A few weeks ago I took a trip to Philadelphia to visit some friends who attend Temple University. Most of the times I’ve visited the city, my adventures have not strayed far from a typical tourist itinerary—meaning bus tours with an automated narration of the city. When I visited Philly this time, I was offered an unfiltered look at the city.
The first adventure of the day was catching the subway to our destination: South Street. Here’s the thing, I can navigate the DC Metro, specifically Metro Center, and the Baltimore Lightrail with great ease, but for some reason, the Philadelphia subway system was beyond me. I recommend going with someone knowledgeable of the area if your traveling in Philly. Or else you’ll be standing at the maps in the station with a clueless expression on your face. I did that till my friend’s brother attempted to explain the system to me. God bless him.
One of the main destinations on our trip was Jim’s Steaks. Jim’s serves probably the best Philadelphia cheesesteak. I’m sure I share this opinion with the other 30 or so people waiting in line with me. Located on the corner of South Street and 4th Street, we arrived to a long line meandering out the door and around the corner of the block. After 20 minutes of standing in line and our mouths watering because of the smell of the meat, we were able to order. I went with the classic–steak, cheez whiz and onions. For those of you that don’t know, Cheez Whiz is a thick, processed cheese by Kraft, usually used as topping on cheesesteak. It’s absolutely awful for you, but I don’t see it going away, as it is a staple in Philly.
The cheesesteak was very filling and when I go back, I’ll most likely split one with another person. If you’ve never had a cheesesteak before, it’s important to know that they are extremely greasy. As someone whose stomach doesn’t tolerate cheese or grease that well, I can confidently advice you to stay away from them if you have a weak stomach or don’t consume greasy food very often. I learned that lesson about an hour after we left the restaurant.
After lunch, we made out way West on South Street, weaving in and out of record store and comic book stores. There were some other stops along the way as well…South Street pretty much has anything you could think of for a person.
Eventually, we came to my new favorite place in Philadelphia: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. From what I was told about PMG, I couldn’t really gauge on whether or not I would really like it. It wasn’t until I saw it myself that I understood.
PMG is a labyrinth of mosaics found between two buildings on South Street. From the entrance, the unique beauty of the garden enchants you. Admission to tour the garden is $5 for students, $7 for adults and $3 for children 6-12. Not a bad price at all for the self-guided tour. At the entrance of the maze you realize there are different levels. Visitors have as much time as they would like to explore and wander around all the nooks and crannies of the garden.
Walking around, I was mesmerized by all the little statues, wheels and trinkets that the designer, Isaiah Zagar, used to create this piece of art. What made it magical was the effect the sunlight had on the pieces of mirror and glass bottles scattered amongst the walls and floor. It created a shimmering effect, which sadly, doesn’t come up well in photos. If you choose to come to PMG, I would recommend in the early evening close to “golden hour”.
If you have time, I recommend seeking out the 120+ murals Isaiah Zagar completed around Philadelphia. Many of the murals, in fact, are located within blocks of PMG.
My trip to Philly was only for one day and I have to say my trip definitely triggered my curiosity. I’ll be visiting again real soon.
Have any suggestions of other places I should visit in Philadelphia or in general? Leave a comment below!
Philadelphia Magic Gardens
1020 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147