We’re Kelsey and Oscar, two seniors who are super jazzed to blog for The Year After. We actually met sophomore year soon after Oscar arrived as a transfer student from The George Washington University. We had such a good time sophomore year, we’ve lived next door to each other every year since, too!
As we write this, we’re on fall break together with a couple other Haverfriends in the beautiful Western PA city of Pittsburgh. We share a mutual love of traveling and eating good food, and so we love taking trips together. Last spring break, we even figured out how to take a super-budget car ride all the way down to Tampa in Florida, where we had the best barbecue we’ve ever eaten– and Oscar knows meat!
But even though getting far far out of the Haver-bubble can be exciting, some of our favorite memories together have been right in the Haver-delphia area. Philly is an incredible, safe, and fun place, and even though it can be hard to pull yourself off campus, it really helps to get into the city and explore somewhere new. Philadelphia is practically in our backyard!
We’ve compiled the following list of must-dos from our combined years of experience popping into the city when we need a break from Haverford or when we’re looking for a change of pace. They might not be the places people immediately think of, when they think “Philadelphia” (the ‘Love’ sculpture, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc.), but they’re places that are special to us. But beware– actually spending time in a city like Philly might become addictive. (It certainly has for us!)
HOW TO GET THERE
If you’ve never done it before, getting into Philly can seem like a really big, expensive deal. (Especially if you’re like Kelsey, who doesn’t know big cities very well!) Lucky for us all, the Student Activities Office (captained by the brilliant Lilly Lavner) now gives away Independence Passes (a $12 value!) for students, which means free trips anywhere on the SEPTA system for an entire day– Regional Rail trains, buses, subways, trolleys all included!
WHAT TO EAT
As a professional foodie, here are Oscar’s favorite places in Philly (with a few notes from Kelsey):
611 S. 7th Street
Have To Get: Spicy Sausage Pizza, Nutella Dessert Pizza
Oscar’s Review: Nomad is one of the top pizza joints in the country, plain and simple. Thin crust pizzas here are thrown into a 800 degree oven and cooked in less than two minutes. The result is a delicious, crispy pie that may make you never go near a Dominos ever again.
Kelsey’s Note: If I could eat this Nutella pizza every day for the rest of forever, I’d be pretty satisfied with life. (It’s got real strawberries on it!)
John’s Water Ice
701 Christian Street
Have To Get: Cherry or Lemon Water Ice or Gelati
Oscar’s Review: A five minute walk from Nomad Pizza, John’s is the premier, go-to place for real Philadelphia water ice. Chains like Rita’s may be more popular, but trust me: John’s is far more delicious. Using real fruit, this historic establishment mixes together traditional cherry and lemon ice. Pineapple and chocolate are also on the regular menu. For the more adventurous, add ice cream to your order for a beautiful “Gelati” creation.
Kelsey’s Note: Just do it. Add the ice cream. You want it.
4535 North 5th Street
Have To Get: Churrasco Argentino (Sizzling Steak)
Oscar’s Review: Authentic Columbian cuisine and a fantastic, lively dining atmosphere mesh well at this excellent establishment. Every dinner meal comes with beans, plantains, and rice. Come hungry, leave (really, really) full.
Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle
1022 Race Street
Have To Get: Duck Noodle Soup
Oscar’s Review: As one of the top Asian spots in all of Philadelphia, this humble noodle house serves up hand drawn and shaved noodles that will have you begging for seconds! Vegetarians and carnivores will both be satisfied with the wide array of dry and soup noodle options. Choose to add a fried egg on top of your order for just a buck!
Kelsey’s Note: Seriously, this place is the best. I’d never tried duck before I went here, and now I can’t stop singing its praises. Take the Paoli-Thorndale line to Market East station to get here– you won’t regret it.
1620 South Street
Have To Get: French Toast
Oscar’s Review: Philadelphia has an abundance of excellent brunch options. The newest one is also one of the best: Miles’s Table. Recently opened on historic South Street, this breakfast and lunch specialty shop whips together a delicious french toast, excellent omelets, and crispy pizzas.
WHAT TO DO
For just an afternoon or an entire day of adventuring, Philly’s got so much to see. Take advantage of that Independence Pass, and get out there! While we might not know everything to do and everywhere to go, here are some of our favorite things to see around the city:
The Italian District
Tiny little streets, tons of shops, incredible snacks and gifts and nooks and crannies. If you need to buy Christmas gifts, check this place out on a sunny day.
Reading Terminal Market
For when it’s raining and you want to blow a few hours with more things to see and try than you can handle. It’s a little like a permanent indoor farmer’s market meets a food court. Snag some candy, some tea leaves or coffee beans, some hilarious books or even some tasty sandwiches at Dinic’s.
What more could you want? It’s close to Haverford, it’s the college area of the city (home to Drexel and Penn), and it’s got more stores and restaurants than you could ever want. Take a book and read or have a picnic on Penn’s campus, or explore their art sculptures and installations on campus. Go shopping. Take the Market-Frankford line to get there fast. (This is also a great place to live, if you’re working/interning in Philly for the summer– we did this, last summer!) Check online– there are also a bunch of farmers’ markets throughout the year in the neighborhood, if you’re looking for fresh produce.
Philly is called the City of Murals for a reason: it’s got tons of them! If you’ve ever ridden the Market-Frankford line (called the “El”), you’ve seen some of them (those are numbered and in a series). Spend a day reading the inspirational quotes, rhymes, poems, and other drawings by taking a mural tour through the city, or just admire them as you pass by on the El.
And of course, because we are just food people, we’d be remiss without mentioning both Dining Days/Restaurant Week and the Philly Night Market (where all the food trucks in town gather together in different neighborhoods one evening)! These mind-blowing gastronomic celebrations happen on and off throughout the year, so keep a lookout. If you’re looking for friends to go with, drop us a line– we’re ALWAYS up for new friends and food!
As Haverford students, Philly really can be “our” city, if we take the time to consider all that can be done. It’s such a multifaceted place, and it’s best explored for yourself! Don’t just take our words on these places– go out and check them out with some friends one Saturday when you’ve got a few hours of free time, or make your own list! There are also tons of ways to volunteer in town on your own, in classes, or through 8th Dimension, so you can see a new side of the area and meet locals. We’d love to see what Philly means to you, or how you make Philly your own.