Philadelphia’s nickname might be The City of Brotherly Love, but since my little sister relocated there for a new job on the Governor of Pennsylvania’s reelection campaign, it’s been known to be as the City of Sisterly Love to me. And this year, after celebrating the Fourth of July with my family in Martha’s Vineyard, I continued my East Coast exploration with a hop over to Philadelphia, a city I’m no stranger to, to explore it once again.
Olivia and I missed Father’s Day when we were in Nashville bacheloretting, and so we’d rescheduled for later in the summer when our dad was available to travel from Los Angeles. I was so excited to see my dad — it had been eight months since we’d been in the same city to have a hug!
I arrived late on a Thursday night and my dad and I spent Friday running errands and napping, so the weekend didn’t really kick off until that evening. And kick off it did! We had a nice al fresco dinner with views of the capital at the new Center City location of Blue Duck.
After, we walked a block down to The Kimmel Center for a performance of The Buddy Holly Story. While it might not have been my very first choice of performances, my dad loved it, and that’s what was important — plus, it’s been ages since I’ve seen a play and it felt good to remember that I, too, can enjoy refined entertainment that doesn’t involve binge-watching on a borrowed Netflix account.
That night, we had a nightcap at the Maison 208, which I deeply regret not taking photos of as it was one of my favorite discoveries of the trip. As Philadelphia’s first bar with a retractable roof, it already has a lot going for it — but the cocktail menu is one of the most innovative I’ve ever seen, and I drink a lot of overpriced cocktails. Think “gin and terrarium,” a gin cocktail delivered via an actual edible terrarium. If you’re a hipster heading to Philadelphia, you literally cannot miss it — we’re definitely doing dinner here next time I’m in town.
The next morning, we were up early for breakfast at The Continental, a favorite restaurant from my last visit to Philadelphia — back when it was my dad who called the city home. (My sister has now followed in my dad’s footsteps to two different cities, Boston and Philadelphia. At this point we joke that we can’t wait until it’s her turn to move to Los Angeles, too!)
After brunch, we decided to walk off our omelets with a stroll all the way up to the Parkway Museums District, where our final destination was the grand Philadelphia Museum of Art.
My big request of the weekend was to see the exhibition Wild, which totally blew me out of the water. The show is dedicated to the work of prolific Natural Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols, not only an artist but an advocate for the natural world. Nichols has traveled the world in a way that many of us only dream of, though this exhibit offers a rare glimpse into the incredibly expeditions required to capture a single, award-winning photograph.
It’s on view until September 17th, so if you are lucky enough to be in Philadelphia before then, go! And get a comfy seat to watch the entirety of the film showing behind-the-scenes footage. It was so good, I watched parts of it twice — and walked out feeling awestruck at our luck, getting to live on this amazing planet.
(I didn’t take photos inside the exhibition, really — I was too absorbed in the art!)
And can I just brag for a minute about having the cutest museum buddies on the block?
On the way back to Olivia’s Center City apartment, we stopped at our old favorite, Federal Donuts. My dad lived right around the corner from their South Philly location, and our cutie pup Tucker was a regular furry face around there — these days, he’s making appearances at donut shops all over Los Angeles.
That evening, we got together with my dad’s old coworkers for a reunion in South Philly. I loved seeing the love between my dad and his old team!
Sunday morning, we were back on the museum grind — this time strolling over the Museum of the American Revolution. Actual transcript of a typical Baackes family conversation:
Me: I’ve got to be honest, the American Revolution just isn’t my favorite war.
Olivia: What are you talking about?! Revolution is so hot right now!
My Dad: [Uncontrollable laughter.]
You do get to see George Washington’s actual war tent, which I don’t really understand from like a fabric degradation perspective (was it made of linen teflon?), and the displays are very modern and interactive, but it’s also a fairly text-heavy museum. I’m going to be honest and confess that I spent most of the visit sitting on the benches in the hallway texting with the other petulant tweens, but my Dad and Olivia read every single plaque in the place and they loved it — so American history buffs, this museum is definitely for you!
Our dad left that evening to some quiet tears, but I still had four more nights to kick around Philly. While Olivia and I made some semi-ambitious plans, we abandoned all of them in favor of watching the final season of Orange is the New Black, working out in her fancy apartment gym, and getting in one fabulous buti yoga class at Tuck Barre and Yoga.
Is Philadelphia my favorite city on the East Coast? No. But every time I go, I find something to love about it a little more. And for as long as I have family there, I’ll keep returning.
Here’s to the city of sisterly love!
Nice recap of a wonderful weekend with you and Liv. Seeing my old gang from AmeriHealth was an added treat. What you missed by not taking the visit to the American Revolution museum more seriously was what a perilous venture it was. There was no guarantee of success and the founding fathers could not possibly have imagined the country that has evolved from what they started. Let me add my observation from living in Philly for almost three years is that it is America’s most under appreciated major city. Everyone should visit when they get the chance.
You always have a unique and fascinating view of history. I promise to pay more attention at the next war museum 😉
Sounds like an interesting place to visit
I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot more of it with my sister living there 🙂
I’ve never been to Philadelphia, but I’ve been to Baltimore, and I get the idea that they’re similar in the regard that as a tourist there’s not too much interesting stuff going on there. But spend time with someone who lives there, live like a local, or heck even move there and be a local yourself, and that’s when you discover the best parts of those cities. And I could really not care less what city I’m in if I’m with great company! That’s really what makes a vacation awesome
So true! I definitely wouldn’t have been headed to Philly this summer if not to see my sister but I’m so glad I did. It was a great trip and I’m sure there are many more ahead!
Looks like you had a great time! Philadelphia is somewhere I have never considered.
I don’t know if I would have rushed there if I hadn’t had family there — but now I’m so glad I’ve been!
Never been to Philly, heard so much good things about it!
It’s such an easy trip from NYC — it should definitely be on the list for all New Yorkers!
Great summary of a wonderful weekend family trip! I’m really curious to see the work of Natural Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols. I’ve never been to Philadelphia so I may need to take a trip there. Thanks for sharing, Alex!
It was such a fascinating exhibit — great reminder to check out museums when I’m traveling and see what they have on offer. When I was leaving Chicago this summer on the plane I read about an amazing looking one and was gutted I’d missed it.
Philly looks gorgeous and I love all the art that you got to see (kind of jelous too) It’s so nice that you spent some quality time with your family!
I know! I don’t do too many museums when I travel these days (sadly) so this was a nice refresher!
What a great tour of Philly! I haven’t spent as much time there as I would have liked, but it seems like such a rich and navigable (i.e. not too big and intimidating) city. I’ll bookmark this for the next time I’m there!
Very true — we walked almost everywhere from my sister’s super convenient apartment in Center City. Loved it!
I didn’t know Philadelphia has a number of cool spots! Last time I went, I thought it was so boring… maybe I just didn’t do my research properly. It also means I’ll have to make a road trip down there sometime soon 🙂
I’m pretty lucky to have Olivia as the world’s greatest tour guide 🙂 She always finds the best spots in cities I don’t think of as too enticing!
Philadelphia never really appealed to me. I’d visit it if I would ever be in the neighbourhood, but I would never purposely go there like I would Boston, Nashville, New Orleans & New York. You always manage to make every place to look special and worth a visit though, so I guess I’d make a small detour for Philadelphia now 🙂
Aw, you’re sweet! Philadelphia is SUCH an easy detour from New York — why not?
Philly is such a sexy city … I really need to visit it soon!
I haven’t heard it referred to that way before but… I love it! 🙂