Steak sandwiches. Rocky Balboa. Independence National Historical Park. Although the latter is my number one reason for coming to the City of Brotherly Love, there are many things to do in Philadelphia beyond the historic core of the city. A great way to see the city is by riding the Phlash bus. These air-conditioned buses take you to most of the city’s major attractions for a downright cheap price. An all-day pass costs only $5! With buses zooming along the 22 stops every fifteen minutes, you can hop on and off until your heart’s content…or you’re too pooped to hop.

Buses run from 10-6. The route starts at Penn’s Landing—the area by the water’s edge commemorating William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. Depending on your itinerary, you could explore the boardwalk or the Seaport Museum, or start your day with a site that opens earlier and then make your way around from there.

Phlash takes you to some of Philadelphia’s best cultural, historical, and artistic venues. The bus goes by great shopping, food, and entertainment areas, too. There’s something for just about everyone. Here’s a brief list of the top hotspots:

  • Independence Hall, Constitution Center, and the Liberty Bell
  • Betsy Ross House, Christ Church, Benjamin Franklin Museum,
  • Reading Terminal Market
  • Love Park and City Hall
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Mutter Museum, Franklin Institute
  • Rodin Museum
  • Eastern State Penitentiary
  • Museum of Art (including the Rocky steps & statue)
  • Philadelphia Zoo
  • Please Touch Museum

One of the stops I enjoyed the most (that I don’t cover in other posts) was Reading Terminal Market. I was pretty excited to visit for a number of reasons: 1) my mom was with me on this trip and I knew she hadn’t been to a market of this scale 2) I simply love a huge food extravaganza 3) Reading Railroad was featured on the Monopoly game board giving this market loads of historical character. In 1890, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company purchased the block where the market was located as its new depot site. The railroad company came to an agreement with the merchants that they would relocate their market underneath the new terminal. Things went along pretty well, but changes in the way we consumed, lived, and traveled after World War II contributed to a decline in the market and the railroad. Reading Company declared bankruptcy in 1971. After a tumultuous time throughout the 70s and 80s, the non-profit Reading Terminal Market Corporation was created in 1994. One hundred and twenty years later, the market is thriving with about eighty merchants showcasing various types of restaurants, baked goods, meats, dairy, cheeses, poultry, seafood, produce, specialty foods, Pennsylvania Dutch goods, flowers, and more.

sam_3626Reading Terminal Market tantalizes the senses. Butchers and bakers (and maybe even candlestick makers) sell the freshest products. We stopped by a chocolatier for succulent maple creams enrobed in bittersweet dark chocolate. There were so many restaurateurs that it was hard to tell where one vendor’s counter ended and another’s began. A cultural melting pot of cuisine unfolded before us—Middle Eastern, African, South American, North American, and Mediterranean foods were all scenting the air with delicious smells.

Vendors sold house wares and food-related items. My mother and I were charmed by the quality and styles of the fabric at Contessa’s French Linens. We purchased the most adorable rosemary basket made of a Provencal fabric with beautiful blue shades. It is a shallow, square basket with corner ties; I use it to hold bread since, alas, I don’t often have the occasion to go rosemary picking. Across the aisle was a cookbook shop with signed copies and rare editions.

Reading Terminal Market met my expectations and surprised my mother who thought it was going to be a smaller farmer’s market, not a covered 78,000 square feet food emporium. It was a great stop on the Phlash circuit—and a must for lunch. A few of the restaurants sell Philly’s famous cheesesteaks and DiNic’s roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich was featured on the Travel Channel as a “best sandwich.” I would highly recommend visiting on an empty stomach.

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