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Seating is everything. It can make or break an experience for you, whether it’s at a restaurant, at a game, at a concert, or at the movies. Let’s face it, nothing can spoil your appetite more than a little waft of bathroom odor when your main dish arrives. And even the best films can be ruined if you’re stuck in the first row, craning your neck just so you can see what the hell is going on.
So while it may seem like a simple question—“What’s the best seat in the house?”—it’s actually one that elicits some complicated answers. From the Kennedy Center to Verizon Center, D.C. has no shortage of great, cherished venues, and when you’re planning a visit to one of them, you should take careful consideration of which seats you choose. Sitting, for example, in a chorister seat at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall for an orchestral performance can give you a bird’s–eye view down onto the stage from behind the performers, allowing you to experience the performance from a unique vantage point. Verizon Center hosts a number of the District’s professional sports teams, but the best seats from which to catch a Wizards or Mystics game isn’t necessarily the best spot for the Capitals (spoiler alert: seats right behind the glass aren’t always great!).
So, I ask again: What’s the best seat in the house? It’s complicated, but lucky for you, Washington City Paper’s editors, writers, and critics have spent a lot of time thinking about it. We’ve got some recommendations for theater, music, sports, and movie venues. We’ve even added a few of the more popular restaurants, too. Consider this week’s issue a handy guide for the next time you’re headed to one of these places, so you’ll never again have to ask yourself that question. —Matt Cohen
Top illustration by Michael Hirshon; inside illustrations by Lauren Heneghan
For sheer cool factor and exclusivity, the presidential boxes are the most-envied seats in all three of the Kennedy Center’s main theaters. But if you don’t have friends on Pennsylvania Avenue, you might have to aim a little lower.
The Concert Hall (pictured) is the Kennedy Center’s largest performance space, with nearly 2,500 seats. Its 1997 overhaul included the addition of onstage boxes, a chorister section, and parterre seats, which ring the ground level. But rather than sit in the parterre rows in the back, be in the middle of it all: Snag a chorister seat. Looking down onto the stage from behind the performers, you might even be able to read the sheet music over their shoulders. These seats aren’t available for all performances (rumor is they aren’t released unless the show is about to sell out, out of fear that a half-full section behind the performers looks depressing). If there are none to be had, go for the onstage boxes, which will still give you a side view of the conductor’s expressions.
Designed for unamplified sound to reverberate throughout the hall, the acoustics of the Opera House can make it hard for touring companies to calibrate their sound equipment (beware the risky Broadway musical tour). While a default emphasis on the visual elements of a show often means that closer is better, that doesn’t hold true for the best audio. In many venues, sound travels past the orchestra section and floats up to the higher levels with pleasing clarity. Stick close to center to avoid any muddling that can come from being too far to either side, and look for a seat that lets you feel most immersed in the action. The center seats in Tier 1, Row A provide a good chance of crisp sound without anyone’s head intruding on your sightlines, reminding you that you’re in an opera house instead of 19th-century Spain.
The Eisenhower Theater comes in at around half the size of its larger siblings, with a capacity of slightly more than a thousand. Redone in 2008, the theater shed its asbestos and gained new seats. The American Seating Company’s Stellar 216 model wood-backed seats, to be precise—the same company that provided the seating for Fenway Park and the Crystal Cathedral.
“My favorite seat to watch ballet is center orchestra,” says The Washington Ballet’s Gian Carlo Perez. “At that vantage point, I am able to best experience the magic between the artist and the public.” For ballet, an ideal seat is close enough to see the smaller details of the dancers’ movements but far enough away to appreciate the broader strokes of the choreography. Aim for the center back-half of the first orchestra block: rows J and O, seat numbers in the low hundreds. —Emily Walz
Atlas Performing Arts Center
The Lang (pictured) is the Atlas Performing Arts Center’s proscenium theater, the only stage there with fixed rows of seating. Dale Stewart, founder and principal at CORE, the D.C. architecture and design firm responsible for the early-aughts Atlas redesign, says “I prefer aisle seats so I can easily hop out to the Atlas Café during intermission. I really like the seating in the Lang Theatre because we designed the seats to be wide enough to be comfortable and the rows far enough apart so patrons don’t have to clamber over other guests’ knees.” Its steeper tiers increase the likelihood that your sightlines will remain unbroken, letting you peer over other patrons’ heads instead of through them. To avoid peeking past the side curtains and catching performers in their off-stage moments, go for the center aisle seats. Midway back ensures that you’ll have a steady picture of the whole stage without needing to pan back and forth.
Three-quarters of the Atlas stages are black boxes—theatrical “blank slates” on which every performing group can write their own arrangement. These are the Sprenger Theatre and two smaller boxes, Lab I and Lab II, which play host to a wide variety of theater, music, and dance productions. Atlas produces its own shows and rents production space to outside organizations, making it popular with small experimental troupes and the Capital Fringe Festival. As the name suggests, they’re minimalist performance spaces, with seating and risers that can be re-arranged in almost any conceivable design, but are frequently configured with chairs lined in rows on graduated risers abutting the stage. The first row is just feet from the performers, and leaves you flat on stage-level. The point of experimental theater is to reimagine the relationship between performers and audiences, so go ahead: Choose the front row. With the action happening so close, you’ll feel like you’ve become part of the show. —Emily Walz
Constellation Theatre Company
Constellation Theatre Company plies its trade at the Source Theatre, a 140-seat black box space that predates, by about a year, the venerable Studio Theatre’s arrival on the then-riot-scarred 14th Street corridor. While financial woes forced Source to cease operations about a decade ago, Constellation has been performing in the company’s old building at 1835 14th St. NW since its 2007 inception, delivering ambitious, visually rich adaptations of everything from The Oresteia and Chekhov to contemporary fare like The Lieutenant of Inishmore or its recent production of Avenue Q, which snagged more Helen Hayes Award nominations than any other show. Because Constellation frequently reconfigures the Source’s interior to accommodate a unique scenic design for each production (usually by A.J. Gruban, who also serves as the company’s managing director), the best seat necessarily varies. But the room is cozy enough that finding a bad set is unlikely. —Chris Klimek
Theater J’s 240-seat Goldman Theater is a steep, traditional rake design, so unless you’re in the front row, you’ll be looking down at the stage. If you’re in one of the back five rows, you’ll be looking down on it at a severe angle. Most rows have 20 seats. Seats D11 and D12 will give you and your date a superb fourth-row-center vantage point. There are also 20 balcony seats (10 on each side of the house) that I can recommend only if you think you may need or want to leave mid-performance: These are the only places from which you can slip out discreetly via the back of the house without disturbing your fellow patrons. Walkouts may be less likely nowadays: Theater J’s longtime Artistic Director Ari Roth was fired at the end of 2014, reportedly because of a pattern of sympathetic-to-Palestine programming choices that angered the leadership and some constituents of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, Theater J’s parent organization. Theater J’s fare in the 14 months since Roth’s departure has been relatively free of geopolitics. —Chris Klimek
Round House Theatre
Round House Theatre’s 400-seat venue, half a block away from the Bethesda station on the Red Line, clumps the audience into six sections. The layout isn’t quite a “thrust stage” arrangement wherein the audience is on three sides of a square occupied by the stage, but there are winged orchestra sections that overlook the stage at a slight angle. While anything in the center orchestra section will afford you an unobstructed view of the stage, only the seats on the very margins of the house are at risk of not being able to see everything. Anything in the front half of the center orchestra would be considered enviable. In the years since Ryan Rilette took over as producing artistic director, Round House’s programming has grown more adventurous, boasting more work by contemporary female playwrights like Gina Gionfriddo and Lucy Kirkwood, and its hit rate—aesthetically anyway—has ticked up. —Chris Klimek
The mother-and-daughter duo of Adele Robey and Julia Robey Christian purchased the 5,000-square-foot space at 2020 Shannon Place SE that is now the Anacostia Playhouse in 2012. A wave of gentrification had priced them out of H Street NE, where Adele and her husband Bruce had operated the H Street Playhouse since 2002. (Bruce Robey died in 2009; the former theater he and Adele had operated together at 1365 H St. NE is now a CrossFit gym.) In the two-and-a-half years since the Anacostia Playhouse opened for business, the space has been Theater Alliance’s home base while also hosting shows by smaller companies like Pinky Swear Productions and the Washington Rogues. Both Theater Alliance and the playhouse have embraced the community in which they reside, programming more work by artists of color than they had prior to their relocation. The black box space can seat up to 150 but is usually set up for a more intimate crowd, so which seats afford you the best view will vary from show to show. —Chris Klimek
In order to keep track of what’s going on in whatever stage production you see, securing a seat in the center of a row 20 to 30 feet from the stage is ideal. This is particularly important at Studio Theatre, which seats audiences around three sides of the stage in its Mead (pictured) and Metheny theaters. I know this from personal experience: In 2006, I saw Adam Rapp’s drama Red Light Winter in the Mead with my mom. We were seated directly facing stage right. When the first act culminated in a sex scene, the lead actor undressed. Entirely. Had we sat in front of the stage, we’d only have seen him in profile, but from the side, we saw it all. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with onstage nudity, but when attending a show in mixed company, you’re better served by sitting out a couple yards. —Caroline Jones
Where do you sit when a stage has four sides? Front row, any side if you’re Melissa Romain, who has been a subscriber at Arena Stage for three years and a donor for two years before that. Musicals are her favorite, and when she saw Oklahoma! in the A section of the 680-seat Fichandler Stage (pictured), she was so close to the action that actors would make eye contact during scenes. It’s not uncomfortable for her, since the seats are slightly lower than the stage, but she recognizes not everyone goes to plays to be a part of the action. “It’s not a place to fall asleep. Their eyes are on you and even the lights are on you… It makes you feel like part of the cast,” she says.
Don Mike likes the Kreeger Stage for its intimate feel that folds you into the shows. He’s been seeing shows at Arena for nine years, and feels the Kreeger lends itself to more plot-driven fare, such as the musical drama Dear Evan Hansen. His favorite seat is in the center of the orchestra section, seat 116 to be exact. From there, he felt he could emotionally commit to the show, being close enough to see subtle looks on actors’ faces. Mike says the space feels tight enough that you can be drawn into a performance and pay attention to the details. “Especially the way you were positioned in that space, the effects of the show didn’t stop on the edge of the stage,” he says.
Louis Delair Jr. has seen every play at Arena Stage since 2005. He loved The Originalist at Arena Stage’s Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle last spring so much he saw it 12 times. He sat in the front of the orchestra section for 10 of the shows, and tried each of the sides at least once, just to make sure he had the best view. His close-to-stage seating came in handy during an opening that always included a question asked to the audience: “Does anyone need to know the definition of an originalist?” Delair’s favorite front row position—Row D, anywhere in seats 4 to 10, gave him the best vantage point from which to shoot his hand up; he knew his seat meant he could comfortably play ice breaker for the audience every time. Plus, he likes the fact that the Kogod seats aren’t right on top of each other, and considers them the coziest of the entire arena. —Allison Kowalski
Without hesitation, Warner Theatre Operations Manager Victoria Shamas can name her favorite place to sit—Row C, Seat 104. Her selection is specific: The position is center but not too close to the stage, and just far enough away to avoid straining your neck. Shamas says the placement helps you feel like part of the crowd, cozied up to the people around you, but not too claustrophobic. But her position on best seat changes when the theater host dancers or plays. For those, she prefers the front row of the balcony, where you can see the performers from an aerial view and take in the whole interior of the 90-year-old theater. Plus, there’s the fact you can also glitz it up with VIP treatment and splurge on your own personal cocktail waiter while gazing out at the elaborate chandelier. —Allison Kowalski
Eighty percent of the Woolly Mammoth’s 265 seats are free-moving, shifting to suit different shows. For this month’s Guards at the Taj, they form a thrust configuration, with rows lining three sides of the stage. With the seat map in flux, it can be hard to pin down the perfect spot. Different vantage points yield a variety of experiences, notes Communications Coordinator Justin McCarthy. “And we kind of like that,” he says. “It changes your perspective if your eye catches one character on one particular element of the set.” Personally, McCarthy favors a middle seat. “Some people like to feel the spit of the actors. I kind of prefer to be a little further back with a good sightline.” For this, rows G and H are perfect, just ahead of the sound rig.
Of the discounted 30-and-under B-section seating, McCarthy advises center balcony seats over the upper box. The balcony’s first row isn’t discounted—an instance of what McCarthy calls the “height guard” price difference—but pending tall patrons in row AA, the BB seats offer a similar perspective. —Emily Walz
If you’re like me and enjoy having a drink at crowded shows, the best “seat” at the Black Cat is by the bar. Exactly where by the bar you choose to stand (don’t sit on the barstools, unless you want people ramming into you all night) depends on a number of factors. If getting drinks quickly is more important to you than seeing the band, the bar on the left-hand side when you walk in is often inexplicably less crowded than the one on the right. If you’re not very tall and want to see the band while staying close to the bar, there’s a spot between the right-hand bar and the backstage door that’s slightly elevated, so you can see better. However, you’re so close to the speaker at that point that the acoustics aren’t the best. For taller people who want better acoustics (please stay away from the raised platform, tall people!), the beams at the sides are really nice, so you can put your drink down. Finally, for less crowded and calmer shows, the tables at the very back are probably your best bet. —Elena Goukassian
Having spent many years right next to the 9:30 Club’s stage in the photo pit, I can tell you the best spot to watch a show at this standing-room-only club, is, in fact, at the back of the main floor. While the front row gets you up close and personal with the band, it also puts you parallel to the enormous speakers that flank each side of the stage, and directly below the speakers above the stage, which can muddy the sound. If you want to hear the music in its purest form, go to the back of the floor—this is where the sound guy is listening, making the band’s magical sound happen. I will clarify, though, that how tall you are dictates the best sound and vision in the back. If you’re six feet tall and above, right in front of the soundboard is great. If you’re like me and only reach five foot five in heels, along the back half of the bar diagonal from the merch booth allows for both even sound and sightlines. And there’s the added bonus of always being able to get a drink. —Erica Bruce
Intimacy can be hard to find at some of D.C.’s larger venues, like the Lincoln Theatre and Echostage, but Verizon Center’s 20,000-capacity room takes the concert-going experience to an entirely different, and often distant, level. People tend to go to shows at Verizon Center to be close to greatness—or at least celebrities. Rihanna, The Who, and Adele (whose two October shows sold out almost immediately) will be headlining in 2016, giving diehard fans a shot at singing along with their musical idols. A lot of seating areas in the venue, however, can lead to fans watching popstars bust moves on a big screen while squinting at the stage. Theatrics like extensive light shows can help, but at the end of the day, the best seats in Verizon Center are the ones that put you as close to the artist as possible: general admission floor or standing room tickets. —Quinn Myers
The Lincoln Theatre
At a general-admission venue like the Lincoln, when doors open hours before showtime, you’ve got to arrive early in order to access the best seat. Order a sandwich from Taylor Gourmet, eat it in line, and once you enter the theater, immediately proceed through the lobby and down the left side of the orchestra until you reach rows G, H, or I, where you’ll be able to see the whole stage but still feel close enough to the action. Take a seat in the center section on the aisle—in the hour before the band starts, people will come and go from the bar and the bathroom, and aisle seats are the easiest to get out of when strangers inevitably try to climb over you. They also give you the fastest access to the exit when the concert ends and everyone spills out onto U Street NW. —Caroline Jones
The Fillmore Silver Spring is a space that attempts to blend a modern look with a classic feel. It’s when you’re on the main floor and standing by the bar on either the left or right wing—and you can stand removed from the raucous action on the floor during a top-40 pop event or seeing a classic rock or local artist showcase—that you can actually best soak in the ambiance that the venue attempts to convey. Eating Fillmore’s duck fat–infused french fries and drinking a libation from the bar while people watching is one of the area’s lesser-appreciated joys. An uninhibited sightline that doesn’t feel miles separated from the artist, or plagued by craning your neck upward, or too far removed from what often feels like a party happening below— the best seat in Fillmore’s house is actually standing by its bar. —Marcus Dowling
The Howard Theatre
Part of what’s made the Howard Theatre a beloved venue for two generations of Washingtonians is just how much of an ornate throwback it appears when you’re able to take in its full size and scope. It’s always advisable to watch a show at the Howard from the middle of the lower deck of the upper balcony. Not only do you get a full and unobstructed view of the stage, but this particular viewpoint allows for the scope of a performance to shift between seeing the full stage, patrons sitting and standing below, and being able to take in just how high the building’s ceiling is. From this vantage point, a great performance by a lesser-known artist can feel like a show by a superstar in an iconic space. But when a superstar knocks it out of the park, the venue’s history as the one-time home of James Brown shows and Motown’s Chitlin Circuit Motortown Revue comes into play, transforming an excellent show into an epic one. —Marcus Dowling
DAR Constitution Hall
From its inception, DAR Constitution Hall has existed to feel massive. Way back in 1929, the Daughters of the American Revolution got tired of squeezing their annual conventions in a smaller building and erected the stately new venue next to it, and thus, one of D.C’s largest concert halls was born. Everything from comedy acts to big-name rock tours pass through the U-shaped auditorium. Since the space can feel woefully vast when you’re back in the orchestra seating, head toward the tiered balcony instead. Aim for one of the lower sections diagonal from the stage, snag an aisle seat, and if you’re lucky, you may even have some room to jump to your feet and dance. —Maeve McDermott
If you’ve spent an evening at Echostage stretching your neck to see the stage, you’re not alone. The cavernous, 30,000-plus-square-foot Langdon venue advertises itself as D.C.’s “largest dedicated concert venue,” and most of its patrons are eager to be as close to the action as possible. While its roster leans toward EDM, the club has started booking increasingly high-profile acts that actually require a good vantage point. Echostage owner Antonis Karagounis recommends you skip the rush to the front of the stage and hang by the back—or head upstairs. “The best view at Echostage is further back by the front of the house, near the light and video control booth,” he says. “Another really great spot to view a show is from the center or the mezzanine area.” At least you’ll be standing close to the bar. —Maeve McDermott
When going to the movies, it’s important to keep one thing in mind—it’s easy not to be an asshole:
Do not talk. When the movie starts, nothing you say is more important than the film people are paying to see. The theater is not a comedy club.
Do not eat anything crunchy. Yes, that includes popcorn for quieter films.
Do not bring your kid to a film clearly intended for adults. If you can’t hire a sitter, stay home.
Turn off your cell phone. It doesn’t matter if it’s on silent or vibrate. If you take it out, your screen is a torch for everyone behind you.
Start in the center of the theater, then fill out the corners. If you arrive early and sit in an aisle seat, everyone will (rightfully) hate you.
Have fun. Laugh, cry, gasp, and applaud. Going to the movies is a communal experience. —Alan Zilberman
IMAX—Natural History, Air and Space
The best seats in any IMAX theater are in the last, top row, in the dead center. The most noteworthy thing about IMAX screens is not their size, but their screen ratio: Unlike a standard letterbox cinema screen, an IMAX screen is almost square. That means if you’re too close, your eyes will have to dart up and down in order to follow the action. An inability to see the whole screen is incredibly unpleasant, and may even create headaches or a sense of vertigo. I should add an important caveat—the rows in IMAX are about as narrow as you’ll find in D.C. movie theaters, so if you’re going to commit to the middle of the row, make sure your bladder can handle it. —Alan Zilberman
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
Forget the Landmark theaters where you can choose your own seat, the AFI Silver is the most luxurious cinema in the D.C. area. Aside from the comfort of the seats themselves, the theater’s atmosphere is the reason for its luxury. Its handsome, art-deco style reminds us there once was a time where people would dress up for the movies. The best seats in AFI Silver are in the “box” area, dead center, just above the rows of regular seating. Although you’re further from the screen, the box gives you the full opportunity to see how the theater is constructed to celebrate cinema. Just don’t kick your feet up; it wouldn’t be proper. —Alan Zilberman
In a typical movie theater, particularly those with stadium-style seating, you generally want to sit as close to the center as possible. That’s where most people gravitate, anyway, so the center is where you’ll experience the optimum picture and sound. But if you’re reading this, you probably want to get a more specific recommendation: The best row in which to sit is the one where the edges of the screen are also just inside the edges of your peripheral vision. This can be difficult to gauge, particularly since films come in many different aspect ratios, but if you get it right, the reward is absolute immersion. —Alan Zilberman
Depending on what you’re looking for, there are a few particularly prized tables at D.C.’s buzziest French restaurant. Starr Restaurants Regional Wine Director Erik Segelbaum, who works at Le Diplomate, suggests Table 56—tucked into the far right corner of the main dining room, away from the windows facing 14th Street NW—for a romantic date or anyone seeking privacy. “Quiet is not really something Le Diplomate does,” Segelbaum admits. But Table 56 and its neighboring tables against the wall are as close as it gets. Those who’d rather see and be seen might choose Table 121, a round table for four or five close to the entrance. “You even get a bit of spillover of the bar energy and vibe,” Segelbaum says.
But Le Diplomate’s best kept secret? The two stools at the service bar in the green-tiled garden room (known as l’orangerie). You and your dining companion get your own bartender and can still order from the full menu. “It’s your own private oasis in one of the busiest restaurants in the nation’s capital,” Segelbaum says of the first-come, first-served stools. Plus, high-profile VIPs often choose to sit in this room, so it’s a good spot to potentially spy on some boldfaced names. —Jessica Sidman
It’s not just where you sit at Barmini, but what you sit on. There’s the deceivingly plush cactus sofa with photorealistic fabric from Spanish designer Cerruti Baleri that costs more than a (nice) car. There’s the hanging bird’s nest chair that envelops you in an egg-shaped cocoon. And then there’s the curvy corner booth with multicolored mosaic fabric and an enormous umbrella lamp overhead. But ultimately, Barmini is a bar; accordingly, the best place to sit is at the bar. The sleek ivory counter is broken into three sections with a grouping of three seats on one end, four seats on the other, and two in the middle. Since Barmini is a great spot to come with a date, you’ll want the private island in the middle. With antique coupe glass in hand, you’ll have the perfect perch from which to watch the bartender play with a smoke gun or garnish drinks using tweezers. —Jessica Sidman
Wolfgang Puck’s modern Asian restaurant was renovated last year with new decor and a new menu. One of the best additions? Hot pot. Chef Scott Drewno enlisted the help of local woodworker Art Drauglis to design a four-person hot pot table with a built-in induction burner.
Rather than dumping everything into the pot at once, Drewno has designed a $65-per-person, five-course hot pot tasting menu where each ingredient builds on the last and contributes to the broth’s flavor. The parade of proteins includes Wagyu beef short ribs, pork belly, and Gulf shrimp skewers—each with their own unique sauces—plus noodles, dumplings, and poached egg. An amuse bouche and dessert are also included in the prix-fixe meal.
The upstairs table takes one to two reservations per night and must be booked at least 24 hours in advance (although you’d be wise to call at least a few days ahead of time). If you can’t snag the hot pot table, another one-of-a-kind seating option is the two-person chef’s counter overlooking the newly added open wok kitchen. A nightly-changing, 16-course menu is offered exclusively to that party of two for $95 per person. —Jessica Sidman
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
When diners request a table at this 500-seat downtown restaurant, it’s usually because they want something quiet. The most private option is Table 10, a corner booth in the main dining room with floor-to-ceiling white curtains that can be pulled around it. Marketing Manager Amy Ingraham says the brown leather banquette, which seats two to four, is the go-to spot for any VIPs “who might cause a little bit of commotion in the dining room… politicians, maybe a super megastar singer.” (Yes, they’ve had those. No, Ingraham won’t name names.) Table 10 is the only curtained table in any of Joe’s restaurants from Chicago to Las Vegas to D.C. —Jessica Sidman
Rasika West End
The three most popular tables at Rasika West End are built to look like palanquin or doli—the Indian vehicles that royalty or a bride might be carried in. The design, however, is much more modern than the highly adorned traditional doli; teal cushions seat up to four under a sleek black, curved roof. Aside from just looking cool, General Manager Atul Narain says the structures help insulate noise. The window-side seats are also prime for people watching both inside and outside the restaurant. “There’s probably at least more than a few requests on a daily basis for the booths,” Narain says. —Jessica Sidman
The newest, and arguably finest, sports facility in the District, Nationals Park benefitted from the construction boom of good stadium design begun with Camden Yards in Baltimore. The sightlines are good everywhere and the amenities are great (not a small consideration for a game which averages three hours). But for the best game experience, there are two solid options. The cheapest route is to grab the most inexpensive ticket possible (maybe even a standing room ticket) and stand in the outfield behind the 100-level seats. You get a great view of the park and easy access to Red Porch, which has an excellent beer selection if you’re not into Bud products. But if you need a seat, look for something on the third base side in the top of the 100 section even with the base: You’ll be shielded from the late-afternoon sun, and those back rows are covered in case of rain. Plus, you’ll be able to see in the Nationals dugout the next time Jonathan Papelbon tries to choke another teammate. —Steve Cavendish
The secret to watching hockey is that the seats down on the glass—the ones people might take out a second mortgage to sit in—are really terrible. Sure, there’s the odd crash into the boards or, if you’re lucky, a bone-crunching hit. But most of the time you’re stretching your neck back to see around the action and losing the puck in the corners. And if you can’t be behind the benches to see the wonderful chaos of line changes up close, then get up to the (relatively) cheap seats. To be able to see everything, you want to be up high, so try to snag something in sections 408 or 409, preferably on the first row. From that perch, you’ll be able to witness the entire game, seeing rushes develop and the fluid movement that only hockey has. And on that end, you’ll get the Caps shooting at you twice. —Steve Cavendish
Verizon Center—Mystics, Wizards
Much like hockey, being too low for an NBA or WNBA game can be a bad experience. Don’t envy people sitting in those rows right on the court. They’re missing John Wall in traffic as he drives the length of the floor through a forest of tall players. And face it, seeing Wall’s magic is about the only reason to see the Wizards this season. But unlike hockey, with a playing surface that’s 100 feet longer, going up high behind the baskets means getting far, far away from the action. Even sitting lower is no good, as the basket blocks sightlines. Basketball is best viewed on the side, preferably between the baskets, about halfway up. An ideal value—assuming you can’t get those prime, center court tickets—would be near the top of Section 110, with a view of the whole court and facing the Wizards bench. It would be the perfect place to see Kevin Durant launching threes from the sideline (please, o merciful lord, give us KD in free agency, even if he has to re-sign with Oklahoma City for another year to maximize his value). —Steve Cavendish
Robert F. Kennedy Stadium—D.C. United
United games are divided into two equal, completely different fan experiences. On the bench side, you’ll get some shade in the summer and a very polite, knowledgeable crowd who may bitch about Coach Ben Olsen’s formation, but they will largely sit and cheer the action. Because the seating is relatively flat and not near the field, there’s a tradeoff between being close and being able to see the play develop (something the more vertical, compact new stadium will address). For that reason, the seats in sections 301 to 312 offer a good balance (and some protection from the elements at the back). But if you want the singing, chanting, bouncing seats experience, you’ve got to be with the supporters sections among the Screaming Eagles and La Barra Brava. Sure, you may end up wearing a little bit of beer, but buy a ticket on the east side (your seat is irrelevant as you’ll be standing the entire game) and join in. —Steve Cavendish
FedExField—Washington NFL Team
The best seat for any Pigskins game is cheap, convenient, and likely comes with a cushioned seat. It’s in your living room and frankly, it’s something that the NFL should be concerned about. Of all the major sports, professional football is the one where the TV viewing experience has completely outstripped the stadium experience. Between replays and commercial breaks, there’s precious little action inside the stadium; it’s all just a stage for the cameras. Add to that Beltway congestion, terrible transit options, sky-high concession costs, and interminable waits getting in and out of the FedEx parking lots, and, well, just stay home. Or go to your favorite bar if you’re in need of a more communal experience; the beer will be cheaper and likely better. Indeed, the best moment of the season happened not on the field, but in front of cameras just off of it (“You like that? YOU LIKE THAT!”), so why not watch the games where the league has designed it to be enjoyed best—in front of a screen. —Steve Cavendish