If you’ve seen the “places to travel” list that tout Philadelphia as a worthy destination for your next vacation days, let me be the first to welcome you and show you how to see Philadelphia like a local. That's what the cool kids are doing these days, right? There is so much to see and do in the city, and my love has definitely blossomed over my last seven years of living here. I put together a list of things I would do with my friends to show off the city - so, friend, here you go! And if you also want to see the touristy side of Philadelphia, I’ve got you covered there too.
Top 10 Ways to See Philadelphia Like a Local
1. Pretend you own a dog. This is the number one thing I do with all of my friends that visit Philadelphia. You get a lemonade (and perhaps an empanada or two) at Jezabel’s. Then you meander over to the Pine Street dog park and just observe the dogs for however long your heart desires. Don’t worry - everybody does it. Plus you get one of my favorite views of the Philadelphia skyline.
2. Learn how to eat soup dumplings. Philadelphia’s Chinatown is a pretty big spot! There are so many places to get food, but I am so partial to soup dumplings. My go-to spot is Dim Sum Garden, but I’m always looking for more options. Have fun figuring out the best way to eat them. Google was an eye-opener, that’s for sure! Afterwards if you feel like singing, go over to Yakitori Boy. I think most people that’ve done karaoke in Philadelphia have done it here. If that’s not your style you can try your luck at a speakeasy (search Hop Sing Laundromat), but only if you’re dressed “appropriately."
3. Get outside within city limits. I’ll be the first to admit I complained ad nauseam about the lack of outdoor areas in the city of Philadelphia. If you want to get a taste of nature, you can go for the ever-popular Wissahickon, Pennypack Park, or John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. If you have a car, they’ll all be pretty easy to get to. Public transportation is also a viable option (although John Heinz is trickier). Bike, walk, hike, just breathe in the nature, etc. You can’t go wrong!
4. Run, bike, or walk the Ben Franklin Bridge. There are a number of run groups that use this bridge as a workout. It’s got a pretty stellar view of the city! If you’re more of a yogi yourself, make sure to check the Race Street Pier yoga schedule. Either way - you’ve got some fun post workout options. You can go for Spruce Street Harbor park and hang out on a hammock (if you can get one…) OR go get ice cream at Franklin Fountain. Do they dress up in colonial garb? Yes. Is it pricey? Hmm yes. But I assure you the locals love it just as much as the tourists in the case.
5. Eat brunch, but maybe don’t wait for 2 hours. I’m sure you’ve searched for brunch by now, because Philadelphians freaking love it. I’ll be the first to say I don’t know WHY your top three choices are Honey’s, Sabrina’s, or Green Eggs Cafe. They’re fine choices and have some Instagram-worthy dishes…but the wait is ri.dic.u.lous. They each have different locations, so if you MUST visit - try to visit their less popular shops. Or! You could try an alternative - I love Ant’s Pants Cafe, the Dandelion, and Talula’s Garden (increasing in “nice”ness), but I could write a whole post series on brunch options in Philadelphia. Should I? Tell me in the comments!
6. Embrace your inner Fresh Prince. West Philly is HUGE and I’ll be honest when I say I haven’t discovered the half of it. Two things I can recommend: 1) the Clark Park area and 2) the love note murals. Clark Park has a farmer’s market, is a nice place to get some greenspace, and is surrounded by tasty cafes. The love letter I speak of is a work of the Mural Arts program in town. There are 50 murals spelling out a love letter from 45th to 63rd Streets on Market. You can take the Market Frankford Line and spot them out the window, or perhaps take a bike to the streets and go more street-level.
7. Put your pinkies out while you sip on a classy cocktail or two at Stateside. The Passyunk area is BIG right now. If you wander up and down the Passyunk square neighborhood, you won’t find a shortage of places to eat. But for a good drink or two, go to Stateside. I don’t care how many famous people say Stateside is good or how crowded it gets - they make some great freaking drinks. More of a neighbor-feel yourself? Try POPE - Pub on Passyunk East.
8. Have a chai popsicle and do some shopping. Yes. You heard me right - chai popsicle. I think the Random Tea Room is the most cozy spot in town. Any tea drinker will find something to love here - and heads up, a tea novice might feel super overwhelmed. Good thing they’re helpful as all get out here! Once you’re fueled up, get some shopping done. My favorite spots are Jinxed, Art Star, and SWAG Boutique. If you wander up and down 2nd street you’re bound to find something you like.
9. Join the coffee culture. La Colombe coffee seems to be popping up everywhere these days. And did you know that it started in Philadelphia? Get out of center city (and their VERY crowded shops) and instead head up to Fishtown to their flagship cafe. Saying that “Fishtown has changed” in the past few years is a severe understatement - so go explore and see what you find. Looking for more coffee? Try ReAnimator and compare!
10. Go on a bike scavenger hunt. This is another one of my favorite things to do. Rent a bike (I recommend Fairmount Bicycles - love them!) and then get to exploring. Philly has a pretty awesome biking community and there are a ton of places to go, but try heading up to Fairmount Park to discover a hidden treehouse, the horticulture center, or check out a great view of center city Philadelphia from Belmont Plateau. Don't forget to pack a picnic lunch! Would you prefer a cold beer after a bike? Look no further than right here!
I could go on and on (and on) about things to do here in Philadelphia. So if you’re coming into town, reach out and let me know how I can help you!
- Have you visited Philadelphia yet? What on this list are you most excited about?
- If you live in Philadelphia - what did I miss?