My work provided me with an exciting opportunity to attend a conference in Philadelphia last month. Two of my colleagues and I flew in two days early to see Philadelphia before the conference. This was my second Get Connected conference for the Get Well Network and they are spectacular events.
After arriving in Philadelphia, we took a taxi to the Philadelphia Marriott in downtown Philly. Across the street from our hotel was Reading Market. First thing on the list of to-dos: an authentic Philly Cheesesteak.
If you are like me and hate crowds, the very last place you want to visit in Philadelphia is Reading Market on a Saturday at lunch time. I have never seen so many people crowded into a building in my life. Unfortunately, the cheesesteak was nothing to write home about. Finding a table to sit down and eat the not-so-wonderful pile of meat and cheese was like trying to take part in running of the bulls while wearing snowshoes. I could not get out of that place fast enough.
From there, we purchased tickets for the Big D Bus tour that would be our best friend for the next two days. We learned all about the city and picked out our spots we wanted to visit on Sunday.
In the photograph, you’ll see Maggiano’s behind the bus. This place was so fantastic. The bartenders were friendly and personable, the service was excellent, and the food was, well, let’s just say I had to unbutton my pants for the walk back to the hotel. Rumor has it, there is one in Chicago. I kept hearing people say things like, “Oh, there’s one of those in Chicago. Let’s go somewhere we can’t go back home.”
While I would be more than happy to drive 5 hours for their chicken meatball pasta dish, the fact is I would have to drive 5 hours for their chicken meatball pasta dish. Do you want to know how good this was? I dropped a meatball on the floor and Wanted to start crying. The thought of picking it up and eating it off the floor crossed my mind and I would have. I didn’t want to get kicked out of the place and risk not being able to finish gorging myself into a new dress size.
Unfortunately, the amount of information I took in from the very knowledgeable tour guides didn’t stick. I won’t give you the history behind the photographs. They are more for your visual enjoyment. Feel free to check out my full photo gallery here: Philadelphia Sightseeing Gallery on Smugmug.
I had many favorites in Philadelphia, but the architecture is near the top of my list. The buildings are incredible. Philadelphia City Hall is impressive. It was the tallest habitable building for a while. Now it’s Pennsylvania’s 16th tallest. I highly urge you to do some research in your spare time on the history of this building. If you’re dying to know who is at the top, it’s William Penn.
I love taking pictures and came back from my Philadelphia and New York trip with hundreds of images to edit. It’s now midway through June and I’m STILL working on all the pictures.
If you’re thinking about going to Philadelphia, I have a few recommendations of things you must see and do.
Melissa’s Top 5 Philadelphia Sightseeing Tips
Please remember we only had 2 days to sight-see.
You can’t possibly do Philadelphia in 2 days.
(#1) Bus Tour
I can’t speak for the other bus tour services, but the Big D Bus tour was a great deal for us. Not only did we have the bus tour for two days, the Philadelphia Pass got us into all the museums and attractions. Saved a lot of money doing this. The full tour without getting off to explore is about 90 minutes. I’m not sure who the brains of our operation was, but whoever said we should ride it once to make our priority list of things to see was genius!
Our night tour guide was by far the best. I wish I would have taken his name down. He was fantastic. Very funny and intelligent.
(#2) Eastern State Penitentiary
This would be my most memorable and must-do event in Philadelphia.I’ve had mixed reactions from people when I have shared about this. “Oh, that must have been creepy.” “Weren’t you scared?”
It was not creepy, but it was scary seeing how prisons have evolved in the United States. To think we treated human beings this way is bothersome, but even scarier that we haven’t come very far. We’ve made incredible advances in healthcare, but prisons are our primary “treatment” facilities for mental health.
“Prisoners weren’t rehabilitated. They became completely insane.”
I will have a full blog post on my visit to Eastern State. In the meantime, you can click here to view: Eastern State Photo Gallery.
(#3) Reading Market
If you’re going to walk around the market, go during non-peak hours. We went back to walk around earlier in the day and it was much calmer. It was outside of normal business hours, but looking in the windows at the chocolates and desserts was much more enjoyable when I wasn’t feeling like Best Buy on Black Friday. It was not my favorite thing, but can see why it’s a favorite tourist destination. Street performers, lots of food, and a small-scale Pike Place Market feel made it just interesting enough to go back a second time.
(#4) Liberty Bell
“I saw the Liberty Bell and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.” — Some old guy in line behind me at FedEx
When you go to Paris, you have to see the Eiffel Tower. Visitors to La Crosse have to see the world’s largest 6-pack. In Philadelphia, you must see the Liberty Bell. Be ready to go through airport-like security. It was somewhat crowded, but compared to the first Reading Market visit, not so bad. By this point in our tour of Philly, I was on information overload, so I did a lot of people watching and glanced at the shiny things. And I saw a squirrel running around outside the window.
You’ll see so much more walking the streets of Philadelphia than just riding the tour busses. In only three blocks between the Betsy Ross House and Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite, we came across fountains, historical markers with information, and sculptures. There is so much to see. You’ll never see it all in one visit, but you’ll miss a lot if you don’t get off the bus I recommended earlier.
Even though I was just there, I have an itch to go back. I would have loved to walk down Elfreth’s Alley and toured the museum. We also didn’t make it to Spruce Street Harbor Park and Penn’s Landing. So many things to do. So little time.
I will go back. Not tomorrow, but I will go back.