Vacation: Philadelphia (Day 1)

Although I’ve been back in DC for over 5 years, there are a few places on my “DC Bucket List” I’d like to visit and weekend trips I’d like to visit with Jonathan before leaving DC.  Some time ago, I created a Pinterest board and we’ve been steadily checking them off of the list by researching deals on sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Travelzoo.    In early December, I found a great deal on Travelzoo for a hotel in Philadelphia.  Just 2.5 hours from DC, it was a great place for a weekend getaway just before Christmas.

We arrived on December 20th and were eager to check out a local bar that had been recommended to us by Mike and Nikki- The Farmer’s Cabinet.  Unfortunately, in addition to a bit of a scandal about their liquor license several days prior, they were quite rude and ignored us for a solid 10 minutes before informing us that their bar area was closed.  Luckily for us, we found greener pastures in the form of Strangelove’s.  I wanted to sample everything on their very unique menu!  But I settled for the O. Redenbacher’s (popcorn/chilis/cotija cheese/brown butter) and the Mussels (beer/blackened andouille/crawfish butter/crunchy bread).  Fantastic!

The hotel we selected, the Courtyard Marriott, was perfectly-situated so that we could wander around downtown Philadelphia, snapping photos of Philadelphia’s City Hall and visiting the Love Statue.

Prior to the trip, I had only ever eaten cheesesteaks from mall food courts, such as Charley’s, so I was excited to try some of the top-rated cheesesteaks in Alan Richman’s article.  Now, perhaps a true Philly cheesesteak just isn’t very good, so he didn’t have much to choose from, but I can tell you that our experience with his list left Charley’s at the top of my list.  Fourth on his list and closest to our location, Campo’s Deli was a natural choice for a taste of Philly.  Unfortunately, it was terrible.  Jonathan’s had barely enough meat, not enough veggies, no condiment, no cheese, and it was flavorless.  At least mine was drenched in Cheese Wiz, giving it some flavor.

After our disappointing cheesesteaks, I was thrilled to stop into this adorable dessert cafe- Happily Ever After.  I was drawn in by the “Brace Yourself, Winter is HERE!!!” sign referencing Game of Thrones and was thrilled to find it decorated with nerd paraphernalia.  I’m not usually a fan of frozen yogurt, but theirs was great and I definitely recommend them!

A history nerd, I was excited to visit the Betsy Ross House.  More entertaining than the Betsy Ross reenactor was the father firing a barrage of questions at the poor lady, who had to then respond in her tenuous hold on her British-sounding accent.

Elfreth’s Alley is known as “the nation’s oldest residential street,” at least according to their website.  It was cute and when we visited many of the residents were out-and-about, helping each other with chores.  And Jonathan looked cute while I tried to focus the camera and set the timer.  😉  Unfortunately, it didn’t work and we’re a bit out of focus!

After a visit to the National Constitution Center, we both agreed that the most fascinating aspect was the traveling exhibit, “Capturing the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs.”  Surprisingly, many of the winning photographs taken in the first decades were taken by ordinary citizens.  The prize is out of reach for most photographers now because the latest winning images were taken in remote or war-torn areas.

No trip to Philadelphia would be complete without viewing the Liberty Bell.

Independence Hall, the site where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted, was neat to tour.  We had a very engaging tour guide and her faces alone were priceless.



It was pretty late in the evening and were were the last tour group, but the darkening sky lent a great backdrop for these statues.

And added drama to these scenes on the Philadelphia streets.


It was also perfect for visiting the Christmas Village and enjoying some mulled wine.

From there we headed to West Philadelphia to meet Jonathan’s friend from undergrad, Geoff, and his girlfriend at Dahlak Restaurant.  We arrived early and were fortunate enough to duck into Abby’s Desert Lounge for a quick drink.  The atmosphere was friendly and patrons more than willing to fill us in on Philly in the dark, crowded, local joint.  My drink of choice there?  Some sort of hard lemonade.  Would definitely visit again!

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