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Home Road Trip Yohe: 2023-24 Penguins Fan Roadtrip Guide, Part 1

Yohe: 2023-24 Penguins Fan Roadtrip Guide, Part 1

by Staff

The dog days of summer are here. Sure, we can theorize about Erik Karlsson coming to Pittsburgh, but otherwise, there isn’t much going on.

You know what that means? It’s a heck of a time to plan a trip, that’s what.

Last season, I was in San Jose on Valentine’s Day, and I met a delightful retired couple from Pittsburgh. They were in my hotel and thanked me for this annual article because it helped direct them on their way to seeing the Penguins in California. It made my day. That’s why I write this every year.

I condensed the format considerably because, frankly, some readers thought it was a little too long. Understood. But here are all the details you need to know if you want to support the Penguins while giving yourself a simultaneous vacation.

(Part 2, Nos. 19-1, can be found here.)


The ‘Recommend Avoiding’ Division

31. Winnipeg

Why you should go 

  • The fans are outrageously friendly
  • The building is outstanding
  • Saying that you experienced the cold of Winnipeg is a heck of a flex
  • The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is wonderful

Why you shouldn’t go

  • It’s a long day of flying to get there
  • The weather is actually pretty frightening and, after the thrill of experiencing that kind of cold is gone, you’ll just be cold
  • It’s pretty expensive
  • You’ll get bored in a hurry
  • The hotel situation isn’t good
  • The nightlife situation isn’t good
  • The Jets are nothing special to see in person

Bottom line

I love the people in Winnipeg. They’re charming. So, too, is the arena. I can’t in good faith tell you that this will be a wonderful trip, unless, of course, you’re interested in visiting every NHL arena or you have a specific desire to visit Winnipeg. If that’s the case, then, by all means, have at it. But you had better really love hockey to make this trip.

30. New York Islanders

Why you should go 

  • The new building is much nicer than the previous one
  • You’re fairly close to Manhattan
  • You’re pretty close to Giulio Cesare, one of the best Italian restaurants on the road

Why you shouldn’t go

  • The new arena is nice, but the parking stinks and getting there is a nightmare
  • There aren’t many nice hotels in the area
  • It’s just far enough away from Manhattan to be annoying
  • Islanders fans aren’t the friendliest bunch
  • If you fly, you deal with crappy New York airports; if you drive, well, it’s a seven-hour drive of misery

Bottom line:

If you’re in New York for other reasons and the Penguins happen to be in town, go for it. For instance, the Pirates play against the Mets on April 17, which happens to be the night the Penguins wrap up the regular season at the Islanders. If MLB schedules the Pirates game in the afternoon — it might be a day game because it’s the final game of the series — then do the doubleheader. Otherwise, this trip is pretty dismal.

29. Philadelphia

Why you should go

  • It’s the Penguins and Flyers, so something entering will take place
  • You’ll almost certainly see Sidney Crosby score a couple of goals
  • The crowd’s treatment of Crosby is hilarious
  • Chef Vola’s, the greatest restaurant of them all, is a mere hour away in Atlantic City

Why you shouldn’t go

  • The building is a complete dump
  • The fans will not treat you nicely, and you may think that’s funny, but often it really isn’t
  • The Flyers stink, and the rivalry is pretty much on life support as a result
  • It’s a miserable drive in the winter and, if you fly, you’ll have to deal with one of the worst airports ever built
  • While there are cool historical things to see in Philly, it’s just not that nice of a city

Bottom line

You should probably do this once in your life just for the experience. But now isn’t the time. The Flyers are bad, and it’s just kind of unpleasant being there. I always kind of dread it, to be honest.

28. New Jersey

Why you should go

  • Jack Hughes is fun to watch, as are the Devils in general
  • For all of you John Marino fans out there, it’s a time to reminisce
  • The Prudential Center is a decent building
  • Devils fans aren’t so bad, and you’ll get them on your side if you trash the Rangers
  • You’re a quick train ride from Manhattan

Why you shouldn’t go 

  • Newark isn’t booming culturally
  • Like all of the New York-area cities, Newark is difficult to travel to; you either deal with a rotten airport or have to make a six-hour drive
  • The Penguins always play horribly in New Jersey, so good luck seeing a win
  • Newark might sound like New York, but it’s nothing like it, and not in a good way

Bottom line

If you go, stay at the Courtyard Marriott right beside the arena. It’s safe, and there are decent restaurants in the area. Newark isn’t, in my experience, the nicest city in the world. Not particularly a recommended trip.

27. St. Louis

Why you should go

  • I find the fans here generally friendly
  • The Penguins are here in October, so catch the Cardinals in a playoff game! Great baseball town! Oh, never mind
  • There’s a whole museum under the Arch, which I never knew, and it’s really cool
  • The BBQ is legit

Why you shouldn’t go

  • St. Louis has seen better days, as downtown is really struggling
  • It’s tough to find direct flights, though it can be done
  • I don’t find the nightlife overly good here, so you may get antsy pretty quickly
  • The Blues are really boring

Bottom line

I don’t hate it here quite as much as I used to. It’s grown on me slightly. But it’s not exactly a destination trip. Stay at the Renaissance Hotel by the airport and take an Uber to wherever you’re going.

The ‘Random, If You Have Family There’ Division

26. Ottawa

Why you should go

  • Downtown Ottawa is a marvel
  • Pens-Sens games usually get wild
  • I usually have my car with me here because it’s close to my kids, so if you need a ride somewhere, let me know
  • As Canadian markets go, tickets here are unusually affordable
  • The Sens are fun to watch

Why you shouldn’t go

  • Canadian Tire Center is an awful building
  • It’s not located anywhere close to downtown, which isn’t ideal
  • The weather here gets … dicey
  • It’s two flights or a nine-hour drive
  • On Dec.23, the Penguins play in Ottawa during a Steelers-Bengals game, which is not good Yinzer scheduling

Bottom line 

It’s a sneaky fun trip, in my opinion. But be prepared for terrible weather and a long day of travel. It’s worth spending a weekend there because of the great downtown.

25. Edmonton

Why you should go

  • Connor McDavid
  • Downtown Edmonton is actually pretty decent, and Sherlock Holmes Pub is a must
  • The casino situation is very good
  • Oilers fans are harmless, and the arena is new

Why you shouldn’t go 

  • It’s a nightmare getting there
  • The weather is truly horrendous on most occasions
  • The Penguins play the night before in Calgary, so you probably aren’t seeing a win
  • The arena, while very nice, is entirely too large

Bottom line

Seeing McDavid vs. Crosby on Canadian soil is cool. But it’s a pretty annoying trip otherwise. There is some fun to be had, but nothing that you couldn’t do in the comfort of your own city. Getting there is just brutal.

24. San Jose

Why you should go

  • The weather is usually nice, much better than in San Francisco
  • Speaking of which, you’re only an hour from San Francisco, if that’s your thing
  • The Penguins won the Stanley Cup at SAP Center, which makes it a holy ground of sorts

Why you shouldn’t go 

  • The Sharks are really bad
  • Getting there isn’t pleasant, though I recommend flying directly to San Francisco and renting a car
  • Unless you’re independently wealthy (or The Athletic is paying for it), you’re going to struggle here, as it’s outrageously expensive
  • The building/atmosphere isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Bottom line

It’s fine. It’s whatever. There are worse places, but it’s not a particular favorite of mine. Not a ton of nightlife in San Jose. It just kind of exists.

The ‘Day-Trip’ Division

23. Detroit

Why you should go 

  • Little Ceasars is below-average pizza, but it gives us the best damn arena in hockey
  • It’s an easy drive
  • Red Wings fans are smart, and people from Michigan are friendly
  • Detroit gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a lot nicer than it once was

Why you shouldn’t go

  • They aren’t your father’s Red Wings, which is to say, the Stevie Y. rebuild is taking forever
  • Detroit may have improved, but there are other cities worth visiting before it
  • Michigan winters are unforgiving
  • Parking around the arena, while inexpensive, isn’t a delight
  • The Penguins often struggle here

Bottom line 

The Penguins play here in October. It’s during the week, unfortunately, but if you’ve got nothing else going on, you should go. The arena is really worth seeing, and the weather probably won’t be too terrible.

22. Buffalo

Why you should go 

  • It’s a little over three hours to drive to Buffalo
  • Niagara Falls is nearby and super cheap in the winter (remember your passport because the Canadian side is way better)
  • The good people of Buffalo are typically friendly, just looking to get a good buzz while complaining about how the Bills will break them in January
  • The Sabres are sneaky fun

Why you shouldn’t go 

  • Like some other cities on this list, Buffalo isn’t exactly the cultural epicenter of the North
  • The drive between Erie and Buffalo, one I know all too well, is legit scary in the winter
  • The building, while not offensively bad, isn’t the Taj Mahal
  • Hotels in Buffalo are strangely expensive (stay by the airport or in Niagara Falls to save money)

Bottom line

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a Buffalo guy. I like the people there. It’s a fun little day trip. It’s not for everyone, and beware of the forecast before you leave, but it’s a worthy trip. The bar scene around the arena is pretty good.

21. Columbus

Why you should go

  • Why not? It’s the closest, easiest drive in the league
  • Nationwide Arena remains elite
  • The area surrounding Nationwide Arena remains elite
  • The hotel situation remains elite
  • Gas is so cheap in Ohio

Why you shouldn’t go 

  • Because you probably already have
  • The Blue Jackets aren’t really worth watching
  • There is nothing all that exotic about Ohio

Bottom line 

If you haven’t made this trip yet, do it. It’s worth your time. It’s not overly exciting, but it’s a fun night out. Go to a hockey game, then hit a bar. Good times.

20. Washington

Why you should go 

  • Sid vs. Ovi only has so many chapters left
  • Washington is a great city for a weekend trip
  • It’s a four-hour drive
  • Have dinner pregame or postgame at Clyde’s beside the arena, always a great place

Why you shouldn’t go 

  • D.C. traffic is real and terrible
  • Everything about D.C. is expensive to the extreme
  • Capital One Arena is aging very, very poorly

Bottom line

It’s a staple trip and one I recommend. It’s not a hard drive, and at least the hotels are a little cheaper on the weekends (the Penguins play there on Friday, Oct. 13).

(Photo of the Islanders’ UBS Arena: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

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