53. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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I came up to Philadelphia one Wednesday in September for a fast work event, and while normally I would have tried to milk the opportunity and spend as much time there as possible, going the night before would have created a conflict. Or, at least, I thought it would have when I was putting this plan together. It turns out I had the dates mixed up. Whatever.

What resulted was approximately 1.5 hours of free time in the City of Brotherly Love.

Overview:
I love Philadelphia. I see it as kind of the perfect balance of old and new; there’s of course the historical sites (you may have heard about the Liberty Bell…), and the quaint cobblestone streets. But there’s also a really cool, urban vibe to the city that makes me jealous every time I go (no offense, DC, but…you know).

How I got there:
Amtrak. Tickets start off reasonable and grow increasingly unreasonable the longer you wait to book.

What I did:
After long, long last–and at least 6 prior trips to Philadelphia–I finally crossed off a huge bucket list item. I majored in art history in college, which has always made Philadelphia–home of an unparalleled American art collection–a pretty exciting destination. But the hyper-realistic painting The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins–considered one of the greatest American paintings ever made–splits its time between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and another home (I’m honestly blanking, apologies), and I’d never managed to be in the right place at the right time to see it.

That day, it was at the museum, so I high-tailed it over in a cab, promised an employee I’d only stay 10 minutes if he let me in without paying the $20 admission fee, and kept my eye on the prize.

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Impressions: It’s so much bigger in person! But really, it’s amazing, and marked an important turning point in American painting. Go see it, along with the rest of their impressive collection, which includes works by greats like Homer, Cassatt, etc. (To me, what’s on the inside of the museum is what’s important, though you can of course see the Rocky steps there, too, if that’s your thing).

Where I ate:
Reading Terminal Market, site of some seriously good whoopie pies. There’s a wide variety of different kiosks there, but that day, it seemed like all of them were selling macaroni, which I didn’t want. So I did what anyone in my position would do: spend my per diem on cheese and pickles.

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What I missed:
On this trip, most things. I’ve done so many things in the city that I’d love to do again–the Magic Gardens, the Rodin Museum, the Italian Market, independent shops like Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Rittenhouse Square, the Irish music session at The Plough & the Stars, Elfreth’s Alley, dive bars in the Fishtown neighborhood, and so on and so forth.

I’d also love to see Penn‘s campus–it’s my mom’s alma mater and I’ve never made it over there. The Barnes Foundation has been booked for the day every time I’ve tried to visit. And one of these days, I need to hit Monk’s Cafe for Belgian beer.

In short, expect another entry in 2016.

 

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