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

The K does Hello Kitty

Need something fun to do today?  Head down to Little Tokyo and check out the Hello Kitty Exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum. The Exhibit will be open until April 2015, so no immediate rush, but as the weather gets colder and us Cali kids need something indoors to do, I highly recommend checking Miss Kitty out!

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Everyone loves Hello Kitty! It is hard to be sad when you are surrounded by sparkly, shiny, rhinestone covered, bright pink purses, wall art, and kitchen ware. Hello Kitty really is a LIFESTYLE! Everything is just so fun in at the exhibit, it is no wonder that Hello Kitty has been a hit since 1976. What started out as one little coin purse with the signature mascot and the word “Hello” printed, became  multi billion dollar industry that has shaped much of not only today’s fashion, but also trends in the last 30 years. It is amazing to see that not much has changed with the brand. The stuff that was made in 1976 still looks like the stuff that I was buying from Sanrio at Westfield Fashion Square back in the 90’s. Hello Kitty has always been culturally relevant, and they definitely make it apparent by showing you all of the different celebrities that has sported the signature look.

HIGHLIGHT: Lady Gaga’s Hello Kitty stuffed animal dress is on display as well as some of Katy Perry’s crazy kitty couture moments.

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Did you ever realize Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth? Seems interesting since Sanrio’s business motto is “Social Communication”… Thoughts?

The whole exhibit screams fun, but what makes it worth the day trip is walking across the street to the plaza with all the delicious food and  interesting shops. Get a bowl of Udon, and people watch. Or do you want a sweet colorful snack after seeing all the almost edible looking Hello Kitty paraphernalia? Head across the street to Lette Macarons– I recommend the freshly made salted caramel- SO DELICIOUS!

I will say the one thing that bothered me is that I was all amped up after seeing all this fun, pink, sparkly stuff, I wanted to go on a mini shopping spree. I imagined they would have a vast assortment of fun souvenirs to buy, but the museums shop had a few books and a couple key chains… You will have better luck heading across the street to the Plaza where there is a whole Sanrio store.

Hello Kitty!

After you exit the exhibit, you have to walk through the rest of the JANM museum, which lends me to think the Hello Kitty exhibit is part publicity stint to get more traffic and visitors- but hey it worked! Call a couple friends, grab some Udon, go see the Kitty, and top it off with some shopping. I promise you won’t be disappointed, you might even forget you are just in downtown LA!!!

Lincoln Kitty

Hello!

Sparkles

Kitty!

The Tripel- Libations in Playa Del Rey

I went to grab some fine food and libations at The Tripel in Playa Del Rey tonight. Heard about the place through the grapevine. It is a one room gastropub, that was pretty packed for a Tuesday night. We tried a beer sampler, all of which was very crisp and light since we got the East Coast Belgian flight. They have an alternating selection of at least 40 beers on tap all the time. The ambience was relaxing, and the service was fast. I tried the cauliflower tomato soup, and since the waitress told us their number one seller was the sweet potato tots and dijon aioli, we had to try those as well (maybe so hyped up they didn’t blow my mind). We ordered the clams and mussels in pesto sauce which were delicious. My soup was so creamy, but almost TOO heavy. The gruyere toast that came with it must have been soaked in oil, on top of the melted cheese. If I had known this I would have kept away from the tots! Overall, the tavern pub vibes, guilt ridden food, and  wide beer selection provided for a good escape from LA. If you are looking to find some extreme munchies that you might regret later, head to The Tripel. Let’s be honest, we all need a meal like that once in a while.

You can start that diet tomorrow.

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The Rise and Fall of the Valley Bar Scene

I have been super happy about the new generation of lounges, bars and cool hang outs that have started to repopulate the boulevard- mainly in Sherman Oaks. Murphs, The One Up, The Woodman, Tipple and Brine, Tunnel Bar, Bow & Truss, to name a few. Actually all of these places are WONDERFUL, but as gastropubs only.

The Problem

What happened to the grungy, out all night, meeting fun people, going to a house after party, valley scene? For the most parts, these bars close down by 1am, sometimes even midnight. I talked to a manager at one of the spots who said that as soon as they have hit their goal profit for a night, or have had a good night- they close.

I get it, it eliminates the late night drunks and shenanigans that come with that (cops, puke, fights, yelling), but come one guys, what about the people?? Who remembers Smiles? That place was as close to Anything Goes as you could get… no wonder it got shut down.

The Pros

– A more mature crowd- less drunk idiots and creepers

– Delicious and well made food and drinks

-Parking that is more convenient than over the hill

-A slew of bars near each other for hopping

-GAMES! Most places feature games, either board games like at Bow & Truss, actual arcade games like at The One Up, or pool tables at Brickyard in North Hollywood

The Cons

-These places are catered to already formed groups, it seems harder to meet new people. Most bars are not set up for cross mingling and feature secluded tables or couches

-Early closing time- Most people don’t leave their house until 10 or 11 so that doesn’t give much time.

-Every bar is the same- same hipster look and same vibe (the majority)

-No dancing… forget about it- head to Skinnys for that

So boo hoo… now we have to settle for good drinks, and good food- and an early night. These hipster bars and speak easy’s that used to be a dime a dozen a few years ago now seem to be the norm. I guess we will have to get our kicks elsewhere- but I am also not 21 any more, so maybe I should just accept a more mature atmosphere and good conversation over a Moscow Mule and a Grass Fed Beef Slider Trio.

[PS This does not put an end my continual quest to find the best night adventures LA and the valley have to offer]

Post&Beam

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Soul Food spot- in Baldwin Hills- not my usual stomping grounds, but made a res for a friends Bday who said it was delicious southern food with the full range of corn bread and fried chicken along with refreshing tomato and watermelon salads. Decent food, but slow service, took probably 20 minutes to get our table of 8 their drinks, some of which were just a little more than half full- stingy.

Fun Fact: They grow most of their herbs on location; rosemary, mint, basil… You wouldn’t expect that kind of hands on care from a restaurant smack dab between a Macy’s and a Sears.

Relaxing candle light and twinkle light lit patio with lots of heaters, and live music on Saturday nights. I was surprised how empty the restaurant was. Click the photo above to check their menu.

Overall I give the experience a B+