There are many ways to see the US Open tennis tourney in New York. When do you attend the two-week event—beginning, middle or end? Where do you stay — near the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the borough of Queens or in Manhattan? How much do you want to spend and how close to the action must you be?
Here is one and one experience only. It was fun, reasonably convenient, and moderately priced by New York standards, and allowed close proximity to the players.
We purchased the 2009 US Open Mini-Plan for $206 per person. The mini admits you to events the first three days of the tourney — Monday (day and night), Tuesday (day and night) and Wednesday (day). There are limitations where you can sit in the two largest stadiums, but just about everywhere else is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
We arrived about 9:45 every morning to ensure our preferred seating. Admission into the facility begins at 10 a.m. and tennis at 11 a.m. There are two lines — one for bag carriers and one for no bags. Though the former was long — every bag is checked by security and must not exceed 12 x 12 x 16 inches — we waited no more than about 15 minutes to enter the tennis center with bags in hand. Limit: one bag per person.
Advice: Upon entry, walk briskly to your favored venue to reserve your seat! More on venues later.
By the way, if it rains, you lose. No rain checks — not with our tickets, anyway. Fortunately, we lucked out with superb weather.
Lodging: Manhattan Connection
We wanted to stay in Manhattan to sample some of the city’s activities prior to the US Open. Example: We spent much of Sunday transfixed by the Van Gogh paintings and ancient Egyptian artifacts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s finest. Afterwards, we took a long walk around sunny Central Park, watching the thousands of bicyclists, runners, and roller-bladers, paying respects at the Strawberry Fields memorial dedicated to slain Beatle John Lennon, and listening to the numerous impromptu musicians while munching gelato and soft pretzels garnished with mustard.
We had no desire to stay in the noisy, crowded Times Square district, so instead chose a peaceful section known as Murray Hill on Manhattan’s Midtown East side. Found a 12-story, recently renovated Ramada Inn of brick construction at Lexington and 30th St. The hotel was clean and the rooms nicely decorated, cozy and comfortable, exceptionally quiet, with an ample continental breakfast of cereal, bagels, toast, juice, coffee, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Price was about $150 per night on the late-August nights but rose to $200 as seasonal rates changed on the first of September.
There are many homes, small businesses, everyday workers, students, and a fair number of restaurants in Murray Hill. Lots of Indian cuisine, a barbecue place, a health-food restaurant, Chinese, and an exceptional deli with small grocery store — the Murray Hill Market at 34th and Lexington. And you’re still within walking distance or a short cab or subway ride of major city attractions.
From LaGuardia Airport to the hotel by cab was about a 20-minute drive and cost $30 on a Saturday.
Our Daily Regimen
Here was our tennis agenda each day:
- Eat breakfast at hotel about 7:30 a.m.
- Use computer at hotel business center to print US Open matches and venues for the day.
- Fill water bottles. Don’t make the mistake of buying a bottle of water at the tennis center—that’s about $3.50! Each person is allowed to bring one water bottle. Refill at the water fountains.
- Pack the sunscreen and wide-brim hat. Temperature was in the 80s some days (though later in the tournament, long after we had departed, daytime highs were sometimes in the 60s with wind and rain.). There is hardly any shade in the entire tennis facility, save for one precious respite. More on this below.
- Leave hotel on foot by 8:45 a.m.
- Stop at deli to buy healthy panini sandwiches, fruit, snacks, etc., for lunch. Warning: Only limited food quantities can be brought into US Open.
- Walk about 20 minutes (or take cab) to Penn Station to catch Long Island Railroad train from Manhattan to Flushing Meadows. The train leaves about every half-hour and the ride is 20 minutes. Buy your train tickets well in advance to get lower rate for multiple trips and to prevent delays at departure time. The ticket lines and trains can get crowded! Note: Lots of people recommend the #7 subway from Times Square to the tennis center, but from the Murray Hill area, the train is much faster and more convenient and only about $8 per person, round trip.
- Exit train (photo) and walk some 100 yards to enter tennis center. For possible exploration of Queens or other areas when leaving the tennis facility, note that subway is conveniently located next to train station.
- Watch tennis throughout the day and into the night until eyes bulge like big yellow balls and neck won’t turn.