Next Saturday, the Red Bulls travel to Chester, Pennsylvania to play the Philadelphia Union, in a "derby." They will visit again on Sunday, June 18.
Before You Go. Philadelphia is just down the road, so it's in the Eastern Time Zone, and you don't have to worry about fiddling with various timepieces. And the weather will be almost identical to what you'd have on the same day in New York.
Still, check the combined website for the Philadelphia newspapers, the Inquirer and the Daily News, before you head out. For the moment, it looks like temperatures in Philly will be in the low 60s in daylight, and the high 40s at night when the game will be played. A 30 percent chance of rain is predicted for the day, although I don't know yet if that will be during the game. You might want to bring a light jacket.
Tickets. The Union averaged 17,519 fans per home game last season, about 95 percent of capacity. This is less of a problem for soccer than for other sports, as some seats are always set aside for away supporters. If you can't get them from the club website, you can probably find a Red Bulls fan group willing to transport you down the Turnpike and give you a ticket, probably for a combined cost less than what you'd pay if you'd bought the ticket on your own and taken the train down.
Away supporters are placed in Section 133, in the stadium's southeast corner -- right across from the River End, where the various Philly supporters groups sit. There have been reports of trouble, which I'll get to later. Tickets are $33.
Getting There. It's 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia, and 105 miles from Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey to Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. This is close enough that a typical RBNY fan could leave his house, drive to the Arena parking lot, meet up with friends, head down to TES, watch a game, head back to RBA, pick up his car, and drive home, all within 10 hours. But it's also close enough that you could spend an entire day in Philadelphia, and, hopefully, you've already done this. Having done so many times myself, I can tell you that it's well worth it.
If you are driving only to the game -- rather than driving to Center City Philadelphia and spending some time seeing the touristy stuff -- you'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take Exit 2 to U.S. Route 322 West, and cross the Commodore Barry Bridge (named for John Barry, a naval hero of the American Revolution). The stadium is right over the bridge. Follow the signs. From anywhere in New York City, allow 3 hours for the actual drive, though from North Jersey you might need only 2½, and from Central Jersey 2 hours might suffice.
If you don't want to drive, there are other options, but the best one is the train. Philadelphia is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Baltimore and Washington, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.
And I strongly recommend not taking the bus. If you do, once you see Philadelphia's Greyhound terminal, at 10th & Filbert Streets in Center City, the nation's 2nd-busiest behind New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, you'll say to yourself, "I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for Port Authority!"
The Philly terminal is a disgrace. I don’t know how many people are in Atlantic City on an average summer day, when both the beaches and the casinos are full (I'm guessing about half a million, or one-third the size of Philly), but it has a permanent population of 40,000 people, compared to the 1.6 million of Philadelphia, and it has a bus station of roughly equal size and far greater cleanliness than Philly'.
If you can afford Amtrak, and that will be $122 round-trip ($112 to 30th Street, $10 to Chester), it takes about an hour and a half to get from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan to the 30th Street Station at 30th & Market Streets, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City.
Unlike the dull post-1963 Penn Station, this building is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1933, and is the former corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Ironically, it never had the official name "Pennsylvania Station" or "Penn Station." (If you can't afford Amtrak, or if you can but you'd rather save money, I'll get to what to do in a minute.)
The east front of 30th Street Station,
with the Cira Center in the background
Philly's commuter-rail and bus systems are run by SEPTA, the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. You might recognize their "S" logo from the film Trading Places, and the bus that hits Tommy Morrison at the end of Rocky V. At 30th Street Station, transfer to the Wilmington/Newark Line. (That's NOO-ark, Delaware, not NOO-erk, New Jersey.) Take it to the Chester Transportation Center, where shuttle buses run to the stadium every 20 minutes.
The Chester Transportation Center
opened in 1903, the same year
as the similarly-designed station
in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
If you are going to spend time in Philadelphia proper, it and Toronto are the only 2 cities left on the North American continent, as far as I know, that still use tokens rather than farecards (or "MetroCards" as New York's MTA calls them) or tickets for their subways -- the orange-coded, north-to-south-running Broad Street Line (BSL) or the blue-coded, east-to-west-running Market Street Line (MFL). But this past February, they began an experiment with "KeyCards," and will probably phase the tokens out. An all-day KeyCard will allow up to 8 rides, for $9.00.
One ride on a SEPTA subway train is $2.50, cheaper than New York's, but they don't sell single tokens at booths. They come in packs of 2, 5 and 10, and these packs are damn hard to open. Two cost $4.00; five are $10.00, and a ten-pack costs $20.00. They are also available for bulk purchase.
If you don't want to take Amtrak, your other rail option is local. At Penn Station, you can buy a combined New Jersey Transit/SEPTA ticket to get to Center City Philadelphia. Take NJT's Northeast Corridor Line out of Penn Station to the Trenton Transit Center. This station recently completed a renovation that has already turned it from an absolute hole (it was so bad, it made Philly's bus station look like Grand Central) into a modern multimodal transport facility.
Because you'll need 3 trains (New York to Trenton, Trenton to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia to Chester), there will be a lot more stops than there are on Amtrak (especially the SEPTA part), it will take 3 hours and 40 minutes, but you'll spend $51.50 round-trip, only a little more than what you'd spend on a same-day purchase on Greyhound, and less than half of what you'd be likely to spend on Amtrak. Then, from there, switch to SEPTA.
Main waiting room of 30th Street Station.
You might recognize it from Trading Places.
SEPTA is now becoming the last major transit authority in America to phase out tokens, although the transition to KeyCards is still in progress. If you have tokens left over from your last visit, you should bring and use them.
Broad Street Line subway
The actions and words of its sports fans suggest that this is ridculous. Giants coach Bill Parcells was once caught on an NFL Films production, during a game with the Eagles at the Vet, saying to Lawrence Taylor, "You know, Lawrence, they call this 'the City of Brotherly Love,' but it's really a banana republic." And Emmitt Smith, who played for that other team Eagles fans love to hate, the Dallas Cowboys, also questioned the name: "They don't got no love for no brothers."
On a map, it might look like Penn Square, surrounding City Hall, is the centerpoint, but this is just geographic, and only half-refers to addresses. Market Street is the difference between the north-south numbering on the numbered Streets. But the Delaware River is the start for the east-west streets, with Front Street taking the place of 1st Street. Broad Street, which intersects with Market at City Hall/Penn Square, takes the place of 14th Street.
The William Penn statue atop City Hall
The metro area as a whole -- southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and most of Delaware -- is about 7.2 million, making it the 7th-largest in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Dallas.
The sales tax is 6 percent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Massachusetts, Virginia and Kentucky are also "commonwealths" in their official State names), 8 percent within the City of Philadelphia.
ZIP Codes in Philadelphia start with the digits 191. In the suburbs, it's 189, 190, 193 and 194. The Area Code for the city is 215, and the suburbs 610, with 267 overlaying both, and 445 being added in 2018.
Going In. Built in 2010, and named PPL Park until 2015 when PPL was bought out by a larger company, Talen Energy Stadium seats 18,500 people, on the bank of the Delaware River in Chester. Hence, the south end of the stadium, where the supporters groups sit, is known as the River End.
Other international opponents to play the Union there include English clubs Manchester United, Everton of Liverpool, Aston Villa of Birmingham, Crystal Palace of South London, Stoke City of Staffordshire and Bournemouth of Dorset; Celtic of Glasgow, Scotland; Spain's Real Madrid, Germany's Schalke, and Mexico's Chivas de Guadalajara and UNAM Pumas.
Just as the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland usually have the football version of their annual Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia, their soccer game is played at TES.
The stadium has also hosted rugby, and 2 football games between Villanova University and the University of Delaware. It can seat about 26,000 for concerts, and there is a plan to expand it to 30,000 for soccer. Until then, the plan is for Playoff games to be held at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Eagles.
That's the Commodore Barry Bridge in the background.
Black Angus sells burgers, chicken tenders, "Big Ben Dogs" (hot dogs), fish & chips, and teriyaki chicken skewers, at Sections 101 and 122. Hot Dog Nation sells "specialty" hot dogs at 104 and 125. Authentic Philly sells regular hot dogs, cheesesteaks, chicken tenders, turkey burgers, "Veggie Steak" (whatever the hell that is) at 107 and 132. Fresh Classics sells regular hot dogs, Big Ben Dogs, chicken wraps, salads, at 112 and 117. Mozzarella's sells pizza and Italian-style sandwiches at 109 and 127.
There are Chickie's and Pete's outlets at 108 and 129. The Q 104 sells barbecue items at 104 (even though it's New York, not Philly, that has a radio station calling itself "Q104.3"). Blue Taco sells Mexican food at 120. Most stands sell French fries, nachos, popcorn, applesauce and Turkey Hill ice cream. And every stands sells Cracker Jacks and that Philly standard, soft pretzels. There's also a Dunkin Donuts tent outside the game, for pregame refreshment.
Team History Displays. As is often (but, now, incorrectly) sung of Chelsea F.C., the Union ain't got no history. Which is ironic, since the team is named for Philly's role in forging the national union. This is their 8th season of play, and they've made the MLS Cup Playoffs just twice so far (in 2011 and 2016), but they did reach the Final of the U.S. Open Cup in 2014 and '15.
The Union do not, as yet, have any retired numbers. They have not yet selected an All-Time Team. (Which makes sense: They haven't even celebrated a 10th Anniversary.) As a result, there are no team history displays in the areas viewable by fans. Forward Sebastian Le Toux, with them in the 2010, '11, '13, '14, '15 and '16 seasons, remains their all-time leader in games played and goals. (He was a washout with the Red Bulls in 2012, and is now with D.C. United.)
Stuff. I have never been to this stadium, and the club's website stinks, so I can't tell you where in the stadium their official team store is. And, as befitting a relatively new team without a championship to its name, there are no books or videos about it available.
During the Game. As I said earlier, the Union puts away supporters in Section 133, in the stadium's southeast corner, right across from the River End, where the various Philly supporters groups sit. Unlike most MLS stadiums, here, your safety may be an issue. Visiting fans, particularly Red Bulls fans, have reported that home fans have thrown bottles across the sections, targeting visitors. Others, however, have reported that such actions have never been done, and would never be condoned, by the Sons of Ben. So whoever is doing it is doing it without official sanction.
This game will be Throwback Night, as the Union will be using 1980s- and 1990s-themed songs, videos and scoreboard graphics. Obviously, they can't wear that era's uniforms, since Philly didn't have a top-flight soccer team between 1981 and 2009. Though, I suppose, like certain teams in other sports (notably the Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Wild), they could design fake "fauxback" uniforms.
The Union hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. They do not have a mascot.
The main supporters' section is called the River End, and is home to The Sons of Ben. The group was founded in 2007, nearly a year before they even had a commitment from MLS for a team for Philadelphia. They named themselves after Benjamin Franklin, and they created a logo for the team, showing a skull, with a Liberty Bell-style crack in it, wearing Franklin's hairstyle and bifocals, on a kite-shaped background. They got their team announced on February 28, 2008, to begin play in 2010. When the "Snake & Shield" logo, based on the "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden Flag, was adopted by the club, the Sons kept the logo they designed for their club.
The motto reads "Ad Finem Fidelis": Faithful to the end.
Which is appropriate, since they sit (and stand) in the River End.
Of course, fans of the rival New York Red Bulls and D.C. United tend to call them The Daughters of Betsy -- after Betsy Ross. This does not stop the Sons from singing their theme song, "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover," or their goal song, "Maria (I Like It Loud)" by Scooter. (A German techno group, not Phil Rizzuto or the Muppet.)
The River End
The difficult early history has led to a song to the tune of "Build Me Up, Buttercup":
Why do you build me up, Philly U, baby
just to let me down and mess me around
and then, worst of all, you never score, Union
like you say you will, but we love you still!
We need U! More than anyone, Union
you know that we have from the start!
So build me up, Philly U
don't break my heart.
They sing, "We Are the Sons of Ben" to "Popeye the Sailor Man." They sing a variation on Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough." They used to taunt Red Bulls fans with a song that eventually ran to "Eighteen Years, No Cups," but that became stupid once we got a Supporters' Shield (and then another), while they've made the Playoffs only twice. They also had to scrap the "You're Moving to Baltimore" song for D.C. United, but, like Red Bulls fans do, they still taunt them about their soon-to-be-left stadium: "RFK Is Falling Down!" And they like that classic that we also like:
Where's your father?
Where's your father?
Where's your father, referee?
You ain't got one!
Never had one!
You're a bastard referee!
Other Union supporter groups include the Tammany Saints (Section 101), the IllegitimateS (spelled with that capital S, in 133 with the away fans), the Corner Creeps (134), the Bridge Crew (120 and 121) and La Union Latina (114).
After the Game. Philadelphia is a big city, with all the difficulties of big cities as well as many of the perks of them. But since this game isn't in Philly proper, you're more likely to drive straight home, or to get on the shuttle bus back to Chester and take the 3 trains home.
It's also worth noting that there's no place within a 5-minute walk of the parking lot to get a postgame meal or drink, so you're going to have to wait until you get back to 30th Street Station or a Turnpike rest area.
If you took the train(s) down, the game should end by 9:30, and a shuttle bus should get you back to the Chester Transportation Center in time for you to catch the 9:57 train back to 30th Street, getting there at 10:26, and then switch to the 10:44 Trenton train, which will allow you to get the 11:57 PM NJ Transit train back to New York, arriving at Penn Station at 1:36 AM.
The Tavern on Broad, at 200 S. Broad Street at Walnut, sand the Fox & Hound, at 1501 Spruce Street and 15th Street, have both been alleged to be the headquarters of the local Giants fan club. BSL or MFL to City Hall. Revolution House, at 200 Market Street and 2nd Street, is apparently the local Jets fan hangout. MFL to 2nd Street.
A particular favorite restaurant of mine is the New Deck Tavern, at 3408 Sansom Street in University City, on the Penn campus. MFL to 34th Street. You can also pick up a sandwich, a snack or a drink at any of several Wawa stores in and around the city.
If your visit to Philly is during the European soccer season (which is now approaching its climax), you can probably watch your favorite club at Fadó Irish Pub, at 1500 Locust Street in Center City. Be advised that this is home to supporters' groups for Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic FC; so if you're not particularly fond of any of those teams, you might want to stay away.
Across the street from Fadó, at 1511 Locust, is Misconduct Tavern, home of the town's Arsenal supporters group. The main Man United bar is the Black Sheep Pub, at 247 S. 17th Street. Fans of Newcastle United meet at The Bards, at 2013 Walnut Street. These are all within a 5-minute walk of each other, and can be reached via BSL to Walnut-Locust.
A little further north of them is Tir na nOg (that's how they spell it) at 1600 Arch Street, home to the Delaware Valley's Chelsea, Manchester City, Crystal Palace and Real Madrid fans. BSL or MFL to City Hall.
Everton fans meet at O'Neal's, 611 S. 3rd Street at South Street. Barcelona and Bayern Munich fans meet at Dark Horse Pub, 421 S. 2nd Street, on Headhouse Square. For either of these, MFL to 2nd Street, then Bus 42
AC Milan fans meet at Alla Spina, at 1410 Mount Vernon Street at Broad Street (BSL to Spring Garden), or at Fadó if their game starts earlier than Alla Spina opens. Fans of other Italian teams tend to gather at Gran Café L'Aquila, at 1716 Chestnut Street (BSL or MFL to City Hall). Fans of German clubs, including the aforementioned Bayern, meet at Brauhaus Schmitz, 718 South Street (MFL to 8th Street, then Bus 47).
Sidelights. The Philadelphia sports complex once included 3 buildings that have all been replaced and demolished: From north to south, the Vet, the Spectrum and JFK Stadium. The arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center was built on the site of JFK Stadium. Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, was built to the east of The Vet. And Lincoln Financial Field was built south of the new ballpark, and east of the Spectrum.
* Sesquicentennial/Municipal/JFK Stadium. Built in 1926 for a 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial of American independence) world's fair in Philadelphia, this 105,000-seat horseshoe (open at the north end) was designed for football, but one of its earliest events was a fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. For the 1st time, that title changed hands on a decision, rather than on a knockout. But Gene Tunney so decisively outfought champion Jack Dempsey that no one disputed it. (When they had their rematch a year later, at Soldier Field in Chicago, that was another story.)
The stadium was renamed Municipal Stadium in 1931 (sometimes it was called simply Philadelphia Stadium), and, due to being (roughly) halfway between the service academies, became the site of the Army-Navy Game from 1936 to 1941, and again from 1945 to 1979, before it was moved to The Vet.
The Eagles played home games there from 1936 to 1939, and in 1941, and select games thereafter, including the 1950 season opener that was, as soccer fans would call it, a "Charity Shield" game: The 2-time defending NFL Champion Eagles vs. the Cleveland Browns, 4-time titlists in the All-America Football Conference. The Browns were 47-4-3 over the AAFC's 4-season history; the Eagles, 22-3-1 over the last 2 years, thanks to a 5-2 alignment that was the 1st defensive unit to have a memorable nickname: Before San Diego and Los Angeles had a Fearsome Foursome, Philly had a Suicide Seven.
Some people then called it "The Game of the Century," and some now think of as an unofficial "first Super Bowl" -- ironic, since neither team has won an NFL Championship in the Super Bowl era, and the Browns haven't even been to a Super Bowl yet. Playing on a Saturday night -- making it, sort of, not just "the 1st Super Bowl" but "the 1st Monday Night Football game" -- in front of 71,237 fans, which is still the largest crowd ever to watch a football game in Philadelphia (and nearly double the capacity of Shibe Park, which really limited the Eagles' attendance), the Browns beat the Eagles 35-10, stunning football fans all over the nation. The Eagles never recovered, while the Browns won the NFL title that year, and appeared in 7 title games in 8 years, winning 3.
In 1964, Municipal Stadium was renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium. On August 16, 1966, the Beatles played there. On July 13, 1985, it hosted the American end of Live Aid. But that show exposed to the world that it already falling apart. The Rolling Stones, who had packed the place on their 1981 Tattoo You tour, chose the considerably smaller Vet for Steel Wheels in 1989. It was demolished in 1992, and the new arena opened on the site in 1996.
* The Spectrum. This modern (for its time) arena opened in 1967, and 2 teams at the opposite ends of the competitive, uh, spectrum moved in: The 76ers, the NBA's defending Champions; and the Flyers, an NHL expansion team. Although the Flyers won inspirational (and confrontational) Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75, they also lost in the Finals in 1976, '80, '85 and '87. And while the Sixers won the 1983 NBA title in a dominating season-long performance, they also lost in the Finals in 1977, '80 and '82, and were lost after a couple of puzzling Draft Day trades in 1986.
The Spectrum hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1976 and 1981, both times won by Bobby Knight's Indiana. Since 1976 was the Bicentennial year, it also hosted the NBA and NHL All-Star Games. The Vet also hosted baseball's All-Star Game that year. And the Spectrum was the site of both fights between Philly native Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the former in the first Rocky, on New Year's Day 1976, and the latter in Rocky II, on Thanksgiving of that year. (Rocky II was released in 1978, but the scripts make the dates definitive. All the movies' fights were actually filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, due to its proximity to Hollywood.)
The Spectrum was also a big arena for college basketball: Villanova used it for home games that were too big for its on-campus Pavilion, the Atlantic 10 Conference used it for its tournament, and it hosted NCAA Tournament games at the sub-Final Four level, including the 1992 thriller that put Duke into the Final Four at Kentucky's expense, thanks to the last-second shot of Christian Laettner.
The 1st rock concert there was by Cream, on their 1968 farewell tour. The last, and the last public event there, was by Pearl Jam in 2009. Elvis Presley played it on November 8, 1971; 2 shows on June 23, 1974; June 28, 1976; and, on what turned out to be his final tour, May 28, 1977. The Grateful Dead and Aerosmith became known for their Spectrum shows. So did Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen, who are honored with banners for their shows at the Wells Fargo Center. (Billy and Elton John are so honored at Madison Square Garden.)
The Spectrum became, in the words of its promoters, "America's Showplace" and the most-used sports arena in the world. This was a blessing and a curse: They could make a lot of money off of it, but it was limited. So Spectacor, the company that owned the Spectrum and the Sixers, built Spectrum II -- which, in a series of naming-rights changes due to bigger banks swallowing old ones, became the CoreStates Center, the First Union Center (Flyer fans loved calling it "the F.U. Center"), the Wachovia Center and now the Wells Fargo Center.
From 1996 to 2009, the arenas stood side-by-side. The main Spectrum tenants said goodbye as follows: The Flyers with an exhibition game on September 27, 2008, with all their former Captains on hand, as the Fly Guys beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2; Villanova with the building's last college basketball game on January 28, 2009, a win over the University of Pittsburgh; and on March 13, 2009, the Sixers beat the Chicago Bulls 104-101 in a special regular-season game.
The Spectrum was demolished the next year, and replaced in part with a live concert venue called "Xfinity Live!" (Yes, the exclamation point is included in the official name.) This structure now hosts the statues that were outside the Spectrum: For Julius Erving, for Kate Smith, and a statue titled "Score!" depicting Gary Dornhoefer's overtime goal against the Minnesota North Stars in the 1973 Playoffs. The statue of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky was moved, appropriately enough, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, not far from the steps he ran up in every movie. A hotel is planned for the rest of the Spectrum site.
* Veterans Stadium. When it opened on April 10, 1971, it was considered state of the art and wonderful. And, as the Phillies had a great team from 1976 to 1983, reaching 6 postseasons in 8 years, winning 2 Pennants and the 1980 World Series, it became beloved by Phils fans. The Eagles, too, had a resurgence in the late 1970s, and hosted and won the 1980 NFC Championship Game.
The Vet hosted the Army-Navy Game every year from 1980 to 2001, except for 1983, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2000. (The 1983 game was played at the Rose Bowl, the 2000 game at the new Ravens' stadium in Baltimore, and the rest, as well as the 2002 game, at the Meadowlands.) Temple played home games there from 1978 to 2002, and the USFL's Philadelphia Stars in 1983 and 1984. In the old North American Soccer League, the Philadelphia Atoms played there from 1973 to 1975, and the Philadelphia Fury from 1978 to 1980.
The Eagles had a down period in the mid-1980s, but rebounded toward the end of the decade. But the Phils had collapsed, and the Vet's faults began to be seen: It was ugly, the sight lines were bad for baseball, and the turf was bad for both sports. The turf was bad for everything, from eyes to knees.
By the time the Phils won the Pennant in 1993, Camden Yards had opened just down the road in Baltimore, and suddenly everyone wanted a downtown "retro park," and no one wanted one of the suburban (or sort-of-suburban, as in the Vet's case) "cookie-cutter stadiums" that dominated the 1960s and '70s.
It took a few more years, and a lot of complaints from opposing NFL players that the stadium was deteriorating and the turf was dangerous, for a new stadium to be approved. The Eagles closed the Vet out with a shocking and devastating loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, and the Phils did so with a loss to the Atlanta Braves on September 28, 2003. The Eagles had already moved into their new stadium by that point, and the Phils moved into theirs the next April, a few days after the Vet's demolition. The baseball and football sculptures that were outside have been placed on Pattison Avenue, in front of the parking lot where the Vet once stood.
* Wells Fargo Center. Despite having 5 different names in its 1st 15 years, this arena, built on the site of JFK Stadium, is a big improvement over the Spectrum, which had a common flaw in arenas built in the 1960s, '70s and '80s: Two levels of seats but only one level of concourse. The Fargo has a lot more concourse space, and even a sellout doesn't feel cramped.
Since it opened, the Flyers have made their sport's Finals twice, in 1997 and 2010; the Sixers, once, in 2001; all 3 were lost. While the new arena is much more comfortable for the fans, it's not especially intimidating: The sound doesn't carry as well as it did in the Spectrum. No opposing hockey player is afraid of the noise that Flyer fans make anymore, the Sixers don't exactly have a good home-court advantage, and as for anyone being afraid of Villanova, well, even their newly-won National Championship won't make that happen: They're called "Vanilla-Nova" for a reason. The Wells Fargo Center hosted the NCAA's hockey version of the Final Four, the Frozen Four, in 2014.
The arena includes a statue of Philly native, and former Warriors and Sixers star, Wilt Chamberlain, dedicated a few years after his death in 1999. (Dr. J got his statue shortly after he retired.) It hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000, nominating George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. So if you need a reason to dislike the place, there's a good one. The Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton there in a few weeks.
* Lincoln Financial Field. The new home of the Eagles has seen them make the Playoffs more often than not, and reach the Super Bowl in the 2004 season. And fan behavior, while still rowdy, is not as criminal as it was at The Vet: No more municipal court under the stands is necessary.
"The Linc" has hosted the Army-Navy Game every year since it opened, except for 2007, 2011 and 2016. It's hosted 4 games of the U.S. National Soccer Team, most recently a 1-0 win over Paraguay in the 2016 Copa America; games of the 2003 Women's World Cup, an MLS All-Star Game, and several games by touring European teams such as Manchester United, Glasgow Celtic and A.C. Milan.
If you drove down, or you came by train early on Saturday and have the whole day to yourself before a 7:05 gametime, in addition to the other stadiums and arenas at the Sports Complex, there are lots of interesting locations for you to check out. Remember that, although the city's centerpoint is technically Broad & Market Streets, where City Hall is, the numbering of north-south streets starts at the Delaware River, so that Broad takes the place of 14th Street.
* Citizens Bank Park. Home to the Phillies since 2004, it is far more appropriate for baseball than the Vet ever was. Until 2012, the Phils never played a season here where they were out of the National League Playoff race before the last week of the regular season. They won Division titles there in 2007, '08, '09, '10 and '11, Pennants in 2008 and '09, and the World Series in 2008.
* Site of Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium. This is where the A's played from 1909 to 1954, the Phils from 1938 to 1970, and the Eagles in 1940, and from 1942 to 1957. The A's played World Series there in 1910, '11, '12, '13, '14, '29, '30 and '31, and the Phils (against the Yanks) in '50.
The site sat vacant for many years, until Deliverance Evangelistic Church was built on the site in 1991. Be advised, though, that this is North Philly, and the church is easily the nicest building for several blocks around. Across the street is Dobbins Tech, a high school known for its great basketball program. (Remember the story of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble? They went to Dobbins. So did Dawn Staley.) 21st Street & Lehigh Avenue. By subway, use the North Philadelphia station on the Broad Street Line, and walk 7 blocks west on Lehigh.
On August 8, 1903, a balcony collapsed at Baker Bowl, killing 12 people -- the closest North American sports has ever come to the kind of stadium disasters that have fallen soccer stadiums in Britain and continental Europe. The Phillies then played 16 home games at Columbia Park while Baker Bowl was being repaired.
On May 14, 1927, rotting timbers, weakened further by rainfall, caused a section of Baker Bowl's right field upper deck to collapse. Incredibly, no one was killed, but the resulting stampede injured 50 people, and 1 man died of a heart attack. Again, the Phils groundshared with the A's on a temporary basis, before moving in permanently during the 1938 season.
Because of the shape of the land, the right-field foul pole was just 280 feet from home plate, and so a high fence was erected. The fence was tall enough for a giant soap ad, reading, "The Phillies use LIFEBUOY." The joke was, "And they still stink!"
It was not kept up well, and the Reading Railroad tunnel gave center field a bit of a rise. Baker Bowl became known as The Dump By the Hump. The team was just as bad: In the site's 52 seasons of use, only once did the Phils win a Pennant, and only 1 World Series was played there. That was in 1915, and the Phils lost to the Boston Red Sox. But Game 2 was attended by President Woodrow Wilson, making Baker Bowl the 1st ballpark to host both a World Series and a President of the United States at the same time.
It was used for "midget auto" racing until it was finally demolished in 1950 -- ironically, the year the "Whiz Kids" Phils won the Pennant 7 blocks away at Shibe Park. Retail now occupies the site. Southwest corner of Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue. Same subway stop as Shibe/Connie Mack.
* Site of Columbia Park. The A's original home was in a section of North Philly called Brewerytown, on Columbia Avenue at 29th Street. It was a 13,600-seat wooden structure with a right field fence that, like Baker Bowl's, was only 280 feet from home plate. Here, the A's won the Pennant in 1902 and 1905.
When the A's built Shibe Park in 1908-09, the sod was transplanted from Columbia Park. After lying vacant for a few years, it was torn down, and the familiar Philly-style row houses were built on the site. Columbia Avenue, and its stop on the Broad Street Line, were renamed for Philadelphia civil rights leader and City Councilman Cecil B. Moore Avenue following his death in 1979. 2900 Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
* Recreation Park. Perhaps the 1st home of baseball in Philadelphia, the site was used at least as far back as 1860. It was the 1st home of the Phillies, from 1883 to 1886. By 1890, the 6,500-seat wooden grandstand was gone. Row houses and 2 churches now occupy the site. 2400 Ridge Avenue.
The 1st game in NL history was played at this 5,000-seat wooden facility, on April 22, 1876, and the Athletics lost 6-5 to the Boston Red Stockings (forerunners of the Atlanta Braves.) It was demolished sometime after 1890, and a school named Camelot Academy, including, appropriately enough, athletic fields, is now on the site. 1435 N. 26th Street, also in Brewerytown. The sites of Columbia Park, Recreation Park, and the Jefferson Street Grounds all can be reached by Bus 3, 7 or 48 from Cecil B. Moore stop on the Broad Street Line.
If you're going to any of these old ballpark sites, do it in daylight.
* The Palestra. Built in 1927, this is the arena aptly nicknamed the Cathedral of Basketball. It even has stained-glass windows. (I swear, I am not making that up.) The home gymnasium of the University of Pennsylvania (or just "Penn"), it also hosts some games of Philly's informal "Big 5" basketball programs when they play each other: Penn, Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph's and Villanova.
Penn, a member of the Ivy League, has one of the nicest college campuses anywhere, but do not be fooled by its Ivyness: In Philadelphia, even the Ivy Leaguers are tough. 235 South 33rd Street. Take the "Subway-Surface Line" trolley, either the Number 11, 13, 34 or 36, to the 33rd Street stop.
As I said, Philadelphia has hosted 2 NCAA Final Fours, both at the Spectrum. 'Nova has made it 5 times: 1939, 1971, 1985, 2009 and 2016. La Salle made it in back-to-back years, 1954 and 1955. Temple made it in 1956 and 1958, although never under legendary coach John Chaney. St. Joe's made it in 1961, and just missed in 2004. Penn made it in 1979, under future Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly. Temple won the NIT in 1938, but the only Philly-based National Champions under the NCAA banner (which began in 1939) are La Salle in 1954 and 'Nova in 1985 and 2016.
* Franklin Field, right next to the Palestra. The oldest continuously-used college football site, the Penn Quakers have played here since 1895 (which is also when the Penn Relay Carnival, the nation's premier track-and-field event, began), and in the current stadium since 1922. That year, it supposedly hosted the first football game ever broadcast on radio (a claim the University of Pittsburgh disputes), and in 1939 it supposedly hosted the first football game ever televised (a claim New York's Columbia University disputes). The amazing building in the west end zone is the University administration building.
The original Franklin Field was the 1st midpoint/neutral site game for Army vs. Navy: 1899 to 1904, 1906 to 1912, and 1914. The current structure hosted it in 1922, and 1932 to 1935, before it was moved to Municipal/JFK Stadium.
The Eagles played here from 1958 to 1970, including their last NFL Championship, December 26, 1960, beating the Green Bay Packers in a thriller, 17-13. Half a century. Penn's football team has been considerably more successful, having won 14 Ivy League titles since the league was formally founded in 1955.
Like the Palestra, the stadium at Franklin Field is in surprisingly good shape (must be all those Penn/Wharton Business School grads donating for its upkeep), although the playing field has been artificial turf since 1969. Same trolley stop as the Palestra.
* Site of the Philadelphia Civic Center. This complex included the Convention Hall, where Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for President by the Democrats in 1936, Wendell Willkie by the Republicans in 1940 and both Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey were nominated in 1948 – that year's Republican Convention being the first televised convention. It was built on the site of the Exposition Auditorium, where the Republicans renominated William McKinley in 1900.
(The Democrats met in Atlantic City at the Convention Hall, now named Boardwalk Hall, in 1964, nominating Lyndon Johnson. 2301 Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue. New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line from 30th Street Station. The Beatles played there a few days before.)
The Beatles played here on September 2, 1964. Pope John Paul II said Mass here. The Philadelphia Warriors played here from 1952 to 1962, when they moved to San Francisco (and now the "Golden State Warriors" play in Oakland), and the 76ers from 1963 until the Spectrum opened in 1967. Titles were won here by the 1956 Warriors and the 1967 76ers. The Philadelphia Blazers played the 1st World Hockey Association season here, 1972-73, but were terrible, and with the Flyers on the way up, nobody wanted to see the WHA team. They moved to Vancouver the next season.
So many Philly area greats played here, in high school, college and the pros, but you need know one name -- pardon the pun -- above all others: Wilt Chamberlain. I saw a concert here in 1989, and the acoustics were phenomenal, with a horseshoe of seats and a stage at one end, much like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and the building once known as the Baltimore Civic Center.
Built in 1931, it was demolished in 2005 to make way for the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. an addition to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. 34th Street & Civic Center Boulevard. Same stop as the Palestra and Franklin Field, which are a block away.
* Site of Philadelphia Arena. Built in 1920, this was the first home of the NBA's Warriors from 1946 to 1952, and site of some 76ers home games as well. It seated only 6,500 at its peak, so the Civic Center and later the Spectrum were preferable.
The Arena made its name hosting college hockey: Penn playing there was understandable, but, at the time, Princeton and even faraway Yale did not have their own rinks, and used the Arena as home ice.
The worst team in NHL history played there: The 1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers. After 5 seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates, they clowned their way to a record of 4 wins, 40 losses and 4 ties, making them about as bad as the worst team in NBA history, the 1972-73 76ers (9-73). They were strapped during this 2nd indoor sports season of the Great Depression, and went out of business thereafter. Although several minor-league teams would play at the Arena -- the Arrows, the Comets, the Ramblers, the Falcons and the Rockets -- it would not be until 1967, with the opening of the Spectrum and the beginning of the Flyers, that Philly would have another NHL team.
Baseball pitcher-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday delivered sermons there in the 1920s,, and Charles Lindbergh used it for an America First speech in 1940. Early in his career, Elvis sang at the Arena on back-to-back days, doing 2 shows each on April 5 and 6, 1957.
Philly's ABC affiliate, Channel 6, formerly WFIL and now WPVI, built its studio next-door. It still stands. The Arena does not: It caught fire on August 24, 1983, and had to be demolished. A housing project is on the site today. 4530 Market Street. Market Street Line to 46th Street.
* Site of Frankford Stadium. Philadelphia's 1st pro football team was the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who played at Frankford Stadium in Northeast Philly from 1924 to 1930, winning the 1926 NFL Championship, before a fire on the eve of the 1931 season forced them into Baker Bowl and then into folding.
The stadium was on a plot bounded by Frankford Avenue, Devereaux Avenue, Hawthorne Street and Benner Street. An AutoZone (at 6137 Frankford) and rowhouses are on the site now. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to SEPTA Bus 66 Frankford & Harbison Avenues.
In addition to the Yellow Jackets, another ill-fated team played in Eastern Pennsylvania in the NFL's early days. The Pottsville Maroons played at the 5,000-seat Minersville Park, at the intersection of Sunbury Road and Prison Road, 106 miles northwest of Philly, from 1920 to 1928. They claimed the 1925 NFL Championship, but may have been "robbed" of the title.
* Site of Broadwood Hotel. From 1924 to 1991, this hotel stood at the intersection of Broad and Wood Streets, just north of Center City. From 1924 to 1946, its ballroom was the home of the Philadelphia SPHAs -- a basketball team run by the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, even though it wasn't in South Philly. This team would evolve into the Warriors. A parking deck for Hahnemann University Hospital is on the site now. Broad Street Line to Race-Vine.
* Site of Cherry Hill Arena. Before the Devils, the 1st hockey team with major league pretensions to call New Jersey home was actually in South Jersey. In the 1973-74 World Hockey Association season, the former New York Raiders set up shop at the Cherry Hill Arena in Bergen County, and renamed themselves the Jersey Knights.
The building went up in 1959 as the Ice House, and was later renamed the Delaware Valley Gardens before assuming its most familiar name, but no one was confusing it with Madison Square Garden (old or new), the Boston Garden or Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Sports Illustrated called it "perhaps the worst facility" used by any WHA team, noting that it lacked showers in the dressing room for visiting teams, who had to dress at a Holiday Inn 2 miles away, and that the ice surface was not even level, giving the home team a distinct advantage, as, 2 periods out of every 3, the visitors would have to skate uphill to the opponent's goal.
The Eastern Hockey League placed 2 teams there: The Jersey Larks in 1960-61, and the Jersey Devils (the 1st pro hockey team with the name) from 1964 until 1973, when the arrival of the Knights forced their move. The Philadelphia Warriors played an occasional "home game" there.
The Knights left for San Diego after the 1973-74 season. In 1978, the Arena was renamed The Centrum, and the Northeastern Hockey League placed the Jersey Aces there, but they only lasted a few games. The Arena was demolished in 1981.
The site is now a parking lot for a shopping center that includes a Burger King and a Retro Fitness. 1447 Brace Road, at Haddonfield-Berlin Road. Not easy to reach by public transit: PATCO train to Haddonfield, then almost a half-hour walk.
* Temple University. Straddling the border between Center City and the mostly-black North Philadelphia ghetto, Temple has given thousands of poor urban kids a chance to make something of themselves, including comedian Bill Cosby, who ran track for the school, including in the Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
Temple now plays basketball at the Liacouras Center, at 1776 N. Broad Street, across from its former arena, McGonigle Hall, at 1800. Broad Street Line to Cecil B. Moore station.
The Owls have played football at the South Philly complex since 1978, first at The Vet and now at the Linc. From 1928 to 1977, they played at Temple Stadium, a 20,000-seat facility on the city's northern edge. On September 25, 1968, the U.S. soccer team played Israel to a draw there. It was demolished in 1996, and, like Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, the site is now home to a church. 2800 Pickering Avenue at Vernon Road. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then transfer to the Number 18 bus toward Cedarbook Mall.
* LaSalle University. All of Philly's Big 5 basketball universities are private; unlike Penn and Temple, La Salle, St. Joe's and 'Nova are Catholic. LaSalle is in the northernmost reaches of the city, its bookstore at 1900 W. Olney Avenue, and the Explorers' new Tom Gola Arena, named for their late 1950s superstar and 1960s coach, and 2100 W. Olney. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center.
* St. Joseph's University. St. Joe's straddles the western edge of the city, on a hill bisected by City Line Avenue. They are known for their Hawk mascot flapping his wings throughout the game, never stopping, thus leading to the chant, "The Hawk will never die!" This, of course, leads their Big 5 opponents to chant, "The Hawk must die!" and, if victorious, "The Hawk is dead!"
Their fieldhouse, now named the Michael J. Hagan Arena, is at 2450 N. 54th Street, and features a plaque commemorating a 1967 speech delivered there by Martin Luther King. Number 44 bus from Center City.
* Villanova University. The Wildcats just won their 2nd National Championship, defeating North Carolina in a thriller in Houston, 31 years after their even more amazing upset of Georgetown in Lexington, Kentucky.
Famously (well, famous within the Philadelphia area, anyway), they played a Big 5 game against St. Joe's at the Palestra a few years back, having beaten each of the other Big 5 schools, and, pulling away, their fans chanted, "We own Philly!" The St. Joe's fans, no fools, reminded them of their location, in the town of Villanova, 18 miles northwest of Center City: "You ain't Philly!"
Jake Nevin Field House, their home at the time of their 1985 National Championship, and The Pavilion, which that success allowed them to build, are next to each other, along with their bookstore, at 800 E. Lancaster Avenue. They also have a 12,500-seat stadium for their Division I-AA football team. SEPTA R5 commuter rail to Villanova Station.
Of the Big 5, only Temple plays Division I-A football: Temple, 'Nova and LaSalle play I-AA, and while St. Joseph's Prep has one of the better programs in Philly-area high school football, their collegiate namesake doesn't play football at all.
* Rowan University. Founded in 1923, and known as Glassboro State College for most of its history, from 1958 to 1992, this school is in Glassboro, Gloucester County, and is the largest institution of higher learning in South Jersey. It was prominent enough of a place in 1967 that it hosted a summit conference between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Alexei Kosygin, then Premier of the Soviet Union. If there were a University of New Jersey (and it wasn't Rutgers), this would probably be it.
Alas, they are NCAA Division III, but they are home to a semi-pro soccer team, named the Philadelphia Fury, after a former team in the old NASL. They play in the American Soccer League, North America's 4th division, at Rowan's 4,000-seat Richard Wackar Stadium. Carpenter Street and Joseph L. Bowe Blvd., 22 miles south of Center City. Bus 412.
* Spike's Trophies. When the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society closed its facility in the northern suburb of Hatboro, they moved their operations, and the plaques honoring A's greats that used to be on the concourse wall at the Vet, to this store near Northeast Philadelphia Airport. 2701 Grant Avenue at Ashton Road. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to Number 50 Bus.
* Laurel Hill Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Flyers founding owner Ed Snider; former Phillies manager Harry Wright, who founded the 1st professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869; and of longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas. 215 Belmont Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, not far from the St. Joe's campus. Use the Number 44 bus to get to both.
* Gladwyne Methodist Church. Kalas' longtime broadcast partner, the Hall of Fame center fielder Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, is laid to rest here. 316 Righters Mill Road in Gladwyne. The Number 44 bus can also be used for this.
* Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Connie Mack. 3301 W. Cheltenham Avenue. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then Number 22 bus.
Philadelphia is home to Independence National Historic Park, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Visitor's Center is at 6th & Market Streets: At this complex, there will be people there to advise you on what to do. 5th Street on the Market Street Line.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at what's now known as Declaration House, at 599 S. 7th Street, although the front of the building would be 700 Market Street (which would suggest 1 S. 7th Street).
The President's House -- that's as formal a name as it had -- was where George Washington (1790-97) and John Adams (1797-1800) lived while Philadelphia was the national capital before Washington, D.C.. It was demolished in 1832. When digging to build the new Liberty Bell Center, the house's foundation was found, and somebody must've asked, "Why didn't anybody think of this before?" So, an exhibit has been set up, at 530 Market Street at 6th. The new Liberty Bell Center is between it and Independence Hall (Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th). Be advised that since 9/11 -- and since the movie National Treasure -- they're understandably a bit finicky about security there.
The oldest surviving Presidential residence (chosen specifically for the President, not counting homes like Mount Vernon or Monticello) is the Germantown White House, which still stands at 5442 Germantown Avenue. George Washington and John Adams used it to escape the heat and, more importantly, the yellow fever epidemics of what's now Center City Philadelphia, making it less "the first Summer White House" and more "the first Camp David." SEPTA R7 to Germantown, then 3 blocks down Armat Street and a left on Germantown Avenue. Definitely not safe at night.
Speaking of George Washington, Valley Forge National Historical Park is just an hour's bus ride from Suburban Station. On JFK Blvd. at 17th Street, board the SEPTA 125 bus. Valley Forge Casino Resort and the King of Prussia Mall are a short drive (or a moderate walk) away. The fare is $4.75 each way ($9.50 total).
Only one President has ever come from Pennsylvania, and he might be the worst one of all: James Buchanan, whose Administration began with the Panic of 1857 and ended with the secession of several Southern States. (Whether Buchanan was gay has been debated since even before he became President, but the evidence is flimsy.) His home, Wheatland, still stands at 1120 Marietta Avenue in Lancaster, and he's buried about a mile away in Greenwood Cemetery. But Lancaster, the heart of "Pennsylvania Dutch Country," is 80 miles west of Philly. It's a cheap trip by Amtrak standards, but unless you've always wanted to visit the area, or you're a big history buff, I'd suggest forgetting about it if you're pressed for time.
The Musical Fund Hall hosted the 1st Republican National Convention in 1856, nominating John C. Fremont for President. (He lost to Buchanan.) It was one of many historical meetings at this building, which has stood since 1824. 808 Locust Street, Center City. The Academy of Music hosted their 1872 Convention, renominating President Ulysses S. Grant. It opened in 1857, and hosted the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1900 to 2001, when the Kimmel Center opened across Locust Street. 240 S. Broad Street, Center City.
And the Walnut Street Theatre, which opened in 1809 and is the oldest continuously operating theater in America, hosted the 1st Presidential Debate of the 1976 campaign, between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. 825 Walnut Street, Center City.
Philadelphia's answer to the Museum of Natural History is the University of Pennsylvania Museum, at 33rd & South Streets, across from Franklin Field. (Same trolley stop.) Their answer to the Hayden Planetarium -- and a better one -- is the Franklin Institute, which is also the national memorial to Big Ben, the man who, more than any man made any city in the Western Hemisphere, made Philadelphia. 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Number 76 bus. 76, get it? The bus is nicknamed "The Ben FrankLine."
At the other end of the Parkway, at 25th and Spring Garden Streets, is Philly's answer to the Metropolitan, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Rocky Balboa statue is here, and it doesn't cost anything except sweat to run up the steps.
The chocolate city of Hershey, Pennsylvania is 95 miles west of Center City, and only 15 miles east of the State Capitol in Harrisburg. The smell of chocolate wafts over the city, and is the source of the nickname "The Sweetest Place On Earth." Amtrak goes from 30th Street station to Harrisburg and nearby Middletown (the home of the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, which is still in operation and hasn't had an incident since the one in 1979), but if you want to go to any prominent place in Hersey, you'll have to rely on local bus service.
There are 4 prominent places in Hershey. There's the Hershey's chocolate factory. There's Hersheypark amusement park. There's Hersheypark Stadium is a 15,641-seat high school football stadium, opened in 1939. On May 9, 1990, the U.S. soccer team beat Poland there. Most notably, Hersheypark Arena, formerly Hershey Sports Arena, which now seats 7,286 people. The Warriors and 76ers played a few home games here, including the March 2, 1962 contest between the Warriors and the Knicks, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points.
The minor-league Hershey Bears used it from its opening in 1936 until 2002, when the 10,500-seat Giant Center opened next-door. It still hosts college hockey and concerts. Appropriately, the address of the Arena is 100 W. Hershey Park Drive.
No college football rivalry has been played more than Lafayette College and Lehigh University, separated by 17 miles of U.S. Route 22 in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Lafayette is in Easton, 69 miles north of Center City; Lehigh is in Bethlehem, 56 miles north. On occasion, they've played each other twice and, during World War II, even 3 times a season. Now, they limit themselves to 1. In 2014, on the occasion of their 150th meeting, they played each other at the new Yankee Stadium, with Lafayette winning. Lehigh won last year, but Lafayette leads the series, 78-68-5.
Lehigh's Goodman Stadium hosted a U.S. soccer game on October 23, 1993, a draw vs. Ukraine -- although I doubt too many people in the Delaware Valley were paying attention, as that was the day of Game 6 of the World Series, which the Phillies lost to the Toronto Blue Jays on the Joe Carter home run.
Believe it or not, it's easier to reach both Easton and Bethlehem without a car from New York than it is from Philadelphia: Transbridge Lines runs buses from Port Authority into the Lehigh Valley, and Susquehanna Trailways runs them from Philly's Greyhound Terminal at 1001 N. Filbert Street, across from the Market East Station.
Once upon a time, Central Pennsylvania was home to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which coach Glenn "Pop" Warner and running back Jim Thorpe led to upsets of Harvard (18-15) in 1911 and Army (27-6) at West Point in 1912. Ironically, in 1918, the Army bought the school, land and buildings, and it's now the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. 950 Soldiers Drive, in Carlisle, 122 miles west of Center City Philadelphia and 17 miles west of Harrisburg.
The 1960s flashback series American Dreams did some filming under the Market Street Elevated Line, but most of it was filmed in L.A. The films Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Story and The Philadelphia Experiment had a few Philly locations put in, but all filming was done in Southern California. For chronological reasons, the film version of the musical 1776 couldn't be filmed on the streets of Philadelphia, or even inside Independence Hall -- although National Treasure used the Hall, and the Franklin Institute, and the Reading Terminal Market.
Probably the best-known film set in the city is Trading Places -- except a lot of it was filmed in and around New York! The New York Chamber of Commerce Building (65 Liberty Street) and the Seventh Regiment Armory (643 Park Avenue) stood in for the Heritage Club. Mill Neck Manor for the Deaf on Long Island stood in for the Duke Brothers' estate. And, of course, the climactic scene was set at the New York Mercantile Exchange, at 4 World Trade Center, which was at destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Locations in the film that were absolutely in Philly were: 30th Street Station; Duke & Duke, at Fidelity Bank at 135 S. Broad Street, 2 blocks south of City Hall; and Lewis Winthorpe's residence, with exterior shots at 2014 Delancey Place at 20th Street, near Rittenhouse Square, which is where Eddie Murphy pretended to be a blind, legless Vietnam veteran. (This is a private residence: Walk down there if you like, but leave the residents alone.)
So, to sum up, I would definitely recommend to any soccer fan, even a Red Bulls fan, that they take in a Philadelphia Union game at Talen Energy Stadium. It may be the best MLS stadium, or, at least (since Seattle's and Portland's stadiums were built for other sports), the best soccer-specific stadium in the country. You should be able to enjoy yourselves -- even if the home fans aren't always nice.