Saturday was filled with colonial history and Philly cheesesteaks, but Sunday… Sundays are made to be indulgent. Forgiving of obligation. (Even when said obligation is touristing through Philadelphia. Yes, it’s hard work. Don’t judge.)
Day #11,300: Indulgence is defined by brunch, and that seemed like a damn fine place to start. After finding our first two picks overflowing with like-minded brunchers, we went rogue and walked into the nearest pub… aptly named The Kite and Key (1836 Callowhill St), presumably in honor of our good ol’ pal Ben Franklin.
Brioche French toast, spinach quiche, and a breakfast burrito later, Mr. M & I easily called it a win for Team Sunday in Philly.
While most guidebooks encourage my love of a yummy Sunday brunch, not many share my desire to tour as many prisons as possible. Others may find them creepy, but I’m fascinated by prisons and the ways in which we instrument law in deciding to remove others from society.
Philly just so happens to contain America’s very first penitentiary- hiding out right in the middle of the city. Oh happy day!
The fortress-like Eastern State Penitentiary is unmistakable, foreboding, and beautiful. Admission comes with an audio tour narrated by Creepy Steve Buscemi, which was the cherry on top of my prison Sunday.
After escorting us inside the prison, Steve Buscemi fed us some quite interesting criminology tidbits.
In 1787, Dr. Benjamin Rush founded the very first prison reform group (yup- Ben Franklin was a member of this group, too), which was rooted in the belief that rehabilitation couldn’t be achieved under the current regimen of torture and public humiliation in the stocks. And in 1829, Eastern State was unveiled as the first institution in the U.S. with the goal of inspiring penance in its inmates (hence the new name, penitentiary).
After Eastern State was closed in 1971, it fell into disrepair and was eventually salvaged as part of the Pennsylvania Park System. It’s now maintained in a state of decay that was gorgeous to capture on film.
Unlike Alcatraz- which we visited multiple times while living in San Francisco- Eastern State Penitentiary felt light, bright, airy, and open. The halls themselves felt hallowed- not creepy in the least.
For better or worse, Eastern State had a primary focus on the welfare of the prisoners. Holidays were celebrated, tv and radio were piped into each cell… there were even inmate sports teams and a prison dog- to increase morale.
The penitentiary also had its own pretty-darn-distinguished medical ward with specialists performing open heart surgery and reconstructive surgery. I suppose plastic surgery is an important specialty when there’s a daily possibility of getting shanked in the face?
Eastern State Penitentiary was my absolute favorite thing that we saw in Philly. After Steve Buscemi announced that our prison tour had concluded, Mr. M & I made our way over to the famous Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Other than the obvious… art… the museum is famous for its eastern staircase, which Rocky apparently ran up in the movie (so say the masses- I’ve never actually seen a Rocky movie), and there was an honest to goodness line to take a picture with the nearby Rocky Balboa statue and an enterprising young man selling t-shirts and offering to take pictures of you jumping & shaking your fists heavenwards at the top of the stairs.
After getting our museum on at Eastern State, Mr. M & I weren’t up for another tour. Still, good museums always seem to have the best gift shops, and the Philly Museum of Art was no exception- if it hadn’t been so darn pricey, I would’ve walked off with an awesomely toothy crocodile bookend.
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway was perfect for a Sunday stroll back downtown before taking the train back to NYC. B.F.’s Parkway is lined with international flags, and in playing the Guess-Whose-Flag-It-Is Game, Mr. M & I were embarrassed to learn that we’d 100% lose Final Jeopardy category: “Flags.”
The Sunday flag-stroll turned quite educational and perhaps because we’re nerds at heart, it ended up being Mr. M’s very favorite “moment” of our Philadelphia trip.
Our second day in Philadelphia may have skipped all the guidebook stuff we were supposed to do, but- as is so often the case- we ended up finding quite a few little treasures along the way.
Sundays prove that not all who wander are lost.
Details of the Day:
Accommodations: We found a deal on Travelocity for the Latham Hotel (135 S. 17th St) and had no idea what to expect. Sandwiched between the shopping streets of Chestnut & Walnut and an easy walk from both the Amtrak Station and Independence Park, the location alone turned out to be perfect. The Latham has a car (& a really friendly driver) that you’re able to use, whenever the car’s available. Although fellow gym rats will agree the best part is the kick-ass fitness center with complimentary headsets, water bottles, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Walnut St. I almost didn’t mind my morning run!
Tips & Tricks: Everyone agrees that you should see the Museum of Art… but just in case you’re cheaters like us…Although you’re immediately faced with the ticket booth upon entering, ask one of the docents for directions down to the Museum Shop- they’ll lift the velvet rope and let you visit the Shop free of charge. There are some really neat pieces in there!