One of my favorite activities in San Francisco is to take in a baseball game at the home of the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park. While I highly prefer when the Giants win, any day watching baseball in one of the best parks in the major leagues is a good day.
Here is what you should know before you visit Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park, formerly Pac Bell Park).
Table of contents: ()
- Oracle Park Layout
- Unusual Features
- The Garden
- What to Look For
- Oracle Pak with Kids
- Best Seats at Oracle Park
- Best Food at Oracle Park
- Getting to Oracle Park
- Oracle Park Dos and Don’ts
Oracle Park Layout
Oracle Park is a baseball-only stadium. It has 3 levels of seats in most of the park: lower level, club level, and view level. It has bleachers just past left field and a large brick wall just past right field.
The Giant’s dugout is on the left-hand side by 3rd base and the visitor’s dugout is on the right, which is the opposite of how the old Candlestick Park was configured.
There were no special bullpen areas in the outfield, as many baseball parks have, until the 2020 season. The bullpen mounds were barely out of the field of play on the left and right. Any outfielder who is chasing a foul ball had to be very aware as to not trip over the bullpen mound as he closes in on the seats.
The deepest part of the park is Triples Alley where the brick wall meets the bleachers to the right of the scoreboard. It is currently 421 feet and many a ball that would be a home run in some other park has been caught in this area. The left-field wall is 339 feet from home plate and the right-field wall is 309 feet. That short porch in right is more than made up for by the brick wall. Only 79 balls have clear that wall and gone in the water on the other side since the Giants opened the park in the year 2000.
Beyond the brick wall are an exterior walkway and a body of water that was renamed McCovey Cove after the Giants legendary 1st baseman Willie “Stretch” McCovey. The Giants players still vote for the most inspirational player every year in the “Willie Mac” award which is also named for McCovey.
The Giants do like to remember their history. Any baseball fan can tell you that the team started in New York City, although technically that is not true. The team started in Troy, New York as the Troy Trojans and moved to the Big Apple in 1882 after 4 seasons up the Hudson River in Troy.
You will see pennants on the left side of the stadium from winning the National League and flags on the top of the scoreboard for their World Series Championships. The New York Giants pennants are black and white and the San Francisco Giants pennants are orange and white.
More important to the Giants fans are the flags to the right of the U.S. flag to the right of the scoreboard. These flags hold the 5 flags of the teams in the National League West. The standings of the teams are reflected by the order on this flag pole. Giants fans are always happier when the flag at the top is the Giants pennant and least happy, as on days like today, when that flag is the flag of the hated Los Angeles Dodgers.
To the left of the left foul pole, you can see a display of the numbers which have been retired to honor significant Giant players.
- Bill Terry, 3
- Mel Ott, 4
- Carl Hubbell, 11
- Monte Irvin, 20
- Willie Mays, 24
- Barry Bonds, 25
- Juan Marichal, 27
- Orlando Cepeda, 30
- Gaylord Perry, 36
- Willie McCovey, 44
- Like every Major League team #42 of Jackie Robinson has also been retired. Robinson was the first African American to break the color barrier in the major leagues. He is also likely the last Dodgers player that the Giants will honor in this fashion.
Just below the retired numbers is a scoreboard that keeps track of the number of balls, strikes and total pitches for the current pitcher and what the speed was of the last pitch. This information is now also shown on the main jumbotron scoreboard.
There are more statues and plaques of former Giants players on King street including the statue of Willy Mays at King and 3rd Street at Willy Mays Plaza. There are also statutes to Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry.
One unusual ground rule in Oracle Park is that any ball that hits the bricks in right field is still in play, but if it hits the metal roof on top of the brick wall it is a home run.
McCovey Cove does not get a lot of splash hits since Barry Bonds retired but it still gets a collection of watercraft every game. There are occasional kayakers looking for home runs but more likely it is a passing tour boat or a party on a sailboat. On the far side of McCovey Cove is a new pop-up bar area. between the stadium and the main parking area.
Since Oracle Park opened as Pac Bell Park there has been a giant Coke bottle behind the left-field bleachers. Coke sponsored it and you will find Coke products, not Pepsi products, at Oracle Park. The coke bottle has slides for kids.
Next to the Coke bottle is a large baseball glove. No, no player has ever hit a home run that hit the glove. In fact, the glove is 501 feet from home plate and no home run at the park has ever been hit far enough to reach the glove by any player or to any field. The longest home run at Oracle Park was 499 feet by Barry Bonds to straightaway center.
To the right of the scoreboard is a cable car which is a bit more difficult to see these days because of a new Coors branded bar. The cable car bell will be rung for every Giant’s home run.
Free Viewing Area
Did you know you can see at least part of any Giants game for free? There is a free viewing area below the out of town scoreboard in the base of the brick wall in right field which is accessed from outside the ballpark.
Gotham Club “Secret Bar”
Behind the out of town Scoreboard in the brick wall in right field is a “secret” speakeasy bar called the Gotham Club. It features a full bar, a bowling alley, and 2 secret entrances.
Just below the main scoreboard is an open area called the Garden with two bistros, Hearth Table and Garden Table, that feature a healthy menu.
Lefty O’Doul Bridge
The drawbridge next to the stadium is the Lefty O’Doul Bridge. Coincidentally, it is named for a famous San Francisco baseball player, slugger Lefty O’Doul. O’Doul played in San Francisco with the old San Francisco Seals, long before the Giants came to town. He was a player and later a manager and help establish professional baseball in Japan. O’Doul also led the 1949 Goodwill tour of Japan by the San Francisco Seals which was scheduled to try and help heal the relationship of the United States and Japan after WWII with our shared love of baseball. The bridge was in this spot long before the Giant’s stadium was built.
What to Look For
If the Giants hit a home run then the 4 brick columns on top of the right-field wall will shoot water canons up into the air.
“I Left My Heart In San Francisco”
If the Giants win the game, then singer Tony Bennett’s tune “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” will play the fans out.
Signs on the Outfield Wall
Most major league stadiums now sell sponsorships on the outfield wall just as minor league parks had done for many years but the Giants were one of the first teams to sell these ads… but you might not have noticed. For a few years before the Chevron cars and other signs appeared on the wall there were only two signs on the wall which marked the area between the fielders which is called the “gap”. The signs simply read “Gap”… but were sponsored by San Francisco based Gap, Inc.
The Giants did not have a mascot until they introduced Lou Seal in 1996. But Luigi Francisco Seal has become a fan favorite wether he is dancing on the Giant’s dugout or shooting t-shirts into the stands. You are most likely to encounter Lou Seal in the seats just behind the Giants dugout.
9th Inning Sea Gulls
At the beginning of the 9th inning, you will start to see seagulls gather in the skies above Oracle Park. We don’t quite know how they know it is the 9th inning but they seem to know when the game is about to end and they will take over the stadium after the fans leave looking for treats. They get very confused by extra-inning games.
Oracle Pak with Kids
I brought my kids to the ballpark when they were young and I know that 9 innings can seem like forever for some young fans. Fortunately, Oracle park has some activities that can help.
The big Coke bottle in Oracle park is in the Fan Lot area behind the bleacher seats. The Coke bottle features two straight and 2 twisting slides. You must be taller than 36″ and 14 years or younger to ride the slides.
Little Giants Park
To the left of the Coke bottle is a 50’x50′ replica of Oracle park where younger guests can take a swing at softballs or Wiffle balls and can run the bases. You must be 42″ or smaller to play at Little Giants Park. There is no additional cost.
The Fan Lot area also features a photo booth where you can get your picture taken on the cover of the Giants G Mag magazine, or get your picture taken as if you were on a baseball card.
Best Seats at Oracle Park
Most games at Oracle Park these days have seats available but you will probably have to check StubHub.com instead of getting them from the Giant’s ticket sales as they are being resold by a season ticket holder. I can’t say I love the service fees at StubHub.com but you can almost always find seats.
The club level seats have the best service and the seats just off the field are the best for real baseball fans who can afford them.
The cheapest tickets available for a game are standing room only seats in areas behind sections 148-152. If you are up for the standing they have a great view and later in the game you can probably snag a seat, say after the 5th.
The next cheapest seats are usually the bleacher seats which are benches so not as comfortable.
The seats in the View Level are the next most affordable, are as comfortable as the seats in the lower level, and have a great view of San Francisco Bay. There is an argument that these are some of the best seats in the house.
Best Seats to Catch a Foul Ball
Sections 101 and 102 in front of Levi’s Landing and the Alaskan Airlines sign are a quirky section that sticks out close to the foul pole down the 1st baseline. I think at least one foul ball is hit into that section in every game, probably more than one.
Best Seats to Catch a Home Run
While the bleacher seats are not the most comfortable, that’s where the home runs go. You want right off the field in sections 136 – 140 for the best chance at a home run ball. Just remember not to reach into the field of play and interfere with the game. This is San Francisco, not Chicago.
Best and Worst Seats to Get a Tan
If you are working on your tan the seats of the front of Lower Box seats or the bleachers get the most sun. If you are looking for shade during an afternoon game then the back of Lower Reserve 105-112 will be under the overhang but I prefer the back of sections 308-315, say row 11 or higher which will have shade most of the game, but with a better view and cheaper price.
Best Food at Oracle Park
There is no way that we are all going to agree on what is the best ballpark food but here are some recommendations.
It is hard to beat a hotdog at a ball game but I would pay a bit more and get a Brat. A Brat at Oracle field sticks out both ends of the bun unlike the pathetic offerings at the Dodger’s Chavez Ravine Park. Get it with the sour kraut. You will have to look around a bit for brown Golden’s mustard, but they have it.
Orlando’s Caribbean BBQ (Promenade Level: 142 and View Level: Section 314)
I also recommend the Cha Cha Bowl at Orlando’s Caribbean BBQ. Orlando, in this case, is Orlando Cepeda whose jersey # 30 I mentioned previously was retired by the Giants. The Cha-Cha Bowl is rice beans and chicken or BBQ pork with a jerk sauce. Yum.
Crazy Crab’z (Center Field)
While in San Francisco why not get seafood like a crab sandwich from Crazy Crab’z? You can also get chowder in a bread bowl.
There are also at least 3 vendors now serving garlic fries at Oracle park. Get the fries that bite back. You are, after all, just about an hour north of Gilroy, the garlic capital.
Getting to Oracle Park
Let’s just get one thing out of the way. The parking at Oracle Park is bad. It costs as much as $40 and there is not enough of it. All the official lots are south of the park across the Lefty O’Doul Bridge from the park. When it opened there were 9,000 official spaces, but with the construction that has happened in the area that is down to 4,000.
If you drive carpool and download the Best Parking App. With that, we found parking within an easy walk on Brannon street that was only $20. All the parking meters in the areas use game day pricing of $7.50 an hour.
Bay Area Rapid Transit connects San Francisco with the east bay but the nearest BART station is Montgomery which is a mile away or a 20-minute walk. If you are not up to the walk get off at Embarcadero and take the streetcar down the Embarcadero to the park. Use the Google Maps transit app or the MUNI app for connections.
MUNI has buses and streetcars that bring fans to and from the stadium.
From the south bay, the Caltrain station is much closer to the ballpark and Caltrain will run special trains on game days down the peninsula to San Jose. The only thing to watch out for is the time of the last train when your game goes into extra innings.
San Francisco Bay Ferry runs boats from right behind the ballpark to their terminals in Vallejo, Alameda, and Oakland.
Oracle Park Dos and Don’ts
Don’t do the Wave
While the wave was invented across the bay in Oakland, it is not welcomed in Oracle Park. After all, they think that the designated hitter is a good idea too and we know that is the start of the downfall of western civilization.
Don’t wear Dodger blue
If the Giants are actually playing the Giants and you are a Dodger fan we will welcome you, if somewhat begrudgingly. But if the Dodgers aren’t even in town, seriously no.
Don’t go to your seat while the batter is up
We are here to watch baseball. Expect the ushers to stop you from returning to your seat if the batter is in the batting box. Wait until in between batters to get your nachos.
Do Bring Food and Drink, but not Alchohol
You can bring your own food and drink into the park. Liquids must be in sealed plastic bottles, not bottles or cans. You cannot bring alcohol into the park.
Do Bring a Sweatshirt
I don’t care what the weather is when you leave your hotel or your home. Always, always bring a sweatshirt or jacket to a Giants ballgame. You just never know when the fog will roll in.
Do Bring a Portable Radio
Tune your radio to KNBR 680 for the local coverage of the game or for the post-game show.
Do Bring Binoculars
Especially if you are seated in the View Level seats. Bring your binoculars. You can see the game fine without them, but there will be some reason you want them during the game