I’ve been spending a lot of time in the DMV of late and this stadium trip was probably one of my most recent favorites thanks to the Washington Capitals game. First, however, I made a stop at DC’s newest sports facility, the Entertainment & Sports Arena. How the arena has remained sponsor-less is a surprise, but they could at least have a better name in the meantime. My brother joined me for this trip and the ride on a Friday afternoon wasn’t terrible with traffic slowdowns only amounting to a 10-15 minute delay. I’ve often said that the Beltway (I-495 around DC) is the worst road in the country, but most of that comes from second-hand accounts. Being on a good stretch of that road at 3:30 PM on a Friday, I can now attest that the Cross-Bronx Expressway is by far worse. Unless you’re on the Cross-Bronx between 12-5 AM, you’re going to get traffic, potholes and horrendous drivers. I’ve been on there probably a hundred times for trips to Long Island and the dozen times I’ve been on the Beltway comes nothing close to that nightmare.
Anyway, we had enough time for dinner before the game, stopping for a good meal at Cori’s Modern Kitchen in Camp Springs. It was then a 10-minute drive to the ESA, which is in the Congress Heights neighborhood of DC. The facility is in such an interesting place as it was built on the campus of a former psychiatric hospital. They’ve repurposed many of the buildings and the arena sits across a couple that are now used for housing. It’s a strange arrival to a game for sure. Built in 2018, the arena is modern and has a solid design. Seating is comfortable and the bulk of it comes on one side, which also has an upper deck. End seats then abruptly stop as you reach the other sideline as only a floor VIP area exists. The ESA plays host to the WNBA’s Mystics and the Capital City Go-Go of the G-League. The unique name comes from the music scene that was popular in the city back in the 70s. You’ll hear a bit of it during breaks in play and the in-game entertainer does well with an upbeat energy. It’s a tough job as attendance is quite low with maybe 500 total that were watching this one. Capital City dominated as they beat Lakeland by almost 40. More in the city should come out as it was fun watching the likes of Cassius Winston, Joel Ayayi and Jordan Schakel as they could be with the Wizards in the near future.
The next day, we got up early and took the Metro into the city. That is such a great transportation system. The last station on the Green line was a 2 minute drive from our hotel. Parking was free and in just 25 minutes, we’re in downtown DC for $2. We went to the International Spy Museum, which was awesome! They have some interactive stuff where you pretend to be a spy and that’s great for older kids. I was way more into the exhibits as they were fantastic and we spent 3 hours there and easily could have spent a few more. It was crazy because so much of what we saw was relevant to the times we live in now. After a quick lunch in the L’Enfant Plaza, we walked to the Tidal Basin. Late March in DC means one thing, the Cherry Blossom Festival. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo presented the city with 3,000 Japanese Cherry Trees and this time of year, the flowers blossom for a beautiful visual around the water and monuments. Despite the chilly weather, many came out and I was thrilled that this stadium visit coincided with this annual event. We also went to the Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, MLK Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial which are all breathtaking pieces of architecture. The festival also features kites flying in the vicinity of the Washington Monument and many families partook in that tradition. After getting stuck on the DC Circulator bus in traffic, we got off and walked to the Penn Quarter / Chinatown section for dinner before the game. It was only 4:30 PM and our plan was Hill Country BBQ. As my mouth was watering for their Brisket and Pulled Pork, it was over an hour wait! Other restaurants were packed as well so we had to settle with a blah pita at CAVA.
Capital One Arena is a standard mid-1990s pro venue, which has become of the equivalent of 1970s multi-use stadiums in terms of being “cookie-cutter”. However, the atmosphere was anything but. Fun was the best word to describe it and this was the most enjoyable experience I’ve had out of the 11 NHL arenas I’ve been to during the regular season. This crowd was festive and between singing most of the words to the break-in-play music (which heavily favored 90s alternative), they were for the most part in a good mood. Everyone was in red and it was very loud during goals to go along with natural, unprompted noise. You also might have seen the crazy scene where they threw foam apples on the ice. This came after a Nicklas Backstrom goal as before the game, they handed out NIKY apples to celebrate his 1,000th point. Not sure the connection, but it made for quite a scene. And you know what was even better…after the five-minute delay for them to clean up the ice, not one bonehead threw another as play resumed. The game was perfect as well as the Capitals came back from a 2-1 deficit in the third period and they won 4-3. We even got to see an Ovechkin goal. The only blemish was the Devils scoring with 30 seconds left as that ruined what would have been a perfect gambling night (Under 6.5 goals, Caps -1.5, No Goals in 1st 10 minutes, Ovi scores). Even though the game made me a little depressed to be a Sabres fan who have home games in a church (even when they’re good), this was the most fun I’ve had at a sporting event in awhile. I love this hobby!