November 2017 – We took a quick trip to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving. After our early flight, we took the train to our hotel and dropped our bags and took a power nap before heading out into the cold, dry air. Our first stop was the One Liberty Observation Deck. I had booked our entrance here with credit card points and received tickets for two visits each within 48 hours. While it was nice to see the city from this angle, I do not think it would have been worth paying full price. We did not spend much time here before heading back out to walk to the Liberty Bell.
The city was fairly quiet since most people were home preparing their Thanksgiving dinners. We only had to stand in line for a few minutes before going through security at the Liberty Bell Center. The bell is one of the things you just have to see while visiting the city, and we were able to get a few pictures since the crowd was relatively small that day.
We passed by several other historical landmarks as we continued on to Elfreth’s Alley and took a few pictures. This is supposedly the oldest residential street in the country and dates back to 1702. It reminded me of Acorn Street in Boston.
Knowing that few restaurants would be open on Thanksgiving Day, we opted to go to Chinatown for dinner. We had not eaten since very early that morning, before our flight, so we were pretty hungry by the time we made it to Dim Sum Garden. The food was good, but I think we would have eaten anything at that point. I was not expecting the restaurant to only accept cash, but luckily we had enough to cover it.
The sun was setting as we left the restaurant, but we had one more stop to make before heading to the hotel for the night. We wanted a little wine for the evening, but, as we have found with many cities in the northeast, it is not as easy to find as we are used to. We power-walked nearly two miles to the only Acme grocery store that was still open (it was closing 15 minutes after we arrived) to buy a couple of snacks and some wine. It was then nearly a three mile walk in the dark to get back to our hotel, carrying the grocery bags through an unfamiliar and empty (due to the holiday) city. We always keep an eye on our surroundings, though, and although there were a few people out who seemed to be looking for trouble we made it to the hotel completely safely.
Our only full day in Philadelphia began with a visit to the Magic Gardens.
Because this attraction appealed to me, I paid the fairly steep cost of admission (tip: students get a discount here and at several other attractions in the city). The Magic Gardens was created by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. It was unique and interesting, while also being one of the strangest things I’ve seen in awhile. We spent half an hour or so walking around before heading back out onto the street.
For lunch, we visited the Reading Terminal Market. I again was reminded of Boston and the city’s Faneuil Hall, except that Philly cheesesteaks replaced clam chowder at every stall. Since we were in Philly, we had to have cheesesteaks for lunch, along with a side of cheese fries (good thing we were doing a lot of walking). They were all delicious.
After lunch, we walked to the Eastern State Penitentiary. The cost of admission included an audio tour, and we were each given a headset to use. The tour gave some interesting facts as we explored the penitentiary. This prison used to be the most famous and expensive in the world but has long been empty and left to ruin. Al Capone was once housed here, and his cell is still on display (complete with very nice furniture). The hallways and crumbling cells were cold and a bit spooky. I definitely recommend visiting here to anyone interested in abandoned places. We spent about three hours walking around the prison.
The sun was starting to set when we left the prison, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. We stopped at Starbucks to warm up a bit and then continued on to the One Liberty Observation Deck for our second visit. It was interesting to see the city lit up for nighttime, and it was nice and warm in the observation area.
After a whirlwind trip to Philly, we packed up the next morning to take the train back to the airport. The airport was surprisingly small and chaotic. The security agents and airport employees were among the rudest I’ve encountered at any airport.
Overall, Philly reminded me of both Boston and New York in many aspects. It was one of our favorite cities, and we loved being able to walk everywhere. However, we were happy to be heading home to the warmth of Florida.