Last week the family and I made the trek to Houston for four days and three Astros games. Before making the 14 hour drive to Houst we decided to take a small detour to Greenville South Carolina to watch the Lexington Legend take on the Drive a Boston Red Sox affiliate. Yes, they played "Sweet Caroline." No, I did not participate, but my daughter did, she was punished accordingly. As for the Legends game you can read my impressions of that game here.
After a nine hour drive on Sunday and a five hour drive on Monday we arrived in Houston for my first Astros game in Minute Maid Park. Here are my impressions of the park and the trip to Houston overall:
- The outside of Minute Maid Park is done very well. The new Walk of Fame of fame was cool to see, as well as the Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell statues. I didn't spend as much time outside as I wanted too, but from what I did see it's been very well done. I've been to several other Major League parks and a lot of times it feels like you're walking into a stadium. Minute Maid Park felt different; it felt like I was walking into an actual park.
- Inside was absolutely wonderful, mostly because the air conditioning instantly wiped away the Houston humidity.
- The squeeze play was good for my three year old daughter. She struggled with some of the activities but had a blast doing it. She especially liked racing down the simulated third baseline and did that multiple times before we had to drag her away to the game being played. There's a pitching simulator that even I wanted to try, a batting cage with water sprouting out of homeplate(genius) and another batting cage with balls. Overall my daughter loved it and I loved the it because of the big screen TV broadcasting the game.
- The food was ballpark food. I ate hot dogs and my wife had chicken fingers and a Prince's bacon cheeseburger. She said the bacon cheeseburger was delicious.
- Good call by the Astros allowing fans to bring in food and water. By doing that they opened up the ballpark experience for people with little kids. My daughter is very picky about what she eats and a hot dog or hamburger regardless of price isn't going to cut it. Allowing parents to bring in a bag of snacks catered towards toddler is a good move.
- Being allowed to bring in water is even better, and made the experience overall more enjoyable.
- We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites about half a mile from the stadium. If you wanted to avoid parking while walking off some of the hot dogs you eat at the game, this is a pretty good option. I would have preferred this option, but I'm not walking over a mile both ways with a three year old so we paid for parking.
- Parking is interesting, around the stadium as you would expect the prices go up the closer you want to be. Still there are plenty of $10 and $5 lots to be had. In fact we parked in a $10 lot one night and as we're getting out of the car I notice the $5 lot right across the street. /facepalm
- Back to the hotel. One night we went out with my wife's family for a lovely dinner. I could miss one game for a family affair. I'll just head back to the hotel and watch the game after dinner. NOPE! Yup, that's right, the hotel that we booked THROUGH MLB.com did not have the game on local TV. Very disappointing.
- Speaking of hotel amenities, the 20% discount we got on our room didn't really feel like it. Maybe I'm out of touch with hotels, but for the price I was paying I expected more. It wasn't a bad hotel it just wasn't up to the standard I expected for the price I paid. And when did they start throwing taxes on bills. Is that a state thing or a hotel thing? The shower head only had one setting, my wife found a water bottle under our bed and one of the treadmills was broken. Not to mention the hotel's back door key card lock wasn't working so anyone could walk into the hotel and roam the halls without anyone knowing. These are all small things I can overlook but not for the price I was paying.
- Back to the ballpark. My favorite part of all was behind centerfield where the Astros had a ball for every Jeff Bagwell homerun and the honored some of the more memorable moments and players in Astros history.
- The last two games we went too we sat in the bullpen boxes. Talk about some great seats. You get a good view of the pitcher and batter, plus you get the excitement of possibly catching a homerun ball. The seats are also relatively inexpensive.
- As for the city itself: fix the potholes and that traffic is no joke.
- Overall we had a good experience in Houston and more specifically Minute Maid Park. As one final note if you haven't checked out Discovery Green Park yet, you should. It's a really neat place for both kids and adults.
- EDIT: One final point I forgot. Turn down the PA system! I had a hard time talking to people sitting right next to me. There's no reason for it to be that loud.