My husband and I just returned from the Us Open Tennis Tournament in Flushing, New York. We attended the tournament for 3 days over Labor Day weekend. Wow, it was one of the most amazing weekends we have ever experienced. We learned a lot about the ticketing process, how to save money and how to get autographs from the star players. So I wanted to share what I learned for all of the tennis fans out there who might attend the US Open in the future.
HOW TO GET TICKETS TO THE US OPEN
1. All tickets 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 of buy them from a ticket re-seller for 5X the face price). Here’s how it works: 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. 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.
THE GOOD NEWS: HOW TO GET BETTER SEATS TO US OPEN FOR FREE
1. At every match (even the Federer and Serena games) 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 happily 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, Stosur, James Blake, John Isner and a dozen others warming up just feet away from where we were standing. On the smaller courts, we got autographs from the Harrison brothers and Philipp Kohlschriber. My husband was standing next to Chris Evert and Boris Becker when I ran to the bathroom (Darn!). So if you can’t get tickets to Arthur Ashe, you can still get tickets to enter the park to see all of the other action.
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. 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.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS US OPEN TENNIS?
Once you enter the tennis grounds, the food and drinks are outrageously 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 drinks each.
* Pack snacks or sandwiches in a small bag or purse
* Skip the pricy hotels and book a room on Airbnb.com or Homeaway.com. We booked a room on Airbnb.com 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. Plus, if you attend the day and night matches, you will be gone 15 hours each day anyways, 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.
OTHER RANDOM TIPS:
* 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 you are a tennis fan, add the US Open to your Bucket List TODAY – it is well worth the trip and money!
If anybody reading this has attended the US Open more than I have and has more insider tips to share, please add a comment below.