Philadelphia Freedom

Last weekend, instead of finagling a long run like I should have been doing in preparation for my upcoming 10-mile race, I drove down to Pennsylvania with Drew to visit family and some friends I hadn’t seen in too long. Though I’ve been to PA many times, I had yet to ever set foot in Philadelphia, so we made that our mission – explore the city!

First stop: Independence Mall, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall. We poked around in the gift shop first (priorities!) then went out to see the Liberty Bell. Except the line was ridiculous. Like, out of the building and around the block. Nope. So we gazed at the back of it through a window and then took a selfie in front of said window:

philly1The line for Independence Hall was also absurd. Having seen some paintings and assuming the interior looked similar to Boston’s Faneuil Hall, we decided against going in and took another exterior selfie:

philly2

We look sooooo tired.

We walked from there to the Reading Terminal Market, where we gawked at all the stalls and bought a half dozen of what my friend B called “the world’s best cookies.” They were indeed pretty yummy! From there, we started walking toward the art museum, admiring the city’s architecture along the way:

philly3…and maybe climbing on a statue or two:

philly4It’s going to make me sound like such an uncultured loser, but the whole reason I wanted to go to the art museum was to pull a Rocky. Ideally I would have run up the steps, but I wasn’t dressed for such activity, plus I was dragging a few bags around so conditions weren’t ideal. But I still posed my heart out:

philly5(The boy to my right was totally selling it better than I was… and he actually ran up the steps. Props to him!)

Then we stopped at the big, central library, because I’m a library nerd:

philly6Our friends picked us up after they got out of work and took us to the one of the most touristy places – the street with Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteak joints:

philly7Pat’s has been there since 1930, and Geno’s brazenly set up shop right across the street in the 1960s. It worked out for us, because we were able to stop and get a cheesesteak at each (each sandwich was split 4 ways… just enough to try it!) to see who does it better. Our opinion? Pat’s, hands down. (Though almost everyone I’ve talked to has said that Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteaks are some of the worst out there!)

For dinner that night, because apparently a half cheesesteak each wasn’t enough, we all went to a touristy but cool place called the City Tavern. All the waitstaff were dressed in colonial garb, and most – if not all – the food and drinks were made from 18th century recipes. The atmosphere was cool, the drinks were good, but the food left a little to be desired… especially for the steep price!

Saturday was spent with my brother and his family, which was lovely. We also may have made 3 separate trips to Wawa. I have a slightly unhealthy love for Wawa… it may stem from childhood visits to PA that included daily trips to Wawa for coffee (for the adults) and treats (for me), it may stem from a childhood amusement at saying “wawa,” and/or it may stem from my growing appreciation for their coffee now that I drink it. Whatever the reason, I relish my visits there, as ridiculous as that may make me seem… especially when I coerce Drew into taking a picture of me posing by the sign while people driving by gawk at my insanity:

philly8Sunday saw us return bright and early to downtown Philly, where we walked around a little in the lovely spring sunshine (a nice change from the damp chill of Friday!) before meeting B and Matt for brunch. We went to Cuba Libre, which had an amazing Cuban brunch complete with churros, plantains, pressed sandwiches, and lovely Cuban coffee with steamed coconut milk. Yum! It’s probably a good thing there are no Cuba Libres in Boston, otherwise I’d be there all the time!

The bill was brought in a Cuban cigar box, and Drew, Matt, and I all leaned in to sniff the box when we opened it. B made us repeat the action so she could snap a picture.

The bill was brought in a Cuban cigar box, and Drew, Matt, and I all leaned in to sniff the box when we opened it. B made us repeat the action so she could snap a picture!

We set off on the 5-hour drive home after brunch, and the whole weekend felt like quite the whirlwind. I’m glad I finally saw Philly – at least a tiny bit of it! – and now I know some cool places to check out next time we’re there.

Have you been to Philadelphia? What are your favorite things to do there?

If you’ve tried them, which do you prefer – Pat’s or Geno’s? (Or someplace completely different… in which case, enlighten me!)

Where’s your favorite destination for a whirlwind weekend?

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14 thoughts on “Philadelphia Freedom

  1. Oh, the Rocky steps would be so cool! And the Liberty Bell, too bad about the lines though. I have zero patience for lines. I gather that Wawa is a grocery store but I have never heard of it before. I’ve also never eaten a cheesesteak or had any whirlwind weekend trips. Hmm, writing that just made me kind of sad, ha!

    • I struggle with lines too, especially when time is tight and there’s so much more to see! Wawa is kind of like a 7-11, but so much better… a convenient store plus a sandwich/coffee shop. I feel like it’s hard to have whirlwind trips when you live in a state as big as California! And they’re exhausting anyway… I’m still recovering from last weekend, haha!

  2. Your post actually made me tear up! I miss Philly so much and this makes me want to go back for a visit ASAP! FYI, Pat’s and Geno’s are TERRIBLE and Wawa is the greatest place on earth! I recommend John’s Roast Pork for cheesesteaks but they run out of rolls in late afternoon so get there early. Also, the Franklin Fountain in Old City is the best homemade old timey ice cream place on earth! And next time make sure to walk down Elfreth’s Alley to check out the old colonial houses and cobblestone street. I feel like I could go on forever…

    • Literally everyone I know from PA who heard we went to Pat’s and Geno’s were horrified, haha. I’ll be sure to check out John’s and Franklin Fountain next time, and Elfreth’s Alley sounds awesome for a history nerd like me 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

  3. Sounds like an awesome trip! I too love Wawa! I used to go to them in NJ. Sadly I loved ordering the sandwiches on the touch screen, kinda fun! haha

  4. You’re the 2nd person on my reader list to visit Philly this week! I go to Wawa every morning – today was free coffee today in honor of their birthday! Just another reason to love Wawa 😀 Pat’s & Geno’s are pretty terrible, I always look up the recent winner of Philly’s Best Cheese steak when visitors come to town. I’ve never been let down by doing that!

    • I heard about the free coffee day and was a little bummed I wouldn’t be around to take part! 🙂 That’s a great idea about looking at the most recent winner of the best cheesesteak award… next time I go I’ll have to do that!

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