3 Days in Philly – Mostly art, craft beer, and food

Why start with a photo of The Liberty Bell when Philly has cool stuff like this

Why start with a photo of The Liberty Bell when Philly has cool stuff like this

This cover photo paints a picture of a different Philadelphia than the one of the school books.  It’s a part of the place I was glad to explore and one I want to write about.  Having lived in D.C., I’d spent some time in Philadelphia, but that was a different me.  15 years ago I wanted to explore sports bars and stadiums and night clubs and such.  I was less into craft beer, less into biking and walking, less into food, and not really thinking too much about exploring the city. My own evolution as a person made this recent adventure more like my real first trip. So I skipped most of the standard spots for out-of-towners like Pat’s or Geno’s, stopped by the Liberty Bell almost as an after thought, and instead went for craft beer, rental bikes and great food.

The mural above is entitled Pride & Progress from 1315 Spruce Street.  It’s part of the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, which I have to say was pretty damn incredible.  I’ll run down the whole mural experience in a separate post, but I barely scratched the surface and as someone who normally only kind of gets art, I was really moved by this part of my time.

I can’t credibly describe my time without a deep debt of gratitude acknowledged to two guys: A lover of beer named Mark (Kaedrin on Twitter) and a lover of beer, travel and writing named Ryan (In Search of Beer). They, along with several Philly transplants here in San Diego, helped ensure a really well-researched set of adventures and options before my trip.  Many thanks.

And here’s what I did (the links will go live as I complete them)

Day 1 in PhillyBikes, Craft Beer, & Art

Day 2 in Philly – Searchin’ for a (real) brotherly love

Day 3 in Philly – Food & Murals

A quick summary

My posts tend to get a little long and wandery.  So for those who really just want some thoughts about stuff you can do if you have a weekend in Philly during the summer or spring, here’s the Reader’s Digest version.  I started my research about a week early.  The Twitterverse made that pretty easy.  If you don’t have a Twitter account, you are simply missing out.  It is filled with people who will tell you every hidden gem, every solid option, and every clever trick you could possibly want.  This becomes important when time is limited.  Anyway, before this summary gets too long, let me get to explaining.

I flew in on a red-eye, but thanks to my wife’s frequent travel we had some kind of premier status that let me check in, hang my suit, and be on the streets of Philadelphia by 10AM.  First up was The Barnes, an art museum on Ben Franklin Parkway. I happened upon a rental bike station and for $38 I became mobile for the rest of the day until 6PM.  This brought alot more of the city within reach.  I felt generally safe on my bike and the center city area of Philly is pretty flat.  I don’t actually remember any hills to speak of.  The Barnes was cool, but I don’t always get art, so I didn’t stay long.  By 11:30 I was pulling up to one of Philly’s pop-up beer gardens.  How Philly has this and San Diego doesn’t is a shameful mark on the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control in California.  Booo. Anyway, Independence Beer Garden was right across from the Liberty Bell.  If you’ve ever been to Washington, D.C. and noticed the Hubert Humphrey Building or Dept of Transportation or really any of those ugly buildings on the mall, imagine having a beer garden just show up outside at the entry way.  I’ll get to the beer, and my bartender Carly, later.

After Independence Beer Garden I hopped on my bike again, got lost a bit trying to find this reclaimed Washington Avenue Pier, then after much rigmarole, found it not where my map (or three people I asked) said it’d be.  For me, it wasn’t worth the effort, until I noticed how much cool stuff I passed on the way. Day 1 rounded out with trips to Yards Brewing, The Abbaye, Standard Tap, Nodding Head, and Cuba de Alma.  Oh, and a little stop by this North Liberties summer art program for kids where I donated a little spare change and watched a class of decidedly non-African children embrace African drums. This is a good thing, and I hope those children are also learning about the many contributions to civilization and modern society in addition to art being made by people some of whom are also known for musical inclination.

Day Two started with a Po Boy for breakfast, a food and history tour in Redding Terminal Market, roast pork at DiNic’s, a little Melt Kraft, an incredible wedding and reception at a venue that the locals ought to know about, some dancing, some laughter, and a good night’s sleep.  This day was the reason for our trip, but since the wedding part is a special moment for a dear friend, I won’t include that part.  Suffice it to say that being a part of two people professing their love always feels very special to me.  And that this one included a guy who is one of the better human beings I’ve been fortunate to know was a bonus.  I will, however, elaborate on the food at the North Liberties venue – which deserves extended mention.

Day Three in Philly held a couple really terrific surprises.  The first game in a garden at breakfast.  It’s worth waiting for more detailed treatment, but my experience at Talula’s Garden was exactly the way such a trip ought to end.  Then we made the last minute decision to skip the exhibit about Thomas Jefferson’s slaves at the National Constitution Center.  I was faced with what I thought would be a cooler option that was more relevant and interesting.  In retrospect, I’m fairly certain I was right.  More on the Mural Arts Program later.  And that, plus a nice Greenport Harbor beer at JFK on the way home, was the end of the whirlwind in Philly.

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