When I first added Philadelphia to my East Coast itinerary I initially only did so because I really wanted to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I hadn’t researched the city at all; I made the huge assumption that Philadelphia was just full of crime and honestly thought there was nothing here.
Well I was wrong on so many levels, a quick search of Trip Advisor and I found tons!
In less than 48 hours the city had me falling in love with it.
A Rocky Start
It all started with a more than memorable greyhound bus journey…
I booked our greyhound from D.C. for 10:30am. It’s about 3-4 hours to Philly from here. So we’d have almost two full days. As is my luck with buses, this didn’t go to plan.
I’d spent a few months planning my east coast trip in the hopes everything would go smoothly, well I kind of fucked up on the morning we were leaving D.C.
I looked at the wrong greyhound reservation, got the times mixed up and thought we had more time than we did. Needless to say, after a long uber ride, trying to navigate the poorly signposted Union Station and lugging a 50lb suitcase around, we missed our bus.
We had a drunken homeless man follow us around the terminal, and upon returning on time, our second bus was late. After a long, rainy journey we managed to arrive.
We were staying at the Marriot City Center. As soon as I walked into the hotel, the drama of the greyhound was all behind me. This was a great hotel and my favourite of my East Coast trip.
Relaxing City Parks:
My first stop in the city was the LOVE Park. Yes, I’m a total tourist and I love a good “LOVE” sign. This park is located right in the city centre. It was surprisingly a rather calm place to sit and relax.
Franklin square is one of the 5 original parks laid out by William Penn. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1981. I mostly wanted to visit this square because it features in the opening credits of “It’s always sunny in Philadelphia” but it was also a nice place to take a break from the city.
A Mix Of Architecture:
One Liberty Observation Deck
With the city getting dark on our first night, I suggested we go to the ONE Liberty observation deck. Again being a total tourist, I love an observation deck. Philadelphia was very pretty at night, we managed to catch a little of the sunset while up here. This cost $14.50, which compared to New York’s average of $45, was an amazing price. There are interactive screens that tell you what each building is and what is further afield.
Philadelphia’s City Hall
The City Hall was magnificent at night; sitting atop the building was William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Having visited Washington D.C. just a couple of days before, we’d already learned a lot about William Penn.
A City Steeped in History:
Founded in 1682, Philadelphia has a rich history and played an important role during the American Revolution. It was the meeting place for the Founding Fathers and where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Philadelphia is home to the first U.S. library, hospital, medical school, national capital, stock exchange, zoo and business school.
While the United States may not have a very long history, I think it’s a rather interesting one and take great interest in it. The history surrounding Philadelphia was one of the reasons I fell in love with it.
Independence Hall is a World Heritage Site. Previously the old state house, it was where the Founding Father’s signed the Declaration Of Independence. Having just seen the original document back in D.C. it was amazing to tour the same building it was signed in.
I’d purchased tickets in advance for Independence Hall, as in the height of summer ticket spaces fill up fast. I’d recommend reserving tickets through the website, the booking fee is just $1.50 each.
It’s worth noting, that even if you reserve your tickets online, you’ll still have to line up at the tickets booth to retrieve them. If your tickets are not collected they will get assigned to another party. I hadn’t realised this, and the tour guide was nice enough to let us in.
The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American Independence. It first cracked upon arriving in Philadelphia and recast another two times. The Liberty Bell is free to visit and no ticket is required. During busy times the lines may get long, but it moves steadily. Did you know that the Liberty Bell was cast in London at the White Chapel Bell Foundry? The same place as London’s Big Ben!
The Betsey Ross House
The Betsey Ross house is the place where the very first Star Spangled Banner was designed. Betsey Ross was the seamstress who made the first flag in this very house. At the time it would have been considered treason so the flag was sewn in secret. The tour through the house will cost you $5 and is well worth the visit.
Christ Church Burial Ground
On our walk over to the Betsey Ross House, we stumbled upon the grave of Benjamin Franklin. There was a fee to go inside the cemetery but you can easily see the grave from the outside.
Some may find visiting a gravesite strange when traveling, and I can understand that completely. But this was Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding father’s as well as… “Leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humourist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat” Phew!
A lover of all things history, this was a small highlight of my time in the states. This small cobblestone street is famous for being the oldest residential street in the United States.
While in Philadelphia I managed to find some of the best food. We wandered down 13th Street, which was a quaint little street where lots of locals seemed to hang out. It was full of independent shops, bars and restaurants. We ate at a restaurant called Barbuzzo and everything was prepared fresh. This was by far the best place I ate at during my ten days on the East Coast.
The Franklin Fountain
Not too far from Elreth’s Alley is a small original Soda Fountain, The Franklin Fountain. So original, they still have the brass cash register, therefore all sales are in cash. This is a very busy place, and lines were out the door so be prepared to wait. Here they offer all kinds of ice creams, as well as an original soda fountain, where you can get a variety of flavours.
Reading Terminal Market
The Reading Terminal Market is a great spot to find independent coffee shops, fresh produce, cookies, cakes, and chocolates. This was right next to our hotel. We found a café on our second day here and had breakfast. This cool little market reminded me of Pike Place in Seattle, except I preferred it here. This place had so much character. We enjoyed just walking around and taking it all in.
Art & Movie Scene:
The Rocky Steps
Having grown up watching the Rocky movies and just about anything boxing related, the Rocky Steps were a must. I have to admit, I didn’t recreate the scene from the movie because I am just too lazy, but I did take a leisurely walk up the stairs. Once at the top of course, it had to be done, the Rocky pose.
The sad thing about these stairs is that they lead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which if I had the time, would love to have visited. But it seemed the stairs were the main attraction here.
Why Did Philadelphia Win Me Over?
Philadelphia was like a mini New York City, except, better? The food here was fantastic, it has a great history, there were fewer people and everything was cheaper. It was the cleanest U.S. city I’ve been to, especially compared to that of San Francisco or New Orleans. Being a smaller city, I could walk everywhere without needing the subway. This was the most relaxed I’ve ever felt in a city. Philadelphia was by far my biggest surprise.
What is your favourite city? Have you ever wanted to visit Philadelphia?
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