It's Curly W Time! A Guide to the Nationals' Home Opener

Wondering about new food, alternate transportation options and whether there's a free bobblehead in your future? Read on.

The #NatsAreBack! After a long, long winter, the Washington Nationals' home opener against the Atlanta Braves finally arrived Friday. The first pitch was scheduled for 1:05 p.m., and if you skipped out on work to attend, we won't tell.

The Nats will battle the Braves twice more over the weekend, Saturday at 7:05 p.m. and Sunday at 1:35 p.m. Tickets are still available for both games.

If you're looking for team news, go here. But if you're just wondering about new food, alternate transportation options and whether there's a free bobblehead in your future, read on.

Are there any freebies or special events?

Why, yes, yes there are. They have to start the season right, after all. On Friday, the first 30,000 fans received an opening day cap. On Saturday, the first 20,000 fans will score a T-shirt. Saturday is also Miller Lite Party Night, with a special ticket deal and happy hour at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk bar.

Sunday is Kids Opening Day, featuring Screech's birthday and the chance for kids ages 4-12 to run the bases after the game. It's also a Signature Sunday, when two players will sign autographs from the top of the dugout starting 70 minutes before the game. Fans must get a free voucher to participate; they're available when the gates open at Sections 109 and 140.

And both Saturday and Sunday, Harris Teeter Family Fun Packs are available, offering a ticket and meal deal.

When does the park open?

Center Field Gate opens two and a half hours before first pitch for each game, providing access to the Center Field stands and Center Field concourse area. All other gates open 90 minutes before the start of the games, providing access to the entire ballpark.

What's new at the park since last year?

There's a lot new at the park, including improved Wifi, a bevy of new menu items and food stands, more fan spaces and a new merch store for women. The D.C. Sports Bog breaks it down with photos, food-wise. Highlights: the Chesapeake Crab Co., Intentional Wok and South Capitol Sushi, and Mike Isabella's G Sandwich shop.

Old faves Shake Shack and Ben's Chili Bowl (of course) are still around, and don't count out Daq's and Rita's for all your frozen drink needs, as well as those Curly W pretzels (think of the Instagram pics!).

What about the rest of the neighborhood?

Capitol Riverfront has been seeing a healthy amount of development; more than 1,200 new residential units were under construction in the area as of 2013's end, reported A Hampton Inn is going up to the east, apartment buildings to the north, and the Lumber Shed at Yards Park was transformed last season, now offering several new dining options, including Osteria Morini.

You know we deserve some good weather, right?

Yes, yes we do. And that good weather should be ours to enjoy all weekend... mostly. Friday morning was cloudy, and some scattered drizzle is possible in the afternoon, but it shouldn't be heavy enough to affect the game. During the game, temps should be around 60-63, said Storm Team 4 Meteorologist Tom Kierein.

For Saturday evening, the weather should be dry and mild, with sunset at 7:25 p.m. For Sunday afternoon, expect sun, and temps in the low 60s.

What's the best way to get there?

Of course, you can always take the Metro (Green Line to the Navy Yard station), but you knew that already. During play-off games, officials were recommending that Metro riders use alternate stations, but the Navy Yard station can accommodate 24,000 passengers an hour, which should be fine this early in the season. (By the way, because it's also cherry blossom season, there is no scheduled track work this weekend.)

Circulator: If Metro's not your top pick, consider the D.C. Circulator, which is often less crowded than the Metro. A route runs every 10 minutes to and from the tour bus level of the garage at Union Station (Red Line). It stops at the Eastern Market Metro (Blue and Orange lines) on the way; see a map of the complete route here. Extended service will run during all Nationals home games.

Bicycle: If you'd prefer to ride your bike, you can use the free bike valet service in Garage C at the corner of N & 1st Street SE. The valet is on N Street just left of the entrance. You'll also find 250 bike racks around the exterior of the park.

Water taxi: Two water taxi companies can bring you to Diamond Teague Park, located behind Nats Park. American River Taxi travels between Georgetown, the Southwest Waterfront and the park; Potomac Riverboat Company travels between National Harbor and Alexandria. 

Parking: Driving to Nats Park is a bold (and expensive) move, but if you have the patience, and the cash, here's a guide to parking lots around the stadium.

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