Philadelphia Like a Local

This was son’s first trip back east. I lived in Philly for a year back in the late 80’s after going to school at Penn State and this was my first time back. I was originally just coming for a 3-day class for work, but when I learned that Jack wanted to go, I extended the trip to 7 days, so we could make a vacation out of it.

I’m going to try a really different format with this one, because 1) it’s how I took my notes after each day of the trip and still hadn’t written it out into blog form 18 mos later and because 2) it might even be easier to follow this way.


Love the streets

Today, we walked to South Street and Spruce Street Harbor Park, we walked by Betsy Ross House, and had cheesesteaks at Jim’s Steaks on South Street. One thing Jack wants to do this trip is do a cheesesteak taste test. We had a lot of cheesesteaks this trip.


We moved to a different airbnb today, because I hadn’t been able to find one place with availability for our entire visit, we walked through City Hall to Reading Terminal Market, we saw the exhibits at Federal Reserve Bank and Constitution Center, we toured The Mint and Betsy Ross House, and walked by Independence Hall.

I also walked to Italian Market and Genos and Pats while Jack was still sleeping. After going to all the places listed above, while we were walking back to our airbnb, a monk gave us bracelets then expected us to “donate” $20/each for them so I gave him $5 and tried to return the bracelets to him, but he wouldn’t take them back. I bought coffee and half n half at expensive neighborhood grocery. We ate snacks for dinner at our airbnb. We watched Departures before bed and Jack fell asleep on couch at 9.

getting some work done at our first airbnb
City Hall
Reading Terminal Market
The Mint
Betsy Ross House
They still hold services
Independence Hall
stripped bike


Today we  biked on the Schulkill River Trail, then to Eastern Penitentiary, where we did a tour, then biked to the Philadelphia Zoo. We split 2 cheesesteaks from Geno’s and Pat’s in South Philly.

I took care of guesthouse business and impatiently waited for Jack to wake up. When he woke up, having discovered the bike share program, we figured out how the program worked then biked to Eastern Penitentiary. We went too far down Schulkill River Trail, so we ended up having bikes for a little over an hour. We were charged an extra $4/bike. We took a self-guided audio tour of the penitentiary, and it was very interesting but very hot. We ate at Jack’s Firehouse across the street, which has great ambiance except for the flies. We biked to the Philadelphia Zoo and got a little lost getting there. The zoo was empty of people, and animals were surprisingly active. Gorillas, polar bear and penguins were very fun to watch. We biked back to other side of river via Drexel and Penn. We docked bikes on South Street to go into a supermarket and get a lemonade. We walked back, and on the way, I bought a compression sleeve for my arch. We rested for about 30 minutes at apartment then got on bikes again to go to Geno’s and Pat’s. Geno’s has nice warm and chewy bun, so I thought it was better than Pat’s. We need to go back to Jim’s and get American Cheese this time, because we got Provolone there, which wasn’t as good. We biked back at dusk with skyline all lit up by sunset. The real feel was 114 at the hottest part of the day. We biked 24.75 miles with 5 bike transitions each.

Schulkill River Trail
Rowing’s very big here
Eastern State Penitentiary
Inside the Penitentiary. It was SOOOO hot.
We got a little lost biking here.
The animals were really friendly.
This guy was hysterical.
I love this shot.
Bike station by Geno’s and Pat’s. Every city and town needs a program like this.


This was the first day of class. I took bus to Hilton in Bala Cynwyd. Class let out an hour early, so I got back at 4:30. Jack and I biked down to Spruce Street Harbor Park, but since ping pong table wasn’t available and Jack was hungry, we walked to Positano’s Coast for dinner and had a great pasta dinner that we shared. I had a microbrew from Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia and it was excellent. We then biked to Joe’s, because Jack wanted to try their cheesesteak. I’d never had been to Fishtown or Northern Liberties before, and it may not even been called that in the 80’s. It was very cool. Joe’s had the best cheesesteak hands down and great service. BYOB all around Philadelphia really is Bring Your Own Beverage and there’s no surcharge, at least at Joe’s and people even add it to their rootbeers. We biked back home as it was getting dark. There was lots of traffic and it was a lot of fun weaving in and out of cars, making better time than them. We biked 10.65 miles with 3 bikes each.

Love this bike program
And Joe’s in Fishtown is the winner


This was the second day of class. It was a good class today. When I got back at 5:30, we biked to Reading Terminal Market and picked up a cheesesteak to go and continued biking to Spruce Street Harbor Park. We got fries and drinks and watched 2 bands…Grubby Little Hands and Queen of Jeans; QoJ was fantastic and it was even free. We walked back in the dark but there was plenty of light to get home by. We could’ve biked but thought walking would be nice and it was. We only biked 3.75 miles with 2 bikes each today.

The bus to class; so much easier than renting a car and dealing with driving
The street our 2nd airbnb was on
Concert stage before band started
Another place to hang out at Spruce Street Harbor Park
Walking home after concert


This was the 3rd and last day of class, and it got out 2 hours early. We picked up bikes close to the apartment and biked through south Philly to Goodwill, but there was no station to drop bikes off, so we couldn’t even shop. We biked back by way of a busy road and passed IKEA but couldn’t stop, because again there was no station. Not a great bike ride but at least we got a better lay of the land. We ate at an Italian bistro in our neighborhood. We biked 9 miles with only 1 bike each.

So many streets like this
Spruce Street Harbor Park again. We went every day. I could live here again, because of this place.


In the morning, before it got too hot, we toured the submarine and SS Olympia at waterfront. Afterward, we ate at Kyber Pass Pub for lunch. Then we went to the Seaport Museum and ran into Richard, someone we know from Moscow, even though neither of us knew the other one was coming to Philadelphia. We went back to Spruce Harbor to hang out in nets before Founding Fathers Tour, but it was too hot, so we sat in the shade and had an iced dessert, which wasn’t very good. Founding Fathers started at 2:30 and went until 4:30. It was a very good tour but hot. After the tour, we drank in the pub with the other tour participants and the guide. Then we found the subway to Citizens Bank Park and saw a Phillies vs Cardinals baseball game. The Phillies won, much to Jack’s dismay. We took the subway back with a huge throng of people leaving the game. We biked 3 miles with only 1 bike each.

Entering Historic Ships area
in the sub
USS Olympia
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Elfreth’s Alley
Phillies vs Cardinals game


We biked to Federal Donuts in South Philly then biked most of the way to Goodwill. We walked back from Goodwill then toured 2 open houses for sale, which were really cool historic, row houses, then Jack had a cheesesteak at Jim’s Steaks. We walked up to Rittenhouse Square and shopped a little. Jack bought 2 shirts at Urban Outfitters then we went back to the apartment, called Uber and left for the airport. It was downpouring by the time we got to the airport, yet we’d only felt 2 drops during our walk. We biked 5.55 miles with only 1 bike each.

Beer gardens are popular here
These were great donuts


(in order of most favorite to least favorite but still enjoyed)

  1. Biking everywhere (except biking around zoo and IKEA/Lowe’s areas, which was a bit challenging)
  2. Ping pong and concert in Spruce Harbor Park and walking home in the dark
  3. Walk to Reading Terminal Market by way of City Hall and having a sandwich at a real deli
  4. Philadelphia Zoo when barely anyone was there
  5. Open Houses of 2 rowhouses close to South Street
  6. Historic Ships
  7. The Phillies/Cardinals game at Citizens Bank Park and taking the subway to and from the game
  8. Founding Fathers Tour – interesting guided walking tour that gave cool facts about Betsy Ross, Elphreths Alley, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Christ Church, Carpenters Hall, and City Tavern
  9. Cheesesteak Taste Test
  10. Eastern State Penitentiary self-guided tour
  11. Betsy Ross House (she didn’t even make or design the flag!)
  12. Federal Reserve Bank and US Mint
  13. Bus to class…I love public transportation


  • they do yoga on stand-up paddleboards
  • vegan restaurants and organic food were popular
  • stand up/sit down desks are the new thing at work
  • folded paper towels are in the restaurant bathrooms
  • recycling is now expected
  • farmers markets are scattered around the city
  • beer gardens and microbreweries are plentiful
  • little free library on a downtown, residential street
  • tattoos and tattoo laser removal places are popular
  • squareup, uber, and airbnb are frequently used
  • runners everywhere
  • crossfit
  • Pokeman GO was very big that month
  • band member at concert asked if her Tinder date was here
  • coffeehouses every couple blocks
  • safe and friendly!

I can’t believe how Philadelphia and Portland Oregon are so similar!


  • the heat and humidity (only sometimes)
  • ethnic diversity
  • phenomenal public transportation
  • history
  • proximity to other major cities

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