Music festivals usually bring to mind thoughts of big open grassy fields, hippie headbands and warm weather that gives you the perfect excuse to wear shorts. The Made in America festival only is characterized by the music festival heat and is otherwise a totally different kind of experience. Remove your images of camping and green polo fields a la Coachella — this festival is set in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, surrounded by impressive memorials and landmarks.
Taking place at the end of August, this festival is a great way to close out your summer with two days of consecutive music bringing together the hottest acts in rock, rap, hip hop, and electronic music for one weekend. Concert goers come together at Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a mile-long scenic boulevard filled with impressive metal sculptures and surrounded by trees creating a urban oasis of music and good times.
Jay-Z officially picks the lineup for the concert himself so expect to see the best names in rap and dance music. Past rap performers have included 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar and dance sensations like Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, and Empire of the Sun. In the past, the festival has been exclusively held in Philadelphia, though this year they have added a sister concert under the Made In America brand happening the same weekend in Los Angeles.
Traveling to Philadelphia
Getting to the festival is fairly easy even if you are not a Philly resident or within driving distance. Out-of-towners can fly into Philadelphia International Airport and catch a bus, train or grab a quick 15 min cab ride into downtown.
Where to Stay
Philadelphia is a bustling city with no shortage of hotels and accomodations. Choose from standard hotels such as the Philadelphia Marriott or Le Meridien Philadelphia. Save a few more dollars by staying in a hostel or finding an Airbnb home in the area. The parkway is located in West Philadelphia and choosing a hotel nearby is a smart move to make your morning and nightly trips to the concert all that much easier.
Philadelphia is a flat, walkable city — the closer you are the quicker you can get to the festival on your own two feet. To help you get to and from the festival grounds you can also grab a cab, use the subway system or drive and park in nearby parking lots.
Before and After the Concert
The shows begin at 2:00pm each day giving you ample time to explore the city in the morning and indulge in a proper brunch to fuel your energy for the day. If you arrive early on Friday and have extra energy, Philadelphia also has a couple exciting hidden gems to seek out and great nightlife that won’t disappoint.
Some come to Philadelphia for the cheesesteaks, but finding the right brunch place is the best move pre-festival. Take a stroll through Rittenhouse Square and have brunch at the edge of this quaint park at Parc, a popular, classic French cafe with amazing croque madams and poached eggs with asparagus. For something a bit more eccentric head over to Cafe Lift, a restaurant with an industrial decor dedicated purely to serving brunch all day, every day. From savory breakfast burritos, runny huevos rancheros or mounds of vanilla, challah French toast, pretty much every essential breakfast item is offered. This place is also BYOB so bring a bottle of champagne or two to really start your festival day off right.
Of course Philadelphia is known for such landmarks like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but for something really different check out Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. This indoor and outdoor sculpture garden is completely tiled with colorful glass bottles, glittering mirrors, and pieces of ceramic depicting different scenes and thought-provoking messages. You can easily get lost exploring all the intricate designs in this giant mosaic mural. The Reading Terminal Market is a classic tourist stop with over 80 different merchants enclosed in one enormous, sprawling market. Stall after stall is filled with everything from fresh produce, Amish treats, aromatic baked goods, sandwiches, Indian food, candies, and more. Get a classic Philly Cheesesteak from By George and watch fresh donuts pop out of the fryer to be drenched in a smooth glaze at Beiler’s Donuts.
Philadelphia has a ton of different bars to match your style and drinking needs. McGillin’s Olde Ale House is a casual pub central to downtown with a large floor of open tables and boasts the title of the oldest bar in the city. Graffiti Bar is quirkier bar with a narrow alley that leads you to a spacious outdoor patio surrounded by colorful wall murals where everyone is enjoying scorpion bowl drinks.
If you enjoy dancing at Vegas-esque clubs, going to late night diners, or an outdoor tiki-themed patio party head over to Silk City. A classic spot, this place literally has everything you could want out of your nighttime entertainment. Those feeling nostalgic for a good house dance party should make their way over to 700 Club, a two-story space where the upstairs literally takes you back to college with old mismatched sofas, a wooden board for a bar and a DJ booth in a shower.
What to Bring
This is one of those festivals where you won’t be roughing it at campgrounds. Pack the essentials as you would for any weekend city trip and remember to have the following with you when you go into the festival:
- Water. This is the East coast and it is HUMID out here. Prepare for extremely warm weather!
- Sunscreen and chapstick. There is limited shade with most of the stages directly outside on the pavement of the parkway, expect strong sun magnified by the black cement!
- Good walking shoes. You won’t walk as many miles from stage to stage as you might at other concerts, but you don’t want to push your luck if you end up needing to walk home.
- Poncho. With the East coast humidity there is always the chance of summer thunderstorms. Be prepared and check the weather ahead of time.
- A taste for beer! This festival beer sponsor is Budweiser and that is the only brand of beer that will be sold at the festival. Budweiser also has great, free tasting tents where they showcase some of the newest beers they have been working on.
- Cellphone. Stay in touch with your friends, access the festival app, and plan your transportation to and from the festival.
- Shorts and tank tops. It is going to be hot out there and though you are not at a hippie or beach festival, but the less clothing you can manage to wear the better!
- Cash. You will undoubtedly want to purchase a couple snacks, meals or beers. Take out money ahead of time!
The Made In America festival brings an exciting energy with the urban backdrop and impressive cityscape surrounding festivalgoers on all sides. Stages are close together and the crowds are diverse with metal heads and rap enthusiasts rocking out alongside rave kids. Hot days, warm nights, and electrifying beats keep the spirit of this festival going all weekend long. Through the Made In America festival you can truly experience the best of two different worlds, enjoying a quick trip to explore the city of Philadelphia and an amazing festival in one jam-packed exhilarating weekend.
By Sarah Chorey, FestPop Staff Writer