Philadelphia was the original capital of the United States and home to many historically significant things to the country, like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were both born. BUT there is so much more to this great city than the reminders of Democracy’s birth. Philadelphia is a melting pot of people living side by side from Italians & Irish to Eastern Europeans to African-Americans and Asians. It is, in fact, one of the most ethnically mixed cities in the United States. Philadelphia literally means ”City of Brotherly Love” in Greek and really couldn’t be a more fitting name.
While I do enjoy the charm of the cobblestone streets and red brick row houses of Society Hill, this visit to Philadelphia I was determined to discover more of Philly’s neighborhoods that their diverse community calls home. Although I visited several neighborhoods and found lots of interesting things in all of them, my three favorite were Graduate Hospital, Bella Vista and Queen Village. And these three can literally be walked going through one to next. Each neighborhood begins south of South Street and each has its own unique flavor and special finds. I particularly enjoyed strolling through them on a Saturday when the rest of Philadelphia is out and about.
My neighborhood stroll started with Graduate Hospital – a cool family friendly yet hipster-esque scene. An eclectic blend of people are this neighborhood’s community and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here.
It was Saturday, late morning, and what better way to start your day than with a big ole Saturday Brunch. Let me tell you Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat delivered up the perfect start to my Saturday. A bacon, egg and cheese sandwich is always a good call but Honey’s serves it on a homemade biscuit and that makes ALL the difference. This local hotspot is BYOB and open for brunch, lunch and dinner.
Walking down South Street, popping in and out of local indie boutiques, my next stop was Magpie also in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. Magpie is an artisan pie boutique. I love pie more than cake or cookies but Magpie has something else that I’ve never heard of before, let alone dreamt of having. PIE SHAKES!! Something so unique and made with pie, well, I just had to try it. I went with the Apple Pie Shake and shared it with my friend Erin because we were saving room for local beer tasting and Italian Market sampling.
Moving on into the Bella Vista neighborhood, I was in search local Pennsylvania beers and the famous Italian Market here. Bella Vista is where the Italian immigrants came to settle in Philadelphia and ties still remain here today. PLUS I firmly feel nothing gives you a local perspective like food, drinks & markets!
Percy Street Barbecue is one of several Cook + Solo restaurants known for its BBQ and over 145 varieties of canned beer at any given time. It was my mission to try as many local beers as I could since craft brews are such a big deal in Philadelphia and figured they’d have PLENTY to choose from. Boy was that ever true.
After the beer tasting it was time to do a bit of touring the Italian Market – a proud Philly mainstay since the 19th Century and one of the oldest and largest open-air markets in America. Not to be missed here besides the sidewalk stalls are the storefronts where you can find olive oil & balsamic vinegar tastings as well as cheese and cured meats samplings. MMMM.
A stop not to just pass by in Bella Vista is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens - artist Isaiah Zagar’s mosaicked visionary art environment and gallery. The 3,000 square foot space is incredible and definitely inspiring, at least it was to me. I could have spent hours there looking at the vivid colored tiles and hidden messages. Really a unique spot in Philly.
My final stop of the day was in Queen Village for a cocktail. Queen Village is Philly’s oldest residential district and is the scene of many up and coming restos and bars. The ever lively South Street is nearby to add color to any day or night and definitely something a visitor has to experience to understand.
I bellied up to Southwark’s bar, a retro feeling neighborhood bistro. It’s said they make the city’s best Manhattan but I just went for my standard vodka soda (I know…boooooring). After a day of delicious food sampling and beer tasting that was all I could manage.
I was sponsored by Visit Philly to come discover the multiple neighborhoods beyond Center City – why not go just one more block? I had a jam-packed delicious day exploring 3 fantastic neighborhoods and look forward to returning to Philadelphia to see more.