If you look at most ballpark ratings, you’ll usually find the same parks near the top, and the same parks near the bottom. One park that has a lot of variance is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ home. Some have it squarely pegged as a Top 5 park. Others, have it somewhere in the middle. I have it at the bottom of the second tertile.
Despite having the largest capacity in baseball, Dodger Stadium is often full and rollicking. The weather is almost always perfect. The setting in Chavez Ravine is lovely. But the concessions are below league average, it’s an absolute nightmare to get to, and if you decide to beat the traffic and arrive early, you can’t tailgate due to problems with unruly fan behavior in the past.
I’ve spotted many celebrities here; once I even sat next to top poker player Gabe Kaplan, best-known as the titular character in the 70’s TV comedy Welcome Back Kotter. I have seen some memorable games here. But at the risk of angering some of the place’s die-hard supporters, I think it’s overrated.
Exterior aesthetics 7/10; Interior & Concourse Aesthetics 8/10; Sightlines & seating 9/10; Amenities & entertainment 7/10; Flow 3/5; Celebrating history 4/5; Scoreboards 5/5; Grand entrance 3/5; Sense of place 10/10; WOW Factor 28/30. Total 84 points divided by 2 for 42.
The Major League’s third oldest park, Dodger Stadium has 5,000+ more seats than any other park in baseball but doesn’t feel cavernous. Tucked into the ravine with a nice view of the San Gabriel mountains, once you’re here it feels almost serene.
- The color scheme of the seating bowl is phenomenal and conjures up a mid-century California aesthetic. The team reverted to its original color scheme of pastel yellows, oranges, greens, teals and blues, and it fits nearly perfectly with the surrounding natural landscape under the blue SoCal sky. Set amongst some palm trees, the interior conjures up the California dream.
- The view from behind the plate in an elevated section is one of the most visually pleasing views in all of baseball. There’s a “Wow factor” here.
- There are enough seats under overhangs that will allow you to find shade if that’s a priority
- The hexagonal shaped scoreboards are unique and iconic (albeit smaller by modern standards)
- The waved pavilion roofs are telegraphic and aesthetically pleasing
- The stadium is built right into the hill, accentuating the park’s minimalist appeal. It feels like it belongs in the space.
- Infield Field Level and Loge sections are small with aisles every 8 seats in many areas allowing for easier concession runs
- The playing surface looks immaculate and as green as there is
- While a little tricky to find, there is a nice memorabilia collection for this storied franchise on the suite concourse level
- Traffic flow in the terraced parking lots are highly controlled out of necessity. Alas, you’re forced into a lot which could mean a long walk to your gate entrance or the need to navigate inside the stadium to get your seat. As the lots are terraced, the closest gate may let you in the reserved seating deck (4th deck), which could suck if you’re trying to get to field level.
- Until recently, the Dodgers would not allow you in another level other than your ticketed one. As such there are relatively few escalators that can get you from level to level inside. When they changed the parking rules, there was a greater need to navigate between levels. Plus many fans just want to check out the whole place. As such, you were forced to use stairs or wait awhile for one of only a few elevators. Admittedly, the renovations added some needed elevators and made between-level traffic easier, but it’s still trickier than with other places.
- Social areas were never this park’s strengths given it was build in another era. This is an issue because you really want to arrive early to beat traffic…alas, the great view can only capture your attention for so long. The new centerfield entrance area has some cool stuff including a speed pitch, some social areas, and some memorabilia displays. There’s a cool bobblehead collection in left. And you can try to eat pre-game to prevent the long mid-game lines. But it’s still a stretch to constantly fill 90-minutes of pre-game more than once or twice a season.
- Because the park is built into a hill, there isn’t really a grand main entrance like with other parks. The new centerfield gate is about as close as it comes. But most gates look like you’re entering a minor league facility.
- Concourses are narrow (as many tended to be back in the day), which when coupled with long mid-inning lines can make getting around the park difficult
In the end, it’s a park with clean lines and wonderful visual appeal. It’s been kept up spectacularly; Dodger Stadium feels fresh despite its age.
There’s a relative paucity of really good food at Dodger Stadium, and it may cost you 1-2 innings to get it. There’s the Chicken and Waffle sandwich on the reserve level, and the Portobello Mushroom Burger. Several Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes are pretty good including the Al Pastor fries (or barbacoa), the Cheet-O-lote (corn on the cob topped with chipotle mayo, cojita cheese and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), the Carne Asada Torta, and the taco dog. The King’s Hawaiian Grill offers several good dishes including a tasty mac and cheese hot link burrito. Bonus point for the Shake Shack in centerfield, though you may need to go early lest you miss innings for their fantastic burger. And the quinoa and chickpea salad from The Healthy Cart reminds you you’re in LA (though I can’t vouch for how it tastes).
But I hate losing innings for food. So if I’m hungry, I grab my personal fave: a grilled Dodger Dog with mustard and onions. The Dodger Dog is another of those items that generates a lot of controversy. While some complain it’s too long, too thin and made from pork (not beef), I think it’s a classic and one of baseball’s better dogs.
The LA beer scene is good. So why do I have to wait so long and pay so much for a good beer? I wonder if the Dodgers are leaving money on the table by not having more portable beer carts? At $20 for a craft brew, I shouldn’t have to wait!
Plenty of Mexican beers are available if that’s your bag. And AB’s Golden Road is the most ubiquitous of the “locals” with many concessions having it on tap. Craft brews are also available from Santa Monica Brew Works, Three Weavers, Coronado, Topa Topa Brewing, Modern Times, El Segundo Brewing Company, Stone, and Ballast Point among others. After waiting for as long as you do, you’re tempted to order two, until you realize the price.
Dodger Stadium is only 1.5 miles from the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown. But it might as well be 15 miles. Separated by the parking lots and elevation, Dodger Stadium is its own neighborhood. Frustratingly close, yet still far.
They say nobody walks in LA. That’s certainly true when it comes to Dodger Stadium. There are some “walkable” bars on Sunset Boulevard that you can go pre-game, but the walk back to the stadium involves “dodging” traffic while hauling uphill.
Within 3 miles you have some great craft breweries and several fun bars in DTLA, but you’re likely then back in a car/cab/Lyft fighting traffic into the stadium parking lot.
Dodger Stadium is one of the pricier visits in the Bigs if you’re looking for a good seat. Parking isn’t cheap and concessions will run you a pretty penny as well. I guess the league’s biggest payroll needs to be funded somehow.
While Los Angeles traffic is legendary, Dodger Stadium traffic is a whole new level. Getting here on a weeknight game is absolutely brutal. There was once when I was coming back from San Diego and I was 2 miles from the ballpark at 5:50pm for a 7pm start. By the time I finally got into the parking lot, parked and navigated to my seat, it was the bottom of the 3rd. Granted, I parked in Gate A, rather than the less crowded Gates D or C, but still! If any team needs to consider free flow parking (i.e. your license plate is photographed and you pay by app after you park), it’s this one.
And there’s really no other choice but a vehicle of some sort: yours, an uber, or even the Union Station Dodger Stadium Express bus all rely on street access (albeit the latter has some dedicated lanes). I hope the Elon Musk tunnel or the Union Station gondola become a reality because no other ballpark does the trip to the park create such grief as this one. I dread it, and “dread” should never be a word used when it comes to going to a ballgame. It’s the worst single issue that ANY park faces in baseball, and that includes the raw sewage leak problems in Oakland.
Once you’ve finally made it, if your blood is boiling, you can calm back down and enjoy another pristine day or night in LA. Great weather is as sure a bet as the traffic jam getting here.
Dodger fans get a rap for arriving late and leaving early. I blame that on access issues rather than indifference to the game.
The place draws incredibly well; it’s not uncommon to have 50,000+ fans there for a weekday early season divisional game. LA’s large Hispanic community make up an increasing percentage of the fans, which has elevated the buzz and enthusiasm level significantly. And while LA is still somewhat of a transplant city, fans wearing opposing gear should expect a few heckles (usually good natured, but sometimes profane). The vibe here is way more intense especially compared fans at the other two SoCal parks.
It’s a relatively knowledgeable fan base that doesn’t always need prompting by the Diamondvision to get loud; even when the beach balls come out in the middle innings, the focus is still on the game. The South California weather helps create a really comfortable atmosphere. If you head up to the Top Deck, you can watch the game like God would. And while ushers are somewhat strict with checking tickets, they are incredibly professional so you feel like you’re in good hands at Dodger Stadium.
Bottom line, you get East Coast vibe in a California setting which isn’t a bad combination. Plus, you’ll likely do some celebrity spotting if you have decent seats.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
Three fun area restaurants (who says you have to eat “light” in LA?):
The best place to grab a bite within walking distance of the stadium is Guisados, a taco stand straight out of central casting. If you’re willing to go a little further, within 20 minutes of the park I suggest:
- Phillippe the Original (Downtown. Home of the original French dip sandwich.)
- Wexler’s Deli (Grand Central Market. Good pastrami sandwiches – try the Macarthur Park)
- Louder’s (Koreatown. Unassuming place in a strip mall serving up great Korean BBQ and maybe the best chicken wings in Southern California.)
Three places to imbibe before the game:
The closest the Dodgers have to an official pre-game bar is the Short Stop, a dive bar filled with fellow baseball fans within “walking” distance (though those hills are killers). Here are three others that are “close”.
- Highland Park Brewery. (Chinatown. Great brewpub making acclaimed beers only 1.5 miles away. While there, you can also hit the fantastic Chinatown outpost of Homage Brewing for a great one-two punch)
- Wurstkuche (Arts District. Great sausages, great beer and close to three other breweries. About 2.5 miles from the park)
- Thunderbolt (Echo Park. Inspired by the American South, they offer great cocktails, a strong wine list, good beer, and killer biscuits. About 1 mile west of the stadium.)
One bar in the area worth hitting:
Little Bear Bar (Arts District. Belgian-inspired bar food and an absolutely killer tap list.)
Three craft breweries in the area worthy of your time:
- The breweries in the Arts District. There are three good ones within half a mile of each other: Arts District Brewery (brewpub with games and 20+ offerings); Angel City Brewing (impressive space and good brews); and Mumford Brewery (they do a great hazy IPA and may be the best of the three, though you’re getting awfully close to Skid Row).
- Monkish Brewing (Torrance. Out of the way, hard to park, and always overcrowded, but the IPAs and stouts have a cult following for good reason. While in the area, you can also walk over to Smog City to offset the high effort trip, or drive an extra 10.5 miles south to Brouwerij West, a fun spot in San Pedro.)
- Three Weavers (Inglewood. Solid offerings and food trucks in a place closer to So-Fi Stadium)
Three fun tourist attractions in the area:
- Universal Studios Hollywood (Best one-day theme park in America.)
- Hollywood Walk of Fame (Do it once to say you did.)
- Venice Beach (The ultimate people-watching beach, though got a little gritty for a few years.)
It really is too bad that the trip in and out of the park is so brutal because it mars an otherwise timeless, classic baseball experience. You really are thrown back in time here, not like Wrigley or Fenway, but to 1960’s California. Marcia Brady should take your ticket. Add a large, fairly intense, multicultural crowd, and there’s a sense of importance to a mid-season game.
If you just add the Stadium and Vibe scores, Dodger Stadium rates highly. If they improve the food and beer situation as they did in San Diego and Cleveland, they can shoot up the list. But until they build a teleporter, getting in and out will still be FUBAR. And that really detracts from the experience.