Home of the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings, and host to concerts and other events, the Staples Center is a prime attraction in downtown Los Angeles. Here are my tips to make your visit fun and hassle-free.
1. Bring a good jacket for Kings games
If you go for a Kings game, the stadium will be pretty cold. Bring a good jacket or sweater! I am not kidding. Many people wear hats as well, probably more for the look though.
Because it was cold, we got hot tea with a tea bag. We were able to get free refills of hot water at the concessions stand, so it was like have unlimited refills of hot tea.
2. Don’t bring a big camera or big bag
Don’t do what I did – I brought a digital SLR camera to take photos for this blog. They stopped me at the door and said I was not allowed bring in a camera with a zoom lens. BUT, they were super nice about it and escorted me to Guest Services, where I could have them hold it for me. They were so friendly about it that I didn’t mind the hassle.
Also note that any bags larger than 14 inches x 14 inches are prohibited, and you will go through metal detectors.
3. Consider taking public transportation
I’ve driven to the Staples Center from the West Side many times in rush-hour traffic and it’s just awful. Therefore, my first suggestion for you is to take the LA Metro Rail train to get there if possible. “What?? Take public transportation??”, you ask. Yes, I know this is L.A. and we love driving, but I tried the Metro the last time I went and it was wonderful! We drove to the Culver City station, hopped on the Metro, and arrived in downtown in about forty minutes. The entrance to Staples Center was just over a block away from the last stop. It was great!
Cost was $1 for the TAP card (one-time cost), and $1.75 each way. Parking that night at the Kings game was $20. It’s even more for Lakers games and concerts. You can drive around and find cheaper parking, but you’ll be walking even more, and I guarantee you won’t match the $4.50 round trip cost of the Metro, even for two people.
For events that are not during rush hour, I might consider driving. But, most of the games are right after work, during the worst possible time to be driving. Even if you’ve never taken public transportation before, consider it for the Staples Center. It’s way better than driving!
Just make sure you check the train schedule if you plan to stay late. As of this writing, the last Expo line train leaves at 12:30AM on most nights, with service until 2:10AM on Friday night/Saturday evening.
4. Have dinner outside Staples Center if you can
While the food options inside Staples Center are pretty darn good by sports stadium standards, consider eating at one of the restaurants at LA Live if you have the time. The options are better there than inside the arena, ranging from mid-level (Yardhouse) to high-end (Katsuya, Fleming’s). Note that if you are going to one of the higher-end restaurants, you should make reservations.
If you’re a foodie, then Broken Spanish is “by far the best place to eat near Staples Center”, according to acclaimed food critic Jonathan Gold (RIP).
For more food options that are close to, but not in, the Staples Center, check out this article: 10 Places to Eat and Drink Near the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles.
If you want a quiet drink in a nice atmosphere, I’d recommend heading just across the street to one of the bars at Hotel Figueroa.
5. Know your food options inside if you must
If you don’t have time to have dinner beforehand, Staples Center has slightly better food options than most other sports venues that I am used to (i.e., Dodgers’ stadium). Inside, you’ll find McDonalds, California Pizza Kitchen, and other slightly-better-than-hot-dog vendors, in the main concourse, which has a food-court type of feel. There are also food vendors in the upper level.
We had chicken sandwiches at Ludo Bird in the lower level. It was good, but expensive for what it was. The chicken sandwiches were $11.50 and sides were $3.50 each, with a buttermilk biscuit for $5! Dinner for two can easily run over $50. Also, it was far from healthful. Everything had lots of fat and salt. My potato salad was drenched in mayo. But hey, it tasted good!
Here’s a list of the main-concourse concessions.
Only later did I discover a Smokehouse BBQ outside in the smoking area on the top floor. I didn’t get to try it but it seemed like it could be a better option, if you don’t mind the cigarette smokers up there. Here’s a complete list of upper-level concessions.
But, as I said, all of the concessions inside of the Staples Center are expensive for what they are. A draft beer might run you $10-$12. California Pizza Kitchen is probably one of the better values inside.
6. Check out the pre-game warm up
We got there a bit early and were able to watch the L.A. Kings warm up. My date enjoyed that part because the ushers let us into the lower level and we could see the players without their helmets skating around and stretching. It might be worth checking this out, if you’ve never been to a game before.
7. Don’t worry if you have “bad seats”
For our Kings game, we had nosebleed seats, for rows from the very back, but the view was still much better than TV. We were quite satisfied, even that far up!
More important than getting close to the action is getting a good angle. We were right at mid-ice, which was ideal. Being behind one of the goals might not have been as good.
So, spend your money on getting a good angle and don’t worry as much about how high up you are. The seats are very steeply tiered, so the people in front of you won’t block the action.
8. Stretch your legs
Unfortunately, there is very little legroom in the cheap seats (at least in the nosebleed section). You have to stand up every time someone wants to pass, not to mention that your legs get stiff from being so confined. Honestly, I don’t know how people who are over six feet tall can sit in these seats for long periods of time. If you or your date are super tall, you might want to consider a more expensive section with more leg room.
In the middle of the game, we actually took a walk around the stadium perimeter walkway on the top level. We did three laps in fact! We guessed that it was over a quarter a mile for each lap (it looked bigger than a high-school track). Our legs welcomed that movement after sitting for so long, and it warmed us up! (Obviously, we are not huge sports fans and didn’t mind missing part of the game).
Just note that the ushers won’t let you back in until a break in the action, which was fine with us. She was so nice about it, even commenting on how much she liked how my date was dressed.
9. Exit early
As you can imagine, it’s bit of a cattle call when exiting. If you hate crowds, you might want to leave a bit early, or plan on staying afterwards. We left when everyone else did and, although it was crowded, the escalators got us down reasonably quickly considering how many people there were.
This is where our decision to take the train helped us again. We simply walked the block-and-a-half to the train station, instead of being stuck in the post-game traffic jam in the parking lot.
10. Enjoy the rest of downtown LA afterwards
The Staples Center is nicer than most sporting venues I’ve been to in terms of cleanliness, atmosphere, view, and friendliness of the staff. It is a great place to see a sporting event, even if you are not a die-hard sports fan. It is located next to L.A. Live, so you can have dinner (or even go ice skating during the winter!) before the game or concert. And, there are plenty of other attractions in Downtown L.A.!