How to Hack the US Open

The US Open hosts an insane amount of tennis. Here’s how to get the most out of your experience.

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When it comes to the fan experience, the US Open is one of the best annual sporting events in the country. A recent upgrade to the grounds has added a whole new layer of possibilities: Rain-outs are less of an issue thanks to new rolling roofs on the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums, and getting information about who is playing when is more reliable than ever. 

Whether you’re new to the event or a veteran attendee, the amount of options is dizzying. Triangulating the best possible experience is a fluid situation, where new options arise constantly and every year is a little bit different. What’s the best way to attack? 

ONE37pm has got you. Based on insight and experience, here’s how to thrive at the US Open.

Getting Tickets

The US Open’s website gives the prospective buyer the most options.

The Grounds Pass used to be an alluring prospect, long considered one of the best deals in sports. But the pass doesn’t allow access to the main stage, Arthur Ashe Stadium. In recent years, a cheap Ashe ticket—which allows you full access to the grounds and the stadium itself—has often been around the same price as a Grounds Pass. So get the stadium seat and have access to everything, as well as a bit of rain insurance since both Ashe and Armstrong stadiums have retractable roofs.

As Open-goers’ plans change throughout the week, it’s always worth checking out the ticket situation the day of big night matchups, which were just added to Louis Armstrong Stadium as of last year. The atmosphere under the lights is pretty awesome, so we definitely recommend grabbing tickets.

The Bag Policy Situation

While the US Open’s reputation as the most fun and laid-back tennis major to attend is well earned, the bag policy is very restrictive. (One year I actually tossed out a backpack rather than stand in the infinitely long bag-check line.) So familiarize yourself with their policy—NO BACKPACKS—before heading out to Flushing. There are designated Speed lines for bag-free fans, so you’ll get into the action faster without one. 

If you do need to check a bag, you’ll pay a nominal fee—there’s no free storage at the US Open grounds. 

What to Eat and Drink

In recent years, New York City’s stadium spaces have been part of a vending revolution. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden now both host big-name chefs and provide many options outside the usual ballpark fare. The US Open is no different—in recent years it’s had a Fuku, burger stands from meat guru Pat LaFrieda and an oyster bar with menus curated by Lure Fishbar. Even well-regarded city barbecue outpost Hill Country will have a stand. You don’t need to book a hard-to-come-by reservation at one of the facility’s restaurants in order to have a great food experience at the US Open.

However, while the food is fairly priced relative to other sporting events, it’s not cheap.

As for drinking, the Honey Deuce cocktail—which is a lemonade and Grey Goose concoction garnished with melon balls—has become a famous item.

What’s the Best Value, Tennis-Wise?

This question involves some ordering of preferences. Would you rather see a top-five player up close, or would you rather just binge on tennis from gates open to gates close? (Tennis writer P.J. Simmons has an information-heavy, granular approach to assessing your needs, which is worth visiting if you’re looking for a highly curated experience.) In addition, the US Open has a great variety of ticket options available that won’t hurt your wallet.

The day sessions involve tennis on all courts, whereas night sessions are held in Louis Armstrong Stadium (for the first six nights) or Arthur Ashe Stadium, typically featuring big stars. The new Louis Armstrong Stadium, which opened in 2018, featured some of the biggest names in tennis last year, including Naomi Osaka, Juan Martín del Potro, Maria Sharapova and Stan Wawrinka.

If you’re hoping to see one player in particular, you might want to watch the US Open app like a hawk in order to figure out when they’re playing. Ticket prices escalate as the field gets smaller, so if you’re in it for tennis volume and you don’t mind seeing a great player take on a humongous underdog, the first week of the tournament is one of the best values. Fan Week, which is also held on the Flushing grounds and is free to the public, is also a great way to see interesting young players and qualifiers.

However, there’s nothing like sitting close for a huge match, a semi or a final, and feeling the on-court emotions radiate throughout the stadium. So while lower-level match tickets at Ashe might not ostensibly scan as a great deal, the splurge is worth it—that value is immense. 

If that idea doesn’t register for you, every single seat at Louis Armstrong Stadium has a great view of the action for a fraction of the price.