U.S. Open | Travel
Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day makes a tennis trip fun for everyone.
A late-summer trip to New York with the family should include a few musts: a Staten Island ferry ride (free!), pizza (see right) and a trip to the most-attended annual sporting event in the world: the US Open.
For a tennis nut like me, the chance to get up close and personal with the world’s best tennis players on the gorgeous grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows in Queens is well worth the $65–$370 per session ticket prices. That may be a tough sell for families, but Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, a mostly free day of fun, is a no-brainer.
Each year, on the Saturday before the 14-day tournament gets under way, the US Open turns the 46-acre facility over to families for day of entertainment, sports and spectacle the kids will remember for a lifetime. Hurricane Irene forced the cancellation of last year’s Kids’ Day, but—natural disasters withstanding—the event is set to come roaring back August 25.
Take the 7 train from Grand Central Terminal. It’s a straight shot to Mets–Willets Point Station (convenient if you want to catch the 1:10pm Mets vs. Astros baseball game that day, too). Entrance is free, and there’s plenty here to keep the whole family entertained.
Intermediate players can see what it feels like to be a pro tennis player at the Racquet Round Up on court 7, where they’ll use a top touring pro’s personal racquet on a US Open court. Young ones can get in on the action, too, at 10 & Under Tennis on court 9, where they can play with racquets, balls and courts sized just right for little bodies.
Radar guns clock the kids’ blazing-fast serves, and an obstacle course on court 11 tests balance, agility and footwork—and gives kids a great place to blow off pent-up energy.
Activities on all of the outside courts are free, but the main attraction takes place in Arthur Ashe Stadium and requires a ticket ($10–$20 at ticketmaster.com). The top names in tennis always show up to play games with kids on the US Open’s breathtaking center court. Oh yeah…and there’s a little concert, too. Past performers have included Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers, Rihanna and Britney Spears. This year’s lineup was unavailable at press time; check arthurashekidsday.com for updates.
The ticketed event is a surefire way to see the big-name athletes (and the only place you’ll catch your musical faves), but part of the beauty of the US Open is that the grounds are always crawling with tennis stars. Last year, I literally bumped into Roger Federer on my way to watch doubles stars Bob and Mike Bryan on a practice court. Most players take time to autograph tennis balls for fans who line up courtside after each match. Even on Kids’ Day, you’re certain to find some favorite players practicing on the outside courts, and Victoria Azarenka, Ryan Sweeting and Petra Kvitova and others are scheduled to make appearances on courts 4 and 5.
If you can’t make it to the Open on the 25th, find more sweet, free fun for the kids at the United States Tennis Association’s SmashZone Mobile. Located just outside the US Open grounds, SmashZone sports kid-sized tennis courts and interactive activities including Mario Tennis Open for Nintendo 3DS and a Tennis magazine green-screen cover shoot. It’s all geared for kids, but don’t worry, Mom and Dad can play, too. And I have my green-screen cover shot from last year to prove it.