From colonial times to the present, Philadelphians have loved to play. From street corners to rec centers, country clubs to ball fields, and even in the stands, the city’s residents and teams are known for their passion.
And this week in Philadelphia is a sports fan’s dream, with the conflux of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Penn Relays, and Phillies and Soul games.
To experience – and celebrate – the best the Philly sports scene has to offer in a short amount of time, here is an itinerary bound to challenge even the most ardent fan.
Morning: City sights
Start the day on Race Street, the site of one of Philadelphia’s first sports competitions: Where city founder William Penn reportedly raced his horses down the street.
From there, head over to Broad Street, the route for the country’s largest 10-mile road race, and then south to Federal Street. There, you will find one of the city’s newest murals, “76ers: Beyond the Court,” by artist Ernel Martinez. It features some of the team’s greatest players, including Allen Iverson, Julius Erving and Charles Barkley.
Closeup of @alleniversonofficial #alleniverson from the new mural “76ers: Beyond the Court” @muralarts in @philadelphia_insta @pennsylvania_life @graffitiusa 12apr17 #igers #picoftheday #love #instagood #basketball #tv_streetart @tv_streetart_ @tvphilly @tv_travel #travel #instatravel
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No trip to Philadelphia would be complete without a stop at a landmark made famous by the boxing movie Rocky. The Art Museum steps may be temporarily out of bounds, but the Italian Market, where Rocky famously jogged past the vendors on South Ninth Street, is open for business. Don’t forget to check out Esposito’s Meats, where the champ pounded a side of beef with his fists.
Afternoon: Phillies game
Watch the Phillies play the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park (10th and Hartranft Streets) at 1:05 p.m.
For sports history buffs, the park features an All-Star Walk, with markers of Phillies players dating back to 1933, and Memory Lane, which which offers an illustrated history of baseball in the city, including the Philadelphia Athletics and Negro League teams.
Evening: The NFL draft
If you’ve worked up an appetite, dinner at Chickie’s and Pete’s (1526 Packer Ave.) is the likely next stop. If you’re not one of the lucky 3,000 who scored seats in the theater on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to watch the first round of the NFL draft, this landmark sports bar is a great place to grab a brew, enjoy some crab fries, and watch the drama unfold as college recruits are selected and then walk down the iconic Art Museum steps. (Click here for more coverage of the NFL draft.)
Morning: The river
Kick off day two of the tour with a stroll along the Schuylkill.
Begin 24th and Market Streets, where the “At the End of the Race” mural by Jonathan Laidacker is located, and walk north along the Schuylkill River Trail.
You’ll pass by Fairmount Water Works, which houses the long-forgotten Kelly Natatorium. Along the iconic Boathouse Row, rowers will be hard at work as they prepare for the upcoming Dad Vail Regatta, one of many regattas held on the Schuylkill (where Ben Franklin liked to swim). Farther north, a sculpture of Olympic champion John Kelly, father of Princess Grace of Monaco, sits near the rowing grandstands.
— Dad Vail Regatta (@DadVailR) April 4, 2017
Afternoon: North Philly landmarks
To get to the heart of Philadelphia’s passionate sports culture, a trip north of Center City is in order and there are plenty of landmarks to choose from.
- The site of Shibe Park, later Connie Mack Stadium (North 21st Street and West Lehigh Avenue), the home of the Philadelphia Athletics, and the nearby Baker Bowl (North 15th Street and West Lehigh Avenue), which was the Phillies’ home from 1887 to 1938, give a nod to the city’s baseball history.
- Women’s basketball coach and Olympian Dawn Staley’s old playground (25th and Diamond Streets) and her alma mater, Murrell Dobbins Tech High School (2150 W Lehigh Ave), are also nearby.
- A former dance hall is the site of the boxing training landmark Cloverlay Gym, which later became Joe Frazier’s gym (2917 N. Broad St.).
- In Fishtown, Johnny Brenda’s (1201 N. Frankford Ave.) is where the character Bianca, the love interest of Adonis Johnson in Creed, performed.
Evening: The Draft Experience
It is time to dive into the free NFL Draft Experience, a 25-football-field-sized festival on the Parkway. You can test your sprint and vertical jump skills at the “combine corner,” use virtual reality to pretend you are in an NFL game and take a selfie with the Vince Lombardi trophy. Other activities include a locker room replica, memorabilia and a zip line. Giant TV screens will show the action on stage as the second- and third-round picks are made.
Morning: Wissahickon hike or a Kelly Drive bike
A hike in the Wissahickon part of Fairmount Park is a great way to experience the recreational activities Philly has to offer. There are numerous trailheads; restrooms and water fountains are near the Valley Green Inn.
Scenic Kelly Drive is the perfect place for a bike trip. If you have the energy, ride out and try the Manayunk “Wall,” that legendary steep hill at Levering Street and Lyceum Avenue every cyclist who has competed in the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic pro races has dreaded. (Alas, the event will not be held in 2017).
Afternoon: Penn Relays
Penn Relays is the oldest and largest track and field event in the country. Athletes from elementary school to Masters to professionals compete in the three-day event at Franklin Field (235 S. 33rd St.). A wide range of events take place Saturday afternoon, including the marquee USA vs. the World relays.
The grace of movement of the hurdles, and the Penn Relays (…), 2007 – by Heinz Kluetmeier (1942), German/USA pic.twitter.com/AC7pbBrXHK
— Henk Heijmans (@heijmanes) April 11, 2017
Franklin Field was built in 1895 for the Relays. Since then, it has been used for football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and cricket. The Army-Navy games have been held there and the Eagles once called the stadium home.
(While in the area, you can also stop by the historic Palestra, home to Penn’s basketball team and known as the “cathedral of college basketball.”)
Evening: Philadelphia Soul game
All eyes may be on the NFL draft. But it is not the only football game in town. To conclude your ultimate sports weekend, watch the Philadelphia Soul – the city’s professional arena football team – play its home opener against the Baltimore Brigade at 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.