island Avenue.
OPENING DAY EATS & DRINKS
It’s going to be crowded on Opening Day, and the Saturday (5:40 p.m.) and Sunday (1:40 p.m.) games against the San Francisco Giants may also draw lots of people to the East Village environs, including:
Quartyard (1102 Market Street). This outdoor asphalt park offers full bar, food trucks, picnic tables and the ever-popular cornhole game. Great vibe. Note: It’s close to the Park and Market trolley stop.
Several other popular places will be elbow-to-elbow. The thin-crust pizzas are a hit at Basic (410 Tenth Avenue). Dive bar Tivoli’s J Street patio will be filled. Half Door Brewing (903 Island Avenue) offers two floors of indoor/outdoor fun. And if you want to be above it all, take an elevator in the Marriott San Diego Gaslamp Quarter up to Altitude Sky Lounge (660 K Street). The rooftop bar offers a partial view right down into Petco Park.
OPENING DAY OVERNIGHT
If you want, or need, to make a night of it downtown after the Padres give it their best during Opening Day weekend, there are a multitude of hotels within walking/stumbling distance. No overnight accommodations are closer than the Omni (675 L Street), which is attached to Petco by a guest-only bridge. The fresh, green, clean and pet-friendly Indigo Hotel has ballpark views at 509 Ninth Avenue. If you choose to bed down at the nearby Kimpton Solamar San Diego (435 Sixth Avenue), take advantage of the sun-dappled rooftop pool and bar. On Opening Day, the Solamar pool bar will have a DJ, food specials and $6 Moscow mules.
BREAKFAST & BRUNCH
It’s Day Two, and you are awake, again—and hungry. There’s plenty of time for breakfast or brunch before the Padres show up in earnest to take the field. One of the newest East Village spots specializing in the morning meal is the eclectic Breakfast Republic (707 G Street). Vietnamese Chicken Wing Breakfast Bowl? Believe it or not, yes. There are some long lines around downtown for breakfast, so avoid them and head for the rustic-chic ambiance and the Italian fare at Bottega Americano (1195 Island Avenue). And, it’s a little off-the-beaten path, but Halcyon (1429 Island Avenue) is an East Village oasis. You have to order the avocado smooshed toast. The only dilemma: deciding to get it topped with smoked salmon or prosciutto.
Remember: A satiated Padres fan is a happy Padres fan.