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

Barrel & Ashes

GO NOW.

I don’t need to say much about the newly opened Barrel & Ashes besides that, because once you’re there and eating the Cheesy Baked Shells, or the Pulled Pork Poppyseed Sandwich, you will be thanking me.

The epitome of gourmet comfort food, revamped for a hipster Los Angeles. My friend ordered a diet coke and tried to return it because it came in a brown bottle labeled ‘Mexi Diet Cola Light’ (see below). I thought the vintage glass coke bottles were as hipster as you can get, but once again, Studio City has proved me wrong.

There is literally nothing on the menu that you could order and not like. I highly recommend the ‘Hoe Cake’- the salty, sweet, buttery, and crunchy outside is so good, that time actually slows down around you.

Everything is meant to be shared! I love tapas style dining, because who doesn’t like trying a  little bit of everything? Under the “Snacks” section of the menu you can try ‘The Best Damn Chick’n Sandwich Ya Ever Had‘- and they aren’t lying about that. I wish all my snacks could be sandwiches.

TIP:
My favorite part of the menu is the Bartenders Choice. You can tell the bartender what type of alcohol you like, what flavors, or any suggestions and they will mix you up a surprise.
Bartenders Choice
I already have a date set to return this week. Don’t forget to check out the Frito Pie, which is made inside of the a Frito bag…
Head over to Colfax and Ventura to check out a comfort food journey, from hillbilly to hipster.

diet coke

Hoe Cake
The Best Damn Chick'n Sandwich Ya Ever Had- Coleslaw, jalapeno, pimento cheese, toasted poppy seed bun
The Best Damn Chick’n Sandwich Ya Ever Had
Chili, cheddar, sour cream, green onion
Chili, cheddar, sour cream, green onion

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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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+