Picture Philadelphia. And its names: Philly. The City of Brotherly Love. The Birthplace of America. The City that Loves you Back. Now, picture the firsts. The city hosted America’s first birthday. Home to the first electronic computer in 1946 that weighed 27 pounds. The country’s first hospital in 1751. America’s first zoo in 1859. Called the Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, the first organised protest against slavery in America took place here. The first city to guarantee religious freedom to immigrants. In 1775, the first American piano was built and kept in Philadelphia.
More than anything else, it is generous. A generous city where less is more. Here are a few ways to manoeuvre through the city that was named one of the 25 must-visit destinations in the world in 2020.
Airport to the city: The cheapest option is SEPTA (Philadelphia’s public transit system) Airport line that leaves every 30 minutes and gets to the City Centre in 20 minutes; one-way fare is $8 (www.septa.org). Taxi’s cost $28.50 + gratuity. City Cards: There are several options for City Cards. Priced at $52 and available exclusively at www.citypass.com, the CityPASS is valid for 9 consecutive days starting with the first day of use. With CityPASS, you can save up to 44 percent on combined attraction prices. Go Philadelphia Card has 1, 2, 3 or 5-day options and price starts at $61 for the 1-day card; the 5-day card is $122.40 per adult. The digital pass (no physical card required) offers free entry to 35+ top Philadelphia attractions. Street Names: It is easy to get lost in a city. Not in Philadelphia. You do not need a compass here, just check the street names - Streets running East to West are named after trees, while north-south streets are numbered.
Shopping gets more attractive with no sales tax on shoes and clothes.
No tax on clothes and shoes: Call it is a tax haven for the shopaholics - you don’t have to pay sales tax on clothes and shoes. There are exceptions to the category, though. Check with the shop about what’s taxed and what’s not. BYOB: Often, it is the liquor that bloats the eating-out bill. In the city, you can take your own bottle of alcohol to the restaurant. Called Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB), the concept is simple - Dine out and bring your own alcohol. An average alcoholic drink in Philadelphia is around $6. At a dinner for two, the average alcohol spend is $20 + tax. With BYOB, you can bring in an alcoholic drink of your choice and save money. Do check with the restaurant, though. An establishment can have its own house rules in permitting or prohibiting BYOB.
Reading Terminal is a must-visit for good food and local produce.
Good food for less: Have breakfast/lunch in Reading Terminal (opened in 1892), one of America’s largest and oldest public markets. The must-eats include: DiNic’s Roast Pork sandwich (voted the Best Sandwich in America by Travel Channel); apple dumplings at Dutch Eating Place; soft pretzel at Miller’s Twist; Whoopie Pies at Flying Monkey; Train Wreck Po’ Boy at Beck's Cajun Cafe; Bassets Ice Cream (opened in 1861, America’s oldest ice cream company). Buy fruits, coffee in the Italian Market. Grab a bite at Cristina Martinez’s South Philly Barbacoa (featured in Netflix’s Chef’s Table). Try Tattooed Mom (on Mondays, the veggie menu is half price; Tuesday brings $1 tacos); Goldie, the (vegan) falafel spot (you can walk out feeling full for $10); Johnny's Hots (a dog for less than $5, and a big meal for $10).
Love Park is among several free attractions in the city (Photo credit: K Huff for PHLCVB).
Free attractions: Several attractions are included in the City Cards but there are free attractions listed on the official website of Visit Philadelphia (www.visitphilly.com) including Valley Forge National Historical Park (the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of General George Washington and the Continental Army); Storytelling Benches in Philadelphia’s Historic District where you can hear free, five-minute tales and secret stories from uniformed, professional storytellers; Institute of Contemporary Art; Bartram’s Garden (the place where gardening first took root in America); Science History Institute; Tour of US Mint (at least half of the nation’s circulating coins are made here); Smith Memorial Playground (0ne of the oldest playgrounds in America, best known for the circa 1905 Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide).
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, do not miss Rocky Balboa’s statue & his footprint.
Pay What You Wish at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: The first Sunday of every month and every Wednesday night (starting at 5 p.m), the Philadelphia Museum of Art is open to visitors who can pay what they wish to explore the entire main building, featuring works by Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, among others. Free cell phone tours are also available.
Rodin Museum contains the largest collection of sculptor Auguste Rodin's works outside Paris.
Pay What You Wish at the Rodin Museum: Housing the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside of Paris, the Rodin Museum features treasures such as The Gates of Hell and a bronze cast of The Thinker. You do not have to run through the entire museum, you pay for what you wish to explore. Free First Sundays at the Barnes Foundation: You can’t-miss Philly museum featuring 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes and 59 Matisses, along with works by Monet and Picasso, the Barnes Foundation allows free admission on the first Sunday of every month.
The Brandywine River Museum of Art also offers free admission to visitors on the first Sunday of the month from February through November.
Good to know: For more details, check www.visitphilly.com
Preeti Verma Lal. Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer. Read her columns