Magic and Charm in Philadelphia
I’ve been to Philadelphia a few times since it’s an easy train ride from my home in New York City, but my most recent trip was by far the most fun. A girlfriend and I decided to take a quick, last-minute trip down backpacker-style. With no heavy luggage in tow and just a short time to prepare, we played everything by ear, skipped all of the major tourist sites—and had the best time. Here’s a rundown of what we saw and did.
A Magical Mosaic Garden
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was my favorite stop on the trip, hands down. A spectacular display by award-winning mosaic mural artist Isaiah Zagar, the space is a gallery, garden, and community arts center in one. Intricate mosaics cover every inch of the space, from the ceilings to the floors, indoors and out. Zagar started mosaicking the 3,000-square-foot space in 1994, and it took him 14 years to complete. The end result is a colorful, jaw-dropping display that tells a story of how the surrounding community has evolved throughout the years.
Famed Vegan Eats
We lucked out and snagged a dinner reservation at Vedge on the fly (thanks to the OpenTable app). Often revered as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, husband-and-wife chefs Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby opened their “vegetable restaurant” in 2011. Since then, the duo has been receiving outstanding reviews for Vedge’s cozy yet upscale atmosphere, and of course, the food. From a rainbow of radishes to a hearty plate of mushrooms, each beautifully plated dish was full of flavorful, innovative, and delicious food. We split several items that left me wanting more.
The next day, we had lunch at HipCityVeg, a vegan fast food restaurant that we sought out for its meatless Philly cheesesteak. The Philly Steak, with sliced seitan (wheat gluten) and grilled mushrooms and onions, hit the spot. While it’s true I’ll never be able to compare it to the original (I’ve actually never tasted steak), even meat-eaters have been known to give it two thumbs up.
Shops With Charm
My friend and I are longtime Anthropologie fans, so a trip to Philly just wouldn’t have been complete without a stop at the Philadelphia-based brand’s flagship store. While we loved the selection at this fully stocked location, the main attraction was the building. The charming store is housed in a stunning historical mansion in the heart of Rittenhouse Square, and just walking through was an experience in itself. Merchandise spans three elaborately decorated floors, all connected by a lovely spiral staircase.
After Anthropologie, we stopped in a few of the stores that dot 13th Street. Verde made our list of favorites. The store stocks an impressive assortment of charms for necklaces and bracelets, along with clothing, leather bags, and more. A shop within a shop, Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates offered a sweet surprise.
Where We Stayed
The Windsor Suites at 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway are centrally located right next to LOVE Park. This no-frills hotel was perfect for our trip. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable place to stay.