Frugal Fun in Philadelphia!

While Michael was still here we decided to take as many little weekend roadtrips as we could.  First, we went to NYC and had a blast.  The following weekend we went to Philadelphia.

From where I’m living, Philly is only about 1.5 hrs away, so we decided to go early and come back in the evening, so as to avoid hotel costs.  I went to Philly once when I was a kid with my parents, but hadn’t been there in maybe 20 years.  Michael had never been.  We naturally wanted to do all the toursity/historical stuff.

Usually when I travel to a new city, I like to take the all day hop on-hop off tours.  What I typically do is stay on board for an entire loop so as to see where things are and hear the full tour, and then start making stops along the way at places of interest.

I did some research online and found many companies that offer hop on-hop off in Philly.  The most inexpensive by far was a city-run tour called the Philly Phlash.  While most hop on-hop offs run $30-40/day/person, this one was only $5 each!  As an added plus, the Phlash has partner parking lots where we could park at a discounted rate and catch the tour nearby.  We parked for only $6 for the entire day in a lot that was normally $28!

One of the things I really liked about Philadelphia is that almost all of the tourist attractions are free.  We started our day by going to the museum of art (and of course saw the Rocky statue and ran up the steps).

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Liberty Bell

We then took the Phlash over to Liberty Bell.  When I was a kid, I remember being able to walk right up to the Liberty Bell.  I’m pretty sure a picture exists of me touching it.  Well now, the entire area has been completely remodeled.  They’ve built a lovely sort of outdoor museum around the bell with a lot of historical artifacts and installations.  It’s beautiful, but unfortunately now there’s a rope preventing people from getting too close to the bell.

Independence Hall was great, too.  This is where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed!  It’s a national park, and so, free tours are given by park rangers!  They’re the cutest (they even wear little park ranger hats)!  Everything is very well maintained, and the rangers seem to be total history buffs.  You could tell they love their jobs.  As you might imagine, we’re big history buffs, too, so it was a great time.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Then we took a small detour.  Just south of all this historical stuff is South Street.  On this street, there were a lot of shops and restaurants, and even mid-afternoon it was hoppin’.  A 20 minute walk to us to Jim’s Steaks–apparently famous for their Philly Cheesesteaks.  Can I make a confession?  I had never had a cheesesteak before this trip.  The line to get it was around the block (seriously) but it moved quickly.  As we packed into the tiny space, we got the hang of things.  People were just shouting their orders!  “cheesesteak! mushrooms! onions!  provolone!”  We did our best and shuffled on down the line.  If you’ve never seen how this is done, it’s quite a sight.  They have a MOUNTAIN of steak they’re chopping, and assembly-line style, they make the sandwiches.  We found a place to sit.  It felt good to sit!  The sandwiches were great.

Our first cheesesteaks - at Jim's Steaks

Our first cheesesteaks – at Jim’s Steaks

And because there was a constant line of people waiting to get in, we didn’t dilly-dally.  As soon as we were done eating, we hit the road.  We walked back to the historical stuff.

We walked to the National Constitution Center.  It’s a lovely museum, where one of the original copies of the Constitution is housed.  Michael totally geeked out.  He was completely giddy.  He’s a huge fan of the constitution, and loved being there.  The exhibit surrounding it is gorgeous.  There was an entrance fee here, but we got the student discounts and paid $13 each.  Totally worth it.  We also saw a live historical performance at the museum that was pretty interesting.

In between the Bell and the Constitution Center is a lovely visitor’s center.  It’s enormous and clearly brand new.  We poked around the gift shop and bought ourselves a tiny Christmas ornament.  We re-filled our water bottles and took advantage of the immaculate bathrooms.

Love Park

Love Park

And so our journey continued.  We hopped back on the Phlash and ended our day at Love Park.  It was pretty packed, but we still enjoyed sitting and people watching.

We were exhausted and the Phlash had stopped running so we took a long, meandering walk back to the car.  I really couldn’t believe how cheap it was to park there.  Because we had done so much walking, we were hungry again (don’t judge).  A friend had recommended another cheesesteak place, and we figured, what the heck!  When in Philly, eat all the cheesesteaks!

Our second cheesesteaks - at Dalessandro's

Our second cheesesteaks – at Dalessandro’s

We set our GPS for Dalessandro’s.  It was about a 25 minute drive north of the city–but the drive was beautiful.  We drove past the historic Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River and I reminisced about having been there with my parents.  The sun was setting and it was gorgeous.  Dalessandro’s was also packed, but now we knew the drill.  This place was miniscule.  We made our way to the counter and shouted our orders.  We somehow found seating at the counter and enjoyed watching/hearing all the locals shout their orders.  This place was waaayyyyyy better than the first.  Jim’s was good but man, Dalessandro’s was super delicious.  The meat was rich and flavorful and juicy.  Hit the spot.

After a lovely day in Philadelphia, we headed home, full and happy.  It’s definitely a very tourist-friendly city.  All in all, we only spent about $90 and came home with great pictures and memories.

Have you been to Philadelphia?  Where’s your favorite cheesesteak from?

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