I can now officially say that I have a major crush on the City of Brotherly Love!
I had been to the Birthplace of America once before – as an awkward 10-year-old on vacay with my Grandmother, sporting braces, over-sized glasses and seriously tragic bangs. (Yes, there are pictures, but no, I will not share them.)
This time around, I was much less awkward (hopefully) and had full reign of the city.
Having snowed the night before, everything was covered in a delicate dusting of white.
My first stop was the Old City area, home to some of the most important places in American history.
I also made a stop at City Tavern, a period themed restaurant and bar that not only serves up Benjamin Franklin’s favorite fare (did you know he had a thing for tofu?!), but also slings beers and cocktails of the Revolution. Luckily, my 27-year-old self had something the 10-year-old me did not, a valid ID.
While downing a Tavern Warmer (ideal to counter the chill outside), I chatted up the bartender who was rocking knee-high socks, fierce brass buckled loafers and a fluffy white ascot as part of his period attire.
On his suggestion, I made a b-line for the 9th Street Italian Market. The neighborhood, home of the original cheesesteak sandwich and the Philly mob (hush hush), was like being transported to another time and place.
Nearly all the shops – butchers, bakeries, spice markets, trattorias, cafes – operate on a cash-only basis.
The streets were lined with produce stands and littered with barrel fires.
At the corner of 9th and Christian is 12 Steps Down, a modern-day dive bar that (supposedly) was a mob den in the years of yore.
Amped up on Italian goodness, I walked over to the artistic funkery that is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. More on that spectacle this Friday – stay tuned.
Famished, I sought sustenance at the highly recommended Reading Terminal Market. Whoa. Talk about sensory overload – the lights, the people, the food. Oh, the food! Aisle after aisle of pretty much any type of cuisine you could ever want.
A few blocks west, City Halldemanded a visit. Although closed to the public for renovations, the largest municipal building in the United States did not disappoint.
Particularly intriguing was the juxtaposition of the 111-year-old building with a modern skyline that includes the new towering Comcast Building.
As darkness set in, I wandered through the posh Rittenhouse Square area before calling it a day.
While I certainly saw quite a bit, there was so much more that I simply didn’t have time for. Like Albert Einstein’s brain on display at the Mutter Museum or Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in America. Not to mention the famed Avenue of the Arts, which will debut the brand-spakin-new Barnes Museum this May.
Its pretty safe to say that I will need another dose of Philly very soon!
* A big thanks to Andrew Evans, National Geographic’s own Digital Nomad who shared a great Twitter-generated list of things to do in Philly following his recent visit!