Notes From The Road: Philly

I’m visiting five east coast cities over the course of three weeks, mostly busing and crashing on friends’ couches. You can check out past Notes From The Road (which are more international in nature) here. 






Did you guys know that Philly cheese steak is not (as I had previously suspected) a steak with cheese melted on top of it – but a type of sandwich!?  Yes.  Fact.

Something else to add to our never-ending list of ‘Wait. What?” moments, apparently.
I spent five days in Philly with a good friend who’s just moved there and we spent most of our time doing friend-specific, rather than Philly-specific stuff.
In our case, this meant:
* Eating lots of potato chips with sour cream-based dips
* Watching live bluegrass music
* Eating a lot of fake bacon
* Curating 8 million inside jokes
* Thrifting
* Drinking whiskey cokes
However!  We did find time for more tourist-y things.  Eastern State Penitentiary (awesome, creepy and worth every cent of your admission fee).  Opera in the park (Carmen is a scandal, yo.) The Rocky statue (yup. it’s there.) Reading Terminal Market (pretzels and whoopie pies!) and ogling a gajillion murals.
And on a vaguely related note: Am I the only person on the internet who doesn’t like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia?  They’re so mean! 
Next up, DC!  Any advice?

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  1. laco

    that's the best part about it for those who do like it. they are dumb and mean, aaand it ALWAYS comes back and bites them in the butt. but that kind of snarkiness is anacquired taste. don't fret for a moment that you have better things to watch. cheers! and come down to savannah, georgia sometime!

  2. Katie

    Yay! DC is my town! There's tons of free museums, but if you feel like paying, you should go to the Newseum. It's my favorite! (Although if you go the spy museum, you will get to crawl around in vents…) Other thing I would recommend is brunch or drinks at the Mansion on O St. It's only open for certain hours, so check the website, but that place is basically a huge old mansion, complete with themed rooms and real secret passages to find. So fun.

  3. nova

    Ah Juggalos. Hours of entertainment. I love to hate them, hahaha.

    Fun fact: I was laughing at a website full of photos taken at the gathering of the Juggalos, and BAM there was a picture of a guy I went to high school with, with his hair all braided up. It made my LIFE.

  4. Caitlin

    Two of my favorite spots in DC are Eastern Market ( and Busboys and Poets ( If you can, go to Eastern Market on the weekend. Busboys and Poets is always awesome, but open mic nights are especially great.
    Another local favorite is Ben's Chili Bowl (; Bill Cosby and Barack Obama have both been there, if my recommendation isn't enough to convince you!
    And if people watching and interpreting strange art is your thing, the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden is my favorite place to do that! It's located right between the National Archives and the National Mall.
    Hope you enjoy your visit, whether or not you get to check out any of those places!

  5. Lape

    Had no idea about the Philly Cheese Steak. See, this is why I love Yes and Yes – you learn things you're too embarrassed to ask people about 🙂

  6. iris

    Oh, DC. It has to be restaurants either Zaytinya or Matchbox in the "Chinatown" area (it's a fake Chinatown). My recommendations are always food-related!

  7. Mollie @ Jennings Brae Bank Farm

    Oh,I visited DC a few years ago. I loved the Lincoln Memorial – I know it's touristy but it still filled my heart to see it. Across the street is the Einstein sculpture – fun!

  8. Tami (Teacher Goes Back to School)

    When I lived in DC for my last semester of college (1993), I managed to go on the Library of Congress Tour 3 times and LOVED it every time. For the book nerd that I am, it was a don't miss.

    I'd also try to get a Capitol tour, go to the Supreme Court, and the White House.

    Did I mention I was a poly sci nerd too? Loved DC.

  9. grittyrivers

    No! That show is awful!! They are so mean, like why is it so funny to be such complete jerks?

  10. Cyndi B

    I don't like It's Always Sunny either! I also didn't know people thought Philly cheese steaks were actual steaks, but then again I grew up in Pennsylvania.

  11. LC

    Georgetown. M Street. Georgetown Cupcake. Downdog Yoga. Kayaking on the Potomac. I lived on campus there for four years and barely left because I loved the dang place so much.

  12. Samantha

    I grew up in PA and spent a lot of time eating in Philly. I can't tell you how happy, home sick, and hungry your photos made me. Thank you for posting.
    Are you planning on trying to do a White House tour in DC. I've only been there a few times, but I always enjoyed the Air and Space museum. The last time I was there they had a shuttle you could walk into.

  13. Amanda Ann

    Man, I love it when folks go to DC…mostly because I laugh at myself when I realize I'm having the "ZOMG I live there!" reaction.

    My recommendation: just walk everywhere. Since the streets are on a grid, you can navigate relatively easy. Wander around U Street, in and out of boutiques. Junction is a great vintage store. Also, as an art history major and former museum employee, I'd be remiss if I didn't sternly counsel you to go to the National Gallery and to the Hirshhorn. And since you're coming soon, maybe check out the protest activity at Freedom Plaza.

  14. Jess. R.

    I have to ask … is your cheesesteak from Jim's on South Street? I lived in Philly for 3 years in the late 90s and miss those steaks!

    I also lived in DC (after my stint in Philly) and HIGHLY recommend Lebanese Taverna. There are locations all over the metro area. I miss that restaurant more than any other.

  15. Grace

    Oh good I'm glad the east coast is treating you well! I miss it (currently in California). Man D.C. is probably my favorite east coast city (I live close by in Baltimore at home and lived in DC for 3 months in college). You MUST go to the Hillwood Museum in Woodley Park. You.Will.Love.It. Also grab a hot dog near the Mall. And check out the National Portrait Gallery! All those free museums…

  16. Whit

    Yes and Yes in DC! Since you like coffee, I would suggest going to Big Bear Cafe. It's at the corner of 1st and R St NW in Bloomingdale. It's a great spot if you get tired of feeling touristy and wanna check out a great neighborhood spot.

    The MLK memorial is up now, and I would suggest checking it out. It's on the Tidal Basin across from the Jefferson Memorial. During the afternoon, you can rent a paddleboat on the tidal basin and paddle in the water.

    I would definitely suggest wandering around U Street- it's a great place to people watch. My top suggestion food-wise is to try a papusa! they are salvadorean deliciousness that are similar to a stuffed tortilla pancake. the best ones i've had are at Ercilia's (located at Mount Pleasant and Irving St NW). But you can find them at just about any of the salvadoran spots.

    oh! or go to little ethiopia (9th and U street NW) and grab some delicious food.

    Okay, that's all I got for now! Welcome to the district and have a great time!

  17. Stylish Thought

    Glad you had a great time in my city 🙂 Tell me how you enjoyed your cheesesteak and Reading Terminal is amazing, one of my favorite places in the city.

  18. Amanda @ Hungry Vegan Traveler

    I can't stand "It's Always Sunny…"!!! I think all of those characters are just mean and awful.

  19. CJR

    Visit the monuments at night! They are 1 million times prettier and there are far fewer tourists!

    Also, Georgetown will take your breath away. It is my favorite place in the DC area!

  20. Erin

    I second Tami– the Library of Congress is amazing!! There is more to it than books and research. The architecture and mosaics/paintings on the ceiling are breathtaking and reminiscent of Europe in a lot of ways.
    Maybe you could also take a peek at Union Station and US Congress. They're all close together.

    If you're prepared to handle overwhelming sadness, the Holocaust Museum is interesting–and super moving.

    The American History Museum is great, too, and has been recently renovated. You can check out the original United States flag on the first floor!

    I'll second others recommendations of visits to U Street/Dupont Circle for the culture, Georgetown Cupcakes (Crumbs Cupcakes in Union Station are even better!), and the monuments at night.

    Have fun!! 🙂

  21. punkyandpuddin

    Ooh… enjoy the capital sarah… I have to say i'm a bit envious. i'm truly hoping that relocating to D.C. is in my near future (after my upcoming graduation in may.) I've wanted to live there since my first visit in highschool. I would recommend Adams Morgan, the Metro, the smithsonian museum of the american indian (with a great cafeteria… worth checking out the offering of native american food from many different regions/tribes), eastern market and grabbing some ethiopian food (doro wat is my favorite.)

  22. Camels & Chocolate

    OK, I lived in NYC for a couple of years and NEVER made it to Philly. (For shame! I KNOW.) But your photos make it look lovely, and perhaps I should plan a day trip next time I'm back up that way visiting.

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  26. Jamie

    I went to school in Philly and you did so many of my fav things (Reading! The Penitentiary!)

    Also, I may or may not be reading my way through allll of your travel posts. So inspirational and so much fun!

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