Independence Day and Philadelphia
As tomorrow is Independence Day (July 4th), I thought I’d take the day to reflect on my youth growing up in suburban Philadelphia. America declared its independence from British rule in what is now known as Independence Hall, a Philadelphia landmark. The declaration was actually made on July 2nd and John Adams fought to have the official holiday on this date, but he lost out and the date was moved to July 4th. Many people aren’t aware that the actual Declaration of Independence wasn’t fully signed until August of 1776 (and some historians believe some of the signatures actually weren’t there until later in November). Regardless of the details, the 4th of July holiday remains one of my favorite traditions and with it, I always look back to my days growing up in and around Philadelphia. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite things about the City of Brotherly Love in case you ever find yourself there with some time to kill.
Matt’s Favorite Places in Philadelphia
- Independence Hall – It’s still standing amidst all the modern buildings of downtown Philadelphia. Pretty cool tours through the building with lots of history lessons. You’ll recognize the building and interior from many of the famous paintings made about the historic signing of the Declaration of Independence.
- The Liberty Bell – The most famous broken bell on earth, it resides just across the street from Independence Hall. It’s usually a long wait to see it, but something about it is kind of cool, so in my opinion I’d wait it out.
- City Hall – Planted smack dab in the middle of the city (15th and Market) this building always fascinated me. When it was used as a location for the movie 12 Monkeys, I loved it even more (I even went down to see them film it). The statue atop City Hall is of Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, and up until the 1980s, no building was built taller than the statue.
- 30th Street Station – Located across the Schuylkill River from downtown, this massiva train terminal is one of my favorite spots to buy an ice cream and people watch for hours. The architecture alone is worth the trip. Cross the street and you’ll find one of the largest post offices you’ll ever see as well..
- The Art Musuem – If you’ve ever watched the movie Rocky, you’ll want to visit the art museum, even if you never step foot inside to view the fantastic collection of art. Yes, these are the infamous steps that Rocky climbs with all the children cheering him on while “Gonna Fly Now” plays in the background. Truly a magical moment in film, but also fun to replicate. If you have the time, it’s definitely worth it to visit the museum and the sculpture gardens behind the museum.
- Reading Terminal Market – Located right along the edge of Chinatown close to one of Philly’s best clubs, The Trocadero, this enormous former train station has been transformed into a farmer’s market and culinary hot spot. From pig roasts to gourmet coffee and beyond, Reading Terminal Markets is always a great place to grab a bite and peruse the local farmer’s wares.
- The Italian Market – If you love prosciutto as much as I do, then this is the place for you. Stalls and stands line the streets with people selling everything from imported Italian goods to fresh produce and seafood. You’ll hear plenty of people still speaking their native tongue, as well as hearing plenty of words like “youse” (Philly version of y’all).
- South Street – Similar in some ways to Austin’s 6th Street. Boutiques, bars, and restaurants line the street where lawyers in suits, punk rockers, and rap stars co-mingle in a fascinating place to people watch. Also home to Lorenzo and Sons, the finest pizza place on the planet. Order a slice (they’re huge) and don’t ask for any toppings, because a cheese slice is the only way they sell ’em.
- Cheesesteaks – The sandwich of Philadelphians that we crave wherever we are, but we all know there is only one place to get them. Philadelphia. Many will argue about who has the best and the leading contenders are always Pat’s and Geno’s (or for the more urban trendy set, Tony Luke’s), but my recommendation is to find yourself a small mom and pop pizza/sandwich shop and grab one from there. My advice? Don’t call it a Philly Cheesesteak when you order one. Please.
- A few other delicacies – Cheesesteaks are obviously the greatest thing ever invented, but I suggest you try a few other things: soft pretzels (they’re not exactly soft, but man are they delicious), Tastykakes (you can get them in Texas now, but if you haven’t had a Peanut Butter Kandykake, I think you need to experience it now), Yuengling beer (America’s oldest brewery and one of my favorite beers on the planet), hoagies (call them subs, heroes, or grinders, but I think the Italian in me prefers the hoagie), and water ice (kind of like shaved ice or raspas, but smoother in consistency and super tasty).
- King of Prussia Mall – Not in Philadelphia, but if you’re a shopoholic you should take the twenty minute drive to the suburbs where I grew up. Once the largest mall in America, “the mall” as it is known locally was surpassed by the Mall of America, but it still has plenty to offer. They were still expanding when I left Pennsylvania, so I imagine there’s even more than when I visited last.
image courtesy of digitonin