Sorry about the extended… ridiculously extended… hiatus. I got into a bit of a blues, and writing about traveling just made me itch to travel, but now I am landlocked for a bit. However, I did indulge in a short weekend trip to Philadelphia, my favorite city in the USA and perhaps ever. We went for a concert, but stayed for other activities as well. For this trip, we began…
…at Eastern State Penitentiary: The world’s first penitentiary of its kind. This jail, built more like a medieval castle, was the first to house inmates in solitary confinement and the first to allow them exercise yards. Here was also the first place to hold Al Capone, whose luxurious cell is still on display at the jail. The prison closed for good in 1971, but re-opened as a park in 2001 the newly formed non-profit corporation, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. Now you can walk almost all of the grounds, narrated through audio tour in part by actor Steve Buscemi, learning about the history of jails and its famous inmates. Bonus: Student discounts! This is a must-see for me every time I am in the city, and Mike loved it also.
Lunch was at my favorite London Grill / Paris Wine Bar, a fun fusion place with patio seating and drinks that knock your socks off. The food is always top-notch, and it is a perfectly short walk from Eastern State.
After that, we strolled down the promenade of Museum Row, with some of the best views of the city around. On your way is the Philadelphia Art Museum and the science-minded Franklin Institute, both fan favorites also. We didn’t get to hit those up on this trip, but next time… always next time. However, we did get to hang out on the famous Rocky Steps and line up for pictures next to the statue- Mike ran up, I most certainly did not.
As we walked back down the promenade from the museum, I got to see all of the change the city has been through since leaving in 2011. Most especially, there is this enchanting children’s area where traffic does not go that I wish as a 25-year-old I could come play in.
Mike was more amazed that, despite it being illegal, no one hassled the children playing in fountains. Honestly, at 95 degrees, I think it is a courtesy. Note to all traveling parents: That is a thing in Philadelphia. You CAN bring your bathing-suited child to the fountains at Museum Row for a dip.
Another way to beat the heat (slightly more legally) is the actual run-through fountains in front of City Hall. Pretty building, cool water, life is good. And it is wide open, so if you have your kid, you can’t miss them.
I swear, I could sit in front of the fountains for hours in the cool air. However, we were off again to the concert at the Mann Center, an all-out cool venue that has lawn seating and another killer view of the city (as if Philly isn’t photogenic enough). Their beer selection is a little lame (think Brooklyn and Goose Island) but the vibe is great. There is always freebies (I won a CD!) and the tickets on the lawn are only $35.00. Can’t beat that.
The trip home was a little rough- Philadelphia’s public transit is spotty at beat, with only two subway lines and the rest of the city serviced by a combination of buses, trolleys, and trains. Our bus was a whopping twenty minutes late (kind of a theme in the city), but cheaper than the Uber up-charge. A word of caution: All subways shut down at midnight. Yes, midnight. Watch your times. Also, there seems to be a constant state of flux and construction in the city, so make sure you check your schedule to see if there is a re-route on your route. Mike and I waited almost an hour for a bus that was re-routed.
Our room that night was perfect. Literally perfect. I could write an entire post about La Reserve B & B and how perfect it was. The rooms are all charmingly Victorian, and the house is restored to its original grandeur. Breakfast in the morning is cooked to order with specials all the time. The downstairs lounge has books and a piano, as well as hot tea and coffee at all hours. Located on Pine between 18th and 19th, you honestly can’t get a quieter stay in Philadelphia. Also, super affordable, considering!
The next day was hard to get out of bed and get breakfast, but so worth it. As we trekked our way out, Mike is looking up bus schedules and I am marching my way straight o my favorite spot in the city: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, the most quirky and beautiful place ever. It is here that, in the 70’s, a young artist named Isaac Zagar decided that South Street was worth saving from the super highway planned to replace it. Him and a group of artists set up shop, making South Street the funky and accepting place that it is today. In 1994, Zagar started building a labyrinth of mosaics from all sorts of materials that he picked up from around the world – dolls, plates, pottery, bottles, and even bicycle tires. His little haven of found objects became a non-profit art organization in 2004, and now you can explore it all. Come check out this amazing attraction and maybe even meet the artist at 1020 South Street, between 10th and 11th.
While you are here, you check out my personal favorite place for Philly Cheesesteaks, Jim’s on South Street. No one puts cheese whiz, bread, and meat together quite like those guys. Sadly, the line was too long for our starving stomachs, so we ended up at The Boyler Room, a fun dive with good beer and better cheesesteaks. Bones: Mets/Phillies game!
Our last stop (sadly) before the long bus ride back to New York was Yards Brewing Company, one of the city’s best breweries. Those who read this blog probably know that I am an avid beer drinker, so this is high praise for me. It is here that they make the Founding Fathers brew line, where they take original recipes from what the Founding Fathers used to drink and actually brew them. My favorite is the Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce, based off of Benjamin Franklin. You can find these pretty kick ass brews at City Tavern, another culinary favorite that we missed out on this trip. Go for the Colonial garb, stay for the beer. Another pro-tip: Philly beer is exponentially cheaper than anywhere in New York. Including the boonies of New York. For your next brew holiday, come here.
So, Mike had asked me to trim this post down, and I probably will end up editing this to shit, but for now, here is Philadelphia in all of its unedited glory- just the way I like it.