Insider’s guide to Philly and the Jersey Shore

My head isn’t in the office this week.

I mean, I am concentrating on my job — helping to edit the next issue of Bassmaster magazine, which we must ship to the printer on Friday.

But my head is in Philadelphia.

This week, as the Elite Series pros take on the Delaware River in the seventh event of the 2014 season, my coworkers and all 107 anglers descend on my territory — Philly and New Jersey.

I finished high school in Jersey in a town called Toms River, about 60 miles east from where the anglers will weigh-in at Penn’s Landing. We spent our summers at the Seaside Heights boardwalk, selling candy or slices of pizza. I went to undergrad at Penn State University, out in State College, Pa., and after graduating I spent a lot of time in the City of Brotherly Love. With so many classmates from that area, or finding jobs there after graduation, it became the place to go for a night out.

So you can understand why I’m feeling nostalgic this week. Whenever someone I know visits that area, I am full of stories about piping hot, melty cheesesteaks; concerts on the waterfront with the Ben Franklin Bridge in the background; and dancing until my feet hurt at Cuba Libre in Center City.

If you’re in town to see the Elites on the Delaware River this week, you know the sights that you need to see — the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, those steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that Rocky so famously ran up. But here’s a little inside information for where to eat, where to drink and a nearby excursion to get some sun.

1.     Center City — This area of Philly is ripe with sports bars, taverns, dueling pianos and restaurants. A short walk from Penn’s Landing, you might even find the perfect place to dine and drink on your way to Center City if you walk the streets between Market Street and South Street going toward Broad Street.

2.     South Street — Known as the party street in Philly, make sure if you park your car near here you watch the signs carefully – the Philadelphia parking authority is notorious in this neighborhood. On the weekend, this is where the nightlife will be.

3.     Cheesesteaks — If you’ve had a cheesesteak in Philly, it’s likely that you ate at Pat’s or Geno’s, two rivals that just so happen to be located across the street from one another near Federal Street. Locals often go to the unassuming Dalessandro’s near the Manayunk neighborhood. This happens to be my personal favorite, if you’re up for the 10-mile drive from Penn’s Landing. (Main Street in Manayunk along the Schuylkill River is also another spot for restaurants and nightlife.)

4.     The Jersey Shore — If you have time for a day trip before or after the tournament, head east and don’t stop until you see the Atlantic Ocean. From the boardwalk in Wildwood in south Jersey north to Point Pleasant, these spots along the Shore are ready to entertain you with carnival rides, saltwater taffy and skee ball. If you do happen to go to Seaside Heights, my old haunt, be sure to visit Maruca’s Pizza and the Berkeley Sweet Shop, in addition to playing games at the Coin Castle. Many New Jersey boardwalks were destroyed during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and though they’re coming back strong, Seaside suffered a major fire last year that left the boardwalk in need of rebuilding again. Show your support by hitting the beaches! 

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