A few weeks ago I decided to visit my good friend, Alyssa, in Philadelphia for the weekend of October 20th. She recently moved to the City of Brotherly Love and I thought: perfect! I haven’t been to Pennsylvania yet! After years of hearing from people how dirty, run-down, and dangerous Philly was, I’m not going to lie, I was kind of nervous. But when my train rolled into the beautiful and historic 30th street train station, I was taken aback.
The train station itself was gorgeous and reminded me a lot of the historic train station back home in Utica, NY. If you’ve ever been to either, you’ll know that I’m talking about something straight out of the ’20’s: vaulted ceilings, giant marble pillars, and those old school HUGE hard wood benches for waiting. Simply gorgeous!
Alyssa met me at the train station and she immediately took me to see the Schuylkill River, which, I’ll admit, was pretty dirty, BUT seeing it with the view of the old bridges was very pretty.
My train arrived at 12:15, so by the time we walked around a bit to the Center City, it was a good time for lunch. Alyssa took me to this AMAZING market: The Reading Terminal Market. If you for some reason only have time to do one thing in Philly, I would suggest going here! It’s an extremely large market, with things like local jewelry shops, TONS of local eateries, and much, much more. Click on the “Merchants” tab to scroll through all they have to offer!
We grabbed lunch at 12th Street Cantina, although trying to pick a place to eat was nearly impossible. Every time we thought we settled on gyros, we took a step forward to find a Southern Comfort food stand, and around the corner, the world famous cheesesteaks. I know what you’re thinking: um, what?! You didn’t get a cheesesteak? To be honest, I’ve had some before (I know, I know, not real Philly ones,) but it was really warm that day and the thought of walking around with a giant cheesesteak settling in my stomach wasn’t extremely appealing.
We settled on the 12th Street Cantina, which was a great choice. They unfortunately gave our order to someone else, but that was ok, because we got some free guacamole and chips out of it! Everything was extremely fresh, and tasted so good.
After lunch, we headed over to walk through a few parks, which, by the way, like the rest of the city, were extremely clean, and then see the Liberty Bell. Did you know that the Liberty Bell Museum is FREE? I love when museums are free, it reminded me of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. The museum had an extremely long line, but moved very quickly and was definitely worth it. We learned a lot about not only the bell itself, but of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s histories, too. We were a little surprised, however, to see the actual bell. It was pretty small in person!! But, isn’t that always the case?
Since we only had a few hours, we decided to take a hop on, hop off bus tour with one of the best sightseeing bus tours in the world. Literally, I’ve been on them in London and Paris before and they are great! Our tour guide was born and raised in Philadelphia so he knew the smallest, and most intimate details about the sights that I don’t think you could have gotten with another tour guide.
As I was saying before in my “What to do While You’re There” page, if you don’t have a lot of time, but want to see a city, this is the absolute best way to do that. We toured the entire city and saw 21 of the major sights in Philadelphia. My favorite would naturally be the “LOVE” sculpture, but another thing I absolutely loved was the murals around the city.
In an effort to clean up the city and put the kids making graffiti to good use, former Mayor Wilson Goode spearheaded the Mural Arts Program. Artist Jane Golden befriended thousands of graffiti makers throughout Philadelphia and presented them with a challenge: to create mural masterpieces. Since then, many mayors have kept the program up, and as of now, Philadelphia has 3,500 murals in the entire city. They are incredible!
The bus tour ended, and Alyssa and I went back to her apartment to see her neighborhood and new place. The neighborhood was adorable and I fell in love instantly. Small coffee shops and locally owned boutiques and stores lined the streets, while the neighborhood itself consisted of spectacular old brownstones, complete with stoops! Alyssa’s building was exactly what I expected it to be like: full of character. Patterned ceiling tiles adorned the ceiling, while an old elevator (any by old I mean the kind with gorgeous carved wood inside, and a gate that you have to pull shut to use!) stood in the middle.
Finally, it was time to go back to NY. Alyssa escorted me through Rittenhouse Square Park for one last stroll to see some fall leaves changing, and it was back on the train for me. Overall, I had a fabulous time in Philadelphia, and would definitely go back in a heartbeat. Maybe next time I’ll get a Philly Cheesesteak!
Cheer for Philly: The Mural Arts Program, amazing way to clean up and give back to the city! Simply stunning.
Jeer for Philly: The Schuylkill River. Clean it up, Philly! I saw so many things floating in the dirty brown water, it made me sad. The rest of the city was cleaned up, when will it be the water’s turn?!
Mode of Transportation: Amtrak Train
Cost of Roundtrip Ticket from NYC to Philly: $98
Bus Tour Ticket (good for a full 24 hours, so we technically could have gone on another tour or taken our time and gotten off at many stops to use it on Sunday as well): $27