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Hidden gems of the US Open

Fans watch the practice courts from the new viewing gallery at the US Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day.

The US Open grounds are spread across 42 acres, leaving a lot to explore and plenty to love – and meaning that there is a little something for every tennis fan. Here, the staff takes a look at a few of our favorite hidden gems – the things to see and do when you’re on the campus for 2016.

Autograph Signings and Special Appearances: Nearly every day of the US Open, a former champion or big-name player is holding an autograph session or making an appearance somewhere on the grounds (usually at sponsor booths). You can find out who by checking the “Fan Fare” section of the US Open Daily drawsheet. The bold-faced names signing autographs or making appearances in 2015 included current stars Victoria Azarenka, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Richard Gasquet, John Isner, Garbine Muguruza and Stan Wawrinka, and former fan favorites James Blake, Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Lindsay Davenport, Mary Joe Fernandez and Mardy Fish.

Court 17: Tucked in the southeast corner of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17 is an intimate show court that provides both hard-core and casual fans the opportunity to watch some of the world’s best athletes. The court, which sits eight feet below ground level and seats 2,500, can be accessed by anyone on the grounds and, since its opening in 2011, has featured some of the Open’s most memorable matches. Among those who appeared on Court 17 during the 2015 US Open were Tomas Berdych, Eugenie Bouchard, David Ferrer, Garbiñe Muguruza, Flavia Pennetta, Sam Querrey, Agnieszka Radwanska, Milos Raonic, Samantha Stosur and Donald Young as well as rising star Taylor Fritz.

Practice Courts: One of the highlights of a visit to the Open is having the chance to do something that those at home can't – get a behind-the-scenes look at your favorite tennis stars getting ready to compete. The two-story practice pavilion (pictured above), located just west of Arthur Ashe Stadium, is the perfect spot to see how Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and more of the world's biggest stars prepare for their next big match. Be sure to head to the practice pavilion for an up-close glimpse of your favorite stars at work, and make sure to check the schedule outside the practice courts to see who is warming up and when.

US Open Bookstore: Located in the Chase Center, the US Open Bookstore has postcards, programs, daily drawsheets, posters and an array of tennis books and DVDs. Whether you want the right US Open souvenir, a comfortable place to sit and get out of the sun for a while, or just love books and stories about the people who play it, this is a great spot for break.

The Old Grandstand: The new Grandstand stadium will open to the public this summer. And while the US Open’s new No. 3 court will steal the show in the redesigned South Campus, spectators will have one final chance to watch their favorite players hit in the old Grandstand. The old Grandstand will be demolished along with Louis Armstrong Stadium at the end of the 2016 US Open, but for 2016, the 5,800-seat arena will be used exclusively as a practice court, giving fans the opportunity to get up close and personal with the stars or gaze down on them from the popular balcony on the west side of the stadium. The 2015 tournament saw the last matches played in the beloved old showpiece, but don’t miss the chance to swing by one last time before this fan favorite is gone for good.

Wine Bar Food: Often overlooked among all the food and drink options at the US Open, Wine Bar Food sits behind the fountains in the South Plaza (with a great view of the giant videoboards outside the Arthur Ashe Stadium entrance) and also has a stand in the suite level of Arthur Ashe Stadium, bringing a Mediterranean flavor to the food offerings – with the wines to match and an allergy-friendly menu. If you’re gluten free, try the burrata. If you’re vegan or can’t have dairy, there’s the avocado toast. A vegetarian? There’s gourmet pizza. And don’t worry, there are plenty of premium cocktails to sip as you wait just a few minutes for your freshly made order.  So whether you’re dining inside or out, there’s a specialty dish and drink for that!

Comment below and let us know some of your favorite spots around the grounds: