Phestive Phun in Philly

Phestive Phun in Philly

I finished work for 2023 on the 14th with a final Show and Tell for the ORUK work (it went great - brilliant turnout, lots of engagement, broad support with a little challenge) and immediately jumped on the Lizzie Line to Heathrow T5 before a flight to Philly on the 15th.

Everything about the trip has been a winner so far. I was upgraded on the way out so enjoyed the BA Club World life (business class by any other name) and especially my Christmas dinner - which was the first plane meal I’ve eaten in years.

Security/customs at Philly was a breeze - I was through in less than 10 minutes of leaving the plane! I got the train into town from the airport station and was checked in to my hotel before I’d have even got through security at JFK.

My hotel was interesting - I basically had a ‘suite’ with a kitchenette etc and the room is huge - if a little tired. The fact there was an Irish bar and an Asian restaurant off the lobby was been a boon as was the location of a fantastic taproom (Victory Beer) directly next door (I even bought some merch!)..

Saturday I saw Tina Fey and Amy Poehler perform at the Met. Not surprisingly they were very funny and charming though the show was a little uneven I thought. Phones were banned and it was strictly enforced so no pics - which means no evidence of the sea of Gen X white women and me 😆

I went straight from the show to meet Tim, his wife Kirti and their friend Chris. Tim is a Philly native but he is based in London and spent some time working with me at Notbinary. He supplied me with an amazing to-see list for the city (which I have managed a lot of) and I had a really fun night talking civic tech before drunkenly switch to city vs city and graffiti and Banksy babble. Was a lovely evening fuelled by good beer and lovely food.

The rest of the week was a blur of tourism, food and beers as befits any such trip.

Some things I did/enjoyed →

Reading Terminal market - a foodies paradise (if a bit of a tourist trap) which had an amazing Gingerbread Christmas village, the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had and where I had my Philly Cheesesteak (which was fine). 

Street art searching - the ‘Mural Mile’ had some stunning examples but honestly it was a bit more ‘art’ than ‘street’ for my taste for the most part. As ever though it was a good excuse to explore. Did see another amazing Shepard Fairey piece for my collection.

The Magic Gardens - connected to the street art was this very unique example of a kind of street art. This mosaicked masterpiece is quite the experience - all mirrors and madness with little extra bits of wonderful weirdness hidden in corners. Loved it.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the ‘Rocky’ steps) - okay look I went to see the Rocky statue and the steps but I did go to the museum as well. It has an amazing collection - lots of really world famous art with absolutely zero crowds. Really great experience. Was also fun watching folks run up those famous steps and do the shadow box and ‘jump’ at the top to varying degrees of success (I walked…slowly!!)

Miracle on 13th Street - like a mini Dyker Heights in Brooklyn this is a street in Philly where every house is lit up with creative Christmas lights. It is quite a narrow street which really emphasised the experience and it really was like injecting Christmas spirit through the eyeballs.

Eastern State Penitentiary - bit of a wildcard this one. Didn’t really know what to expect but it was really fascinating. The prison was once world-famous and influenced the design of prisons all over the world when it opened in 1829. Pretty impressive that it is just sitting there as a historical monument in pretty central Philadelphia as well - and Steve Buscemi doing the audio tour was cool.

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall etc - was a bit surprised by how close you get to the Liberty Bell given how famous it is. That said it is just a big bell with a crack in it 😀 The neighbourhood is full of historical buildings and little cobbled streets and was fun for a wander - but I mistimed it and was too early to see inside much.

What else? Well found a comic book store and some independent book stores, saw the Christmas display at Macy’s and the Department store windows from the movie Mannequin, listened to acapella carolers at the Christmas market at Love Park, visited a Christmas themed pop-up bar and had a (couple) of cocktails in a Santa boot. Watched the Eagles lose in a locals bar but skipped going to see the 76ers as I was cream crackered.

Finished the week seeing Aquaman 2. The cinema was lovely. The movie was dreadful.

I can really recommend Philly as a city to visit. There is loads to do and see there, it is compact and walkable for the touristy areas and pretty well served by public transport otherwise. At no point did it feel crazy crowded like much of NYC is and despite the reputation everyone I met was friendly - if very, very proud of their city.

I’ll definitely be back.

Merry Christmas!