During your travels to Philadelphia many tour books will direct you South Street for some of the local flair and fare. Most people will head to the eastern most section (east of 7th St). Most of the South Street action is in that area but, if you go there directly, you will miss the most whimsical place in the city. Isaiah Zagar's Secret Garden is at 10th and South. Mr. Zagar is an artist/muralist who uses glass, cermanics, and just about anything he can find to create his art. He has turned many store fronts, house facades and an empty lot into colorful and thoughtful works of art.
A bit out there is the Ryerss Museum and Library. An eclectic collection of items in an odd looking Victorian House. It is located in Burholme Park and features a animal cemetary somewhere on the grounds. The museum has an impressive collection of objects from Asia which makes it noteworthy. The most standout object though is probably the stuffed aligator waiter (shhh! don't let them know I took a picture). The most attractive thing about this museum is that it's free so if you're in the area, check it out at 7370 Central Avenue.
Jazz great John Coltrane was born in North Carolina. After returning home from the Navy, the 26 year old Coltrane took his money and moved his family to Philadelphia. During this period, Coltrane began to receive public recognition for his immense talent. A few years later, Coltrane moved to New York and the rest is history, however, the memory of his Philadelphia house still lingers in the collective neighborhood consciousness. In 1990, the house was made into a historic landmark and money has been poured into the house to make it into a studio. That said, the house is off limits to the public. Yet in the era of the celebrity pop musician, it is nice to remember a day when a pure musician could exist with such talent within a community. It's close by Fairmount Park's Strawberry Mansion and is adjacent to a Frisbee Golf (Frolf?) course. It is also down the street from a rather elaborate playground: The Smith Playground.
Everybody knows the story of Valley Forge. But why did the British allow the Americans to get to Valley Forge? Well in a 40-day battle in 1777, 300 Americans were able to hold off the British from travelling up the Delaware through defensive fortifications. One of the most important of which is Fort Mifflin which has since been reconstructed. It is located very south near the airport and can be easily accessed by I-95. Ignoring the sounds of the planes, it is very peaceful and offers wonderful views of the Delaware River.
About an hour away from Philadelphia is the quaint Doylestown. In the 19th century, a man named Mercer opened up a variety of museums in which he would exhibit various artifacts from the times. The buildings themselves are architectural absurdities that make them worth the visit. The insides of the museums are worth a gander as well. There are actually three museums: The Mercer Museum, Fonthill Museum, and Moravian Pottery and Tile Works.
Yes I said "take a duck"....
This weird contraption gives certainly gives you a different look at Philadelphia...
Zohara, Tal, Stuart and Evelyn went on this very strange machine and it is strange indeed to be traveling on the road and then all of a sudden take a change of course and plunge into the river.....
Over 90 years ago, Sweetzels revived the colonial spice-and-molasses cookie by developing a unique recipe for spiced wafers. Fresh-baked, spiced wafers, warm apple cider, and a glowing fire have become a favorite Philadelphia Tradition to the welcoming of fall. Sweetzels is based in a northern suburb of Philadelphia (Skippack) not too far from where we live. We always look forward to fall when we do get our favorite, spiced wafers and a glass of apple cider.
This apple cider is not the fermented, alchohol type. If you've never had fresh-pressed apple cider, you're missing out! Perhaps it is a Pennsylvanian tradition, as well! Our favorite is the full, robust-tasting Zeigler's Apple Cider also made not too far from where we live in Lansdale, Pennsylvnia. They've been making apple cider since 1932!
Also, another local MUST is Bauman's Apple Butters. (They also press cider, but we prefer Zeigler's.) They are a traditional, Pennsylvania-Dutch family and have 18 flavors of fruit butters; however, our favorite is the apple butter spread on top of a piece of fresh, home-baked bread and butter. YUM!!
About an hour west of Philadelphia is Pennsylvania Dutch country. If you have a car, take a visit and go back in time. One of the many odd and wonderful things that the Dutch brought over is an odd block of meat called "Scrapple". It is what it sounds like. In the early days of settling here, not wanting to let resources go to waste, Scrapple was created. It is essentially the pork 'scraps' left over. And I mean ALL scraps. Trust me, you don't want to know. These are ground down into a granular mash consistency, spicced and pressed together into a grayish colored brick. It is prepared by cutting into approximately 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch slices and fried. You must get the heat right in the skillet so that the outside is nice and crispy but the inside is still soft. Don't flip the slices too soon or they'll break into an unspeakable mush.
This stuff is absolutely repulsive. Do not THINK about what it is or looks like until you actually taste it. Once you do, you won't be able to get enough of it. Along with cheese steaks, soft pretzels and water ice, you really can't come to Philly without trying scrapple.
It's available in most grocery stores if you want to take some home. (Needs to be kept refrigeraated.) Whole Foods even has an organic version, which I don't recommend.
Even if you don't have a car you can make the trek to Collingswood rather easily. Take the High Speed Line over to NJ and get off at the Collins Ave (Collingswood stop). It's a dry town so unfortuantely you won't find any bars here. There are plenty of great BYOB restaurants though. They also have a Farmers Market every Saturday in the nicer weather months as well as plenty of other festivals and activities.. check out the website. Lots of cool shops and loval art to check out.
Word of Mouth Restaurant is my favorite BYOB here. There's a Liquor Store in Westmont (the next town over) on Collins Ave.
Gay friendly area.
Okay, I'm all about finding local food places that'll knock your socks off and that are almost local historical landmarks. Stock's Bakery is one of those places in Philly. The pound cake is famous enough that people actual order it for their weddings. It is heavy. It is delicious. Do not eat more than you want "feel" you've eaten. You can actually purchase a 2-lb cake. You can get it iced or without. You will not want to do anything else the rest of the day after consuming this, because you will literally die and go to heaven.
Fort Mifflin, located south of the city near the airport, was made famous during the Revolutionary War, when a small number of continental soldiers held the British Invasion fleet at bar along the Deleware River for several days, allowing General Washington to evactuate the Continental Army from Philadelphia to Valley Forge. Though the present fort bears little resemblence to how it looked in 1777, it was rebuilt through a design by Pierre L'Enfant - the same man who designed the street grid of Washington D.C. - in the late 18th century, and remains one of the best examples of post-revolutionary fortifications in the United States, along with Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
Many people know that Philadelphia has a history of producing some famous pop music. From at least the 1950's, to probably today, the Philly music scene is going strong.
If you walk along Broad Street in Philadelphia's theater district, you'll see a series of plaques on the sidewalk, paying tribute to the city's musical past. This is similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Look down and see some of Philly's greatest artists, all immortalized by the city in concrete.
The band in my picture, the Delfonics, is a soul group that had many hits in the 1960's. Their biggest hit was, "La La Means I Love You". Do you remember it? Yeah, I do too.
A short walk from Rittenhouse Square is a small building that you may not notice, except for the plaque hanging outside it. It pays tribute to George Meade, the Union's winning general at the Battle of Gettysburg. After his lifetime of service, the government gave him a building to live in, right in Philadelphia. This building on 1836 S 19th Street is where Meade lived out the rest of his days.
You probably won't be able to see it on my picture, but the name "Meade" is written into the building itself.
This is a bit of history that I came upon by accident. Something that's not unusual in Philadelphia.
That's what I said when I came upon the South Street Magic Garden. That's if an edifice put together with old beer bottles and other junk, all bonded with (I think) cement is your idea of magic, that is. You can actually walk in and check it out up close, if you'd like. Admission if free - would you pay to see this?
There's a sign asking to "Save the Magic Garden". I can't believe someone wants to get rid of this thing!
Stop in the Magic Garden for, at least, a bit of a chuckle. Find it on South Street, between S 10th and 11th.
Great Art Deco/1930s era architectural detailing, especially in the public areas on the 2nd floor. You'll almost feel that you're on the Queen Mary! This Philadelphia Landmark was inspired by the German Bauhaus movement of design, and is said to have been the first modernist skyscraper anywhere in the world. In the 1990s, it was successfully converted to house the Loews Hotel, one of the major conference hotels in Philadelphia's Center city. 12 S. 12th Street, on Market.
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