Explore offbeat Philly instead of the convention tourist trap
The Democrats descended on the city of brotherly love for the 2016 convention. Ahhh, Philadelphia. It’s a direct, gritty, stubborn city filled with love and affection… as long as you’re rooting for our team. After all, our fans famously threw snowballs at Santa while booing him. Classy. Besides Independence Hall and the Rocky statue, what’s there to do in this blue collar town?
I asked friends from Philadelphia: “If Hillary and Bill were on vacation, where are they least likely to go?”
Their answer: Philadelphia.
Grab your Tastykakes, a Yuengling, and a cheesesteak wiz wit. Here’s the real Philadelphia. Don’t expect Hillary Clinton to make an appearance at any of these. But if you drop in on Philly — and you should — put these on your list.
Trailblaze along the Manayunk Canal
This was once the way ships would be guided along the Manayunk Canal and up the Schuylkill River. The Manayunk Towpath is lined with ruins of old locks, mills, and a sluice house. Today, they’re overgrown with vines and graffiti, but just imagine what they looked like a century ago.
You can hike or bike your way alongside the canal and explore the surrounding woods. Most of the ruins aren’t on a map, so go ahead and be a trailblazer. Just like Hillary.
Walk the Graffiti Pier
Despite Hillary saying that “manufacturing is coming back,” it’s unlikely she’ll drop by these abandoned shipping yards. Located in the former Port Richmond Yards, Graffiti Pier is one of two piers that delivered coal to waiting ships. In the 1920’s, this was one of the largest tidewater terminals in the world. Now it is just two concrete piers, holding up the tracks where trains used to run. Decommissioned by Conrail in 1991, it is an abandoned canvas for artists, writers, and urban art aficionados.
There’s a scenic view of Philadelphia from the piers. And if you want to reminisce about 1980’s cartoon characters, one artist has painted some for you. Watch out though — this is private property and there has been some crime. As with most spots in Philly, don’t go alone and don’t go at night.
Get spooked at Eastern State Penitentiary
Lots of Republicans argue that “Crooked Hillary” should be here. No PR person is going to let her within a mile of this place for a photo op.
Inspired by the Quakers, Dr. Benjamin Rush devised a strict system that “exposes” inmates to silence, to think about their crimes, to express genuine regret, and be penitent. From this philosophy, we get the word penitentiary.
Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 and closed 142 years later in 1971. One-hundred-and-forty-two years in operation! It’s grand architecture — which people traveled to see in the 1830’s and 1840’s — is crumbling but in majestic ruins of cell blocks and guard towers.
Many think it is haunted. There were murders, suicides, and torture. The penitentiary pioneered “water baths” — just don’t tell George W. that someone else was first. They had solitary confinement with “The Hole” and a mad chair where the inmate was tied so tight that circulation was cut off.
If the haunted spirits at Eastern State aren’t enough, take a ghost tour of Society Hill. The Hag of Pine Street will yell at you and try to hit your with her cane. Or so they say.
Hug the Phanatic
The Phillie Phanatic is undoubtably the best mascot in all of sports. Of course, a Phillies game is the best place to see him, but the Phils are away during the convention. The Phanatic is always roaming about, thanks to Phanatic statues at Citizens Bank Park and Independence Visitors Center.
What screams AMERICA more than hugging a green monster with an extendable tongue from the Galápagos Islands?
Listen to live jazz in Cedar Park
Face it, Hillary will be on the first private jet out of PHL on Thursday after her acceptance speech. No way she’ll stick around ’til Friday, when there’s live jazz every week in Cedar Park.
Bring your folding chair, a hoagie, and some snacks from the vendors that now line up around the park. This Friday, July 29, is the last jazz of the season. Just in time to unwind from such crazy DNC excitement.
After all, these fun outdoor events must wrap up soon — winter is coming and it will soon be snowing in Philly.
Visit my parents in Scranton
The fictional home of The Office really exists! And it is as bad as you think. Hillary’s parents were from Scranton. My parents live near Scranton. Fightin’ Vice President Biden is from Scranton. And he says, “Things may be bad where you live, but I guarantee you it is a paradise compared to the burning coal heap that is Scranton, Pennsylvania.” Oh wait, I’m thinking of an SNL skit.
About 90 minutes north of Philadelphia, the main attraction is the Steamtown National Historic Museum. Who doesn’t like trains?
There’s a lot of coal in Scranton — Biden wasn’t lying. Take the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, and visit the adjacent Anthracite Heritage Museum. Then buy something from the gift shop — yes, of course they have a gift shop.
Scranton made the list because my mom wishes I would visit more often.
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