Fat Guy's Philly Wing Bowl Golf Weekend
Wing Bowl Wingettes
Wing Bowl History & Why This Is Worth 2 Vacation Days in February (In Case The Picture Above Isn't Indication Enough):
The Wiki Info: Wing Bowl is a Buffalo wing eating contest that was started in 1993 as a small early morning promotional event put on by local Philadelphia sports talk radio station WIP on the Friday before the Super Bowl. It was the brainchild of Philly-based NHL analyst and WIP personality Al Morganti , conceived as a post-season distraction for local fans after the Eagles didn't make the playoffs. The first Wing Bowl was held in the lobby of the Wyndam Franklin Plaza Hotel in downtown Philly, and only had a handfull of contestants. The inagural winner, Carmen Cordero, won a hibachi as his prize. [ Wikipedia ]
Since then, Wing Bowl has grown into a half-day Mardi Gras-style party that attracts 20,000 fans to the Flyers' Wells Fargo Center , along with world-class professional eaters like Kobiashi, who won the 2012 Wing Bowl by eating an astonishing 337 wings. Local contestants qualify by successfully performing timed eating stunts on the WIP Morning Show, or winning local "Wingoff" eating competitions staged at various locations of Wing Bowl sponsor and officical provider of wings P.J. Whelihans ( www.pjspub.com ), a Philly-area sportsbar/microbrew pub chain. Personally, I think their breaded wings are mediocre-to-below-average at best.
The biggest draw isn't watching fat guys eat wings, or an excuse to start drinking at 4AM on the Friday morning of Super Bowl weekend. It's the entourages of Wingettes, scantily-clad young women who escort the competitors into the arena.
Wingettes are recruited in a variety of ways. Some are attractive girls-next-door who send pictures into the WIP morning team or show up at Wing-Offs. Some are personally recruited by competitors. But most are recruited from local Gentlemen's clubs, who send teams of girls, typically in matching tiny outfits bearing the name of the club.
Not to mention that girls in the crowd also get into the spirit of the morning's debauchery.
The after-party is even better, as many of Philly's best sportsbars and Gentlemen's clubs are nearby (see below).
Foreword, Weather & Trip Planning: Fat Guy lives in Philly, and shockingly attended his first Wing Bowl just last year since moving to Philly over 15 years ago. So here's a full itinerary on how to do a Wing Bowl golf weekend right.
I know what you're thinking, so first things first... 'When's the Super Bowl, like the first week in February? You're talking about a golf weekend in Philly in the middle of winter? Are you nuts? Won't there be 4 inches of snow on the ground?'
I'm originally from the mountains of Western PA, and after living here for 15 years I'm still surprised by the relative mildness of most winters in Philly. Sure we have a bad winter about once every 5 years, but on average I'd estimate that Philly gets less than a handfull of significant snowfalls per winter, and most melt off within a few days of the event. So if winter is 3 months long, and there's typically snow on the ground for maybe 12 days a year, that's only a 13% chance of seeing snow, even in February.
And yes, average high temps in early February only hover in the low-40's, but random days in the 50's and even 60's aren't unheard of either. The week of the 2013 Wing Bowl featured a high of 54 degrees just 3 days before the event, though the high on Wing Bowl Friday was a chilly 30 degrees.
But need I remind you about the Wingettes?
To account for the random nature of Philly weather in early February, I've broken down the entire weekend not only by what hotel you're staying in, but also golf/entertainment options for both playable and non-playable weather. I've even broken down the planning by key dates, since tickets, while cheap ($10), can be tough to come by if you're not on top of things. Who else is breaking golf buddy trip planning down to these levels for ya? NOBODY!
Planning Step 1: ASAP- Put out a 'Save The Date' email to your golf cronies to gauge interest in something like this (remember Wing Bowl always takes place the Friday morning before the Super Bowl ). I realize it takes a certain 'Fat Guy'-kinda friend to think an event like this would be worth the trip and a full weekend, so tailor the invite list accordingly. Country club types probably need not apply.
Planning Step 2: ASAP- Make hotel reservations. Hotels near the stadium area fill up quick for Wing Bowl weekend, and the event requires a ridiculously early wake-up call since the doors open before 6AM (it's put on by a morning radio show). The closer you can stay to the stadium complex, the more sleep you'll get the night before. Here are some hotel options:
To be stumbling distance to the Wells Fargo Center, stay at the Holiday Inn Stadium in South Philly ( www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/philadelphia/phlps/hoteldetail ). The Holiday Inn's Stadium Sports Bar is always a popular spot on game/event days at the complex.
To be close to Old City nightlife with great views of the Delaware River waterfront, stay at the Comfort Inn Downtown/Historic Area ( www.comfortinn.com ). It's a quick I-95 exit away from the stadium complex, and easy cabbing distance to nearby Gentlemen's clubs. Tip : Request a room on the river side of the hotel for better views and less I-95 noise.
The Philly Airport is only a couple exits down I-95, barely 10 minutes away, and offers easy access to both the stadium and a couple of the area's best Gentlemen's clubs, along with the broadest selection of room pricing and hotel amenities. On the upper end of the scale, try the Airport Marriott ( www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/PHLAR-Philadelphia-Airport-Marriott ) , with walk-out access to the terminals, or go for the nice amenities including a nice restaurant and an indoor pool at the Airport Hilton ( www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/pennsylvania/hilton-philadelphia-airport-PHLAHHF/index.html ) . For more dining options close to your weekend digs, try the Embassy Suites ( http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/pennsylvania/embassy-suites-philadelphia-airport-PHLAPES/index.html ) , which has the on-site Grille At The Reserve , and a Ruby Tuesdays in the parking lot. Single guys will probably dig the modernist decor at Aloft Hotel ( www.starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3181 ) with loft-like rooms, the colorful Remix lounge and XYZ Bar, a gym, indoor pool, and neon trimmings; or try the Four Points by Sheraton ( ) with a nice on-site bar. Budget-minded guys should look at the Hampton Inn Airport .
Planning Step 3: Thanksgiving Week- You know that weird 3-day pre-Thanksgiving week at work, a strange mix of catching up on work during a slow short week combined with some extra "networking" and internet surfing? Use that slow time to check the WIP website ( www.philadelphia.cbslocal.com/station/94wip/ ) for the date that tickets go on sale (usually in early December), and put a reminder in your Outlook calendar to get tickets online the day they go on sale.
Planning Step 4: Early December- Buy tickets. Tickets to the 2014 Wing Bowl sold out in 12 hours, so you gotta get them the day they go on sale. By now you should have a good idea of how many of your buddies have (reliably) committed to this trip, and even if you're off by a guy or two, you're still only out $10 apiece. If life takes over and the tickets are gone by the time you remember to log on, check back again in mid-January. Sometimes they release some last minute tickets.
Planning Step 5: Early December- Once you've secured tickets, schedule vacation days for the Thursday and Friday before the Super Bowl and make your flight and rental car reservations . From a budgetary standpoint, this is a less-than-ideal time of year for booking buddy travel with Christmas right around the corner, but if you wait until after New Year's you run the risk of missing out on lower 30-day advance airfares. Philly is a Southwest hub, so start by looking at their flights ( ) for likely lower airfares and no baggage fees for your clubs. Target a Thursday early-to-midday arrival in Philly (depending on whether or not you're trying to get a round in on Thursday). A Thursday arrival is necessary due to the Wing Bowl starting at 6AM on Friday.
Planning Step 6: Mid-to-late January- Make tee times, and understand course cancellation policies in case the weather isn't playable . Start checking weather forecasts. Pack accordingly. And be sure to pack your digital camera (with extra batteries and a fresh memory stick) to take pictures of all the Wingettes.
By now, you should be all set for a Philly Wing Bowl golf weekend.
Thursday: AM Arrival
Stagger off the flight after an uber-early wake-up call followed by your first golf weekend drink and an unsettled plane nap. Grab your sticks at baggage claim (clubs come right to the regular baggage carousel at Philly airport), make your way over your rental car center, and grab your ride. You can't show up to Wing Bowl driving a mini-van, so splurge on the extra bucks to reserve a large SUV.
Good Weather: If the weather is playable, let's head for the course. From the airport, jump on I-95 South for a few exits and jump off on 322W, heading for Glen Mills GC ( www.glenmillsgolf.com ). It's ranked on most lists as the first or second best public course in the greater Philly area, and it's an easy 20 minute ride from the airport.
Glen Mills was carved out of the hilly, forested grounds of a school for troubled boys, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the level of service provided by the students who serve as cart and bag boys. Named to many Best New Course lists after its debut in 2001, the professional staff and pro shop are top notch. Designer Bobby Weed believes that the Achilles' heel of modern, earth-moving course design results in the shaping of every mound and edge, leaving most new courses with an almost-subconscious manufactured feel. Weed prefers to leave the rough edges of the natural landscape. This subtlety sets Glen Mills apart, and makes it visually intimidating as well. Weed left plenty of tee carries and other natural hazards, including boulders, wetlands, meandering streams, drop-offs, natural bunkers, rock outcroppings, and fescue. The routing features elevation changes, pinched fairways cut into the base of surrounding hills, and a few blind shots. Narrow and targety in spots, Glen Mills offers up some tricky little torture chamber holes (numbers 4 and 11 leap to mind). The layout forces forethought off the tee and accurate shot making, but also leaves you the occasional bail out area. Perhaps the best features include the tee times, which are set 15 minutes apart, and there's nary a Toll Brothers monstrosity in sight. All of which makes for a very relaxing round.
Lunch was probably a hotdog at the turn, and the grill room doesn't serve beer due to the affiliation with the boys' school. After your round, you're probably already building towards hungry after walking Glen Mills' hills, even with a cart. There's a nice collection of restaurants about 10 minutes away centered around the intersection of Routes 1 & 202. Fat Guy recommends the upper-midscale Italian at Pescatore's (1810 Wilmington Pike aka 202, about 10 minutes away near the intersection of Routes 1 & 202, www.pescatoresrestaurant.com ). Don't even bother with the menu, just order the penne in vodka sauce with prosciuotto. You'll thank me. For midscale steak, hit nearby Texas Road House , or for upscale go across the street to Mile High Steakhouse .
Bad Weather: Even if there's no snow on the ground, there's a chance it could be 41 and rainy. But you just lugged your sticks through two airports and you're already in full golf weekend mode, so you're itching to tee it up. As an alternative to a miserable round in cold damp and possibly frozen weather, head for the Philly outpost of Dave & Buster's adult arcade (325 N Columbus Blvd aka Delaware Ave, 215-413-1951, www.daveandbusters.com ) to tee it up on one of their golf simulators , where you can play any of 50 famous and fantasy courses. There's waitress service to bring you all the beer you want, and the food is surprisingly good too. This is D&B's flagship location, housed on the second floor of a former pier warehouse on the Delaware River, and a great spot all in its' own right. After golf, shoot a few games of pool or bar shuffleboard, hang at the sports bar, shoot some carnival hoops, or stage a head-to-head video game competition. There's so much to do here, you way as well stay for dinner too. D&B's "Power Hour" (4:30-7) features discounts on game tokens. Check the website for coupons.
After Dinner: Tomorrow's Wing Bowl will be a ridiculously early wake-up call followed by a double shift of boozing, so those of us who aren't 23 will likely want to have a little fun after dinner, but make it an early night (often easier said than done on a boys' weekend, I know).
With that in mind, after the plates are cleared and the check is paid, head for your hotel. Get checked in, unpack, take a shower, lay out your clothes for tomorrow to give yourself an extra 10 minutes of sleep, and relax a little. I would limit your nightlife to a beer or two at the hotel bar or a few games of poker in the room, and hit the rack early, because you just called the front desk to leave a Friday morning wake-up call for 3:30 AM . Yes, you read that right. So if my math is correct, even if you're in bed by 10:30, you're still only gonna get 5 hours of rack time.
Friday : Wing Bowl Day- The doors of the Wells Fargo Center open before 6AM, and seating is first-come, first-served. Since you deemed this event worthy of travel and time off of work, you may as well make the extra sacrifices necessary to make it memorable... namely getting in line by 4AM on a blustery February night/morning to get a ringside seat.
Tailgating is the order of the day, even at this hour. A Thermos filled with hot Irish coffee or spiked hot chocolate is highly recommended. A good warm winter coat, hat, and a good pair of gloves (waterproof in case you spill a little of your beverage) are musts. You know the drill.
Once they finally open the doors around 5:45, it's a mad dash to get good seats. Friends recommend trying for a spot near the tunnel where the competitors (and Wingette entourages) enter the arena. Spots on the aisle near an exit close to a men's room are also in demand. I'd recommend your foursome/eightsome/moresome have a target section you can all race for, that way you can split up during the seat dash and you'll all still end up in the same area. And one of you is bound to be able to get there fast enough to hold some decent seats for your group.
The event starts gearing up for the prime "morning drive hour" around 7AM (remember it's put on by a sport talk radio station). It's usually pretty much over by 10AM. But your Man Day is just getting started, as the "after-party" is half the reason to attend Wing Bowl.
The bars and Gentlemen's clubs near the stadiums are all well aware of the hordes of drunk guys pouring out of the Wells Fargo Center after Wing Bowl, so they all open early that Friday for "Legs & Eggs".
The closest (and therefore most crowded) spots will be XFinity Live, McFadden's Pub at Citizen's Bank Park, Chickie & Pete's Sports Bar, and the Holiday Inn's Stadium Sports Bar. All are stumbling distance from Wing Bowl. XFinity Live (www.xfinitylive.com) is an indoor entertainment-plex located in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center, featuring local Dock Street Brewpub, Broad Street Bullies' Pub , the PBR Bar & Grill (think country grunge chic with a mechanical bull and hottie waitresses in Daisy Dukes), and a massive sport-watching arena. McFadden's is caddy-corner to XFinity and has a white hot waitstaff, but the beers are on the high side. Chickie & Pete's won ESPN's 2012 Best Sportsbar in America, famous for their crab fries and Buffalo chicken fingers as much as the passion of the local fans. The Stadium Sports Bar is convenient if you're staying at the Holiday Inn, but it's a little bit of a walk and it's just your average hotel sports bar.
There are a couple Gentlemen's clubs within easy cabbing distance. Cheerleader's ( www.cheerleadersweb.com ) is the closest and has high quality talent. The caveat here is that it's a bikinis-only club, although it was literally my third visit before I actually noticed. Still, the couch dances are sans top, and when they're good here, they're goood.
Cheerleader's dancers from Wing Bowl 2012
The other nearby club is Onyx ( www.onyxclubs.com ), with a more urban feel located near the base of the Walt Whitman Bridge. Onyx is newer and larger than Cheerleader's, with a classy decor and a fleet of studded leather chairs on wheels at 4-topper tables, though the white-columned Southern mansion facade seems woefully out of place this far north across the street from the Delaware River docks. While it's likely to be less crowded than the competition up the street, the talent is more hit & miss and generally weaker.
If you have a designated driver and are willing to go just a little further afield, within a 15 minute driving radius there are several other Gentlemen's clubs. The best is Oasis , just off I-95 near the airport. A nice clean joint, pretty good talent, a friendly vibe, and Philly's strongest couch dances, despite the next-to-a-junkyard location.
A little closer to the stadiums, down along Columbus Boulevard (aka Delaware Ave) you'll find Club Risque (primo talent but tame couch dances), Show N' Tel (an all-nekkid BYOB joint housed in a warehouse, popular with larger groups and bachelor parties), Pennsport Pub (a fun local's dive with questionable talent, but you won't go through a ton of cash), and Delilah's (a classy club with upper-end talent, was the best club in Philly 5 or 8 years ago before Christine's and Penthouse Club came to town). Penthouse Club is a handful of exits up I-95 North (about 20 minutes away, a strange Vegasy island in an industrial area, upscale with a modernist red carpet entrance, good talent but bad service, and the tunes turned up so loud you can barely have a conversation).
You'll probably hit a wall somewhere around mid-to-late afternoon, and your stomach will begin to register that you haven't ingested much other than alcohol all day. If you're still over near the stadiums and Delaware Avenue, it's worth the effort to drag yourself back out into the fading daylight for nearby Tony Luke's for one of Philly's best cheesesteaks (resist the temptation to warm up at Tony Luke's sports bar across the street, and eat outside for the full experience). For a full-fledged dinner near the stadiums, head to Medora's Mecca (3101 S 13th) for some good South Philly Italian food.
Depending on your age and tolerance, your body may be begging for a nap after a big meal. If you decide to explore downtown Philly at some point, start off at McGillan's Irish Ale House . From there, cab and bar hop your way down to Old City, one of Philly's best neighborhoods for nightlife. End your night at Old City's Continental Martini Lounge , housed in a former diner.
Good Weather: Assuming both your body and the weather cooperate, head for the mid-morning tee time you made over the bridge in Jersey at Scotland Run GC (Williamstown NJ, www.scotlandrungolf.com ). A quick half-hour hop over the Delaware River via the Walt Whitman Bridge onto 42 South brings you to the unique vistas of this stunning target layout.
Diabolical architect Stephen Kay twisted the routing through the New Jersey pine barrens and a former sand quarry. By borrowing design elements from both Old Tom Morris' Prestwick and legendary nearby Pine Valley, Kay achieves the same Stateside visual stratosphere as Mike Stranz' target masterpiece Tobacco Road (Sanford, NC). A study in extremes, the Run offers numerous quirky elements such as clifftop tees, cape holes over yawning sand pits 3 stories deep (don't worry, there's a staircase if you don't clear the carry--but you still gotta play it), dual greens, blind shots, stacked sod pot bunkers, railroad tie walls as crossing hazards, and sandy lies next to a rusting steamshovel or an old airplane from a small nearby airport. Cart paths spill randomly into massive, free-range waste bunkers, adding to the sense of adventure. The dog right par-5 18th, with water creeping in off the tee and an uphill approach over a sand cliff, is a memorable finish. Whether going for it or laying up, the second swing on the 18th is one of the most nerve-racking middle shots anywhere. The overall experience at Scotland Run is closer to X-Box golf than traditional links. But for the adventurous, this is the most grin-inducing 18 daily fee holes the Philadelphia area has to offer.
Bad Weather: I'll give you a few bad weather options today. Option 1: Grab your boots, winter gear, and maybe an umbrella and head for Philly's Historic District (centered at 6th & Market), and feel the depth of your patriotism at the Liberty Bell , Independence Hall , and the new National Constitution Center . Experience a full day of U.S. history, all within two blocks.
If you're staying at the Comfort Inn on Delaware Avenue, or if you just gotta scratch that golf itch, head back/over to Dave & Buster's for a boozy round on one of their golf simulators, and make a full day of it at this adult playground. If you somehow get bored with that, Gentlemen's club Delilah's is just up the street, as is Yards Brewing Company ( www.yardsbrewing.com ), which offers free brewery tours from Noon to 4PM on weekends, and has a casual area for swilling their flagship session ale Yards Brawler and playing pool. Gambler's will head for the riverfront Sugar House Casino ( www.sugarhousecasino.com ), also just up the street. Or you're easy cabbing distance to Old City restaurants and nightlife .
If you didn't make it to Tony Luke's yesterday, I'm sure a legit Philly cheesesteak is on your weekend Must Do checklist. So head for the world epicenter of the cheesesteaks, 9th & Passyunk in South Philly. Everybody knows to head for Pat's King Of Steaks or Geno's for the most famous cheesesteaks on the planet.
Saturday Night :
Ever since local seafood institution Bookbinder's faded from prominence to tourist trap and then a 3-year hiatus before returning as a still-lesser version of its former self, Philly has morphed from a seafood town to a steakhouse town. Chances are you're still recovering from yesterday's Wing Bowl in some form or another, and nothing will set a body straight faster than a big juicy steak. The good news is, Philly has a bevy of upscale steakhouses from which to choose (and I'll throw in a decent value steak recommendation).
Fat Guy's favorite upscale steakhouse in Philly is Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse ( www.delfriscos.com ) The Philly location of the Del Frisco uber-chain is housed in a grand marbled former bank building, and feels like the decadent experience a big city steakhouse should be. Groups can rent out a private room in the former bank vault downstairs, and the hottie waitresses are all clad in little black mini-skirts. Oh yeah, they make a damn good steak too.
Del Frisco's Philly
Other upscale Philly steakhouse options include the haughty waitstaff at uber-masculine stalwart The Saloon, which assured it's reign as Philly's King of Beef for years before a bevvy of new steakhouses popped up since the early Otts. Philadelphia Magazine gives 5 star ratings to Starr's Barclay Prime (above) and The Capital Grille (high powered hangout, polished service, pricey, order the dry-aged 24 oz. porterhouse), and 4 star ratings to Butcher & Singer (more Stephen Starr Mid-Western kitsch, with hulking crisply seared steaks but un-bold sides, order the Indian Ridge Prime 28-day dry-aged porterhouse), Fleming's Prime (all the trappings of a traditional steakhouse without the intimidation factor, stiff drinks, massive portions, even bigger checks, sleek decor, a wine geek's dream list, updated apps, well-seasoned steaks, order the 22 oz. bone-in ribeye), Morton's (well-known standby, elegantly old school with a Rat Pack feel and a Sinatra soundtrack, finely marbled meats, order the 20 oz. New York strip), and Table 31 (atypical, lively bar scene, fave of local pro sports figures, skip the strip steak for the 8 oz. filet or the 14 oz. Delmonico with the by-request spice rub) . To make it up to your golf widow, you might try newcomer and local's favorite Union Trust Steakhouse , where the red-accented d├ęcor will arouse both your appetite and your passion. Improve your steak palate by ordering the vertical steak sampler, slices of meat aged for varying periods of time, and learn to recognize the importance and subtle tone changes of dry-aged steak. Uber-chain Brazilian steakhouse Fogo De Chao ( www.fogodechao.com ) is a carnivore's dream, as gaucho waiters bring out 15 different cuts of exploding-with-flavor churrasco-roasted meats on a spit, carving them right onto your plate. Each diner gets a disc that's green on one side and red on the other, indicating to your waiter if you're in "taking-a-break" or "bring-it-on" mode. The all-you-can-eat set up is quite pricey, but you can be choosy about what cuts you sample (and skip the side dish bar).
For a good value midscale steak down near the stadiums, head for Engine 46 Steakhouse , housed in a castle-like former firehouse.
Philly's nightlife is an ever-morphing big city cauldron of cool and kitschy places to party. Check local weekly rag City Paper for what's hot tonight.
Super Bowl Sunday
If you've got an early flight to get home in time to watch the game, sleep in as long as you can and head for the airport.
If you're staying in town Sunday night to watch the game and the afternoon presents playable weather, head for RiverWinds Golf Club , just over the Commodore Barry Bridge in West Deptford, NJ, about 20 minutes from the airport. The riverside finish on this linksy 2002 layout feels as though it's only driver-wedge from the Philly skyline, and includes an island green set in an inlet of the Delaware River. RiverWinds is a good value, but the caveat here has been sometimes-inconsistent conditioning. Two other great options a little further afield include Rees Jones' Broad Run Golfer's Club , and Downingtown CC , both about an hour from the city.
If you're staying over for the game and it's not playable outside, check out the Camden Aquarium , the Philly Art Museum , or the Franklin Institute's science-oriented museum.
For watching the game, Philly's best sportsbars include the aforementioned Chickie's & Pete's and McFadden's . For something slightly less of a mob scene, try Lucky Red in the Sugar House Casino, the Field House at the Convention Center, Paddywhack's in South Philly, or Fox & Hound in Center City. Foodies will head for the bar at Pizzeria Stella, or Table 31 in the Comast Center. Microbrew geeks gravitate to Perch Pub or Memphis Taproom . For something different, try the North Bowl for bowling and entertainment options, or Ladder 15 for a sports bar in a former fire station.