Seeing historic sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall was cool, but I was eager to find the heart of Philadelphia, where the locals live and play.
Well, that and the Rocky statue. And cheesesteaks. And the Love sign. And street art. I can’t entirely give up my quirky touristy leanings, after all. So I set off to find weird and unique things to do in Philadelphia.
Read on for my adventures with food, art installations, public statues, hidden temples, painted garbage cans, and other cool stuff around the city.
Essential Philly: The Cheesesteak and Rocky Statue
First up: The cheesesteak! Food carts and food trucks are found in many busy neighborhoods. My steak was simple – beef with cheese whiz and peppers and onions. Very satisfying, but I wouldn’t order this everyday. It’s too filling.
Geno’s and Pat’s are two of the iconic spots for cheesesteaks, but you can always just grab one from a truck as I did.
You may be wondering if people actually run up and down the steps of the museum to work out, as Rocky did in the movie. The answer is yes. I could not get the Rocky theme out of my head as I watched.
Weird and Unique Art in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love, so you have to stop by the LOVE sign and fountain in Love Park.
You may notice the Israeli flag in the background of that photo. What’s that doing there? The Ben Franklin Parkway displays the flags of more than 100 nations.
You can re-create your own Olympic opening ceremony by walking past all of them.
Just across the street from Love Park is a parklet with an art installation known as “Your Move” that features giant board game pieces, including dominos, bingo chips, chess pawns, and pieces from one of my favorites, the game of Sorry.
I’m nearly unbeatable at Sorry, so beware, in case you ever see me at your local board game night.
Exploring South Street
South Street is one of the coolest places to hang out in Philly, with lots of edgy, exciting businesses and restaurants. It reminds me of the South Side in Pittsburgh and Wicker Park in Chicago.
I didn’t have a chance to go inside this bar, but based on the name Tattooed Mom, I’m sure that it’s completely amazing.
Harry’s is willing to cater to all your occult-related needs.
Isaiah Zagar is an artist who creates amazing mosaics and artistic creations at Magic Gardens. It is one of the coolest and most unique things to do in Philadelphia, so don’t miss it!
In addition to the Magic Gardens site, Zagar has a number of pieces all around the city, many of which are on homes and businesses near South Street. Some lucky folks have his work in their driveways!
Even the garbage cans on South Street are artsy. Each one is painted differently to resemble a goofy-looking animal.
More random city art: A giant paintbrush in Center City and a set of elevated Liberty Bells near the University of Pennsylvania.
More Neighborhoods and Quirky Things To Do in Philadelphia
Statues in Philly range from spitting frogs to an odd collection of bears, soldiers and naked men.
I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the Chinatown district.
Early one morning I stopped by the Reading Terminal Market, an indoor mall of merchants who primarily sell food.
The offerings ranged from a candy store to Amish baked goods to fresh fish to custom-made lunch sandwiches.
Horse carriages are always at your service, especially in Old City. Hop in and get a tour of the city.
This was one of my favorite sights in the city: A Buddhist temple hidden on a random South Philly side street. Out of nowhere in a blue collar residential neighborhood came this splash of color and culture.
I also had occasion to visit the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. What, you didn’t realize Eddy had his own NPS unit?
Yes indeed, you can visit the actual house where Poe once lived, and get a glimpse into the troubled writer’s life.
I think I could spend weeks in Philly and still discover awesome new sights.
What are your favorite weird and cool things to do in Philadelphia?