IMG_1928Philadelphia

Philly has a lot of murals, history, and great food. Although on my first visit I went to the city with only expectations for a legendary cheesesteak, everything else I ate took the cake. Since then, I’ve visited a few more times while in Jersey visiting Cara and Kevin.

Philadelphia is said to have the most murals of any city in the world, and it’s hard to miss this public art as you go around the city. Also, from almost anywhere in the city you can see City Hall, and it serves as your North Star. Here are some of the highlights:

1.) Federal DonutsUntil I visited this doughnut shop, I hadn’t thought of doughnuts as something that could be well made, fresh, and creative. Their signature hot doughnuts are Vanilla Spice, Strawberry Lavender, and Cinnamon Brown Sugar, but they also make creative “fancy” doughnuts that rotate throughout the year, like peppermint, chocolate eclair, or lemon meringue. If you’re adventurous, pair your doughnut with some fried chicken. Three locations in the city, but I visited 1219 South 2nd Street, $

2.)Standard TapThough Standard Tap is a bar in Northern Liberties, which is more of a growing hipster area, I’ve only been for brunch. It’s notable because, I’m not exaggerating, they have the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted, without a question. The pancakes in question were cranberry pecan, and everything about them was perfect: the ratio of filling to pancake, the fluffiness, the syrup. Plus, it’s fun to get brunch in a bar in daylight. 2nd and Poplar Street, $$

3.) Frankford HallPing pong tables and games of Jenga create the soundtrack at this outdoor venue. Local craft beer and German-American food (pretzels, sausages, burgers) come cheap and offer incredible value. When I visited, we spent a good amount of time playing Jenga and enjoying notes that former patrons had scribbled onto the blocks. These ranged from dares like “Profess your love to a stranger at another table” to the classy “Chug your beer.” I’d never been to a beer garden, and Frankford Hall has made me want to visit others for the chance to enjoy a drink in a relaxed, fun, open-air and light atmosphere. 1210 Frankford Avenue, $-$$

4.) Eastern State PenitentiaryWhile prison isn’t the first place tourists think to visit, ESP is a historic, albeit spooky, spot to check out if you’re in Philadelphia. There’s a good audio guide, and you’re welcome to explore the grounds and the art installations once the tour is over. The halls are quiet and the history is harrowing: a life size bar graph outside in the courtyard compares the U.S’s prison system to those from other countries, and this puts the severity of that into perspective. Admission is $10 with student ID, $12 for AAA, and $14 general.

5.) Phillies– Citizens Bank Park was recently redone, which means great seating and clean facilities. They’re  known for serving a wide array of local beer and foods, including Federal Donuts! Crab Fries are a local favorite with their zesty toppings and melted American cheese dipping sauce, but they’ll cost you an arm and a leg ($9 for the fries and an extra $2 for the sauce!) Their hot dogs, though, are some of the best ballpark franks I’ve ever tasted. At any rate, the park itself is nice, and it’s a treat if the Phillies play well. A game here is a relaxed end to a long day of walking and sweating in the Philly summer sun.

Here are some of my other picks:

Food:

  1. Pat’s King of Steakshome of the cheesesteak. If you go, be quick when you order because the people behind the counter don’t mess around. Order “wiz wit” to get a cheesesteak with no onions. Also, be prepared to be weighed down for the rest of the day after eating a cheesesteak, though it’s still worth it for the experience.
  2. Tela’s MarketA good place for lunch near Eastern State.
  3. Franklin Fountain–An old school spot for good ice cream sundaes or coffee.
  4. Old City Coffee–cute coffee shop near Rittenhouse Square
  5. Osteria–really good Italian food, but there might be a wait.
  6. Scoop DeVille good ice cream place, and you can customize your own flavor (try Cookies ‘n’ Cream ice cream with a peanut butter brownie).

Activities:

  1. Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell CenterYou don’t need reservations or tickets in the off-season, so visiting in the winter is more relaxed. The Liberty Bell Center has some info leading up to where you see the bell and is also worth the stop for all its history.
  2. Reading Terminal MarketI went to this indoor food market shortly before 5 when everything was starting to close, which turned out to be a good move because some of the vendors had end of the day deals. There’s a huge variety here, so check it out and try something.
  3. The Franklin InstituteThis extensive science museum is interactive and has a giant heart, but it was closed when we went because there was a wedding inside. On Thursday through Saturdays they have cheaper evening admission, and we didn’t have to wait long either. Right now there’s a really great exhibit on Pompeii which we went to and I definitely recommend.
  4. The Italian Market–another good market, outdoors
  5. North Bowl–fun, old-timey bowling alley in Northern Liberties with arcade games upstairs