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What To Do Over Spring Break: Big City Edition

Written by: Greg Schlosser (Pittsburgh), Lexi Shimkonis (Philadelphia), and Greg Zuber (New York)

So you’re not heading to Puerto Rico, Cancun, or wherever your more lucky peers are partying this year over spring break. Instead, you’re heading off to take in the scents, sites, and tastes of your beloved hometown. And, you know what? That’s perfectly alright.

Sure, spring break usually means soaking in the Florida sun, umbrella drinks, and bathing suits, but who’s to say you can’t have a good time in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or even New York? A cheesesteak from Pat’s is better than a burrito that may or may not contain a food-borne illness. A 36 oz. beer from Pittsburgh’s Hofbrauhaus is certainly better than a cheap margarita. And, a Billy Joel concert doesn’t even compare to whatever no-name EDM group may be playing for a bunch of frat guys raging.

What we’re trying to say is that although home is not the beach on spring break, there’s still a lot to do and see over the next week regardless of what big city you live in. If you follow this simple guide for your respected city, you may return to State College with better stories than your roommate who’s now more than $1,000 in the hole.

Pittsburgh:

So, you’re stuck in Pittsburgh over Spring Break. While all your friends head to warm places like Panama City Beach for the week, you get to mosey around the ol’ Steel City looking for ways to kill time until you can race back to Happy Valley. Sucks, right? WRONG. You may not be vacationing somewhere warm, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some spring break fun in the meantime. Here are a few things to do when you’re in Pittsburgh next week:

Catch a Concert

What do Ariana Grande, Jefferson Starship, Sarah McLachlan, and G. Love and Special Sauce all have in common? They’re all playing shows in Pittsburgh next week. G. Love and Jefferson Starship both perform tonight, with the former playing at Stage AE and the latter at Palace Theatre. I’d recommend seeing G. Love over Jefferson Starship, because I like the funk G. Love brings and Jefferson Starship hasn’t really been relevant since the ’70s. On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to see “We Built This City” live, so you probably can’t go wrong with either band.

Ariana Grande performs at the Peterson Event Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, which is awesome because hey, it’s Ariana Grande, she’s one of pop’s biggest superstars, etc. On the other hand, you’ll have to step foot on Pitt’s campus to actually watch the concert, so we won’t blame you for not wanting to go. The Pete is definitely nicer than the BJC, however, so take that into consideration. Lastly, Sarah McLachlan and her angelic voice will perform at the Benedum Center on Wednesday if you’re looking for more of a “mellow” concert. A full list of concerts in Pittsburgh over break can be found here.

Go to a Hockey Game… Or Three

The Penguins are home three times over break, with game games against the Oilers and Bruins on Tuesday and Saturday respectively. The Pens are currently in a tight rice for the Metropolitan Division lead, so the stakes are high for all three games. Thursday’s matchup with the Oilers is a Student Rush game, which means students (with a valid student ID) will be able to purchase $27 tickets starting at 10 a.m. on the Penguins’ ticket website.

Drink! (If You’re Over 21, of Course)

You had to know this was coming eventually. Pittsburgh, especially the South Side, is home to some decent night life. The South Side features over 80 bars, including favorites like The Smiling Moose and the Hofbrauhaus. You could also head over to the North Shore to take in the sights of the city and drink at any of the bars along the river.

Watch Some Wrestling

WWE Monday Night RAW will be at the CONSOL Energy Center on March 9, so get ready for some RKOs and a lot of people chanting “YES.” (NOTE: I’m not really sure what actually happens at these things.) Even though I’ve never gotten into wrestling (as I’m sure you can tell), the event looks like a lot of fun from what I’ve seen on TV. There’s lots of pyrotechnics, cheesy dialogue, and people getting hit by chairs. What more can you want? Pittsburgh’s own Wiz Khalifa will also be there on Monday to perform a few songs.

Spend Some Time on Mt. Washington

The view from Mt. Washington is one of the best the city, second only to the view coming into the city from the Fort Pitt Tunnels. The restaurants on Mt. Washington are fairly expensive, but don’t let that deter you from taking the Duquesne Incline on up. You just spent eight weeks doing school work and taking exams; it’s time to treat yo’ self.

Learn Something

Enough with the “fluff” and “entertainment.” Let’s actually (try to) learn something this break. Pittsburgh is home to several great museums, and they’re all worth checking out in some capacity. You probably haven’t been to the Carnegie Science Center since middle school, and the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory are great for experiencing art. Don’t forget about the Frick House, which delves into the history of the early 20th-century and also features a cool car and carriage museum.

Pittsburgh’s a small town with a big city attitude. Now, let’s see what’s going on in the Big Apple, a big town, with an even bigger attitude.

New York:

This Friday, many Penn Staters not fortunate enough to make the trip to party-infused warmer regions will be returning back to a home in Pennsylvania. However, a good portion of non-Yinzers or Philadelphians come from East of the Delaware River. Spring Break may be relatively short, but being home without your college friends can get old fast. To avoid the looming boredom that may come along with leaving Happy Valley, we have provided some suggested activities to help utilize the nearby urban metropolis. Whether you’ve never been, or live 20 minutes away, here’s what to do in New York City over spring break:

Eat

Rave all you want about cheesesteaks or cole slaw and french fries on your sandwich (both delicious, I will concede), but New York has the best pizza on the East Coast, if not the world. Make your break from Canyon and D.P Dough as pleasant as possible. The savory thin-crust and toppings are worth the trip for newcomers, and a staple of every visit for locals. Check out Famous Original Ray’s on 9th and for the non-meat eaters out there, the NY Vegetarian Food Festival will be held March 14-15 at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

Drink

New York City isn’t exactly the college spring break hub of North America, but there’s no shortage of nightlife and good times to be found for the 21+ crowd. A fitting end to a beer enthusiast’s week in the City would include hitting up the NYC Craft Beer Festival. Located in Midtown East, the event is the largest of its kind in the New York area. It will run next Friday to Saturday and feature approximately 150 beers from 75 breweries. Fans of How I Met Your Mother can also check out McGee’s Pub, the inspiration for McLaren’s on the show. If none of that appeals to you, there’s literally a bar every block or so.

Learn

If you don’t mind actually learning during your time away from Dear Old State, New York is known for its plethora of museums and learning exhibits. Many of them are relatively expensive for a college budget, however there are loopholes. Some museums’ admission prices are purely suggested pricing and you can get away with paying slightly less. Most venues also offer great student discounts, so have those ID handy! A great date idea, or a way to find a date even worthy of bringing home to mom and dad. Personal recommendation: The Intrepid Air and Space Museum, located within a real retired aircraft carrier, is a must-see.

Catch A Game

New York is never a quiet sports town in the winter, with four teams taking over its two arenas. The Knicks will take on the Pacers tomorrow at Madison Square Garden before heading out of town for the remainder of the week. In Brooklyn, the Nets will take on the Suns tonight, the Jazz on March 8, and the Pelicans on March 10. As for hockey, the Rangers will visit the Islanders on March 10. The Islanders will also take on the Senators and Canadiens on March 13 and 14 respectively. Tennis will also take over Madison Square Garden on March 10 as the BNP Paribas Showdown will pit Monica Seles against Gabriela Sabatini and Roger Federer against Grigor Dimitrov. The Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament will head to the Barclays Center March 11-15 and the Big East Tournament will once again head to Madison Square Garden March 12-15.

Experience Nature

New York City in winter doesn’t exactly evoke images of nature, unless you count pigeons and handbag-sized canines. But often overlooked is the sprawling 1,317 square-mile oasis that is Central Park. Despite the assumption that March is too cold for walking in a park, there is plenty to do for those who love the outdoors. The Central Park Zoo, always a fan favorite, is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. Penguin and sea lion feeding are prevalent this time of year, and tickets are only $12 for general admission. Ice skating will still be available at several rinks during spring break, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

Shop

New York City has no shortage of shopping destinations. From the pricey (Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s), the Times Square fun (Toys “R” US, The Disney Store, Hershey’s) to the touristy (knick-knacks literally everywhere), there are so many places to shop it will make your head spin. Art and pictures can be found on every street corner with landscapes or popular images. It’s dangerously tempting for those carrying spare cash. Recommendation: the Reebok NHL Store on 47th. With jerseys and memorabilia from literally any NHL team, it’s worth just stopping by to take it all in.

Be Entertained

Visit Broadway. Duh, this one goes without saying for anyone looking for the New York Experience. Long running shows like “Wicked” and “The Phantom of the Opera” are an absolute must to see at least once in a lifetime. Multiple Tony Award winner “Kinky Boots” is still going strong, and the new adaption of the Disney classic “Aladdin” is churning out rave reviews. Broadway shows can be on the pricey side, but utilizing student rush as a cheap alternative if you can get to the line early enough will save you your hard-earned dollars.

As for live music, Billy Joel will visit Madison Square Garden once again on March 10, with Hozier taking over the Beacon Theatre tonight. Alabama Shakes will also play the Beacon March 11 and 12 for back-to-back shows.

Blow Off Steam

Curse at a taxi with the windows closed. Driving is stressful in the narrow streets and multiple turning lanes (seemingly all of them). It’s the best way to blow off steam in New York, hands down.

New York is nice and all, but for some people, it’s just a little too big. To take it down a notch, here’s what’s happening in the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia:

Who needs a white sand beach and a fruity cocktail when you can spend Spring Break 2015 in the City of Brotherly Love? If you find yourself spending your mid-semester break in Philly (or “just outside”), here are some things to do and ways to keep yourself entertained for the week.

Rock On or Mellow Out

Philly will see a star-studded parade of musical acts roll through over Spring Break this year. Maroon 5 will take over the Wells Fargo Center March 9, followed by Ariana Grande March 12. Hozier, ZZ Top, and Meghan Trainor will also be performing in the city throughout the week.

If you’re looking for something a little less flashy, Philadelphia is home to numerous smaller venues. Between The Theatre of Living Arts (TLA), the Electric Factory, Union Transfer, Keswick Theatre, and other shows booked almost every night, there will be plenty of live music going on in and around the city.

Spend a Night on the Town

For the 21-plus crowd, Philadelphia proper — as well as many of the surrounding towns — offers a number of bars, clubs, and other drinking events. On Saturday, March 7, the Philly Craft Beer Festival will take place at The Navy Yard and will offer craft beers, live music, and local grub. Additionally, the underground clubhouse bar U-Bahn opened yesterday on Chestnut St. and offers a variety of local drafts and a menu featuring house-made pickles.

A short ride from Center City, Manayunk houses Yards Brewing Company and Kildare’s Irish Pub if you’re looking for a traditional place to grab a brew. For a more up-tempo night, check out one of the casinos surrounding Philly, including Valley Forge, Parx, SugarHouse, Harrah’s, or The Borgota (Atlantic City, N.J.).

Explore the Arts and Museums

The museums of Philadelphia are not just for middle school field trips! If you want to broaden your intellectual horizons while away from Penn State for the week, check out Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, or the Eastern State Penitentiary, among countless others. Specifically, The Franklin Institute is currently hosting “The Art of the Brick,” an exhibit of LEGO creations both traditional and obscure. If you want to combine both fitness and art, complete a Rocky Run of the Art Museum steps, take “The Rocky Picture”, Instagram it immediately, and then head inside to check out the “Ink and Gold,” a collection of the art of the Kano.

Catch a Game

The Flyers will play the Stars on March 10 and the Red Wings on March 14, both at the Wells Fargo Center. If you’re bummed that the end of the Nittany Lion basketball season is almost upon us for the year, check out some the Sixers while you’re home. The team will host games throughout the week, playing the Hawks on March 7, the Bulls on March 11, and the Kings on March 13, all at the Wells Fargo Center. If you’re looking to take in a game but aren’t quite ready for actual competition, the Harlem Globetrotters will show off their skills at the Wells Fargo Center on March 8. Another interesting option that doesn’t involve actually watching a game is a tour the Eagles’ home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, which opened in 2003.

Grab a Bite to Eat

What would a trip to the City of Brotherly Love be without a cheesesteak? The classics, Pat’s and Geno’s, are always a good choice, so if you’re a native, what better time to hit up your preference? If visiting Philadelphia for the first time, however, try both and pick a side (just don’t let Pat’s see you eating Geno’s, or vice versa). Shank’s, Tony Luke’s, and Steve’s Prince of Steaks are also prime options, and about as authentic as you can get.

If you want to make your meal into a day-long outing, check out the Italian Market on South 9th Street and stock up on a variety of fresh produce, authentic Italian meats and cheeses, and a unique ambiance. If you would rather have someone else prepare the food for you, the Reading Terminal Market is home to more than 100 restaurants, merchants, and specialty food shops operating under one roof and occupying one block of city space. Make sure not to leave without sampling a cannoli from Termini Brothers’ Bakery, which they will fill right in front of you.

We Know What You Really Want: Wawa

Let’s be honest, it’s all you’ve been thinking about since you last left the golden zone, aka Wawa service range. Go there every day. Bring some back with you. Bring A LOT back with you. You can never get enough Wawa. The best part? Nobody will try to debate with you that there is a better alternative for a fresh hoagie, killer mac and cheese, or a hot cup of coffee, unless they like Sheetz for some reason.

If we missed anything that’s happening in these big cities over break, let us know what’s going on in the comments!

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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