I love tennis. I grew up playing as a child, went through a number of adult years not playing it (when I lived in NYC…lack of courts = difficult to play), and now that we live in suburbia with a number of courts, I play it whenever I can. I am in my zone, so to speak, and it is my happy place. Which is why I really wanted to take my girls to the U.S. Open’s Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day this past Saturday. Suffice it to say, it was not my happy place. Some of it was my own fault, however, in not preparing wisely for the day. It wasn’t a total bust of a day – there were some good elements to it – but if you’re not into crowds and lines, this may not be the event for you. I don’t want to be too discouraging though, so have listed some pointers at the bottom for how to best prepare. Things I wish we knew.
Let me go through a break down of our day. First of all, we should have left our house much earlier than we did for the line-up of activities, which included tennis viewing, face painting, balloon making, etc. The day goes from 9:30 – 3:00, with the main show in the main stadium at 1:00. I figured let’s get there around 10/10:30 so the kids aren’t completely wiped out by the time the show starts. I thought that was smart thinking. Well, we of course hit traffic going there, and then we were stuck in a long line to park, and by the time we parked, it was after 11:00. The line for the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the stadium was so out of control long we decided to walk. Already we were dealing with crazy lines, which is a major theme for the course of the day. We get to the stadium, and there’s another long line to walk through security (thank god we didn’t have a stroller – whoa – that line ten times worse!), and as we’re finally going through security they confiscate my spray kids suntan lotion. What? As someone mentioned, it was worse than airport security.
So, I sprayed the kids – and us – down, threw the bottle in the trash and proceeded on. I haven’t mentioned how hot it was. Very hot. We tried to watch some exhibition matches in the sun, but just couldn’t after a while. We tried to do some face painting and balloon making, but the lines were beyond. We eventually stumbled upon a mixed doubles exhibition match (tailored to kids) with stands in the shade, and hung out there for a while. My girls were into it, so that was good. That was a really enjoyable part of the day – the fact that we landed coveted seats in the shade for one of the more popular matches. Then the kids got hungry. It was past their lunch time. Can’t say enough how pissed I was at myself for not bringing snacks, because what followed was, as my brother would say, a “total junk show”.
The food court was mayhem. Lines for every restaurant winded around like 20 giant snakes battling it out. We walked and we walked, but could not find a single place to get some food. My girls, at this point, were freaking out. I was too. My hunger suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks – that combined with the sun and heat – and I was one light-headed mama. Seriously, I thought I might pass out and had to hold onto my husband for dear life. Never mind the poor kids! We finally got in line at the least tempting of the restaurants and after a lifetime of a wait eventually got our food and scarfed it down in nanoseconds. On the bleachers in the sun because we couldn’t find a table to sit at.
Finally, it was time for the show, and – of course! – crazy line to get into the stadium. Everyone around us was saying they had never seen the U.S. Open like this – but then again none of them had probably ever been to Kids’ Day. We finally got in and because our seats were general admission, finding seats without a terrible view was a #$%@show. But we made it, to seats very high up….and a beer later I was much better. (I have vertigo, so that combined with the claustrophobia of the whole situation practically pushed me over the edge. Metaphorically speaking, and actually, literally too). The show was fine – some up and coming Disney type singers, kids’ dance performances, Djokovic playing against some kids, that kind of stuff. I enjoyed it actually. And my girls have never been to a sporting event like this, so they were intrigued as well. They liked hearing that Djokovic is the number 1 player in the world, and all that. At least my older daughter did.
Yet because of all the lines and crowds madness, we decided to cut out early so we could get to our car and peel out of there and not be stuck in a “line”. As we were walking down, the crowd suddenly went crazy – Serena Williams had just come out. I made everyone stop and explained to my girls who Serena is, and how this is a very important year for her, as she is trying to make history. The excitement in the crowd was palpable – people were going wild – and if for just that it was totally worth it. It was amazing. We eventually continued on, and got to our car easily, and left the lot easily, and drove home easily. When I asked my older daughter if she’d want to go again next year, she said, “Yes. I wish we stayed longer today”. Ok then! Not a total bust. I guess maybe we will go. And for that, here are my tips:
- Arrive early. Especially if a.) you want to catch a shuttle from the parking lot and b.) you want to do the kids crafts stuff and c.) you want to get good seats at a Nadal match, which we missed the boat on.
- Apply suntan lotion BEFORE going to stadium! You don’t want it being confiscated.
- Don’t bring any water bottles – those will be confiscated too.
- Bring snacks – lots of them! Or better yet, lunch. Restaurant lines horrendous.
- Go into the main stadium for the show a good half hour before show is to start to get decent seats. And to avoid the crowds and lines and general mayhemness!
- Get a beer BEFORE you go to your seats, if you’re having beer.
- In general, just plan to do everything EARLY and be prepared for crowds!