If you ask me how many times I’ve been to Philadelphia, I’d say too many times to count. I have a few friends from college that live there and because it’s more of them than me, you can guess where we meet. We usually keep things low-key, per my request, because by the time I arrive I’m usually dog tired and just want to catch up. I never thought the city was much to explore or worth a second glance. However, I recently got the chance to link up with the #VisitPhilly team and well, visit Philly. Spoiler alert: I’m already planning a trip back.
Getting to play tourist in this city actually made me fall in love. I had my first itinerary ever and although it was simple, it was still intimidating to me.
I hopped on the Amtrak one Friday afternoon and sat back while we coasted from New York City to Philadelphia. I was surprised that the journey was only 1.5 hours because depending on traffic, it usually takes me twice the amount of time to get there whether I’m driving or catching a bus. It’s also irritating because now I’m hooked on Amtrak.
Once I arrived I walked on over to my hotel and after setting my bag down (yeah I definitely just took a backpack) I started out on my Philly adventures.
Where I Stayed
Hotel Palomar: I walked everywhere from this hotel except for the restaurant where I had my last dinner. However, I walked TO the hotel from that location, which was over an hour away, but I did, lol.
This hotel has a daily happy hour with wine and snacks that I unfortunately missed, but wished I’d had time for. There’s a restaurant in the lobby and the rooms are clean and beautifully decorated. Do you need any more than that?
Being in the heart of downtown was definitely a plus.
What I Did
I caught the Amtrak from NYC and after checking in, the first stop on my list was:
The Institute of Contemporary Art – 118 S. 36th Street
“On view from September 13 through December 23, 2017, Speech/Acts explores experimental black poetry and how the social and cultural constructs of language have shaped black American experiences. The exhibition will also feature prose and poetry by Morgan Parker and Simone White, as well as a satellite outpost for The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII), founded by poet Claudia Rankine. The immersive and interactive environment of Speech/Acts will invite participation and response, challenge how social realities are manipulated and formed, and illuminate the slippages between speech and noise.”
I’m really into museums and I wish I went well out of my during all my travels to visit a few. This museum was small and just two levels, but it was a great quick stop before dinner. Apparently the exhibits are switched out quite frequently, which is great for small spaces. By the time you visit I’m sure there’ll be an all new exhibit.
Then I was off to dinner at:
Youma – 4519 Baltimore Ave
“Among a strong African dining scene, this Senegalese spot stands out. Diners revel in tastes of Dakar with dibi (grilled lamb chops), y assa (spicy grilled chicken with habanero and green pepper), fatata (beef patties), aloco (fried plantains), thieboudienne (fried rice with vegetables and fish) and ginger juice blended with mango, strawberry, grenadine or peach.”
Aside from a little Ethiopian cuisine I had at a wedding earlier this year, I’d never really had African food. This restaurant was small, and BYOB, but the food was amazing. They advertise themselves as serving African cuisine but I think we can say it’s more so Senegalese to be a little more specific. I ordered the Dibi (lamb chops) and Senegalese rice. I cleaned those bones and pretty much scraped every grain of rice out of that bowl. The portions are huge and the prices are reasonable. I would definitely visit again.
Brunch is always first on the list when traveling on weekends. I tried out a place that’s been recommended to me for years:
Bike Riding – I was all set to rent the city bikes that are pretty much every few blocks, but I lucked up because the hotel had bikes of their own. You could choose between a cruiser and a regular fixed-gear, and I chose the fixed gear because it was lightweight and I like to think a little better for the type of riding I’d planned on doing.
Green Eggs – 212 S. 13th Street (cash only)
To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with Green Eggs although everybody, especially Philadelphians, swear by it. I ordered “The Kitchen Sink” and barely put a dent in it. Some bacon, eggs, and toast probably would’ve been the better route but I wanted to try something I couldn’t easily get anywhere else. I also only had their freshly squeezed OJ because I had more than enough wine at Youma’s the night before and wasn’t feeling in the mood for a breakfast cocktail. Be sure to arrive early because there will be a huge crowd outside as soon as they open.
I then rode my bike to the:
Philadelphia Museum of Art – 26th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
“One of the largest art museums in the U.S., the Philadelphia Museum of Art rises majestically at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and houses vast collections, including Renaissance, American and impressionist art. The one-acre Sculpture Garden extends the museum’s galleries to the outdoors.Make sure to check out the back of the museum. You’ll get a great view of the Schuylkill River!”
Let me immediately say that being from Washington, DC – land of the free museum – I don’t know that this particular museum is worth the $20 entry fee. However, if you love museums and are used to paying anything near that, go for it. I am very glad I went in and I spent a good chunk of time roaming the halls. I found it very interesting how you could walk into a different hall or room and feel like you’re transported to another time period. That’s something new to me and made this a very unique experience.
Reading Terminal – 12th & Arch Streets
“Since 1892, the historic Reading Terminal Market has been the go-to place for professional and home cooks who want farm-fresh produce, meats, cheeses, herbs and other treats. Here more than 80 merchants sell everything from apples to Amish baked goods. Tours are available, and special events and festivals take place often.”
If you’re also from DC or even familiar with some of the major landmarks, then I can say this place is a lot like Eastern Market. The only comparable place in NYC that I can liken it to is Chelsea Market. I literally had a sensory overload (and still no appetite) and must have circled the place three times before I settled on what I had the taste for. Out of all the amazing looking food I opted for a pretzel dog and lemonade and what I can say is that it was the best pretzel dog and lemonade I’ve ever had in my entire life. I think that counts for something.
After riding around more, visiting a friend who’d just had a baby, and most importantly, NAPPING, it was time for dinner. This time I’d be venturing a little further than I’d become accustomed to so taking an uber was beyond necessary.
ROOT – 1206 Frankford Avenue
“Wine may be the star here, but the various versions of gin and tonics, traditional cocktails with new spins, craft bottled beer and Italian-Spanish-American menu of small and large plates are not far behind. In the warmer seasons, the front floor-to-ceiling windows open up, and seating spills onto the sidewalk.”
I have to start by saying that the service here is exceptional. I’m one of those people who actually gets annoyed when someone is checking on me every three minutes to make sure everything is okay. I only had a kale salad and the Gin & Tonic #1 but 3 people must have “checked in” about six times. So I’d give the customer service five stars because I know a lot of you humans love that type of attention, and the food was okay too. I’m sure the wine is amazing but I unfortunately didn’t have the taste for any. This is a great restaurant in the “up and coming” Fishtown area where you can sit on the sidewalk knoshing on prosciutto and sipping a glass of their finest wine.
My last day in Philly started with my favorite brunch of the weekend:
Bud & Marilyn’s – 1234 Locust Street
“This retro-informed restaurant-bar is named for chef Marcie Turney’s restaurateur grandparents. The fun spot revives American classics such as meatloaf, wedge salads and chop suey, pairing them with cocktails like the Lakeside, vodka with lime juice, mint and violet, and Marilyn’s O-F, a brandy Old Fashioned.”
Whew, where do I begin? I got the apple french toast, thick cut bacon, and crispy hash browns. Now compared to me nibbling and picking at my food like a mouse the day before, I went to town on this breakfast. I didn’t finish it all but it was yummy and I washed it down with a Grapefruit mimosa although it was hard to choose which cocktail I wanted.
Magic Gardens – 1020 South Street
“Mosaics bloom at this fantasy-like art showplace, presenting and preserving the work of artist Isaiah Zagar. Visitors can take a tour or attend a mosaic workshop led by the artist himself, a major player in the South Street community since the 1960s.”
This place was actually magical. At first I thought it was just a small, square-ish area with pretty mosaics and that after 5 minutes I’d be in and out. There is so much more to this space and I’m positive I didn’t get to check out all of the crevices and areas. There were mosaics every which was and the most amazing part was that it all came from the mind of one man, local artist Isaiah Zagar. I truly see why it’s called the Magic Gardens and I highly suggest visiting if you’re ever in Philly, if even for a quick photoshoot.
After this I went back to Reading Terminal Market because I was greedy and got real food this time. Honey BBQ wings, macaroni and cheese, and cabbage were on the menu. I ate a little bit despite not being too hungry and just hung around the market catching up on Youtube videos. I then went back to my hotel and got ready to head to the train station and back to NYC.
I have to say there are a few other activities and areas that came recommended to me by the Visit Philly team that I didn’t have time to do. Please believe I’m already planning a trip back because Philly is everything I didn’t expect it to be.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you #VisitPhilly?
*This trip was taken in partnership with Visit Philly, however all opinions of Philadelphia, the activities, and restaurants I patronized are completely my own.