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Best Places in Philly from a Local's Perspective

Best Places in Philly from a Local's Perspective

Contributor: Jasmine Maia   Instagram: @maiaphillyjawn

The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, as we call it, has recently been named the best US city to visit by The Lonely Planet.  Oft maligned as course and rude, Philadelphia is actually a city full of history, community, and warm-hearted people.  Philly is the fifth largest city in the US.  We have an international airport, a major train station, access to national bus companies, and inter-state public transit.  There are so many ways to visit us!  We are an old city with a diverse population and plenty of lesser known gems to explore.  Many Philadelphians would tell you to skip the usual tourist traps if you’d like to get a sense of our city and those who inhabit it. 

Colorful and serving up some of the best cheesesteak in town. Ishkabibbles is a local favorite and also has attracted the attentions and appetites of celebrities.

Colorful and serving up some of the best cheesesteak in town. Ishkabibbles is a local favorite and also has attracted the attentions and appetites of celebrities.

1.       Absolutely DO get a cheese steak!  Visitors assume that Pat’s and Geno’s are ruling the cheese steak world here. Not so!  Try Ishkabibbles, D’Alessandro’s, John’s Roast Pork, Larry’s Steaks, or Pagano’s.

2.       Do your “Rocky” run up the museum steps…and then go inside.  The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a world class museum that merits a visit.  Don’t forget to stroll around the beautifully landscaped grounds. In the summer, the hydrangea bushes are stunning.

3.       Sample the bounty at Reading Terminal Market.  Operating since 1892, Reading Terminal has offered a diverse array of prepared foods, baked goods, candies, produce, artisanal cheese, meats, and seafood.   Other food related shops inside offer books, spices, teas, jewelry, and fresh cut flowers.  Be ready for a crowd thick with folks from all walks of life.

Scene from "Rocky" as he reaches atop the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Scene from "Rocky" as he reaches atop the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

4.       Take a Mural Arts tour.  Murals are an important part of the fabric of who we are as a city. The Mural Arts Program is a public art program is creating stunning public art throughout the city which can be viewed by taking a tour.  Options for tours include trolley tours, walking tours, Segway tours, private tours, and the “Love Letter” train tour viewed during a ride on our elevated train, the Market Street “El”.

5.       Walk/Run along our new Schuylkill River Trail for some of the best views of the city.

6.       Midtown Village is an area in our downtown area colloquially known as “The Gayborhood” for its history of being an area where our LGBTQ Philadelphians historically went to eat, drink, and be merry in a safe, affirming atmosphere.  From roughly 11th to Juniper Streets, and from Chestnut to Pine Streets, The Gayborhood has blossomed into a hub of outstanding shops, restaurants, bars, art, and exotic gift ideas.  Come as you are!

7.       Philly has one of the largest outdoor park systems in the nation.  Make your way into Fairmount Park’s 9200 acres of trails, woods, and fields.

8.       This is a city with a long musical history.  Take in some live music.  Try Chris’ Jazz Cafe, South Restaurant & Jazz Bar, Paris Bistro & Jazz Cafe, the Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, The Kimmel Center, The Academy of Music,  The Fillmore, Ortleib’s, World Café Live, Theatre of Living Arts, The Electric Factory, Johnny Brenda’s, Tin Angel, and on and on. 

Made In America: The 2 day Music Festival is  held in Philly annually on Labor Day Weekend.

Made In America: The 2 day Music Festival is  held in Philly annually on Labor Day Weekend.

9.       Many people would be surprised to know that you don’t have to venture far outside of the city limits to find pastoral settings and farm land.  Visit a farm in our countryside.  Some farms have shops from which they sell their bounty.  Wyebrook Farm, for example, has a restaurant, and a shop selling meat, dairy, produce, jams, and honey.  Walk around and see happy, free range farm animals.

10.   City Hall is an architectural wonderland.  Take a tour inside, or grab a cup of coffee and sit outside at Dilworth Plaza, the courtyard in front of City Hall.  In the winter you can even ice skate!

11.   Try a late night cocktail at one of the city’s bars, taverns, and speakeasy style establishments that remain open for evening happy hours.

12.   The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College is a terrific place to go if you’d like to tour a world class culinary school.  Stay for a meal or take a recreational class through their community education program.

13.   The Philadelphia Public Library’s Central Library Branch is a magnificent building open to the public.  It is also an extraordinary place in which to hear your favorite authors and public figures speak for next to nothing.  Check their speaker’s schedule during the dates of your trip to Philly. 

14.   Experience Philadelphia’s culinary diversity.  Sample West African and Caribbean food in West Philly, authentic Mexican and Vietnamese in South Philly, North Philly’s Latin American and Puerto Rican cuisine is a staple, and Chinatown is enjoying innovation in addition to the classic city eateries.  East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia is a street full of restaurants generating national buzz in the culinary world. Besides all that, notable chefs  Marc Vetri, Jose Garces, and Michael Solomonov call Philadelphia home to several restaurants each.  Even if they have restaurants in other cities, don’t you want to come enjoy the places that started it all?

15.   Try our public spaces and pop up beer gardens.  In winter The Blue Cross River rink is great for family friendly ice skating and hot cocoa.  In summer months discover one of our pop up beer gardens designed by & benefitting the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

16.   Sure, everyone knows you can see the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, and other popular colonial historical attractions here.  Philadelphia is an old city filled with so much more fascinating history for you history buffs.  Visit Christ Church where many founding fathers worshiped, tour Eastern State Penitentiary, a former prison with a who’s who list of historic figures, marvel at the Basilica of St. Peter & Paul, and take a walking tour of the breathtaking Laurel Hill Cemetery.

17.   Go to a diner!  If your part of the world doesn’t have a classic American diner, please get yourself immediately to a diner for inexpensive, filling food surrounded by locals.  Some are even open 24 hours a day.

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