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The Mann Center – Philadelphia, PA

View of the seating inside The Mann Center from the main stage. Photo credit: The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts (aka “The Mann”) is the largest seated outdoor amphitheater within the city limits of Philadelphia. It’s a non-profit performing arts center located within Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. It was built in 1976 as the summer home to the Philadelphia Orchestra. It’s currently home to all sorts of performances – from concerts by the Philly Pops to nationally known popular music artists.

In addition to hosting performances, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts Education & Community Engagement program serves over 50,000 young people annually through programs such as the annual Young People’s Concert Series and the Connecting Arts-n-Schools program.

The Mann is a great place to see a concert. If you have never been there, here are some tips and tricks to make your experience a good one.

Hotels

If you are coming from out of town and are looking for a hotel, your closest option is to stay at a hotel on City Line Avenue, which is about a 10-15 minute drive from the venue. Alternatively, you can stay at a hotel in Center City Philadelphia. However, those hotels are typically more expensive. Additionally, getting to The Mann from the city can be a bit of a challenge, particularly during rush hour. So, be sure to build in some extra time for traffic.

Tip #1: If you do a search for hotels on City Line Avenue, be sure to stick with one of the name brand hotels. There is a Homewood Suites – http://homewoodsuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/pennsylvania/homewood-suites-by-hilton-philadelphia-city-avenue-PHLCAHW/index.html, a Hilton – http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/pennsylvania/hilton-philadelphia-city-avenue-PHLPHHF/index.html, and a Courtyard – http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phlav-courtyard-philadelphia-city-avenue/?scid=bb1a189a-fec3-4d19-a255-54ba596febe2, that are all good choices. There are a couple of other hotels on City Line Avenue that may seem like a good deal, but are not places that I would recommend staying at.

Tip #2: If you don’t mind a little further drive, check out hotels in the immediate western suburbs. There is a Marriott in Conshohocken – http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phlwe-philadelphia-marriott-west/?scid=45f93f1b-bd77-45c9-8dab-83b6a417f6fe – which is a nice area with lots of restaurants and a good night life. It’s also not far from the venue.

Getting to the Venue

If you are coming from City Line Avenue or one of the suburbs, the best way to get to The Mann is to drive or take an Uber/taxi. If you are coming from Center City Philadelphia, you may want to look into the Mann Center Loop bus, which makes various stops throughout Center City and drops you right at The Mann. Information on costs and details on stops and schedules can be found on The Mann’s website at http://manncenter.org/plan-your-visit/transportation-parking.

If you are driving, parking usually opens 2 hours prior to the performance time. Parking is $20 per vehicle. If you take an Uber, the driver can drop you right at the main plaza gate. Pick up after the show is at Crawford Circle.

Tip #3: If you drive, be aware that parking is just in a large grassy area of the park (there is no paved parking). If it’s been raining or the ground is wet, it can get very muddy. Also, make sure you take good note of some landmarks around your car, so you can find it easily when you get out of the show. When the show lets out and it’s dark, everything tends to look similar and it can be a challenge to find your car.

What to Do Before the Show

There aren’t any restaurants or bars within walking distance of the venue. If you are coming from Center City Philadelphia or New Jersey, I would suggest hitting a Center City bar/restaurant. There are also a couple of chain restaurants on City Line Avenue (Olive Garden, Joe’s Crab Shack).

The Mann has some good food options inside (more details below in “About the Venue”), but as with most venues, prices tend to be on the high side.

Tailgating is permitted in the parking area, so that may be your best option for eating and drinking before the show. If you are coming from out of town, there is an Acme Supermarket close to the venue (located at 121 East City Avenue, Bala Cynwood, PA), where you can pick up any food items you might need. As mentioned above, the venue (and parking area) is part of Fairmount Park, so you do need to be discreet when drinking alcoholic beverages. Plan on bringing plastic cups and using those, rather than drinking from the bottle or can.

Tip #4: If you are from out of town and are not familiar with how alcohol sales work in Pennsylvania, it’s a bit archaic. Although some supermarkets are starting to sell beer and wine, for the most part, you have to go to a “beer store” to buy beer and a PA state store to buy wine and other alcohol. There is a PA state store (Fine Wine & Good Spirits) located at 119 City Avenue, Bala Cynwood, PA.

Tip #5: The venue allows you to bring one sealed 20 oz bottle of water in with you. On a hot summer night, definitely plan on bringing one in to save yourself purchasing a bottle inside.

About the Venue

The Mann Center has a total capacity of 14,000 people. Only 4,500 seats are under cover. Seating is made up of three orchestra (floor level) seating sections – A, B and Circle. There is also a balcony and balcony boxes, which sit above the Orchestra Circle area, and are under cover. Behind the covered area is another reserved seating section called the Terrace level. Note that while these are reserved seats, they are not under cover. Behind the Terrace seating is the lawn area, which is all general admission and is not under cover.

Seating chart for the main stage. Graphic credit: The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Tip #6: The balcony area can be very warm (I’d describe it more as hot!) during hot summer weather. All of the hot air rises and gets trapped under the roof, and there is very little air circulation. We attended a show several years ago during August, and found it uncomfortably warm. So, dress cool if you have balcony seats.

The best thing about The Mann is that due to its size, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Even the Terrace seating has a good view of the stage.

If you have lawn tickets, you are permitted to bring in a blanket. For most shows, you are also permitted to bring in a low backed chair. Be sure to check with the venue’s website for details on what is and is not permitted on the lawn during the particular show you are going to see. If it’s raining, small umbrellas are permitted.

As mentioned above, The Mann has several food options inside. At the top of the lawn is the Crescendo restaurant and Crescendo Bar & Grill. Both serve food and drinks. Check the website to see if they are open for the particular show you are attending. At the main entrance (Citizens Bank Plaza) there is a food stand that serves typical “venue” food – burgers, fries, etc. There is also a taco truck and a Rita’s Water Ice stand.

Closer to the seating area, there are a couple of bar areas. These are good options to grab another drink once the show gets started. There is also additional food and drink stands at the top of the lawn.

Map of the venue including locations for food, drinks, restrooms, etc. Graphic credit: The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Tip #7: For those of you that like to use your phones at a show, there are free charging stations by the main entrance. There is also free XFINITY Wifi available inside the venue. Just look for xfinitywifi in your list of available networks.

Bathrooms are located near the main entrance (behind the main food concession stand) as well as on the opposite side (right side facing the stage) of the seating area. There is also a set of bathrooms at the top of the main lawn (right next to the Skyline Stage). In my experience, the bathrooms are well maintained and clean.

Tip #8: As with almost any venue, there are often lines for the bathrooms right before the show and in between sets. To avoid lines, sneak out during one of the songs if you can. Also, try the bathrooms in the seating area on the right side. Those are a little more hidden and tend to be not quite as busy.

Skyline Stage

For smaller shows, the Mann utilizes the Skyline Stage, which is located at the top of the hill on the back end of the lawn. Skyline Stage performances are all general admission, and they can accommodate between 3,500 and 7,000 people. Note that the venue does NOT allow lawn chairs for performances on the Skyline Stage. While they do permit blankets, the idea is that the performance is a general admission “standing” show. Please note that there may be limited concessions open for shows on the Skyline Stage, so check the venue’s website for more information on your particular show.

View of the Skyline Stage located at the top of the hill. Photo credit: The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

 

The Mann is a really great place to see a show. The staff is friendly and the venue is well maintained. Also, be sure to get a glimpse of the Philadelphia skyline from inside the venue. On a clear night, you can get a great view!

Have questions about seeing a show at The Mann Center?  Comment below or e-mail me at tips2livebywriter@gmail.com.

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