From New York to Philadelphia.
So, confession time, I almost, very nearly decided to strike this stop from the trip in the planning stages.
It was around about the time where I thought the whole thing was completely undoable.
I’d also been wincing at the price of hotels, here’s a tip always check when colleges are having graduation, that’ll definitely effect your budget.
I wasn’t sure if a stop in Philly would be worth it, it had always seemed a bit grey to me and for that I apologise.
The reason we made a flying stop was because Scott wanted a Philly cheese steak.
Spoiler alert, as I go through this trip, you’ll see a lot of decisions were made on the basis of food, I stand by my choices.
So, what to do when you literally have a little over 24 hours to explore a city?
Day 3 &4 Philadelphia…
For a start, get an earlyish bus.
We booked with Flix buses based on price, there’s regular services from New York to various destinations and, as buses go, it was comfortable.
Secondly, on a tight turnaround, pay more and stay in the centre, when you have limited time, the last thing you need is to be eating into that time by spending half hour trying to get in and out of the city.
Always rock up to your hotel early and asking to dump your bags, they just might have a room ready for check in.
We stayed at the four points Sheraton more or less next to the famous Reading Terminal Market.
For foodies, Reading Terminal Market is a MUST visit.
It’s not all cheese steaks, though that was first on the list for us, obviously.
We spent hours wondering around, partly because of the freak thunderstorm and partly staring wide eyed at the choice of food on offer. We picked out ribs and chicken, pork sandwiches and deserts, carefully planning meals and snacks for the next 24 hours, not wanting to miss out.
There are only a few places to sit, there’s a decent bar area in the middle but be warned it does get very busy so be prepared to eat standing up, and definitely share food with who you’re with, especially if there’s a lot you want to try.
Philadelphia really surprised me.
I was surprised at how open the city was, the number of parks and open spaces there were to explore.
It’s worth walking from city hall down Benjamin Franklin Parkway and looking at the various memorials, statues, museums and libraries, you’d almost forget you’re in a city centre with the amount of green space lining the road.
Once you’ve got to the bottom, there’ll be a very famous set of steps leading up to the Museum of Art. Of course, I mean the ‘Rocky’ steps and yes, I joined the dozens of other people there, sprinting up them.
I worked out I was faster, and no, I don’t care that in the film he’d just finished a long-distance run around Philly, I was still faster ha, ha, ha.
The statue is still there, it’s off to one side at the bottom of the steps, usually with a queue of people waiting to get a picture.
It’s worth just sitting and looking back up along the parkway to the city, it is far prettier than I imagined it to be.
On day four we had the morning and early afternoon before catching a train to DC.
Oh my god day four was hot!
I heard a child say, “it’s the hottest day in history” and I had to agree with him and his mother who helpfully pointed out he wasn’t used to the heat…neither was I kid, neither was I.
The upside, after the previous day’s storms, was that it was perfect weather for an open top bus tour.
What makes a bus tour, is the tour guide, ours was fabulous, bringing his own personality to the trip, jokes and of course knowledge – I had no idea Mannequin was filmed there.
In Philadelphia, the hop on hop off tours will take around the city centre past love park, down the parkway, out to the Eastern State Penitentiary, down to the river and harbour park, through Fairmont and the gay village; all the while pointing out things that may not necessarily be in any guide books and telling stories that definitely won’t be found your Lonely Planet.
Keep an eye out for the of murals along the way, there are two thousand of them to be found around the city.
The tour ends at Independence National Historical Park. I am a history geek and studied American history at college so this was a must stop for me.
You can visit Independence Hall where the declaration of independence was made and where the constitution was adopted and visit the Liberty Bell, crack and all.
I really liked the museum, I liked the history of how it became a symbol and how it inspired abolitionists, women’s suffrage advocates and civil rights leaders over the years.
I also liked that in the museum and in exhibits around independence park, America’s troubled history wasn’t ignored. It’s often easy to take a celebratory stance and ignore the fact that George Washington was a slave owner and that whilst liberty and freedom was being declared that wasn’t the case for thousands. History is uncomfortable but ignoring it isn’t the answer, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes unless we address the past and learn from it.
Philadelphia turned out to be a surprising bonus, we saw more than we thought we would in 24 hours, and we liked it more than we expected to.
I’m so glad we ignored my reasoning for missing out this stop, we may have only visited to eat a Philly cheese steak, but we got much, much more out of it than that.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm