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14 Things We Love About Philly

We LOVE where we live, and this list will remind you why you do, too.

We started all this on Valentine’s Day 2013 with our love letter to our fair city. Four years later, we send it again…updated, but still from the bottom of our appreciative hearts.

Peaceful strolls in Morris Arboretum

Philadelphia is no stranger to picturesque parks, but this oasis in Chestnut Hill is simply stunning, serene, and charming. The rolling hills are accented by fine art sculpture, rose gardens, and even a swan pond. Perfect for a warm afternoon and a good book (they also hold great storytimes here!), it’s also a hub of educational opportunities offering classes, exhibits, and workshops that can help everyone find their green thumb— or at least develop a new fascination with the products of green thumbs at work.

Sleepover date nights at Hotel Monaco

Admit it: the last time you got to appreciate some of our city’s greatest treasures at Independence National Historical Park was the last time you were there on a field trip. It’s a few blocks of stunning cultural beauty though, and we highly suggest you take it all in— but not with teacher and class in tow. Instead, book yourself a room with a view at the Hotel Monaco, a posh, modern escape that plays perfectly off the traditional architecture outside its door. For the biggest wow factor, toast your night away from Stratus, the hotel’s cozy rooftop bar.

Life itself at the Academy of Natural Sciences

If you grew up around here, you distinctly remember your first visit to the Academy; the first time you get up close and personal with a dinosaur tends to stay with you. The museum’s manageable size and multitude of hands-on exhibits — not to mention the live butterfly exhibit — makes it great for young families, but teens and adults will always find something new to add to the ol’ think tank, too.

Impromptu splash parties on the Parkway

Soon we’ll all be complaining that it’s too hot again. Escape the AC bravely and head for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It’s a darn pretty place in its own right, but we like to start in Sister Cities Park, where kids and a few brave older souls scream and scatter across the pavement as the underground fountains dance and cool the muggiest day. Summer will also bring the return of The Oval, hands-down our favorite recreational addition to town. Play life-size chess, make a sandcastle, enjoy a drink, and more, all with the skyline as your backdrop.

The nation’s biggest art exhibit

With more public art than any other American city, Philly is truly a museum without walls. The Mural Mile, one of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s tours, features 17 murals in an array of styles and subjects all within an eight-block radius of City Hall. While you’re strolling, see how many sculptures you can count, too. Check the Association for Public Art’s interactive map to find public art in your neighborhood.

Getting lost in Fairmount Park

Founded in 1855, Fairmount Park is one of the oldest city park systems in America, with 2,800 acres of trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, outdoor recreation areas, ice rinks, outdoor sculptures, and historic buildings. This makes it the perfect place to explore — on purpose or by accident. We can’t be the only ones who found a whole new area during a Kelly Drive road closure.

Blowing bubbles in old-fashioned sodas at Franklin Fountain

A not-so-best-kept secret, this old-school, Old City ice cream shop is renowned for its locally-sourced ingredients, hand-stirred sodas (complete with old-fashioned flavors), and decadent sweet, savory, salty, crunchy, creamy combinations. All but the candy accoutrements are made in-house, but don’t worry about freshness. It’s just a few steps between the Franklin and Shane Confectionery next door. That’s a twofer we can rally around.

Reenacting Alice in Wonderland at Magic Gardens

Stepping into this hidden, yet much-loved, local treasure is akin to taking a slip down the White Rabbit’s hole — interesting characters sometimes included. Babies will be mesmerized by the glittering walls, preschoolers will enjoy looking for hidden objects within the mosaic, and everyone else will simply stare up and let the magic wash over them. This place oozes creativity, so be ready with plenty of supplies for a post-visit art session.

Forgoing cartoons for the stage with Walnut Street Theatre for Kids

There are some great programs on TV, but watching a story come to life on stage is drama at its best, and it’s an experience every kid needs. So tear the remote from their hands, encourage them to comb the bedhead out of their hair, and take them out for an afternoon on the town. They may demand an encore.

Being a part of 100 years of play at Smith

Slide down the 10-foot high Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide. Climb up a man-sized spider web. Drive a train in the 2,400-square-foot playhouse. Easily accessible by public transportation, Smith Memorial Playhouse and Playground has provided Philadelphia children with over a century of playtime. Three floors of hands-on play experiences and six acres of green provide year-round opportunities for children to learn, explore, and be themselves.

Rocking out with the kids at World Cafe Live

They aren’t ready for the mosh pit, but your music-lovin’ kids can still appreciate the wow-factor that comes along with an awesome live performance. And it turns out one of the city’s best venues for independent artists knows this, too. The Peanut Butter & Jams series is full of morning shows that all ages can groove along with. 

Supporting treasures like Mighty Writers

Talk about a tall order: this Mighty nonprofit is combating a 40-percent high school drop-out rate and an even higher percentage of functionally illiterate adults in Philadelphia. This vital organization brings novelists, playwrights, journalists, artists, and college students together with students in 2nd grade and above, and teaches them how to think and write with clarity. The mentorship program matches 1,000 students to 300-plus volunteers annually, guiding them through writing classes, SAT Prep classes, college essays, and more.

Showing sports fans how it’s done with the Philadelphia Phillies

We’re not telling you anything you don’t know when we say no summer in Philly is complete without a trip to the ball park. But there are plenty of youngsters and their parents out there who’ve not yet been inducted into the Phillies Phanaticism. If your home team is just getting old enough to follow the game, then it’s time to buy those tickets. Fun bit of trivia that you might not know: The Fightin’ Phils are the oldest continuous, one-name-one-city franchise in all of professional sports. Take that to the Bank (Park).

Watching another year bloom at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Talk about an event we really need this year — let’s try and forget the winter that never ends and instead relish in the beauty and heady fragrance of glorious spring flowers. This show is the best in the country for growers and fans, and there’s plenty to do to keep your kids engaged while your drooling over perfectly arranged gardens. Or leave the littles at home and indulge in a special Girls’ Night Out at the show. Yes, cocktails are included.

Photograph by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia. 

<p>CONTRIBUTING WRITER</p>

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