My partner and I have been talking about visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a while. After Boston and New York, it’s the next major city close enough for us to easily get to in a few hours. When Amtrak offered a BOGO deal, we decided now was the time to visit.
In my gay opinion, Philly is a great long weekend destination especially if you’re a fan of urban hiking (which I am) to take in the murals on buildings or diving into history (I am not) of all the things Philadelphia is known for…there were some famous papers signed there or something. Philly has a little bit of everything.
Our hotel, the Best Western Plus (1225 Vine St.) was within walking distance of the train station and conveniently located near the Philadelphia Convention Center, Chinatown, and next door to a soup kitchen offering Sunday breakfasts for the homeless. I was glad to know that if the hotel’s free continental breakfast didn’t cut it, I had somewhere to go. We walked everywhere from there during the day but at night we Ubered back.
It took us a few days of exploring the city and visiting with friends before we finally made our way to the historical part of town. What did I learn in the historical district? Philly has the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street (Elfreth’s Alley), I love cobble stone streets, it’s free to see The Liberty Bell, and not all of Philly smells like urine.
Philly is really gay friendly and not just in the gay district with it’s rainbow street signs. We stopped in a mini Target (with only self check outs) and they had a whole Pride section of rainbow clothing, shampoo and mouth wash…say what you want about the gays but hygiene is important to us. There were gay-themed displays in other store windows as well. It was also nice seeing same-sex couples safely walking around holding hands.
I’m not your typical traveler. I like to do a quick walk by the major tourist attractions but not usually stop in. I did go see The Liberty Bell although it looked fake, our train came in 30th Street Station so we knocked that off the list, when we met our local friends they both took us to Love Park (JFK Blvd & N 15th St.) but we never took our photo under the sign, and walked by the Philadelphia Museum Of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy) which is known for it’s steps that Rocky ran up.
The only tourist attraction we sought out was Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (1020 South St.) which was a must see for me. It’s not only a building and destination but it’s a work of art that spans a half of a block. It’s a building and outdoor courtyard where every surface is covered in mosaics, paintings, statues, tiles, and other crap…I mean treasures. The walls, ceilings, floors and stairs are all covered. It’s just complete sensory overload and you can never see it all. Of course I had to check and yes, even the bathrooms are thrones of art.
The best part of Philly was the vegan options for food. We had the best vegan pizza ever at Blackbird Pizza (614 N 2nd St.), The Tasty (1401 S 12th St.) was this cool hole-in-the-wall diner with a tatted gender non-conforming vibe, Chinese restaurants always have vegan options but New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant (135 N 9th St.) had a vegan only menu, I went to my first vegan deli inside Reading Terminal Market called Luhv Vegan Deli (51 N 12th St.) to get a Ruben sandwich (another first), got falafel at counter-service Mama’s Vegetarian (185 20th St.) and was even able to score some Balsamic Banana and Chocolate Speculoos non-dairy ice cream at Little Baby Ice Cream (19 S 12th St.).
At first Philadelphia wasn’t all that impressive but it did grow on us. The last day there we considered going home early but the train and hotel were already paid for so we stayed around. I’m glad we did. We walked around Rittenhouse Square and relived our youth hitting a used CD/DVD/LP store called Long In The Tooth (2027 Sansom St.) before going next door to the PFS Roxy (2023 Sansom St.) to see the movie Late Night. Instead of doing the tourist thing we made Philly feel like home.
The City Of Brotherly Love definitely worked it’s magic on us…even with it’s aroma of body odor, booze, excrement and popcorn.