As the sixth largest city in the country, Philadelphia and the surrounding area has a lot to offer residents and visitors alike. Sure everyone knows about the cheesesteaks, South Street, and the Phillies, but there are plenty of people/places/things (jawns) that I feel go under the radar. Picking and ranking ten things was hard, but I tried my best. Here we go:
10. The Mutter Museum
For my money, the Mutter Museum on 22nd Street near Chestnut is the best museum in all of Philadelphia. It makes this list because there are still plenty of people who live in Philadelphia and have no idea just how amazing this place is. The museum features all sorts of medical oddities, ranging from an enormous wall of human skulls, to an extensive categorized collection of things that people have swallowed over the years. This is a place that will shock you at first, but also inform and amaze you your entire visit.
9. The Philadelphia Skyline
The skyline of Philadelphia is absolutely beautiful. I know it sounds weird to say since it’s just buildings, but the fact that I can look at the skyline crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge from Camden and not be beaten over the head with corporate signage is pretty awesome to me. Comcast, for all their faults, could have put their name on that massive building of their’s, and they didn’t, in the name of maintaining the integrity of Philly’s non-corporate skyline. The PSFS sign atop the Loew’s hotel is a nice bit of nostalgia for a company that is no longer in existence, and it’s always cool to see Billy Penn atop City Hall, even from a distance.
8. Larry Anderson as a color analyst
Especially this past season, I have really grown to appreciate the work that Larry Anderson does during the radio broadcasts of Phillies games with his partner, Scott Franzke. Anderson has incredible chemistry with Franzke, and the two set each other up well. They especially shine when compared to the annoyance that is the television crew of Tom McCarthy, Gary Matthews, and Chris Wheeler. While Wheels tends to speak in a condescending manner to the audience when explaining things and Matthews just very rarely makes any sense, Anderson says things in a clear and succinct manner the majority of the time. Even when he doesn’t, it is usually poked fun at by Franzke and a joy to listen to. Anderson’s skills as a broadcaster continue to evolve, and he is the main reason why I will turn down my TV and put on the radio during games.
7. The Philadelphia Airport Line (also known as the R1 Regional Rail)
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is not a lot of fun to fly out of. The frequent delays and constant construction usually make things inside the airport more difficult than they need to be. In addition to that, parking at or around the airport can be an expensive hassle. SEPTA’s Philadelphia Airport Line (which used to be known as the R1 Regional Rail) will take you to the airport, directly to your terminal. Not only that, but a round trip ticket from most places in the city to the airport will cost less than one day of parking at the airport. Seriously. This is a great service offered by SEPTA.
6. The Puerto Rican Neighborhood of North 5th Street
I wrote about Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican neighborhood a little over a month ago, and I still can’t get enough of it. There are so many great things about it. The abundance of murals, the complete transformation of a neighborhood, the cultural autonomy, the metal palm trees that line the streets (corny, but awesome), and of course, the amazing sights, sounds, and smells that exist as one travels along North 5th Street. Every time I go I hear Latin music being played, I see flags flying with pride, and depending on what intersection I’m at, I usually smell some tasty food at a nearby eating establishment. It’s location makes it a road less traveled, but it’s worth checking out.
5. Philadelphia Brewing Company (PBC)
At first there was Yards Brewery. Then, there was a disagreement regarding the operations of Yards and a new brewery was born, the Philadelphia Brewing Company. While Yards continues to produce a fine product at their facility in Fishtown, PBC brews out of a large facility on Amber Street in Kensington. Over time, their beer has evolved and improved vastly. Their Kenzinger beer is available on tap at many bars, and quite delicious. Their Rowhouse Red, Joe Coffee Porter, and Harvest From the Hood beers are also very good. While Yards often gets a lot of the love and admiration, PBC tends to fly under the radar, making a fine product.
4. Longwood Gardens
Located in Chester County, I challenge you to find a better place to spend the holiday season. The display of lights, the vast open areas, and the sheer beauty of this treasure makes Longwood Gardens worth the drive out to Chester County. It’s a great place to go while on a date, and even if you’re flying solo, you’ll probably want to give yourself a happy ending when you see just how amazing that place is.
3. The Philadelphia Union
I don’t know anything about soccer. I don’t know what the rules are, and I didn’t take the time to learn them before seeing a Philadelphia Union game at PPL Park along the Chester Waterfront at the foot of the Commodore Barry Bridge last summer. Regardless, I had a ton of fun. The singing and chanting of the Sons of Ben is extremely entertaining, and watching the amount of skill and strategy that goes into a game of soccer is actually interesting to witness. Also, the beers are enormous and much more affordable than say at a Phillies or Eagles game. Lastly, the Union offer shuttle buses to Chester Transportation Center from the stadium, since lets be honest, Chester can be a little scary sometimes. Union games, even though soccer is still something that is growing on people, are worth the trip.
2. Michael Nutter
I have a lot of fun at the expense of Michael Nutter, but in all seriousness, I think he is the best mayor Philadelphia has had in a long time. Sure he has made his mistakes, but he’s much better than his predecessor, John Street. Unlike former Philly Schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Nutter appeared genuinely concerned about the state of the schools. Also, despite a dire economic crisis faced by the city in recent years, under Nutter, Philadelphia has seen a consistent drop in violent crime, the city’s population grew according to the 2010 Census for the first time in decades, and the city continues to show signs of revitalization and growth in neighborhoods that Street and Ed Rendell had long given up on (Fishtown, Olde Kensington, etc.). Nutter has his gaffes, such as his ill-conceived soda tax, but all things considered, Nutter hasn’t been as bad as portrayed.
1. Roast Pork Sandwiches
The cheesesteak gets all the love in this town, but I think the true belle of the ball is the Italian Roast Pork sandwich from DiNic’s at Reading Terminal, John’s Roast Pork on Snyder Avenue, or Tony Luke’s on Oregon Avenue. In addition to being healthier than a cheesesteak (albeit not by much), the addition of broccoli rabe or spinach to a delicious and thinly sliced Italian Roast Pork sandwich adds an element of bitterness with spicy with salty. The cheesesteak is good too, but if you find a place with a good roast pork, you will see what you are missing. It seems almost unfair that the cheesesteak hogs all the glory and the credit when the roast pork is just so delicious!
Did you like this list? Did I leave something out? Feedback is encouraged! Stay tuned, because next I will talk about what I feel is overrated in Philly.