So a shamefully long time ago, we spent a February long weekend in Philadelphia! Even though I’m from Pennsylvania, I can probably count on one hand the number of times we went there when I was younger. My dad had a, shall we say, quite negative view of the city having grown up there. But the reason I love Philly now that I’ve discovered it? Downtown is a foodie dream. It’s impossible to pick restaurants to eat at, because everything is so fantastic. I’m not such a fan of U.S. history (I’m all about Mesopotamia though…), so we usually spend all the time we would be at tourist attractions stuffing our faces with food. Good deal, am I right?
But Randall, good MA boy that he is, had never been! So obviously, we had to hit some of the Revolutionary War must-do’s. Also, Hamilton the musical is changing my perspective on how fascinating/dramatic/electrifying U.S. history can be. (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned I’m obsessed – I really hope no one actually follows what I listen to on Spotify…) Since we were there for a wedding, we didn’t get too much sight-seeing in. But #1 on our list was Eastern State Penitentiary. And so cool! As you can see above, it’s basically a castle/fortress smack dab just north of the city center. Since it opened in 1829, the city has expanded completely around it and now there are cute coffee shops and restaurants lining the street. And then BOOM. this fortress wall. Basically, it’s awesome.
The interior is excellent as well. The entire site was abandoned for a few decades in between when the penitentiary was closed and the museum opened, and most structures have only been stabilized vs. restored. See below:
Spooky right? Apparently they run a wicked haunted house around Halloween. Alternatively, you can get married there. To each their own? There audiotour has tons of information and there are frequent scheduled presentations given by staff on specific topics. We caught two: one on the synagogue and the other on murals within the chaplain’s office:
All in all, we spent about 1/2 day there, before hunger drove us outside the walls. But I so highly recommend! And our first foray into Philly food did not disappoint. Located right around the corner, Hickory Lane American Bistro was a great pick for (a very late) Saturday brunch.
Our other hidden gem: the U.S. Mint! Excellent exhibits (if you’re a nerd like me) and you can see money being made and getting ready to be shipped off to banks. The mildly annoying bit is that they’re only open on weekdays (has no one told them that the tourists and locals alike flock to activities on the weekends?!), but well worth the stop if you have a few free hours during normal business hours. No pictures for obvious reasons, forgery is bad and all that shtuff.
Reading Terminal Market is also a must-do while in Philly. An overwhelming, necessary experience. We made the mistake of going on Sunday morning, when unfortunately many vendors were closed, due to religious restrictions. Don’t be like us. Go on Saturday, experience the crazy, eat amazing donuts from Beiler’s, remember that you only live once and that this. is. WORTH IT.
Finally, we wouldn’t be the couple that we are if we didn’t hit up at least one brewery while in a new city. The winner this trip (besides us of course) was 2nd Story Brewing, which we stopped into on our last day for lunch. This may surprise you, but there are ZERO other people visiting brewpubs on a Monday afternoon. Who knew. Despite highlighting the fact that few people vacation in Philadelphia in February, the food was excellent. I would have eaten the entire pretzel bite fondue pictured above by myself, but Randall made me share. There was also a wee tad bit of beer.
Alas, no cheesesteaks! Seriously, too much food, so little time. And besides, that leaves us with more reasons to go back, no?