“He bit me!” This was not my first time traveling solo to Philadelphia, but the first time I heard this in the City of Brotherly Love.
Exiting the Suburban Train Station I approached the source of the scream, a 20-something-year-old woman. I then watched two sturdy-looking police officers holding the arms behind a 20-something-year-old man while pressing his chest against a wall.
I did what the other gawkers did and watched a bit of the scene as the police wrestled the young man to the ground, attempting to restrain him.
“Take my phone,” he said to the woman who did as he asked. He then asked the officers, “What did I do? Tell me, what did I do?”
One of the officers told him to be quiet, but I believe his words were a little more stern.
“What did he do?” I thought. Maybe he was a vampire. Maybe they were playing around and things got out of hand, because if she was truly upset with him, why would she be helping him by taking his phone when he asked? Maybe it was one of those “What Would You Do?” shows on ABC where bystanders simply stand there with cell phones in hand, snapping photos and recording video, hoping something happens so they have their viral moment of internet fame.
Contemplating whether to stay and see how this plays out or mosey to my hotel and begin a long weekend in Philadelphia, I chose the latter. Yes, this was not the type of welcoming I was expecting traveling solo to Philadelphia, but crime has no address and this episode was not going to stop me from attending a workshop and enjoying the city.
Planning your own solo trip to Philadelphia? Here a few of the sights I have taken in. I can also confirm, during this June 2016 visit and previous visits, I have not experienced any negative experiences, except for a bit of rain in March 2014. But hey, some people actually enjoy walking in the rain! Crime has no address but I have always felt safe walking Philadelphia’s streets alone during the day and at night. Remember, no matter where you are traveling keep alert and your head on a swivel.
THINGS TO DO IN PHILADELPHIA
Pump Up Your Patriotism in America’s Cradle of Liberty
The City of Brotherly Love is nicknamed the Cradle of Liberty for being the location where the modern United States began with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall to see where the beginning of the United States took place.
What caused the crack in the Liberty Bell? Learn the cause along with other engaging facts about the bell and American history are revealed during a self guided tour. Afterward, join a National Park Service Ranger for a guided tour through Independence Hall. (a timed tour ticket is required March-Dec) You can see for yourself that in philadelphia things to do are everywhere! www.nps.gov/inde
Sprinkled throughout Historic Philadelphia, such as behind Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House, are benches accompanied by a storyteller, hence the name, Storytelling Benches. The program is called Once Upon a Nation by Historic Philadelphia, Inc., an organization dedicated to sharing Philadelphia’s place in U.S. history. While resting on one of these benches, indicated with a oval sign reading, “Once Upon a Nation,” learn about Philly’s history and interact with a historical player between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. historicphiladelphia.org
The above mentioned activities are easy on the wallet because they are all FREE.
Quench Your Curiosity with Context
I enjoy taking city tours but one of the reasons I travel alone is because I don’t like being in big groups. Context is unlike most walking tour companies in that they specialize in groups no larger than six people, are led by Ph.D. and master’s level scholars, are thematic and don’t follow a script. Tours drill down into a specific topic rather than painting a broad brush of a destination. An experience with Context is like having a personal city tour with your favorite brainy cousin of his backyard.
During a trip to New York years ago I took a walking tour of the Brooklyn with Context and loved it so I knew taking the Franklin Seminar would be equally awesome. This walking tour began in Elfreth’s Alley where I learned about Benjamin Franklin’s early beginnings and family and meandered through Historic Philadelphia to places as Christ Church (where I sat in Franklin’s pew), Franklin Court, and Second Bank U.S. Portrait Gallery. Guide Tim Hayburn, Ph.D., oozed with enthusiasm for American history and Franklin and it was like being with an interactive and personable history book. Context.com
Hop On and Off the Double-Decker Red Bus
Sightseeing city tours are perfect for learning an overview of a city and when traveling solo in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours are ideal for just that. My experience aboard one was brief but I recommend sitting on top to feel the wind in your hair and a different viewing perspective of the city, whether it’s looking down or up.
The 90-minute tour covers a 16-mile loop with more than two dozen stops which provides access to more than 100 attractions and sites. Day and evening tours are offered. PHLtour.com
Get High Above the City
Walking into the lobby of One Liberty Observation Deck, I thought it was pretty odd seeing a pair of giant feet. What did they have to do with an observation deck? Mock lighting flashed accompanied with a boom of thunder and it clicked. Those feet must be Benjamin Franklin’s feet.
Stepping off the elevator onto the 57th floor of Liberty Place, I saw Mr. Franklin’s head and kindly asked the attendant standing there if he would take my photo next to it. Traveling solo, I’m not great about asking others to take my photo and Ben’s head was too big for a selfie.
Honestly, I was expecting the One Liberty Observation Deck to have an outdoor component, similar to the Empire State Building, but it was all enclosed. Despite this, the 365 degree view of the city is spectacular and gorgeous at night. I found one of my favorite souvenirs in the gift shop, a bottle opener of Ben Franklin! The deck is open 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. phillyfromthetop.com
For the Morbidly Curious
Ever seen a collection of skulls all perfectly labeled with date of death and occupation of the once living? For the morbidly curious, pay a visit to the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The museum has a collection of skulls along with bones, intestines, other human biological materials and medical instruments. Visiting the Mütter Museum is like viewing a bad car wreck, it’s hard not to look. Honestly, the bizarreness is like a magnet. muttermuseum.org
Okay, I’m not talking about finding your best friend, but the famous LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana. Love Park, the sculpture’s permanent home, is undergoing renovations but find the LOVE in Dilworth Park until spring of 2017. It’s an easy-selfie shot but you’ll probably be able to find someone to snap your photo in front of it. Hint: Find someone by themselves trying to snap a selfie and ask if you can take their photo. They’ll most likely reciprocate. Find additional photo-worthy spots on the #VisitPhilly site.
Do Not Pass Go
I’m a fan of quirky attractions and Board Game Art Park at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard was totally up my alley. It contains mismatched game pieces fit for giants, such as Monopoly, checkers, chess and dominoes. It was dedicated in 1997 and sorry, game pieces don’t move but it’s fun to try to hold the cascading domino up!
WHERE TO STAY
Sonesta Philadelphia Downtown Rittenhouse Square was my home base during my most recent stay and it was a fantastic location (located at Market Street and 18th Street), accommodating and friendly staff and wonderful stay. The hotel has a gorgeous outdoor pool on the eighth floor and completed $30 million in enhancements in 2015. The lobby is an extension of Philadelphia’s appreciation for art and features paintings by local artists, all are for sale. Artwork changes out every six months.
Philadelphia has a pretty good public transportation system and it’s an easy city to walk. I took the train from the Philadelphia International Airport into the City Center and the fare was $8, one way. The fare must be paid to the conductor in cash and there’s an ATM in the airport in case you don’t have the cash. If walking isn’t your thing, try the subway system.
There’s much more to see and explore in Philadelphia and hope the information in this post starts you off on the right foot. For additional ideas on what to see and do, stop by the Visit Philadelphia website.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links in order to support my traveling habit and this blog. As a travel blogger, I received complimentary admission into some of the listed attractions however opinions are my own and they have not reviewed this content.