Philly. The first major city on the east coast I visited right out of high school. Growing up in the military, I spent most of my childhood living on bases and when we finally planted roots – it was in a small suburb outside of San Antonio, Texas. Texas was a great place to grow up, but I’ve always been a big city girl at heart.
Why? Who knows, but I remember looking at fashion magazines in my teens and seeing models hail cabs with sky scrappers as their backdrop – and I was hooked! I also have always loved history and culture. Something about walking the same steps as many, many, generations before me makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than me.
So, it was no surprise when I made Chicago my home and visit the east coast quite often.
Philly has always been a favorite because of the historical aspect – and the cheese steaks! I mean, they are pretty amazing!
I recently was in Philly for work (and some play!) and it brought back so many fun memories. This time around I’m older and have more of an appreciation of food and history. If Philly is in your upcoming travel plans, here are some must do and haves.
Historical / Cultural:
I mean it’s just a large iron bell, but it’s an iconic symbol of American Independence and a must see. You can cruise around the lines and check it out through a window, or if you have the time you can walk through the attached building and learn all about the history and symbolism. Fun fact: The Liberty Bell was last rung for a George Washington birthday celebration in 1846. Upon being rung, it cracked irreparably.
Philadelphia is – after all – the city of brotherly love, so what better place to have a park named “Love Park”? The park is a plaza located in Center City, and is nicknamed “Love Park” for its reproduction of Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture which overlooks the plaza. Not only does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but the view in both directions is breathtaking. On one end you have Independence Hall and on the other end you can see all the way down to the Museum of Art.
Another must see as it is the birthplace of our nation. They offer guided tours and you can see George Washington’s “rising sun” chair, which dominates the Assembly Room and is still arranged as it was during the original Constitutional Convention. In the adjacent West Wing, the actual inkstand used to sign the Declaration of Independence and an original draft of the Constitution are prominently displayed. History nerds rejoice! How cool is that?!
Museums are always a must in any city. Be sure to give yourself enough time to roam the halls of this museum as you’ll need it, and before you go – take a jog up the front stairs with the Rocky soundtrack playing in your head. You won’t regret it. The famed statue of the beloved boxer is next to the museum for photo ops, too! Did I take one? You bet I did.
Now, let’s talk about food. We all know that I worked in luxury hotels for a very long time and was head of the catering operations – which turned me into a major foodie. I plan my days on vacation around the best places to eat!
The only time I actually want a cheesesteak is in Philly, so it’s to Sonny’s I go. It’s a small place with a small menu, but they have everything you need. If you’re one of the unlucky gluten allergy people like me – they have gluten free rolls for the cheesesteaks! Praise Jesus!
If you’re a sushi lover, this is your place. This is Masaharu Morimoto’s flagship restaurant, so consider yourself lucky to be there as he is a world renowned chef. From the signature cocktails to the mix of Japanese and Western flavors – this place will not disappoint.
THIS place. If you can only go one place while in Philly – this needs to be it. It will be a staple on my agenda any time I’m there. It’s rustic, charming, and just a lovely place to be. The cocktails were insanely delicious and pretty! The service was outstanding. The food was perfect. So many great choices on the menu, and while you’re there take in all the beauty surrounding you.
I’m already looking forward to my return!