Philadelphia in Ten

This past summer we moved to Northern Virginia (just outside of DC) for a job my husband took. Between house shopping, the Holidays, and just getting settled in our new house, we are finally ready for adventure and exploring the area. One benefit to living in the DC metro area is that it is central to the East Coast. New York, Philadelphia, the Appalachians, and the Outer Banks are all just a half day's drive. 

The other week my brother-in-law had a work conference in Philadelphia. And since it is only 3 hours from us, he decided to fly himself and my eldest niece into DC for weekend before and then drive up to Philly. At the end of his conference, we had planned to met up and spend the weekend in Philly. So come Saturday morning, we headed north … in a "surprise" winter storm. It was glorious chaos. It was meant to be a whirlwind trip, 36 hours exploring the historic city. The snow and wind was an added bonus to the mess. 

Our route should have taken less than 3 hours, but due to visibility it was closer to 4 hours. Our path took us through 5 states. VA-DC-MD-DE-PA-NJ (bonus).  For about 5 minutes, I was in Delaware for the first time.

Other than the storm, another hiccup to our plan was that just as we pulle dup to pick up my brothe-in-law, my daughter threw up all over herself and jacket. Although he had already checked out, the hotel was nice enough to allow us back into his room to get her cleaned up and changed. Shout out to Courtyard at Valley Forge! She felt so much better after she emptied her tummy and was all cleaned up. Luckily, it was just something she ate and not actually a bug. 

I have made a list of 10 things that made Philadelphia fun to visit in 36 hours. This is not a concise list, but a list of things that stuck out to me as I reflect on our visit. We hope to visit again to explore areas that we were not able to see this time around. 

1. Experiencing a New City. 

This will always be number one. I have flown into the Philly airport, but never visited. I have driven through on our way to New Jersey. I also seen it from the across the river in New Jersey as we have friends that live in National Park, NJ.

Being able to visit a city that holds so much of our country's history was exciting and sobering. Walking the streets that many of our founding member have was moment in time for this history major; to stand where Abigail Adams has stood, and at the house the Declaration was penned. 

2. Liberty Bell.

This one tops my list, food is second, but I will get to that down the list. As a history major, I love the history of our country. The Liberty Bell is so iconic of the American Revolution that it was a profound moment for me. 

On our next visit to Philly: The Justice Bell, which is a part of American History that impacted me more. 

3. Independence National Historic Park

This Park is a part of the National Park Service and oversees Independence Hall, Declaration House, and the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Although many place were closed due to the winter storm or by the time we were able to walk around the area near our hotel, the awe of just being there was still present. 

An added benefit of visiting the park visitor center is that it also hosts the visitor center for the city of Philadelphia. This almost should be your first stop when visiting the city.

4. St Patrick's Day Parade.

Philadelphia hosts the second oldest St Patrick's Day Parade in the country, just behind New York City. This year celebrated their 250th Anniversary. And with missing 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, they definitely planned big. We were lucky enough to be staying two blocks from the grandstands as it was on the grounds near the Liberty Bell. We ended up in the stands across from the Grand Marshall.

The media was estimating 4 hours for the parade, however, our band of travelers only made it two hours. Between the cold (25F, felt like 17F), the time change, and my daughter still not 100% (she actually fell asleep in my lap), we headed out to see more of the city from the warmth of the car. 

5. Running the Steps at the Museum of Art. Yo Adrienne!

We introduced our kids to the Rocky movies in early 2021. My son (13) absolutely loved them, although my daughter (9) did not, but visiting the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art was still a must. My daughter as our artist in residence was disappointed that we did not go inside due to time constraints, so it is left for another trip. 

6, 7, 8. Food Tourism

Our first eatery was not in Philly, but in Collegeville where we met up with my brother-in-law. The Collegeville Italian Bakery Pizzeria Napoletana was "a cornucopia of Italian delights" per my husband. We tried Detroit-style pizza, roast pork sandwiches with broccoli rabe, and cheeseburgers the size of my daughter's head. The food was good and prices did not hurt. 

Cheesesteaks are AN ABSOLUTE MUST when visiting Philly. The place my brother-in-law scoped out was closed due to the weather on Saturday. We found a place near our hotel on his list of cheesesteak places, Oh Brother in Historic Philly. The overall consensus was that it was fine for cheesesteaks, but I did not get a cheesesteak, I got the French Onion Burger and that thing was DELISH! Add the truffle parm fries, and Oh Em Gee! 

Our second attempt at cheesesteaks was Dalessandro's in East Falls. Those things were not only delish and everything I thought a cheesesteak would be; it was huge. It was big enough for me to share with my husband. He didn't get one since he knew I wouldn't be able to finish mine, and he was secretly hoping my son wouldn't be able to finish his pizza cheesesteak. I got mine with bell peppers, mushrooms, and fried onions. 

9. Valley Forge - Memorial Arch

Unfortunately, due to the storm, the visitor center was closed, but we were able to drive to the Memorial Arch. The wind had decided to join us as we exited the car, so it was a quick look around and picture taking moment. It didn't help that my daughter's jacket was out of commission, but luckily her brother offered up a hoodie to go over hers. 

10. Accidental Bridge Crossings

Sometimes, I am so engrossed in looking around that I forget that I also need to be paying attention to the GPS. We get some side adventures quite often to much of my husband's annoyance. This time was no different our exit off I-676 was before the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. A Toll Bridge. To New Jersey. For a $5 return. One point for Side Adventures. 

Normally, my side adventures can irk my husband. But this time, he couldn't get mad, because he made the same mistake when they tried to go get cheesesteaks for dinner.  Another $5 and another point for Side Adventures.

Despite our plan having to be adjusted due to the surprise storm, this trip was an amazing whirlwind of 36 hours in a new city with family. I can't wait to explore more next time. 

What are some of your favorite things to do, eat, or see in Philadelphia?

Love and Safe Travels,

A Hot Mess Traveler


The Justice Bell:

Independence National Historic Park:

Valley Forge National Historic Park:

Oh Brother:


Collegeville Italian Bakery Pizzeria Napoletana:


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