Living in the Washington, D.C. area means Pennsylvania is only a couple hours away and I encounter a lot of Pennsylvania transplants. The PA pride is strong in D.C.! But I always figured if Pennsylvania were THAT great more people would stay there instead of coming here in droves, right? Well, I decided it was time to head north and check out Philadelphia for myself.
Everyone goes to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and all that wonderfully historic tourist stuff. But I had been to Philly once as a teenager and did those things so I wanted to get a real feel for the city. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Wandering around can lead you to some pretty fantastic discoveries. Like finding a historic marker sign in an otherwise blah neighborhood touting the site of Milton Snavely Hershey’s first candy store. I’d been to Hershey’s Chocolate World, 2 hours away from Philly, so I thought the first store would have been out there, not in Philadelphia. What a sweet surprise to stumble upon it on a long walk.
Another random find came on the obligatory Sunday morning coffee walk. Immediately across the street from the fabulous coffee shop (OCF Coffee House. Go there. Seriously.) sits the Eastern State Penitentiary. The prison housed criminals like Al Capone until it closed in 1971, and it now is a National Historic Landmark that visitors can tour.
There are a lot of murals throughout the city, thanks in part to the city’s Mural Arts Program. Here’s one at The German Society of Pennsylvania, depicting German-American immigration and contributions to the new world.
But the most unique art I saw was something glittery that caught my eye when the sun shone on it. Little broken glass and mirror shards on the side of a building. Then I saw another building with similar adornments. And then, the mother lode… Philadelphia Magic Gardens, which is meant to inspire creativity and community engagement through learning about folk, mosaic and visionary art. It certainly is a feast for the eyes!
OK, Philly, you proved your point. No longer will I think it’s a city full of nothing but colonial tourism sites and obnoxious people running on the Rocky stairs. Philadelphia has character, and lots of it. I’ll be back.