The U.S. Open returns to Queens on Aug. 31, drawing more than 700,000 visitors over the course of the 14-day tournament. That means there’s plenty going on, whether you’re courtside or wandering the temporary metropolis that springs up inside the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Here are some great reasons to check out the U.S. Open action, whether or not you’re into tennis.
It’s a microcosm of food trends
Avocado toast (with pickled peppers)? Check. Grilled cheese sandwich with Gouda and bacon? Check. And, of course, a fried chicken sandwich courtesy of Hill Country Barbecue. Next to Court 17 is a small fleet of food trucks, among them the pan-Asian influenced Vietnamese fare of Sweet Chili.
The U.S. Open’s food scene spans bars, booths and six upscale restaurants, including a wine bar run by Chicago’s chef Tony Mantuano. And the “newbie” is Ai Fiori’s chef Michael White, but a lobster burrata is just what the tournament’s Grey Goose Honey Deuce signature cocktail needed.
Even the grounds-only tickets get you into matches
The tournament is being waged well beyond the main venue, Arthur Ashe Stadium, so you'll still see plenty with a $70 grounds-only ticket. Men’s and women’s players are battling it out across 17 courts, so there’s always more than one game going on - and you never know what future star you could be seeing in the making.
If you’re just at the tournament to see the big names, think about how little fun it is to watch them dispatch a string of much lower-ranked opponents before the big games start, and instead spend your time watching a match that could turn out to be much more exciting.
Play against one of the pros
Finally, a virtual reality simulator that’s actually useful. Think you can return a 100mph serve? Find out, courtesy of American Express, at You Vs. Sharapova, which pits attendees against one of the sport’s prettiest and fiercest faces.
Sharapova did extensive motion-capture work to make the experience as authentic as possible for the four-minute match, which takes place via an HTC Vive headset. There will be three virtual courts set up around the complex.
See celebrities both on and off the court
Movie stars, Fashion Week attendees and musicians are sports fans, too, and past years have seen Alec Baldwin sub in for a ballboy, Leonardo DiCaprio bring his mom and beard out for a nice day in the stands, Joe Jonas and Ansel Elgort give the kids something to remember the day by, and let’s not forget that some of the players aren’t exactly low-profile either.
Have your selfie smile at the ready, but remember that they’re there to watch the matches, not be watched, so be cool.
For one day only, admission is free
If none of the above tempted you out to the ballgame, on Thursday, Sept. 10, admission to the grounds is free. The women’s semifinal at Arthur Ashe Stadium that day is still ticketed, but it’s a great chance to check out the scene, and there will be plenty of other matches to watch, including college-level players and juniors aspiring to the big courts.