Everything You Need to Know to Rock Made In America 2016
With festival season in full swing, it's easy to get caught up in the Bonnaroos and the Coachellas of the world. But overlooking the smaller city festivals would leave you missing some of the coolest lineups the summer has to offer. One such city fest is Made In America, located right on the edge of Center City in Philadelphia.
Because a music festival is equal parts music and experience, here's the breakdown of everything you could possibly need to know in and around this northeast throw-down. We'll cover everything from how to get there, which artists to see, and what to do, eat, and see when you're outside the gates.
Made in America is located in the beating, bustling heart of Philadelphia (city of brotherly love and unbrotherly fandom), so before you can even get to the good stuff, you need to devote some time to getting there, getting around when you're there, and all that jazz. Here’s all your research legwork done for you right here.
MIA takes place every year at Philly's iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in the immediate area directly surrounding the Philadelphia art museum. (Rocky steps, yo!) The most convenient way to get there via public transit is into the Amtrak 30th Street station, which lands service from NY, DC, and more. From there it's just a 10-minute-or so walk. Pro-tip: use the John F. Kennedy bridge and hit the walking paths along the Schuylkill River.
If you're coming from Philly proper, the SEPTA train and bus system is fairly reliable, but can be a little tough to navigate for outsiders, and it doesn’t stop super close to the festival. Your best bet is to drive, bike (Philly's got a great bikeshare system), or catch a cab to/from your hotel.
WHAT TO BRING
As with any music festival, bringing sunscreen, shades, cash, and comfortable shoes is a given. For this fest, the water refilling stations are pretty numerous, so a refillable bottle will go a long way toward saving money on hydration. You can either bring in an empty bottle or a sealed water bottle (max size on both: 1 liter), but nothing open or flavored (they’re trying to prevent you from bringing in alcohol).
Also make sure you bring a small backpack to hold all your stuff. There's no re-entry here, so bringing everything you want for the whole day will be key.
WHERE TO STAY FOR MADE IN AMERICA
MIA draws music fans from NYC, DC, and even Boston, so the hotel selection gets pretty slim on festival weekend. Luckily, the greater Center City area is seriously stacked with hotel options. All the major chains are repped, but the Sheraton Downtown is the closest option to the festival grounds.
If you want to get a little culture up in you, opt for a hotel over in Old City (all the way on the eastern side Center City), and you'll be just a (cobble)stone's throw from Liberty Square, Independence Hall, and a ton of dudes dressed in hilarious powdered wigs.
TICKETS TO MADE IN AMERICA
Tickets for the full weekend are $162 (plus a $22 service fee per ticket… so your real cost is $184) and are purchased through Ticketmaster. There's a limit of eight tickets per purchase. VIP tickets were on sale at the end of July, but seem to have vanished. There's no re-entry, and single-day tickets don't appear to be available: if you're in at all, you're all in at Made in America.
This fest's footprint is pretty tiny -- it's located, like right in front of the Rocky steps! And considering they sell around 70,000 tickets for each day of the show, you'll have to resign yourself to being pretty packed in, especially hanging at and moving to/from the main stages.
Aside from Rihanna and Coldplay (because obviously you'll see them), the first nine-or-so artists on the MIA lineup will scratch whatever musical itch you've got, from the frilly folk flavors of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes to female-fronted electro pop mastermind Grimes to rap super-duo 2 Chainz and Lil' Wayne (performing Chainz's latest record ColleGrove). It's all going to make it pretty hard to not camp the main stages. But you probably shouldn't because…
SOME OF THE BEST ACTS ARE OPENERS
The name of the game this year for the MIA lineup is "depth." What is primarily a hip-hop fest (it's curated by Jay-Z for crying out loud) is always peppered with other genres to keep you on your toes. But this year, the "holy sh*t" reaction follows you all the way down the lineup poster. Here are just a few can't-misses from further down the list: A$AP Ferg, Gary Clark Jr., St. Lucia (mad '80s style, guys), Tchami, Kevin Garrett (dude's got writing credit on Beyonce's Lemonade!), Gallant, Car Seat Headrest, Into It. Over It. (to get your rock on), Basement, and way more.
Do not neglect the small stages. Because this is primarily a hip-hop fest, it'll draw most fans from the hip-hop category. And they're here to see 2Chainz, Rihanna, DJ Khaled, etc. And let's be honest, so are you. But a nice break during the day is checking out the smaller indie stages. The crowds will be tiny and the bands are seriously awesome (see: two sections up there). The best secret stage? The one right at the main entrance that most patrons blow right past.
Made In America hasn't announced the official food lineup just yet, but if last year is any indication, you'll be sating your hunger with Philly staples like the Philly Pretzel Factory, tons of trucks slinging cheesesteaks, a Ben & Jerry's popup, and even more. Check back at the website as they announce their specific food spread. But, as we'll get to later, you can definitely get your food on outside the fest, too.
But we've got some tips for you to help make the most of your time. First off, hit the food trucks early in the day, before the hungry headliner crowds descend on them. Obviously lines will be most unruly between sets, but if you grab a bite mid-to-late afternoon during a set, you'll miss some of the herds. Plus, because this fest is so small, you'll be able to hear whatever act is on while you wait in pretzel lines.
Because this fest is only Saturday/Sunday, that leaves a damn good option to head to Philly a day early and get acclimated the Friday before. And in order to do that, you're gonna need the true Philly experience. Here's what to do city wide (and beyond) if you want to make a day out of exploring.
STREET FOOD IN PHILADELPHIA
Philly has a bit of a lock on street food staples, so if you really wanted to, you could spend an entire day shoving greasy deliciousness into your face while moseying around.
Philly Pretzel Company has the market cornered on the city's odd figure-eight looking pretzels. Are they regular pretzel shapes? No. Are they buttery and indulgently delicious? Hell yes.
A slice of pizza here doesn't occupy nearly the market that a place like NYC does, but a few notable options are Lorenzo & Sons on South and John's Place up closer to the festival.
And of course, we can't write about walk-and-scarf eats without talking cheesesteaks. If you want to get into the great debate, hit up both origin contenders: Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks. Locals will quickly tell you where to find their the city's actual best cheesesteaks, but you have to at least compare the two most famous ones before you die (presumably of heart disease).
Just like Boston, one of Philly's main claims to fame is its seat as one of the founding political centers for our country. And while many historical attractions can seem too touristy (the dudes in period dress will tip you off), that doesn't mean walking the old city neighborhoods won't fill an afternoon nicely.
Independence Mall and its massive visitors center do hold the original Liberty Bell, but to avoid the lines trying to peep the thing itself, either get there early Friday morning or head to City Hall and grab tickets for a guided tour up to the bell tower in Independence Hall (which now houses a replacement bell). It offers ridiculous views of the city and will give you the chance to do your best Nic Cage National Treasure impression.
If you want to do it all though, there are plenty of routes through Old Town you can take yourself -- the Constitutional Walking Tours guide recommends the self-guided 3-mile route. Just remember to save some shoe leather for ripping it up at the show.
PHILADELPHIA ARTS & CULTURE
As you know, MIA fest takes place right in the complex outside the Philadelphia Art Museum, and believe or not, much of the museum remains open during the fest (though that could change year-to-year, so make sure to check before planning to visit). And that's a great thing because this spot's got art from Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, and more.
But don't overlook other museums throughout the city, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Penn Museum (just across the river at… U of Penn), the nearby Rodin Museum, and the Mutter Museum that highlights feats of Physics strength and weird-ass body oddities from Pennsylvania's most famous scientists.
You can’t have fun if you don’t stay hydrated, and you’re going to need every ounce of energy to rock out with the best of them. Fuel your thirst for adventure with VitaminWater.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES IN PHILADELPHIA
If you're looking to get your blood pumping in prep for two days of bangin' beats, then Philly and its surrounding area has you covered. First off, the jogging paths within the city limits can be spectacles unto themselves. The Schuykill River trailer is friendly to joggers, bikers, or walkers and it's real close to the festival itself. Swing up toward Fairmont Park for a whole slew of trails to follow with more secluded city vies.
If hiking is more your thing, there are a ton of state parks within a couple hours of Philly, but we recommend heading an hour and a have northwest (just west of Allentown) to the Hawk River Sanctuary for a falcon-filled afternoon (why? Because birds of prey are badass).
Whatever you do, think of MIA as a way to get to know one of America's coolest cities. If a Rihanna set isn't the best excuse to visit anywhere, then we don't know what is.
MIA fest is unique in that they don't allow re-entry for the day (they don't give you wristbands). So, that doesn't give you much of a chance during the actual day to hit up the surrounding area. But if for some reason you want to skip a day (or have the full Friday available to you), Philly is a vibrant city to explore. These wanderings offer plenty of haps outside the gates. Best bets: the area right around MIA, Fishtown, and Center City.
Because MIA goes down pretty much on the Rocky steps, you can't run up and down them like a lunatic. But, thankfully, that's not all the area just east of Benjamin Franklin Parkway has to offer. In the morning, hit up Mugshots Coffeehouse for local roasts or Rybrew for bangin' bagel sandwiches. For the evening, swing by Jack's Firehouse, a saloon located in a 19th century firehouse that serves up comfort foods. Brewerytown Beats is a funk-focused record shop for your post-fest vinyl fix, and you can close the night out with rotating local drafts at Prohibition Taproom.
Fishtown is one of the youngest-feeling sections in Philly (despite the neighborhood's working class roots as a fisherman's 'hood), and it shows with tiny coffee shops and even tinier eateries. And that makes it totally worth traveling crosstown for.
After you're done rocking a ridiculous Rihanna set, you might still be revved for more tunes, so head over to Kung Fu Necktie or Johnny Brenda's. Both are two story indie venues that have acts playing most nights of the week. For something more sit-down, head to Frankford Hall, a cool-looking German beer garden that serves up cool takes on classics like the Kennet Square Mushroom Strudel. And don't forget Fette Sau a dry-rub BBQ joint that sources its meats from area farms.
Located roughly between the festival area and Fishtown, Center City is fittingly right in the middle of town. And while it's a huge area that encompasses too much to drop into the same bucket, a few dinner spots worth their salt are Honey's Sit 'N Eat (comfort food, BBQ, the works), Village Whiskey (house pickles, duck fat fries, whiskey flights) and The Ranstead Room (a speakeasy right next to killer Mexican spot El Rey).
If you're looking for a morning jaunt to get the blood flowing before you hit the crowds, Rittenhouse Row contains around 200 local shops and businesses, and leads right to the chill-worthy Rittenhouse Square.
Want to get a little weirder for late night? South Street has a spread of bars and venues that get seriously zany after hours. Head over to Tattooed Mom for corn dogs, free dollar-store goodie bag toys, and a paloma with a popsicle jammed in it.
If you want a more beer-oriented spot, aim for Brauhaus Schmitz for around 30 taps pulled straight from the mother country. Now that you've tasted Pat's vs. Geno's, the wise pick is Jim's Steaks for some OG cheesesteak sandwiches (mind the line, though).
And if, after all that concert, you want to catch a follow-up set, head to the Theater of the Living Arts for touring bands in a cool-looking space.