Philadelphia: Where History Meets City

I first met Philadelphia some 7 years ago as a tourist, visiting a prospective grad school program. I ended up moving to New York but have always enjoyed Philly as a day trip adventure destination. Now that I live in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and I have become better acquainted and I’m always adding to my list of things to do there.

What to do:

Philly (in my opinion) is a classically small, American city. It is walkable with decent public transit if need be and, like any major city, offers plenty by way of museums, events, and views.

Philadelphia’s main claim to fame is that it’s where our nation began and was the national capital for 10 years. Most of this history can be found in Old City. My life tip here is to go early! The lines and crowds for everything are much better if you go before noon.

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Early morning Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest residential street.

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The Liberty Bell is massively overrated, unless there isn’t a line. If there is, just look in through the windows.

The Museum of the American Revolution is my latest Philly discovery. It’s a new museum as of 2017 and very well done! I’m not a Revolutionary War fan and had a headache while walking through this museum, but still managed to enjoy it! It’s very well designed with interactive exhibits throughout, including mood music, tabs to pull, boxes to open, tea to smell, a ship to board, an immersive ‘war room’ experience, and life-like wax figures. Even if you look really hard, they will not blink. I checked.

For a small city, Philly has a decent art scene. For the standard fare, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and iconic Rocky stairs) is worth a visit. It’s pay what you wish on the first Sunday of the month, so I hear.

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

If you are a fan of Impressionist Art, I recommend the Barnes Foundation. It had a surprisingly low count of Van Gogh paintings but was still a cool stop.

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The Barnes Foundation.

For street art style, Philly is home to innumerable murals and Magic Gardens of cement and glass. The murals are free to see but the Gardens do cost.

On the public health side of things, Philadelphia has two very interesting museums to visit. The first is the Mutter Museum, a collection of medical anomalies and the like. It’s motto is ‘disturbingly informative,’ which I think captures it well. My favorite exhibit involves art made from hair.

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The Mutter Museum.

The second is less creepy and more thought-provoking, the Eastern State Penitentiary. It’s massive, with information extending well beyond the audio tour. Be sure to plan plenty of time if you are making a visit.

Unrelated to history and museums, you can also hit up Fairmount Park if you are looking for nature or sign up for a night color run if you are looking to combine drama with exercise.

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Well maintained trails of Fairmount Park.

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I did a color run, for something different.

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Bonus: a picture of my sisters and mom in my favorite Philly park. It’s not really a park, more like a plaza with enormous game pieces. It entertains me.

Where to eat:

Ahh, forever my favorite thing about cities is the food. Philadelphia is no exception. My go to is Reading Terminal Market. It’s hard to explain, but imagine countless food booths crammed under one roof! I usually get a gyro and ice cream or Beiler’s Donuts. But no matter what you pick, you can’t go wrong.

Brunch. I have brunched with no regrets at Sabrina’s Cafe, Green Eggs Cafe, Cafe Lift, and Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat. I recommend them all!

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Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat

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Chinatown is great if you are missing some authentic variety.

If you are looking for some strong coffee, La Colombe is a hit across town but their Fishtown location is beautiful.

Why you should go to Philadelphia:

  1. It’s just the right size for a weekend trip, small enough to not get overwhelmed but big enough to offer a variety of things to do and eat.
  2. Excellent food spots.
  3. It’s within driving distance of me! (Assuming you are also visiting me.)

Philadelphia, PA

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