For the last couple of weeks, my friends from London have been in town. It has been amazing! Museums, monuments, restaurants, shopping – we’ve done it all. After an amazing time in DC, a few of us (Charlotte, Abbie, Felix, Ryan and me) took a trip to Philadelphia, PA.
I was looking forward to it because I’d get to be a tourist too. In fact, this trip was so good, and so jam-packed with activities, that I just had to bring Tourist Tuesday out of retirement. Since I wasn’t expecting a reprise of Tourist Tuesday, all photos were taken on phones. They’re not the greatest color and quality. But I’m sure you can power through because this trip was really fun.
We arrived late on Friday night and after dropping our stuff at the rental place we went for a cheesesteak at Jim’s Steaks. South Street was busy, and so was Jim’s. We joined the line and were soon hit with the smell of onions. Behind the counter, a guy was chopping onion, after onion, after onion. He slid the finished onions into a hip-height trashcan, and then kept chopping. All of our eyes were watering. And well… so was my mouth. I ordered a cheesesteak with whiz and onions. We took our food back to the apartment and had a really great late night snack (though could’ve used more cheese). Then to bed, Saturday was going to be a big day of touring.
In the morning we walked over to the Italian Market and had breakfast at a Gleaner’s Cafe. Coffee was good, the women who worked there were incredibly kind, and my friend Charlotte discovered that pb&j on a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel is super delicious. So far, food in Philadelphia was winning.
After breakfast, we walked around the market. I was impressed with the enormous wall mural dedicated cheese. I want that in my future house. That’s barely a joke. I’d love that.
We were also impressed with the lush variety of fruit and hugely affordable prices. $5 for a box of mangoes?! That’s incredible. And I’ve never seen papayas so big. It made us all want to cook.
While I was constantly salivating over the pasta, produce, and meats in this neighborhood, the highlight was actually Molly’s Books and Records. My friends were intrigued by the records. I was in love with the cookbook section. My favorite was one called “Early English Recipes,” which was written in Old English. I really loved the spelling, small drawings, and variety of recipes listed side by side. I left without a cookbook but did purchase a button of a woman looking blasé as she baked a cake. Felix left with a record. I think we all could have spent more time in that shop.
Next, the Liberty Bell. I knew beforehand that the Liberty Bell is a symbol of freedom, but I didn’t really know much else about it. I enjoyed the small exhibits leading up to it which demonstrated its history, importance, and preservation. My favorite part though was a sign that discouraged people from touching the Liberty Bell. [Side note, I thought, “how could anyone touch it? It must be blocked off.” It’s not, it’s just got a rope around it. I thought that accessibility was cool. ]
Anyway, I digress. The sign said, and this is a quote, “If you have the urge to touch Liberty, reach out and feel this actual casting…” Charlotte and I had a good giggle over the use of the word urge. As if the National Park Service is saying, “we get it you have desires, and you should control them, but if you can’t, here is an outlet.” Needless to say, we touched Liberty.
After the Liberty Bell, we thought we had some time before our 1pm tickets to Independence Hall. We wandered over to Penn’s Landing where we stumbled across a Science Festival and checked out the water and some boats. Then we trekked back to Independence Hall. It’s at this point I finally ready my confirmation email fully. It said we needed to pick up tickets 45 minutes before our entry time otherwise they’d be released to the public. Oops.
Ryan and I did some speed walking to the visitor’s center and thankfully they still had our tickets. But, the woman behind the desk said maybe we wouldn’t make it. We had less than 10 minutes to get across the green, across the street, into the entrance, and into the group of 1pm entry.
So we ran to meet Abbie, Charlotte, and Felix. We ran across the street. And we ran to the wrong side, which was the exit, and then we ran to another exit. Finally, we found the entrance and panting and sweating, they let us in for the 1pm entry. The ranger took pity on us and told us where to stand to get the best AC breezes, which helped a lot. Thank you kindly, Park Ranger!
On the tour, we saw two rooms (in low season, visitors also get to go upstairs) and were led by a Park Ranger. He had a slow measured delivery that clearly showed his passion for the subject. Similar to most visitors, my favorite room was the one where America’s Founding Fathers would have debated and decided on our founding documents. I love being in places that witnessed history. I like imagining that people I’ve learned so much about actually sat, worked, and talked in this room. We’d also been to the National Archives in DC earlier that week to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – so we enjoyed coming full circle on that.
After the tour, we were ravenous so we went to Reading Terminal Market for lunch. I always want everything I see from spices, to produce, to chocolates. On the walk over, I said I wanted a sandwich as big as my head. Ryan and I found it at the Original Turkey. I had an enormous sandwich with turkey, stuffing, bacon, and cranberry sauce. Ryan had something that looked like a turkey cheesesteak. Charlotte, Felix, and Abbie went elsewhere and came back with amazing looking chili dogs. For dessert, Ryan went to Flying Monkey and got us whoopie pies to share. They went so fast that I forgot to take a picture!
Fed and happy, we decided to walk over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art so we could see the Rocky statue and walk the steps. Something I loved about Philadelphia is that there was art everywhere.
I really liked this plaza filled with oversized game pieces. As well, this fountain with spitting turtles was adorable. The weather was in the high 80’s, so I was especially jealous of the kids frolicking in the water.
We never made it to the steps because the NFL Draft was blocking our way. There was definitely a way to walk around and/or through, but we never found it. Instead, we walked through the festival.
I took a photo with the Baltimore Ravens helmet. We got free Skittles, refilled our water bottles, and sat under a tree and people watched. In the end, we were tired and ready for a treat and a rest.
Abbie had been lusting after a big ice cream so we went to Big Gay Ice Cream. It did not disappoint! Everyone had something good, but I think Abbie and I had the most impressive order. We went with the Salty Pimp. It’s vanilla ice cream in a cone, with dark chocolate covered pretzels, and a chocolate dip. It was decadent and perfect.
We went back to the rental for much-needed naps, showers, and rest. After that, we went to Brauhaus Schmitz for drinks and snacks. The highlight though was Abbie and Charlotte taught me how to play darts.
Officially I mean. I know that in darts you throw the dart at the board, but I had no idea about scoring or anything. I had some good shots, but I lost by quite a bit. We decided we’d rematch next time I was in London.
After a quick trip to Whole Foods for some dinner, we called it a day. According to my Fitbit pedometer, we walked 28,122 steps for a total of 11.62 miles. Needless to say, all of us slept soundly that night.
Sunday was more low-key. Abbie, Charlotte, and I went to Magic Gardens. The $10 entry fee made us a little bit nervous, but the money was well spent because we loved it. Loved it.
Created by artist Isaiah Zagar it’s an outdoor installation with indoor exhibits as well. The best way I can describe it is that it’s an immersive mosaic made using tiles, plates, bottles, mirrors, folk art statutes, and found objects.
My photos and my words cannot do justice to what I saw with my eyes. Every corner has something interesting to see. Some objects are beautiful as they are. Some are better because they come together to make a figure or a phrase. I liked finding surprising things, like the tile with a sign language message saying “art is strange.”
I also liked the bathroom, where every surface was covered. But my favorite was the toilet saying “R. Mutt,” a nice reference to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain.
Although I loved the small individual tiles best, there were also some really impressive large mosaics that took over the sides of walls and buildings. It was so cool, and I left wanting to know more about his process. How much is planned? How much is randomly generated as he went?
The best thing I learned though, was that Zagar started this space while he was renting it. Later, the community helped him purchase the space. But before that, it was a pretty bold thing to do!
To end our trip, we took a leisurely walk back to the bus station. We sat at The Porch, next to the train station and rocked in oversized porch swings. We chatted about trip highlights and all the fun things we saw in Philadelphia. The iconic “love” sculpture was gone for restoration this trip, so we made due with this cute XOXO sculpture. Finally, time for the bus ride back to DC, our busy and awesome weekend complete.
This trip was a blast and left me wanting more. I’m hoping next time to eat more cheesesteaks and visit the new Museum of the American Revolution. Anything else I should add for a future Philly trip? Share it in the comments!