Exploring the Streets of Philadelphia – My One-Day Philly Adventure
I spent only one and a half days in Philadelphia during my US trip, but in my humble opinion it’s just enough if you’re not a demanding visitor. I made it to see all the things that I had wanted to see and visited some cool places that I hadn’t planned to. The second part was even better and Philly turned out to be a great city.
Before I came there I had few expectations and Philly surprised me positively with nice weather and unique atmosphere. After spending almost a week in NYC, it came as a nice change for me – from overwhelming, busy and loud metropolis to much slower and more quiet neighborhood where everything is just around the corner.
It is definitely known for its rich history, but I’ve learned much more about the city while wandering on the streets of Philadelphia. There are many more not-history related reasons for visiting it, though. Read on and find out what you should check out in the city that Bruce Springsteen sang about.
I arrived at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia a few hours earlier than I had thought, so I decided to leave my enormous backpack there and hit the city. The luggage storage there was only $4 for a piece so it was better for me to store it there than go to my host (who lived on the outskirts of the city), leave it at her house and go back to the city. Thus I took only the most important things with me (read: my camera and lens) and started exploring.
Philadelphia is a pretty big city, but most of the stuff worth seeing is in walking distance and this is a probable reason for my wrong perception of the city size at first. On top of that, comparing it to NYC makes it look smaller. Anyway, when I left the train station and walked out on the streets of Philadelphia :) I encountered some glass skyscrapers that did not resemble the city that I had imagined.
The first place I headed to was of course the Philadelphia Museum of Art where I could run up on the famous “Rocky Steps” and “meet” the title character of the triple-Oscar winning movie – Rocky. I was not the only one to be running of these popular stairs. Apparently, it is a common place for locals for running and working out. I did not take sportswear with me so I just slowly jogged up and down to the Rocky statue to take a shot.
After a quick meetup with Rocky, I headed to JFK Plaza to see the famous Love sculpture and then to the City Hall. The road from the Museum of Art leads to the City Hall between the two lines of national flags from all (?) countries in the world. Thus, I tested my knowledge about state flags on my way, but as it turned out it was not very impressive.
Philadelphia is also rich in Polish accents, as Polish military leaders has contributed to the state history during the American Revolution. The pic below shows a sculpture of Tadeusz Kościuszko, Polish, Belorussian and U.S. national hero and the one below it memorializes Nicolaus Copernicus, the guy that brought the Sun to stop and moved the Earth.
In the neighborhood of the City Hall, there are some nice things to check out. Firstly, I walked around the Logan Square that is surrounded by some public buildings and museums. In the Franklin Institute, they often host some nice exhibitions, but as I remember they are a bit pricey. Especially, comparing to other free or almost free museums. At the time I was there, they held the Lego exhibition. But regarding my limited time and budget for Philly I missed it.
Then I took a wander around the City Hall. Next to it there is the Pennsylvania Academy Of The Fine Arts with two cool sculptures on the outside. Don’t miss them!
Street Art of Philly
Philly has also a rich variety of murals. I recommend to roam around smaller streets where you can encounter some nice pieces of street art, especially in the south part of the city.
A very unique and one of a kind place can be found on the South Street. Magic Gardens is a gallery space with wonderful collection of mosaics that are made of all the items you can imagine (glass bottles, sculptures, bike wheels, etc). I was wandering around winding labyrinth lanes for a long time, taking shots of random stuff turned into wonderful visionary art. Let the pics speak for themselves.
Philadelphia Specials – Philly Cheesesteak
When leaving NYC, my friend advised me to try the famous regional fast food meal that had roots just in Philly. I had no idea how it was supposed to look like. I pictured it in my mind as a slice of beef meat covered with grated cheese and served with french fries on the side. I was totally wrong. Philadelphia cheesesteak is a sandwich made from thinly sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll.
My Philly host recommended me Pat’s King of Steaks, a restaurant specializing in cheesesteaks and founded by Italian-American brothers who are credited with inventing the sandwich in the early 1930s. The restaurant is now run by a grandson of one of the founders, as after a family dispute the child of the other brother opened a competitive business (or something).
Thus, I set out to eat my lunch at Pat’s Steaks. What’s the best place to try a regional food than the one that invited it? I had high expectations to this meal before I tried it, but unfortunately I was disappointed. The sandwich wasn’t bad, but for me it was just an ordinary fast food that you can get at every corner. Nothing special. But at least I learned it from experience. No one can tell me now that I’ve been to Philly and haven’t tried cheesesteak.
Pure Philly on the Italian Market
The Philadelphia Museum of Art with the famous steps leading to it is not the only place that was featured in Rocky. You can also admire the title character running on the streets of South Philly and more precisely on the 9th Street where the Italian Market is located. Billing itself as “America’s Oldest Outdoor Market” is considered to be the social and commercial heart of the Philadelphia Italian community. Its origins dates back to 19th/20th century when first Italian immigrants began to move into the area. Legendary district offers a mixture of vegetable, meat, fresh seafood and Italian goodies – everything in one place.
The Italian Market is a popular spot for tourists to visit and favorite area to shop for locals who see the district as pure Philly. Unfortunately, I did not get much time to soak up the quaint atmosphere.
The Heart of American History
What were your experiences in Philly? Share it in comment!