There’s something magical about Philadelphia – whether it’s the gridiron streets, the striking murals adorning the city buildings, the historical monuments that coexist in perfect synergy with the soaring skyscrapers or simply, the whiff of fresh pretzels as one strolls along the city’s numerous open-air markets. We were on a quest to absorb this and everything else that the ‘Birthplace of America’ had to offer. Our tryst with Philly’s historical adventures led us to Center and Old City, as we marveled at the sheer elegance of City Hall, Grand Masonic Lodge, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross (creator of the First American flag) House, and Elfreth’s Alley. As the Liberty Bell was closed during our visit, we stepped into this quaint little souvenir shop that offered everything from city merchandise to information about nearby nature parks, food and nightlife, historical trails and so on. One such mesmerizing pamphlet caught our attention and at the very next sundown, we were atop the 56-storey One Liberty Observation Deck, watching the city transform into a million glimmering fireflies.
In the Background we see the Delaware River and the Bridge crossing over to Camden in New Jersey –
Cradled between the Delaware and Schuylkill river basins, Philadelphia is a city of many firsts – first capital, first medical and business schools (Perelman School of Medicine and Wharton School of Business respectively, both at the University of Pennsylvania) of the country and we’d be amiss if we didn’t visit the prestigious Ivy League campus. The chats with two college deans and long-time Philly residents broadened our perspective regarding the huge contrast that is the city. On one hand, it is the 5th largest city in the United States and a major business and tourist hub; on the other hand, lies the grim memoirs of gentrification and racial segregation. It was more than a feeling of sheer wonder as we witnessed the soaring facades give way to abandoned, bullet-ridden warehouses in a matter of a couple of blocks, at the juncture of Central and Northern Philly.
The next day, it was our turn to explore the southern fringes of the city, which is home to the renowned Italian markets, the largest open-air market in the country and the site where the famous Rocky movie, starring Sylvester Stallone, was filmed. It’s here that the two original Philly Cheesesteak restaurants, are neatly tucked across each other, as if enticing the visitor to a taste-off.
At the crossroads of Center and South Philly lies the artistic wonder rightfully called the Magic Gardens. The labyrinthine space created by Isaiah and Julia Zagar contains a beautiful amalgamation of mosaics and art created from everyday items like dishes, bottles, cigarette packs and shards of glasses.
There’s never a dearth of things to do and places to visit in the vibrant city of Philadelphia. However, a trip to the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ is hardly complete without a snap of the famous ‘LOVE’ sign or the bustling Reading Terminal Markets. As the trip ended, I realized that I was in love with the vibe of this place and I’d go back to Philly in a heartbeat.