Though Serena Williams ended her illustrious 27-year career in the third round, the 2022 US Open was a grand affair. There have been surprises — old vanguards Osaka, Nadal, Medvedev and Raducano fell, while ascending stars Coco Gauff, Frances Tiafoe, and Carlos Alcaraz ushered in a new era.
Other surprises were less pleasant — a record-breaking 72,039 tennis fans on Friday, long lines, a heat wave, $35 for chicken fingers and fries, and $45 for the giant tennis ball every child seemed to be carrying around. Like any major event in the world spotlight, the US Open is not for the faint of heart. Yet, there are a few tips and tricks that can make for an easier trip, particularly with kids in tow.
- Stay on the subway line.
Forget about parking. Instead take the 7 train between Main Street in Flushing, Queens and 34th Street–Hudson Yards in Chelsea, Manhattan. The Vista LIC Hotel is an 8-minute walk from the line and 20-minute ride to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (The posh rooftop restaurant and view of Manhattan is an added bonus!) Another option is the Four Points by Sheraton in Flushing, which is also a 20-minute ride down the line.
- Get a Grounds Pass.
Arthur Ashe, Louis Armstrong, and The Grandstand hold the superstar matches for an extra charge, but a Grounds Pass buys admission into any of the smaller courts and all the festivities. Though the stands are small, arriving 30 minutes before a match will secure a front row view.
- Go early or late, but don’t expect to stay all day.
A phone or tablet is a welcome distraction for the hour-long wait to get in. It’s worth traveling light without a bag and asking staff for directions to the express checkout lane, which most people don’t realize exists. The U.S. Open can be a long day for youngsters. Keeping reasonable expectations for how long they’ll last is one of the keys to a good time. Strategically planning an early visit or a late visit can minimize frustration and disappointment.
- Hit the practice courts.
The USTA website and app publishes the daily practice schedule. Courts 1, 2, 3, and 4 will have the biggest stars. It’s here where the raw power and discipline of Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek, Carlos Alvarez, and Jessica Pegula can be seen — free of charge, on a first-come first-served basis. If the kids talk in the bleachers, it’s no harm no foul. Spectators can stay as long or short as they please — and snagging a spot at the main entrance to the courts may even provide a photo and autograph opp.
- Use the filling stations and eat early.
At $8 a bottle of water, it’s worth walking through the innards of The Grandstand to find the refillable water fountains hidden within. All the old pros and groundskeepers know these water stations well. Food lines get very long and cost a small fortune, so it’s best to fuel up before heading into the stadium. Main Street in Flushing has great Chinese food. Once inside, the kids may prefer snacking on the coffee shop croissants or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream over picking at a large sit-down meal.
- Visit the Net Generation Kid Zone.
There is a section with activities designed just for kids. This year, they set up a scenic sports wonderland with basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis, and mini golf challenges that the kids completed for a prize at the end: a Net Generation tennis ball luggage tag!
- Look for freebies and interactive fun.
In addition to the kid zone, there’s a mini golf course near the back entrance of the stadium. Kids can also enjoy creating a free paint splatter poster at the Chubb Insurance booth, the Cadillac Lyriq interactive light show, and a photo booth that lets them hold a virtual U.S. Open champion cup. Chase cardmembers can reserve a spot in the Chase lounge for AC, snack, and a free hat.
- Wait until they’re older.
While maturity varies considerably, the day can be grueling and grump-inducing for a 6-year-old. An 8-year-old — who has been playing tennis since age 2 — is on the cusp of comprehending how exciting a top-level tennis tournament can be. She’s seen Serena Williams on TV and knows it’s an honor to be able to practice on the courts with the USTA youth division, but she doesn’t quite grasp the concept of scoring — or sitting quietly and fidget-free for a full match. By 11 or 12, kids have the capacity to handle some of the longer lines and pay attention to the back-and-forth of a match.
For tennis die-hards who want to go, there’s no guilt in setting the kids up in a hotel with “The Secret Life of Pets” and a nanny for the night match. With fun-filled days of visiting the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Prospect Park Zoo, the MET, and the American Natural History Museum, they’ll be happy to chill. The skyscrapers, giant pizza slices, and flocks of pigeons will be enough excitement for the under-10 set. Hitting the ball around Hudson River Park’s scenic outdoor courts for free may be a better way to share a love of tennis.