Washington for Sports Fans

The Great Tours: Washington, D.C.—Lecture 22 Guide

Washington, D.C. is a smorgasbord for sports fans, offering ample opportunities to view a variety of both college and professional sports including baseball, football, and soccer. If you’re so inclined, you can even get in on a game yourself.

In particular, this guide covers:
• Nationals Park
• FedEx Field
• College sports
• Capital One Arena
• Audi Field
• Playing in D.C.

Nationals Park—Professional Baseball

Nationals Park is the home of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team. It is located on South Capitol Street in D.C.’s newly revitalized Anacostia waterfront. This beautiful, modern stadium seats about 41,500 people, with great views of the field from just about everywhere and views of the city skyline from the upper deck.

In addition to the usual concession options of hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, and the like, several popular local restaurants and brewpubs have opened outposts in the stadium. The stadium even has a sit-down restaurant.

If you would like to come out to the park while visiting D.C., it is strongly advised that you take public transportation. The Green Line Metro station Navy Yard‑Ballpark is half a block from the main gates, or you can take the 15-minute walk from the Capitol South station on the Orange, Blue, or Silver Line.

instructional gif for blue and green links in The Great Tours DC articles

There is also a dedicated D.C. Circulator bus from Union Station to the Navy Yard Metro station. Taxis are another good option. There is even plenty of bicycle parking at the stadium. If you need to drive, metered parking and flat-rate lots are both available nearby.

Even if you can’t make it to a game, or if you’re here in the off-season, consider a stadium tour. There is a fee for tours, but all proceeds go to the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, which supports D.C.’s underserved youth.

Fedex Field—Professional Football

Washington’s National Football League franchise, the Redskins, presently plays at FedEx Field. This stadium is not in Washington, D.C. proper but just a few miles over the Maryland border, in Landover.

Fedex Field in Maryland for Washington Redskins
Fedex Field—home of the Redskins

It is still a quick trip from the city either by car or by taking the Blue or Silver Line Metro to the Morgan Boulevard station. If you do plan to drive, it is strongly advised that you purchase parking ahead of time via the team’s website.

A Controversial Name

Controversy over the use of the name Redskins has drawn a lot of attention both in public opinions and even in courts of law. The team’s current owner contends that the name honors Native Americans as warriors. Many Native American rights advocates disagree, arguing that the term is racist, disparaging Native Americans and presenting them in a stereotypical way.

College Sports

Maryland Terps stadium
The Maryland Terps stadium

Washington is also a home for college football. The metro area has three NCAA Division I teams: the Georgetown University Hoyas, the Howard University Bison, and the University of Maryland Terrapins. The area is also home to two NCAA Division III teams: the Catholic University Cardinals and the Gallaudet University Bison. All of them command strong local and alumni followings.

D.C.’s colleges and universities are better-known for their nationally ranked men’s and women’s basketball teams. Six local schools have NCAA Division I teams: the American University Eagles, the George Mason University Patriots, The George Washington University Colonials, the Georgetown Hoyas, the Howard Bison, and the University of Maryland Terrapins.

With so many great college basketball teams in the area, March Madness can be a big deal in D.C., as one or more of the teams usually emerges as a serious contender for the national title. Almost every bar becomes a sports bar, and food and drink specials abound.

Capital One Arena—Professional Basketball and Hockey

Capital Arena, Washington Wizards game
A busy night at Capital One Arena

For professional basketball, Capital One Arena is home to both the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards and the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Washington Mystics.

The Wizards—then named the Bullets—arrived in the mid-1970s, while the Mystics were one of the first WNBA franchises to be established when the league was founded in 1996. They qualified for the playoffs in 10 of their first 20 years of existence.

The Wizards and Mystics share Capital One Arena with the Washington Capitals National Hockey League team. Like the Wizards, the Capitals came to Washington in the 1970s. In 2018, in a moment Washington sports fans could hardly hope to dream of, the Capitals won the Stanley Cup.

Capital One Arena, located in Chinatown, is close to the National Portrait Gallery and in walking distance from a number of D.C.’s downtown hotels. It is also accessible by Metro via the Gallery Place–Chinatown station on the Green, Yellow, and Red Lines. The Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines are just a few blocks farther away, at Metro Center.

Additionally, the Capitals’ practice rink is located in Arlington, Virginia, a short walk from the Ballston Metro station on the Orange Line. All team practices are open to the public. When the team is away, visitors can rent a pair of skates and take their own turn on the ice.

Audi Field—Professional Soccer

Audi Field exterior
Audi Field—home of D.C. United soccer

The youngest of D.C.’s professional sports teams is its Major League Soccer (MLS) team, D.C. United. MLS was established in 1993, just in time for the World Cup, although the league did not field any teams until 1996.

D.C. United was one of MLS’s original 20 teams. From its founding, it has been one of the league’s most successful teams. On four occasions, the team has won the Supporters’ Shield, the annual award for the best regular-season record. It has also won four MLS championship cups, in 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2004.

One of the contributors to the league’s overall success has been the construction of purpose-built stadiums with modern amenities that draw in the fans. D.C. United’s stadium—Audi Field, completed in 2018—is about two blocks from Nationals Park on the Anacostia waterfront at Buzzard Point. The Navy Yard‑Ballpark Metro station and Circulator buses will transport you there.

Other Sports

Rugby ball getting ready to kick

D.C. is an international city. People from all over the world live in D.C., whether as diplomats, students, or immigrants, and they bring their favorite sports with them.

Take rugby, for example. The Washington Renegades Rugby Football Club competes in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference of USA Rugby, and they have played exhibition matches with clubs in Great Britain, Australia, and Argentina. They also have an educational and philanthropic mission.

The Renegades practice at Cardozo High School in Northwest D.C. and give back to the school by supporting its library. They have also raised funds for Food & Friends, a charity that delivers food and groceries to those with life-threatening illnesses, as well as for the Whitman Walker Clinic. They also host rugby educational camps for players of all ages, from elementary school through adulthood.

D.C. also has an Irish sports league that plays Ireland’s two national sports: hurling and Gaelic football. Hurling is sort of like a cross between lacrosse and field hockey, while Gaelic football is closely related to both rugby and soccer. The D.C. Gaels have teams for both men and women, and their teams are open to experienced players and newcomers alike. The D.C. metro area also has multiple cricket leagues, with dozens of teams.

Playing in D.C.

Sunset with people playing soccer

One of the great things about being a sports fan in Washington, D.C. is the opportunities it offers to play. In addition to the teams mentioned in this lecture, the city and surrounding suburbs are full of intermural and pickup leagues.

If you want to get out on the field, you can find pickup games of soccer, volleyball, kickball, tennis, bocce, and many other sports. The best way to do this is to get online and simply search for “D.C. pickup leagues,” but you can also check community center websites from D.C. and surrounding counties to find a game.

Use these online resources to help plan your trip.
Nationals Park Baseball
Capital One Arena
D.C. Intramural Sports Leagues