No matter where in the world you may roam, there truly is no place like home. (And no, I didn’t intend for that to rhyme.) Affectionately known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia once again serves as the temporary hub of the music industry as Budweiser’s Made in America music festival calls the famous Art Museum steps its home.
Beyoncé returns as a headliner for Saturday night, while The Weeknd closes out the festival on Sunday. Future, Big Sean, hometown hero Meek Mill, J.Cole and Dreamville Records, De La Soul, Santigold, Lolawolf, Vic Mensa and more do more than follow suit as accompanying acts during the two-day festival.
Whether it’s your first go-round or you know your way around Center City by now, it always helps to know where to go, where to shop, and why you can’t buy a cheesesteak from just anywhere. So as EBONY’s lone Philly native, walk with me and let me show you my beautiful city of Philadelphia.
If you’re staying in the city for the festival, look into how to get to and from the Parkway using public transportation. Philly has a fairly reliable public transit system, and could be the different between getting home with ease or wandering around trying to find your Uber driver.
For those looking to purchase alcoholic beverages to responsibly consume during the weekend, I’d suggest either bringing bottles with you upon your pilgrimage to the city, or to buy your alcohol as soon as you get in town. PA state law forbids the sale of alcohol during a holiday (see Labor Day), and most liquor stores are closed on Sundays. So do yourself a favor before things get too lit: stock up your supply.
Yes, I gave cheesesteaks their own special section, because it seems to be the most recommended of all my suggestions. If there’s one thing I hear whenever I tell people I’m from Philly, it’s “where can I get the best cheesesteak?”
Spots are going to be racking up this weekend, pouncing on naïve tourists who don’t know the difference between “wit or witout.” First, wherever you go, I’d recommend you practice your ordering style—because if they can tell you’re a rookie, they will pounce on you. Ask your friend, homie, whoever you’re with how to order a cheesesteak to save yourself the trouble and temporary embarrassment.
Some of the places I’d recommend are Ishkabibbles, Pat’s Steaks, Jim’s Steaks and Larry’s Steaks. All of these shops are in the Center City/downtown area, with Pat’s being the farthest south and Larry’s the farthest west. To me, Ishkabibbles gets the stamp of approval for their perfect chicken cheesesteak and “The Gremlin,” a drink that can’t be explained and must be tried. Any four of these spots would be a good look, and you’ll go back to your office on Monday ready to go back for seconds.
Philadelphia nightlife is very unique, in the fact that it tends to depend more on the party promoter throwing the event than the actual venue itself. With the nightlife scene steadily rising in quality over the last couple of years, those changes will definitely be reflected during Made in America weekend.
With some of the brightest stars in music coming into the city, there’s no telling who may make an appearance at some of the best events in town. Hennessy enters the fray by enlisting two of New York’s rising DJs—Dimy and Brittany Sky—into their party at Club Rumor on Sunday, while Made in America participant Future’s personal DJ Esco plans to shut down the Reserve Bar in the name of FreeBandz Baptist.
From pool parties to art installations, the city is buzzing with different events for different tastes. And if you make it through the days’ activities, the night show is yours for the taking.
One of the strengths I feel that my city has on lock is its food selection. Philadelphia is not-so-quietly home of some of the best chefs in the world, and they showcase their talents through different international cuisines. My main recommendations: for brunch, Green Eggs in Center City has some of the best red velvet pancakes I’ve ever had. If Mexican/Tex Mex is your thing, try El Vez. Their margaritas are reasonable priced and un-reasonably strong. Silk City Diner, located on 4th and Spring Garden Street, has some great bar-style and comfort food, such as their highly popular Thai Chili Chicken Wings. And a personal favorite: Federal Donuts. Because who knew that fried chicken and gourmet donuts would be a match made in Philly? If you get in town early, take some time and check these spots out. You probably won’t want to leave.
The majority of Philly’s main shopping spots are downtown in our Center City district, which is great news for festivalgoers staying close to the action. Chestnut Street and Walnut Street provide a diverse mix of retail chains, secret thrift shops and boutiques. Buffalo Exchange on Chestnut Street is worth checking out. On the fashion side, a trip to Mitchell & Ness is always necessary to acquire retro athletic apparel.
As far as sneakers, two spots rise above the rest: Ubiq, Philly’s premier sneaker and streetwear boutique, located at 15th and Walnut, and SUPLEX Philly, on 6th and South. Also, if you’re looking for some high quality menswear (or just some really nice candles, because everyone needs candles), check out the P’s & Q’s boutique at 8th and South, or Lapstone & Hammer at 1106 Chestnut Street.
Philadelphia is much bigger than being the home of the best DJs in the world and the future 2015 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Sitting in between Washington, DC and New York, the City of Brotherly Love tends to be overlooked. As a son of the city, I appreciate Made in America just for all it’s done, providing jobs as well as opening the city’s doors to people from around the globe. We are a prideful city, one that will welcome you with a smile but will also defend our borders with debate until the very end. But it’s the blue-collar mentality that gives Philadelphia the warm feeling it has. And there’s no other place on Earth I’d rather be from.
So welcome to Philly, folks. I hope it’s the first of many trips.
Cory Townes was born and raised in Philadelphia, and currently lives in Brooklyn. A devout Philly sports fan, Townes is the Social Media Manager for EBONY.com. When he’s not saluting the plug or bringing headbands back in the 2015, you can reach him on Twitter @CoryTownes, or live and direct during Future's set this weekend at Made In America.