I am by no means a professional but I think everyone should sit down and paint one out!

Sometimes there is nothing left do to but paint. Going in without a plan into no mans land is scary but such an amazing feeling. Even if you don’t feel inspired, put the brush to the canvas and see what comes out!

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Hidden Philly: The Non-Touristy Guide to the OG Forefathers City

Philadelphia is one of the best kept secrets and underrated cities the US has to offer. Usually when people are going on vacation from the Best Coast, they go to NY, or Hawaii, or Florida. No one goes to Philadelphia. Why? My family is from Philadelphia, and I have been going since I was a child. I have converted many a friend into Philly Lovers, and you will be converted too if you follow my list.

Of course there are the basic touristy things to do, you have to go to the Liberty Bell, and see where the Declaration of Independence was signed. You have to run up the Rocky Steps to the Art Museum. You must go to the Franklin Institute and do a walk through of the human heart and catch an IMAX…. but Blah Blah Blah, after you do that the first day you get there, there is so much more that is kept under wraps that the normal tourist wouldn’t even give a second thought to. Here are the best things to do in Philly that the average tourist would ignore:

 Mutter Museum

Mutter

American Horror much? The new season Freak Show is based off of this oddities museum. The old antiquated display cases contain some of the freakiest and disturbing abnormalities from conjoined twins to the worlds biggest tumor. Also, part of Einstein’s brain is there as well as a wall of about 200 skulls. If you are not easily disturbed and like getting creepy vibes, go here. This is one of the best hidden gems the city has to offer. It is also where they performed separative surgery on the famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng.

Barnes Museum

Barnes

This is not your average museum. The beautiful architecture contains an EXACT replica of Albert C. Barnes personal collection (down to the millimeter). He collected the pieces of work done by famous artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Monet (among many others), that were not well received, and now they are on display in this beautiful modern building.

Tip: Check out the documentary about Barnes called The Art of the Steal  to give you an appreciation before visiting!

Reading Terminal

Reading Terminal

If you can navigate this without going around and around in circles, props to you. On a busy day, the lanes and avenues of food shops located inside the giant old train terminal can get overwhelmingly confusing if not claustrophobic. Some cities have one signature food or good, but Philly is famous not only for Cheesesteaks, but also Italian Ice, Soft Pretzels, Water Toffee, and Italian Food. Check out Thrillists Best Terminal Food to get the idea…

Tip: Most places offer samples, you can fill up on these and get a taste of everything!

Eastern State Penitentiary 

Eastern State

Definitely one of the creepiest spots, this old dilapidated prison that was operational from 1829-1971, housed famous inmates such as Al Capone. Styled like a fortress or a castle, the dark, cold prison was built to be inescapable yet over the years people found peculiar ways to flee.

Tip: Visit during Halloween, they turn it into a haunted prison!

Magic Gardens

Magic Gardens

I stumbled upon this when I was walking down Southstreet during one of my visits. Throughout the entire city of Philadelphia you might catch a sparkling glimpse of mosaic street art installation. It is done all by the same man, Isaiah Zagar who uses all different materials from glass ware and mirrors, to urban findings like wood and bike wheels. The mothership of mosaics is brought to life with a giant walk through mosaic maze like garden that is probably one of the most mind blowing pieces of art  I have ever seen.

Tip: The artist is usually on site and you can meet and greet (he’s awesome).

Church

Church

Step inside ANY Church- there are hundreds and they are the oldest buildings in the city… Almost always open, and the architecture is awe inspiring.

NIGHTLIFE

Nightlife

Speakeasies/ Underground Clubs/ Dive Bars-

Philly has some great nightlife (but only if you know where to go)

Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. 

FM

Hidden underground speakeasy that is very small and exclusive but serves awesome drinks and “Punches” (giant bowls of alcohol) that originate in the 1920s-40s.

G Lounge

philly

Lingerie clad dancers and a 50 Shades of Grey vibe, more of the guys club, but if you get a table you are sure to have a good time.

Mac’s Tavern

macstavern

Opened by It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s own Mac (RobMcElhenney), the bar has references to the show and might even be considered a mock of  Paddy’s Pub. Located on Market street, there are plenty of bars to walk to if you do want to do some more touristy style bar crawling.

Tip: The door when you walk in says “Pirate” just like on the TV show

Dirty Franks

Dirty Franks

More of a locals bar if you want to see what that is like, cheap drinks and a version of the the city special is offered here for like $2.50 (7 oz. beer & Kamikaze shot). The City Special is a shot of Jim Beam and a PBR for $3, here is a list of the city’s bars that offer it.

Pulse (open til 4am)

Pulse

One of the late night clubs that is open til 4am, the intimate two story dance club is always fun for after hours.

Voyeur (open til 4am)

voyeur-nightclub

3 Story dance club, arena style on the top floors and pub style on the second floor. Lots of strobes, & lots of stages, smoking friendly.. Just a good time.

Tip: They usually have free hot dog stand on the lower level- a nod to their very gay friendly vibe (it is pretty much a gay dance club).

The best thing about this city, is it is a museum in itself. The whole city is populated with signs that will tell you what historical noteworthy place you are standing near. I recommend popping on some sneakers with a backpack and just follow the signs, and follow your instincts. You will understand why it is really the best city to mAdventure.

 

[This list represents not even 5% of activities there is to do- check out these other sites for more helpful info on where to go!]

Discover Philadelphia

Visit Philly

 Philly Fun Guide

My Diary Entry: The Worst and Best Year of My Life

Last Thanksgiving my estranged father had returned to LA from a year in Hawaii, where he was recovering from numerous back surgeries and trying to get a way from it all. His choice to leave was not fully supported by my family, but he had come home to try to make it work with my mother, and move back in as I had just moved out of my family’s house. I insisted that he come to my cousins for Thanksgiving, and I am so happy he did. I wasn’t sure if it would be awkward or what, but sure enough everyone welcomed him with open arms and the drama was left at the door.

I am a glass half full kind of gal, and after what had been a troubling year for my family and my parents’ relationship, I saw happiness and love as we all gathered around for the Holiday. I was truly thankful to have this normal day, all together…

We had so much to be thankful for; new babies, my mothers recovery from breast cancer, my new amazing job… seemed like a dream come true.

If I had only known that a month later I would lose that amazing job, breakup with my boyfriend of two years and that my dad would fall ill and pass away.

The month following Thanksgiving was good, all things considering. Until I heard my office was closing, but hey, I could handle that. I knew I would be back on my feet in no time. On the 18th, I went to Vegas with my BFF for 5 days (PS no one should ever go to Vegas for 5 days), and returned on Xmas Eve.  I had a billion presents, and I even bought a Christmas tree (my Dad didn’t even want to do Christmas because he felt so sick and depressed, but I insisted). As I carried in bags of presents, and a 5 foot tall tree, just like Santa himself, I thought I could bring happiness to all of the little boys and girls in my house. Christmas was sort of like the old times. We sat around, drank coffee, had delicious pastries, and talked and laughed and opened presents. The day after Christmas my dad who had been sick with what they thought was a type of walking pneumonia, insisted we call an ambulance and get him to the hospital. We thought he was exaggerating but we called and got him one. When the medics arrived they said it was a good thing we called because his oxygen levels were extremely low. What followed was a week in the hospital where he kept getting worse and worse , until cardiac arrest lead him to be in what the doctors considered a vegetative state from which he would never recover. On January 6th, we took my Dad off the respirator and within a minute he was gone.  We knew he would have never wanted to be alive in that way.

After all of these traumatic things had happened, that glass that was half full, got bone dry very quickly. Everything crumbled apart  so terribly, I didn’t know what to do but just scream and laugh (probably in a very crazy, mad scientist, drunk kind of way), because how could this even happen?

After a couple months of shock, and a phase of victimization ie ‘how could this happen?’ ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ I started to count my blessings:

I am so thankful that I still have my mother.

I am so thankful I have a roof over my head.

I am so thankful I have a family that cares so much about me.

I am so thankful that I have such amazing, wonderful, supportive friends.

I am so thankful, that I had an AMAZING father for 24 years, and that he raised me to be the person I am today.

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to work with one of the top ad agencies in the world.

I am so thankful I had two wonderful years with someone I loved. 

The list could go on and on. This whole year, me, myself, and I had been sitting around a theoretical Thanksgiving table, going around and thinking of all the reasons I am lucky, and not all of the reasons that I have to be sad.

People ask me how I can be so strong, and it is because of this. There are plenty of reasons to be sad, regardless of your situation, but there are SO many reasons to be happy. If you had told me on Thanksgiving last year that this year my father wouldn’t be sitting around the table, I would have never believed you. Even after my mom has just gotten re-diagnosed with breast cancer 3 months ago, I am still thankful because she is here with me today.

Life is not easy, but if you can really live in the moment and realize all of the great blessings you do have, then you will always have a rich life full of love and happiness.

Because isn’t that what we are all searching for anyway?

My parent's last picture I took of them together on Thanksgiving 2014.
My parent’s last picture I took of them together on Thanksgiving 2014.