There is some truth to the adage, falsely attributed to Mark Twain, that says, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”
We went to a Giants game at AT&T Park on July 27 — Ron’s birthday — and were freezing at the stadium. There is one walkway in particular — near The Garden behind the center field wall — that acts like a wind tunnel on the San Francisco Bay.
The cold weather was just one aspect that made AT&T Park sort of a letdown, especially since our lofty expectations were set especially high based on everything we had heard about the stadium.
At least Ron did get to see his Milwaukee Brewers win.
The geography that makes San Francisco appealing also makes getting there challenging. Many people do not drive into the city, but instead take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) light rail. I hear even that can be very crowded on workdays. According to the Giants’ MLB transportation page, parking at lots nearby can cost at least $40.
Secure bike parking is available on the Portwalk near the Dignity Health Center, and is operated by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The organization does not charge, but takes donations.
We chose to drive from the RV park in Vallejo, because we were not sure we could get back on the ferry after the game. Apparently the terminal is right there, so you might look into that option. We did get to take in some nice scenery along the walk from Fisherman’s Wharf, and if you book ahead, you can park there for as little as $10.
Whether you drive or take a ferry, plan at least an hour to get to AT&T Park. It’s not really accessible and San Francisco’s famed streetcar system was very unreliable the night we went.
While we found out later you can save money by paying for parking in advance, the cheapest spot we found to park was at Fisherman’s Wharf for $30. This is three miles from the stadium, but we decided we’d wait for the F-line to take us to the stadium. We waited for about 15 minutes and then decided to walk, which we didn’t actually mind that much. We never did see that streetcar roll by.
The same thing happened after the game and this time we weren’t alone. Six other people took the streetcar from the stadium to the Embarcadero station and then went to the F-line platform. There again we waited until Patti and I had enough after more than 20 minutes and started to walk again. By the time we walked the three miles to the Wharf, about 200 yards from where our car was parked, the F-line finally rolled by.
That just put a cap on what was an extremely frustrating day.
There are a lot of great places to sit in this stadium with good views of the game, the city, and the Bay. Walking along the pathway around the outfield, we saw a few boats waiting to catch a foul ball. However, summer may not be the best time to go. The persistent Karl the Fog tends to obscure the views and make it cold, not what we expected in California.
If one prepares for it, they will certainly enjoy the atmosphere as the fans are into the game and there are nice amenities. Perhaps we’ll have to go back another year in the month of September, when Karl is away.
On a clear day, AT&T Park offers a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding area. Unfortunately for us, the ever-present summer fog hindered our view on the July 27 game.
That said, AT&T Park is still a beautiful venue with passionate fans and plenty of amenities to keep kids of all ages entertained.
Patti and Ron both say:
There is a huge variety of food options at AT&T Park. Gilroy garlic fries were the one thing most recommended to us. Because we ate garlic fries at Safeco Field in Seattle and we had dinner at Boudin Bakery prior to the game, we opted out on the garlic fries.
We wanted to try Orlando Cepeda’s Cha Cha Bowl nachos, but by the time we located the stand in the outfield concourse — after walking around the stadium — in the eighth inning, the stand was closing. Ron spent too much time stopping to chat with people and tell them about our trip, so we missed out on another highly recommended treat. We got a tasty Ghirardelli sundae instead, despite the cold weather.
The John McGraw Derby Grill is also a popular burger spot and has a vegetarian burger called “The Impossible Burger.”
While there is plenty to eat and drink at AT&T Park, the items do come with a steep price.
The best way to sum up AT&T Park is to say it’s kid-friendly with several amenities for children, but it is not family-friendly because most families aren’t able to afford the high costs of tickets, parking and concessions.
Tickets aren’t that bad, but parking is a nightmare — both in terms of availability and price — and the concessions are outrageous. While many people in San Francisco earn a good wage, the cost of living is very high. Ron had one person tell him he’s “never made so much before and felt more broke at the same time.”
AT&T Park was ranked in 2016 as the most expensive MLB stadium to see a game and costs have substantially increased over the last two years. A 22-ounce “premium” craft beer carries a price tag of $19.25. A 14-ounce domestic is $8.25. Add another six ounces and that price goes to $12. If you want to sample what the team calls a “specialty beer,” that will be $13 for 16 ounces — though we saw prices also set at $15.
Don’t drink? You can still expect to pay between $8 and $10 for a soda and a hot dog is $6.25 — a full dollar more than the MLB average.
You can bring in your own food, as is the case at every MLB stadium, and unopened plastic bottles of non-alcoholic beverages. That is suggested if you have a large group.
AT&T Park has a lot to offer. The giant baseball mitt and Coca-Cola bottle are popular, especially because the Coke bottle contains multiple slides for kids to go down. At the bottom of the slides, children can walk a short distance to the wiffle ball field on the outfield concourse. The outfield wall on that miniature field doubles as an aquarium with several fish, including small sharks swimming inside.
When the kids are done, they can walk over to the adjacent Ghirardelli Chocolate stand for some ice cream — or hot chocolate (or both). You can also watch the game from the right-center field concourse while sitting in a Ghirardelli streetcar.
As we mentioned in the atmosphere section, AT&T Park does have a wonderful view of the bay on a clear day. Even with the fog, wind and cold temperatures, we saw several people hanging out in the area behind the center-field scoreboard admiring the view. The best spot to see the waterfront and the Bay Bridge is in the right field area of the View Level on the upper deck.
The outfield concourse has several things to see — as well as multiple concessions stands. Patti snapped pictures of the historic home run markers. There is a milepost with the distances to various locations.
Statues to honor Giants greats like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry welcome you to the stadium.
There is even a giant Willie Mays Bobblehead at the entrance to a small shop with an entire wall of Bobbleheads.
The Garden is also a unique feature of AT&T Park. It is a large concessions area behind the center-field wall and is an actual garden. The plants and herbs grown in The Garden are actually included in the food sold at the three concessions stands.
San Francisco is a stunning city from afar with the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, The Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf and its many piers, and the Bay Bridge, and the plethora of hills that create its distinctive landscape.
But when you get into the city itself, you realize it has its issues like any other large city. San Francisco has bad drug and homeless problems and it’s gained a reputation as one of the country’s dirtiest cities.
While we didn’t see any of the human waste that has made headlines recently, we did encounter several homeless people and one guy offered Ron a joint outside a shop at Fisherman’s Wharf. After Ron declined, the guy lit up — marijuana is legal in California.
As for the good in San Francisco, there is plenty to see. We took a bay cruise and rode out to the Golden Gate Bridge, going underneath the massive structure, and went around Alcatraz.
We ate at Boudin — San Francisco’s oldest business — and walked up to the Coit Tower and took in the city’s history thanks to the many murals that decorate the walls inside the lobby.
We didn’t get an opportunity to experience even half of what we would have liked to in San Francisco. There is so much to see and do in the Golden Gate City. Despite its issues, San Francisco is a destination spot for a reason.
But as the old phrase goes, it’s a nice place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there.