Got some soccer stars in the family?If so, we’ve got a no-fail outing for your spring and summer consideration: Red Bull Arena in Harrison, Nj. Home to NYC’s very own Major League Soccer team the New York Red Bulls, this stadium is clean, family-friendly, and a cinch to get to without a car. GOOOOOAAAAAALLL!!!!
Home of the Red Bulls
It looks like a giant bouncy house from the outside (even though it’s grey) and on the inside, the Red Bull Arena is just as much fun. (In fact, the curved, tension-fabric roof of the Red Bull Arena, which gives the venue it’s distinctive pillowy look, actually helps amplify the noise of cheering fans — who, by the way, are spirited, but not crazy.)
The crowd enthusiasm, paired with the well-maintained facility and kid-friendly atmosphere makes the home of the New York Red Bulls one of the most vibrant and popular soccer-specific stadiums around.
photo: via Red Bull Arena Facebook page
Kicking it in Harrison
Red Bull Arena opened for the Major League Soccer (MLS) season in 2010 and with that, the New York Red Bulls (renamed from the MetroStars in 2007) got a brand new home.
While the arena dominates Harrison, the venue is actually fairly modest, with seating for 25,000 including 30 luxury Skyboxes and 1,000 Club Seats. The stadium features two-tier seating and all seats have good views of the pitch.
Serious fandom occupies the South Ward seating area, where die-hard supporters put a drumbeat to the game with singing, chanting and percussion, adding to the celebratory feel of home games.
Another design element much appreciated is that bubbly roof: it covers all the seats, keeping fans dry and cool, rain or shine.
If you’ve got a baby coming along, know that little ones under two don’t need tickets to get into games, and you’ll get away with a small umbrella stroller in the arena as long as it can be folded up and tucked under a seat during the game. There are decent changing tables in the bathrooms too, which are spacious and clean.
While the food isn’t the gourmet level that some large venues have adopted, you will find traditional bites like fries, hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc. For those who like a beer with their game, standard stadium fare is offered, as well as Blue Moon, Brooklyn Lager and some IPAs.
“The Playmaker” serves as a stage for big kicks and tricks.
Get There Early for Pre-game Fun
Arrive early for some of the pre-match entertainment outside the stadium. While tailgating isn’t allowed in the parking lot, there’s a beer garden between Gates B1 and C and what’s known as the Boulevard, where fake turf and goal posts are set up for cross bar challenges and soccer tic-tac-toe.
Athletes young and old will also find the “playmaker” here, an area where fans can test their moves and fancy footwork. Winning kicks are rewarded with prizes such as jerseys, caps and scarves, as well as photo ops. But just watching the mesmerizing, ball-balancing performances of the skilled freestylers is a lot of fun.
photo: Patrick N. via Yelp
More Ways to Celebrate with Soccer
For hard-core football fans, a party at Red Bull stadium would be a guaranteed good time. Birthday packages for groups of 15 or more include savings on tickets, a half-time shout out on the big screens and goodie bags for all the partygoers.
Families should check out the four-pack deal, available for select matches: $99 gets you four seats in the upper corner of the stadium or endline seating plus food vouchers for snacks.
While the arena was built specifically for soccer, the venue does host other events. (For example, if you have a junior rugby fan in the family, they might enjoy the upcoming match between the USA Eagles and Ireland.)
The venue is also set to host more concerts and music events in the future and last year was recognized for outstanding security. This summer, the youth band Drum Corps will perform its distinctive percussion and bugle sets at the arena.
It’s easier than you think, and the Red Bull Arena has a handy “Transportation Hub” page on its web site to help you figure out the best way.
The PATH from One World Trade to Harrison takes 20 minutes and the station is walking distance from the arena.
From Newark Penn Station, a complimentary shuttle service begins two hours before every match and continues until one hour afterwards. Look for the Raymond Plaza East – Market Street exit. At Newark Broad Street look for the yellow/black signs for the free New York Red Bulls shuttle that drops off at a location walking distance from Red Bull Arena.
Finally, if you decide to drive, expect about an hour journey and paying between $10 and $20 for parking.
Red Bull Arena
600 Cape May St.
Have you checked out Red Bull Arena? Tell us about your visit in the comments below!
— Emily Myers
photos are the author’s