The City That Loves You Back (Or, Christmas in Philly)

Ahhh, Philadelphia. The city loved me back alright!


When I told people that I would be spending Christmas in Philly (a city in which I knew not a soul), they looked at me like I had just asked them to explain string theory.

Confusion and slight uneasiness followed by the inevitable question, “why?”

Anyone who knows me knows that this is a pretty ridiculous question. The answer to “why?” is nearly always, “why not?” Which is not a real answer, I know, but often there is either no reason at all or far too many reasons to explain why I decide to do some of the things I do. But I’ll take a crack at it…

Ben Franklin Bridge
Ben Franklin Bridge

Truth is, I’ve been a big fan of Philly for a long time. My first visit was 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.)


19 years later, I’m smitten with the city. Every time I visit, I like it more and more.

But why visit at Christmas?

Holiday light show at Macy’s Philly

Welp, during this time of year DC basically turns into a ghost town. Very few people are actually from DC, so there’s a mass exodus during the holidays with everyone returning to their home cities.

I preferred the proposition of traveling to the alternative of staying local and watching holiday movies with a glass bottle of wine alone on my couch. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that scenario!)


From DC it’s a quick, cheap and easy trip to the City of Brotherly Love and I’ve visited enough times to know that there are still things I want to do/see/try in the city, but not so many times to have grown apathetic about it.

Passing through Maryland

But mostly I went just because I wanted to. I felt like it. So I did.

And Philly did not disappoint. It dazzled. It pulled me in, gave me a big hug and whispered in my ear “we’re in this together…let’s make this a kick-ass Christmas!” And so we did.

Downtown Philadelphia

It gave me everything I wanted: art, culture, atmosphere, snow, great food, craft cocktails and excellent company.

It snowed! Twice. Not a lot, not for long, not enough to stick, but just enough to claim a White Christmas. Score!


The city embraces the holidays with vigor and there is no shortage of festive activities – from the Holiday Village in Love Park and the holiday show at the Comcast Center to fabulous lights on Boathouse Row and along Smedley Street and Miracle on 13th Street.


It’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with sky-high and rooftop watering holes, so I went on a bit of high-altitude-bar-crawl and had some deliciously spirited cocktails.


But honestly, even if the drinks had been crap, it still would have been worth it for the views at R2L, XIX and Level 33.



Philly’s Chinatown is fabulous! In DC we slap Chinese characters on an Urban Outfitters and a Starbucks and call it Chinatown. Philly’s on the other hand is legit.

DC Chinatown fail

And that’s important because Christmas Day, Chinatown is where it’s at if you want to eat out but don’t want to pay for some overpriced buffet or prix fixe meal in a fancy hotel restaurant.  Succulent dim sum for Christmas lunch is hard to beat!


I finally got to the Barnes Foundation – a museum I’ve wanted to hit up for years, but never could find the time to visit when it was at it’s old location in Merion, PA. For better or worse it’s in the city now and I was stoked to have the chance to ogle at the impressive collection.

The collection features nearly 200 pieces by Renior, dozens by Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso, plus a handful by Van Gogh and Degas just to name a few.

I’m a huge proponent of seeing a place on foot, so I spent the better part of my time just walking around. On Christmas Day, there was nobody outside and the city was eerily quiet in a way that I’ve never seen it before.

Streets of Philadelphia
Streets of Philadelphia

Philly is home to an immense number of murals and street art projects. Having the city virtually to myself meant I got to scout out and appreciate these urban works even more than I normally might have been able to.


Above everything else though, it’s the people that make a place. I was fortunate enough to meet some folks who basically adopted me for the holiday.

So we hung out and laughed ourselves silly and merrily drank dark cocktails and learned about each other’s lives, marveling at our unexpected similarities and sharing our unique perspectives. Its one of the joys of traveling (and I guess maybe just life in general) – the people you meet and the moments you share.


And so it was that I spent Christmas in a city I’m loving more and more with some fabulous, hilarious, kind and inspiring strangers.



One thought on “The City That Loves You Back (Or, Christmas in Philly)

  • Pamela

    Kelly – LOVED reading about your Christmas in Philly … I spent my first week in Philly back in 2011, when I graduated w/ my MBA from the Drexel Sacramento Campus, but we participated in the graduation ceremonies in Philly. Wonderful city. Wonderful people. Wonderful history. I am glad that you were able to experience it all ! Happy New Year 2014. Warmest regards, Pamela


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