However, it being the holidays, I happened to blow my last paycheck on presents, so it was necessary to keep the trip's expenses to a minimum. Despite a strict budget, I had an absolute blast, and left feeling like I knew the city much better than my previous history-textbook trip had allowed me. I spent several days in Philadelphia, but below are a few of my favorite frugal options that you can do all in one day. Each place provides a little taste of the many facets of Philly--always with its history in mind, but going beyond the textbook trip.
| || |
christmas village at love park
I began my day in Philadelphia's iconic "Love Park," located downtown off the City Hall metro stop. The place is nicknamed for Robert Indiana's 'Love' sculpture; its official name being JFK Plaza. During the holidays, it's an especially perfect place to explore, when it boasts a Christmas Village that is free to walk through. The Christmas Village replicates a 16th-century Germanic Christmas Market, and is a dream for a broke bratwurst and sauerkraut lover looking for something cheery to do downtown during the holidays. I grabbed a brat topped with pepper-spiced kraut and spicy mustard, and meandered around the craft booths for a few hours. The brat booth runs a lunch special--brat combo and drink for $6. After my tasty brat, I enjoyed a piping mug of mulled wine for $7 (includes the mug). Although refills were only $6, there was no need for more than one or two mug-fulls, as it was fairly strong. You can sip your wine as you leisurely stroll around the market, picking up free samples of cheese and sweets, and smiling nostalgically at the gorgeous, handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations that remind onlookers of childhood Christmases. After the holiday season, Love Park is surrounded by numerous food trucks serving Philly's finest street grub.
| || |
en route to liberty
Despite wanting to steer clear of a touristy and textbook trip to Philadelphia, I still wanted an adult's perspective of the major historical destinations downtown. However, I realized that while en route from Love Park to Independence Park (where many of these historical spots are centered), I could still explore Philly in a non-traditional style. Heading in a fairly straight shot to Independence Park from Love Park, my first stop was the Masonic Temple. You can pay for a tour inside ($10), or you can simply admire it from outside (for free, mind you) before moving along to the next destination. After a few snapshots, I headed into Reading Terminal Market for a coffee. Boom! Another destination down. Next up, I stopped by Macy's in the Wanamaker Building to see its annual Christmas lights display, a Philly tradition since 1956. Disregarding the merchandise teasingly laid out before me, I admired the beautiful lights display and the antique architecture of the building before heading out and moving onwards to Independence Park.
| || |
On the hunt for all things 'freedom,' I first stopped at the Liberty Bell Center. It's free to visit the Bell, and to view the mini-musuem display. I skipped over the Independence Visitor Center, but this is also free of charge to visit and screens films that offer an explanation of the area's history. I also bypassed Independence Hall (it was getting late in the day), but tickets for this are free and available in the Independence Visitor Center. Independence Hall is where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. I didn't miss the Benjamin Franklin Museum, however, which had a $5 admission fee and was certainly worth it (if you're interested in Franklin's quirky character and modernizing inventions). Before heading out of the Park, I stopped by the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, which was free to explore and totally worth it if you're interested in his life and writing. If you are looking to spend more time exploring the Park, and the historical places surrounding the Park, check out this thorough listing offered on the National Park Service's Independence National Historical Park website.
| || |
After visiting Independence Park, I meandered back towards City Hall, where I was to meet my friends before dinner. En route, I stopped in for a peek at the Walnut Street Theatre, which is the oldest theatre in town. Next up, I ventured into Moriarty's Pub for some food and drink. The place was warmly decorated for the holiday season, and offered a fantastic selection of reasonably priced Irish pub fare. It's a short walk from Moriarty's to McGillin's Olde Ale House. If you love history and you love a great drink, don't miss this place. It's the oldest continuously operated pub in Philly, and it's also consistently rated as one of the top bars in the country. It fills up quickly as the afternoon turns into evening, so get there before dark if you want to check out the documents, pictures and artifacts covering its walls.
| || |
duck for a few bucks
My last stop was at Sang Kee Peking Duck House in Chinatown. A few of my friends had come out to meet me for dinner, and our group of 7 gathered around a circular table with a spinning center dolly to enjoy a "communal-style" meal. What started as a couple drinks and appetizers ended up being a gluttonous feast, with dish after steaming dish piling out of the kitchen and onto our packed table. However, even after over 10 different dishes and 8 sake jars, we were all shocked to find our bill was merely $33/person. Don't you love it when that happens? For a several hour long feast, we each spent less than it would have cost to get delivery! Now, imagine this--despite the cheap price, Sang Kee Peking Duck House is one of the highest rated restaurants in all of Philadelphia. "But," you may skeptically ask, "how is that possible?!" Well, as promised--this post was all about frugally finding a good time in Philadelphia, and this place delivered well on that objective. I especially suggest the Peking Spare Ribs (I've never enjoyed more deliciously glazed spare ribs...wow, just wow), the Chinese Broccoli, and, of course, the Peking Duck. Excellent way to end a packed day!