I grew up just north of Philadelphia, in a town small enough that it’s just easier to tell strangers I’m from Philly as a shorthand. After about 15 years of exploring for education, work, and adventure, I’ve settled back down in the area and fallen in love with this city all over again.
Several things to know about us before you come (which you should, I promise).
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We’re the birthplace of liberty, thank you very much. If you want to understand the American experiment, you need to walk these streets and hear the stories of our ancestors. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
We love our Eagles, our Phillies, our Flyers, (and kinda our Sixers), but what we love even more is telling you why you should love them to. These teams are often tattooed on us - both bodies and souls - and the rhythms of the respective seasons dominate much of the city.
We also have strong feelings about food. Cheesesteaks are our claim to fame for a reason and we all have favorite spots we’ll defend to our dying breath. (Jim’s on South Street, don’t fight me.) But beyond the eponymous sandwich, we also have opinions about roasted pork, the Taylor Ham vs. Pork Roll debate (it’s fierce, y’all), where to get the best dim sum, what’s the best Wawa hoagie, which drink to order at Hop Sing, how quickly to order Crab Fries at a Phillies game, and… well, you get the picture.
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All in all, the general attitude of the city can frequently be summarized in the famous chant from our Super Bowl victory in 2018 - no one likes us, and we don’t care. We know you have opinions on us, we know you probably hate one or all of our sports teams, you probably think we’re rude (we frequently are, sorry), but we are who we are. We are a scrappy city with deep history and long experience with being overlooked.
But while everyone’s been looking the other way, we’ve been doing us, and we’re happy to have you join us, but if it’s all right by you, we’ll just treat you like one of us. We don’t do tourism, not really, but we’re happy to have some temporary locals.
While you’re being a temporary local, here are my tips for getting the most out of your time in the birthplace of America.
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Take that seriously. My recommended order for any historical day in Philly is to hit the Museum of the American Revolution first to get the start of the story. It begins with just after Lexington and Concord and ends with the battle of Yorktown, prepping you to head up a few blocks to Independence Hall. Stop for lunch at City Tavern, with its authentic colonial recipes and pewter place settings, and then after you tour the historic National Park buildings, head over to the Constitution Center and learn about the power of ‘We the People’. (I have taken friends from five different countries on this day and all of them have rated it A+, for what it’s worth).
If you’re with us in the summer, take advantage of the storytelling program Once Upon a Nation, where actors tell you stories from colonial citizens at locations scattered throughout the city.
Eat widely. You like a certain type of food? We have it and it’s probably amazing. The Philly food scene has been A Thing for a while (we’ve got a few Top Chef chefs and the best barbacoa in the U.S.) but folks are still sleeping on it. Don’t be one of those folks. Also? Drink widely. We’ve got great beer (Evil Genius in Kensington is my favorite tap house) and fab local spirits (Bluecoat Gin and Stateside Vodka get my personal votes) and the offerings keep growing.
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If you like art, you clearly need to spend some time with us. The Art Museum (or “The Rocky Steps” depending on your demographic) is fabulous, but so are myraids of other museums peppered throughout the city. (The Barnes, for example, is a personal fave.) In other kinds of art, we have a slambang symphony, plus both opera and ballet companies, several incredible theaters that house both known and new productions of everything from straight plays to opera, and so many concert venues I’m still making my way around to them all.
Kids? We like them too! From the Franklin Institute to the Please Touch Museum to Sesame Place up in Bucks County to the Philadelphia Zoo, we are big fans of tiny people.
There’s so much more to say and to see, so I invite you to come hang with us for a bit. I think you’ll find something that feels like home.