It’s that time again.
Soon, hundreds of thousands of tennis fans will converge at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, for the United States Open Tennis Championship, Aug. 26 through Sept. 8.
The competition this year promises some high stakes action. Will the American teenager Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff, the feel-good story of Wimbledon, make it past the early rounds? Could Roger Federer, 38, snag his 21st grand slam title? Will Serena Williams, 37, finally tie Margaret Court’s slam record of 24?
The crowds at the U.S. Open, however, can be overwhelming for even the most tennis-obsessed. Luckily there are spots — granted, many of them overseen by corporate sponsors — inside and outside the grounds that can provide a bit of an oasis, should tennis burnout strike.
Inside the Gates
1) Top level of Louis Armstrong Stadium
Last year the revamped stadium made its debut, and it immediately became a spectator favorite.
Armstrong has a retractable roof, meaning that play will never get delayed by the weather. It’s also built of overlapping terra cotta panels that circulate air between the stadium decks. The natural ventilation means that the stadium can remain cool even when it’s scorching hot outside.
A ticket is required to sit on the lower levels, but the upper levels are open to anyone with a grounds pass. There is no such thing as a bad seat there. The food and merchandise vendors also seem to be less crowded than those outside the stadium.
2) Got an American Express Card? You’re Golden
Let’s face it: Free ice cream sandwiches and plush chairs in an air-conditioned, activities-and-amenities zone probably means there is a corporate sponsor behind the effort.
If you’re a card carrier, it would be silly for you to overlook the American Express Fan Experience, a 20,000-square-foot space just inside the main entrance gate.
Visitors with Amex accounts can have their hair and makeup touched up or their shoes cleaned for free. And for members of the general public, who are welcome to walk through the main area for a blast of air conditioning, there are also interactive activities, like creating a mural with tennis rackets that splatter paint.
3) Sit, Drink, Chat
Heineken’s Red Star Patio Cafe, with its bright green stools and spacious tables just east of Arthur Ashe Stadium, is known among tournament regulars as a casual option for those who like to socialize.
Introverts might find the tennis chatter a bit much, but if you’re looking to debate the most recent Osaka/Keys tie break, or whether Tsitsipas could go all the way, this might be the place.
On certain days, the company will be giving out free tastings of Heineken 0.0, a zero-alcohol beer. Not a bad idea, after all, to pace oneself.
4) Win entry into the Exclusive Grey Goose Suite
Regulars know that the Grey Goose Honey Deuce is the official cocktail of the U.S. Open. Last year, 228,000 of them were sold during the tournament.
But fewer visitors know that there is a suite inside Arthur Ashe Stadium dedicated to this drink. In addition to unlimited Deuces, the lounge offers other cocktails, too.
This suite is usually invitation only. But this year, social media-savvy fans can win tickets to sit in the suite during the men’s and women’s finals, by following Grey Goose on Twitter and Instagram @GreyGoose.
Outside the Gates
5) Watch a Large Screen, Al Fresco, in Midtown
Exhausted stadium visitors can take the 7 train all the way to its last stop in Hudson Yards, where matches will be broadcast on large screens in a beer garden at the Crowne Plaza HY36 (320 W 36th Street). The hotel will even serve a cocktail honoring Ms. Gauff, with cocoa and crème de menthe.
Nearby, at the Kimpton Hotel Eventi (851 Sixth Avenue, between 29th and 30th Streets), there is a plaza with a 30-foot screen on the side of a building. Known as the Big Screen Plaza, it too will be showing the matches.
6) Switch Sports
Sick of tennis? Just cross the subway tracks (at the Mets-Willets Point stop) to Citi Field, where the Mets, who happen to be having a very exciting season, play their home games.
Citi Field games during the U.S. Open will take place on August 27, 28 and 29, and Sept. 6, 7, and 8.
If you don’t want to commit to the full baseball experience and simply need a walk and say, a craft beer, go around the stadium and stop by Mikkeller Brewery for an experimental sour brew.
Is your head ringing after sitting behind a group of inebriated Sharapova fanboys from San Diego, or that guy from Toronto in the beer line who won’t shut up about Raonic’s serve?
Maybe it’s time to leave the humans behind and commune with some other creatures. A California sea lion, perhaps, or a Canadian lynx.
The tennis center is actually part of the 897-acre Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It is the fourth largest in New York City. The zoo is about a 15-minute stroll (head southeast toward United Nations Avenue North) from the main gate.
The zoo’s aviary, enclosed in a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome, is quite possibly the most charming (and definitely the chirpiest) oasis in the park.
Or maybe you just need to Zen out and play some golf. Flushing Meadows Golf Center has an 18-hole golf course with a waterfall (100 Flushing Meadows Corona Park Road).
The park also has places to fish, picnic, throw a ball around, or sprawl out on the grass.
8) Grab an Italian Ice
52-02 108th St., Corona
For over 60 years the Lemon Ice King of Corona, owned by the Benfaremo family, has been selling Italian ices at the edge of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This is no ordinary iced treat. Lemons and oranges are squeezed for natural flavoring real pieces of fruit, from watermelon to blueberry, are used. Flavors range from peanut butter to rum raisin.
9) Go to the Spa
131-10 11th Ave., College Point
The 100,000-square-foot facility has several levels of water treatment and relaxation rooms. There is a hot cave with mats and a napping area, as well as reclining chairs with televisions, if that’s what you’re into.
Massage therapists will customize a treatment, maybe a mix of Swedish or deep tissue or a full body stretch? There are also food options and a full bar. Admission is $40 on the weekdays and $50 on the weekends.
You might like it here so much that you won’t even care if you’re late to the men’s semifinals at Ashe.
Yes you will. But at least you’ll arrive fresh-faced and relaxed.