Festival Pier – Philadelphia, PA
Aerial view of Festival Pier, located on the Delaware River waterfront.
Festival Pier is an outdoor music venue located in Philadelphia, PA. In the “Penn’s Landing” area of the city, it’s right in the middle of the various attractions along the Delaware River waterfront. The venue is all general admission, with a capacity in the main stage area of 5,000, but the ability to hold up to 8,000 including the ancillary areas.
As it is completely an outdoor venue, Festival Pier only hosts concerts during the summer months of the year – from May to September.
The property is large, with the main concert area as well as a large parking lot area. In its standard configuration, the stage area sits on the south side of the property and the parking lot area on the north side is used to hold employee cars, food trucks, and other equipment. I attended the Hoagie Nation Festival in May, and the venue put a bigger stage up in the parking lot area, using what is typically the primary stage as a secondary stage area.
Tip #1: The venue is owned by Live Nation, so be prepared for what comes along with that – fees on tickets purchased through Ticketmaster, high concession prices, and lots of security.
While this season is winding down, here are some tips and tricks for attending a show at Festival Pier when it ramps back up for next season.
If you are coming from out of town, there are a couple of hotels that are located on Delaware Avenue just a short distance from Festival Pier, and within easy walking distance. The Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Penn’s Landing (https://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/philadelphia/phlpl/hoteldetail?cm_mmc=YextLocal-_-USA-_-PHLPL) is the more economical choice. If you want a more up-scale hotel and are willing to spend the money, the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing (http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/pennsylvania/hilton-philadelphia-at-penns-landing-PHLPNHH/index.html) is also within walking distance to the venue.
Tip #2: If you are visiting Philadelphia to see a show and would like to do some site seeing, consider getting a hotel in the Old City section of Philadelphia. It’s a quick taxi/Uber ride from that area to the venue, and you’ll be in the heart of all of the tourist sites in the city.
Getting to the Venue
The venue is located on Delaware Avenue between the Penn’s Landing area and the Sugar House Casino. If you are driving, take the Delaware Avenue exit off of I-95. You can also take mass transit to get you close to the venue. Take the Market-Frankford subway line and exit at the 2nd & Spring Garden station. The venue is about a block away.
Once you get to the area, parking can be a bit of a challenge. There are several lots in the area – all of which charge a fee.
Tip #3: If you are coming from the exit off I-95, the first lot you will come to is the parking garage for Dave & Buster’s. Skip that, as the cost to park there is $25. Keep driving another ½ block and there will be a lot on the right side with parking for a flat fee of $20. The lot is small, so get there early to get a spot.
There is also street parking in the area, however, be sure to check the signs as the spots are all metered, and you will be limited how long you can park before feeding more money into the meter.
Tip #4: If you go further back into the neighborhood, there is street parking that is NOT metered. It will require a 15-20 minute walk, but if you are looking to save some money, it’s an option.
Before the Show
The venue is in a very busy area of the city, so there are a lot of options for places to eat and drink before the show. Here are some suggestions:
Yard’s Brewing Company: Located just down the road (although they are scheduled to move to a bigger facility a bit further away), you can walk to the venue from here. Yard’s is one of the more popular craft breweries in the area. While the tap room doesn’t serve food, there is typically a food truck outside. www.yardsbrewing.com
Tip #5: Beer is expensive inside the venue, so get your fill at Yard’s before you go in!
Sugar House Casino: The Sugar House Casino is one of the biggest casinos in the area. Not only does the casino have gambling for your entertainment, but it also has several restaurants. www.sugarhousecasino.com
Tip #6: You may be tempted to park at the casino, as the parking is free. However, the casino parking lot is only for casino patrons. They will tow you if they know that you’ve gone to the concert. They watch for people trying to do that on concert days. If you are towed, that free parking suddenly becomes very expensive.
Spruce Street Harbor Park: If it’s a nice day, consider checking out the Spruce Street Harbor Park before the show. It’s a bit further walk, but the park is a great place to hang out, with hammocks, fountains and picnic table seating. They also serve local craft beers, and have a number of local food vendors. http://www.delawareriverwaterfront.com/places/spruce-street-harbor-park
Morgan’s Pier: This is another great outdoor spot, just a short walk away from the venue. It’s also located on the Delaware River waterfront. They have a beer garden area with a decent beer list available. They also serve a full food menu. www.morganspier.com
Tip #7: Avoid going to Dave & Buster’s or Cavanaugh’s River Deck. While these are the closest places to the venue to get food, I am not impressed with either. In fact, I’ve had bad experiences at both. The food is not very good at either place, both places need a major update and cleaning, and service is always spotty.
If you don’t mind going somewhere a little further, there are lots of options just a short drive away. Consider checking out the places on South Street. Two of my favorite are Brauhaus Schmitz (https://www.brauhausschmitz.com/) which has a fantastic beer menu and great German food, and Little Negril (https://www.littlenegriljamaicanrestaurant.com/) which is a more casual place with authentic Jamaican cuisine.
About the Venue
As mentioned previously, the venue is completely general admission. For some shows, you can purchase a VIP ticket, which gets you access to certain VIP areas (including your own porta-pottys and a raised seating area), as well as a sectioned off VIP viewing area close to the stage for some shows.
One of the VIP areas, where you have access to shade as well.
The venue has some cool features. They have designed it to give the feel of being at the beach. Outside of a large area in front of the stage that has mats, the rest of the standing area is a parking lot covered in sand. There is even a wooden boardwalk along the back.
The boardwalk built along the back of the venue.
Tip #8: Because there is a lot of sand, be prepared with your footwear!
The venue is set up to give you the feeling that you’re at the beach. Here are some people sitting out on their chairs and blankets during a day time concert.
There are venue concession stands which are built out of converted shipping containers, which gives them a unique look. There are also food trucks parked along the outskirts of the venue.
Some of the shipping container concession stands, along with a beer/water vendor with a portable cart.
This is a completely outdoor venue, so the only restrooms available are porta-pottys. There are a few sets located in different areas, depending on the configuration of the venue. There is normally a set as you enter through the main gate. There is another set on the opposite side of the venue past the concession stands. There is a third set outside the inner gate.
Tip #9: The third set of porta-pottys outside the inner gate are typically less used, so the lines are shorter and the porta-pottys are cleaner. While going through the inner gate does not take you outside the venue, it does take you into an area where they typically do not allow alcohol, so finish your beer before you head to the bathroom.
The venue does allow you to bring in lawn chairs. There is typically no restriction on the size. However, they do not allow the chairs on the mat area in front of the stage. So, if you don’t mind being off to the side or a bit further back and want to have a place to sit, bring your chairs with you.
View of the main stage from the back of the venue. Chairs are not permitted on the blue mat – only on the sandy areas.
Tip #10: We have been to sold out shows here where it is extremely crowded, and we were glad we didn’t have to worry about dealing with chairs. However, when we’ve been there for festival shows, having chairs is a nice option, as there is very little seating available outside of some picnic tables and a few Adirondack chairs.
Tip #11: If you are at the venue for a day time concert, be sure to bring your sunscreen. There are very few places to get in the shade.
As mentioned earlier, the venue is run by Live Nation, so concession prices are quite high. Also, lines can get long for some of the busier shows. There are food trucks, but their prices also tend to be high, so expect to pay if you want to eat or drink during the show.
Tip #12: Bring an empty water bottle to the show to save some money. The venue has water filling stations (look for the big signs that say “H2O”). One is to the right of the stage (if you are looking at the stage), and a second is just around the corner past the concession stands. Note, however, that the water is running through a hose (it is filtered), so on a hot day the water will be warm.
Tip #13: This venue seems to be more strict than most about under-age drinking. They require everyone who is drinking – no matter how old you look – to show ID and get a wristband. There are a lot of alcohol enforcement folks walking around, and they really keep an eye on things. I’ve seen a number of people get caught. If you are underage, don’t take a chance.
While not the fanciest venue, it’s great for day time festival shows as well as seeing a band on a nice summer night. There are a couple of shows left on the schedule this summer before they shut down. Keep an eye out for concerts here next year. Now you’ll have the tips to follow when you go to the show!
Have more questions about attending a show at Festival Pier? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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