Philly in 3 hours

April 27, 2015 |  Category:   life travels










We didn’t mean to spend only 3 hours in Philly, but last weekend was one of those weekends where we tried to be spontaneous – but failed rather spectacularly. Mark and the girls had never been to Philly before, and while I did travel there for business on 2 occasions in the last 18 months, it was a typical business trip in that I spent all day in meetings. I saw the city through the backseat windows of cabs, but remember making mental notes of wanting to stop at all sorts of places.


It’s pretty remarkable that the city is a mere 2 hour drive away from NY. The kids felt a bit disoriented after we got out of the car because we usually step out into the country, the suburbs or small towns after a 2 hour car ride, not another big city with tall buildings and busy streets. The first place we headed after parking the car was Reading Terminal Market because, well, food. The thing about places like the Reading Terminal for me is that I love the bustling liveliness of it all (that’s sort of a nice way of saying, heeeyy long lines and overcrowded aisles), but I’m often completely overwhelmed to the point of being rendered useless in making any kind of food decisions. The appeal of something like the Reading Terminal is that there are so many choices and everyone can satisfy their own particular cravings, but that also potentially means getting on four different lines. The kids have to eat though, so most of the focus is spent on getting food for them. Do you know that feeling when you’re hosting an event and you’re running around making sure that everyone else is happy and taken care of that you just sort of forget to eat, but then regret after it’s over that you didn’t have enough of the amazing food you served? Yeah. Adding to the overall chaos, I was dealing with a pretty bad emergency at work so was pretty much glued to my phone and didn’t end up eating anything at all.
After lunch we headed down to Independence Hall to look at the Liberty Bell. Fifth graders have been studying American History all year, so the girls were pretty into it. Except…we saw this huge line snaking through the park and down the block as we approached the area where the bell is. This is completely the result of my ignorance but I thought the bell was more open and we could simply stroll up to it. In our attempt to be “spontaneous” we did zero research and neglected to find out that there is a security process involved. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, nobody in our family wanted to wait in line. We did, however, walk to the end of the park and saw most of the bell from a distance through the plexiglass enclosure from the fence.
“What are all those people waiting in line for when you can just walk over here and see the bell through the glass!”, I overheard an older gentleman say. I’m feeling you, man, I’m feeling you.
We continued to meander our way in and out of the historic buildings and gardens surrounding Independence Hall. The girls were complaining about the heat though (it was 80 degrees which was a rather big, sudden jump in temperature) and the long distances we’d been walking so far. Our parking meter was soon up by that time anyway so we made the long walk back to the car to drive and explore a different neighborhood. When the walk took much longer than we anticipated, we split up and Mark sprinted to get to the car in time while I looked for an ice cream shop for the girls.
While waiting to pay for cones at a shop I get a call from Mark. “I got a ticket. For parking 8 inches into a handicap spot. It wasn’t very well marked and there was nothing marking the curb.”
“Ugh,” I say. “How much is the ticket?”
“300 dollars.”
“300 dollars!!”
At that point, we were tired and felt defeated and after a quick poll in the car, decided that we all just wanted to go home. As we were driving towards the highway, we drove through the cutest neighborhood and while we wanted to stop and have a coffee in a quaint cafe somewhere and pop into some shops, the thought of trying to find parking and paying the city of Philadelphia any more parking money put us in a decidedly grumpy mood. So we left Philly the way I left during my last trip there – seeing the city through the window of a car.
It took the entire ride home through heavy traffic to shake off the mood we were in. Mark went as far as saying he didn’t know if he wanted to go there again, which is silly of course because we’ll give Philly another try, but I’ll admit it was a relief to drive down our block and be home. Settled in with takeout food from some of our favorite neighborhood joints and big slices of leftover birthday cake, all was well again.

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  • RebeccaNYC April 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Awwww! The city of brotherly love and sisterly affection! So sorry you had such a bad experience! I lived in Center City for over 20 years and could have warned you about parking on the street. They are SERIOUS there. Also Reading Terminal on the weekend? uhhh…NO. That said, it is my favorite market in the world, and I tell every one they need to visit. And I miss living in Philly big time.

    There are so many wonderful neighborhoods in Philly, from Old City to Rittenhouse Square, please come back for longer than 2 hours, park in a garage, use the bus system to get around (it’s a super walkable city, but it is deceptively big), come during the week. But come back!

    • Jenna April 27, 2015 at 11:26 am

      I’m sure we’ll be back Rebecca! It was just a culmination of things that weekend, not just the city itself. You know how some things just never seem to go right. Ironically we were super happy to find a street spot and save money on a garage, ha!

  • Hannah April 27, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Such a bummer about that parking ticket! $300 is ridiculous! Not sure how it works in Philly, but I’ve had luck appealing parking tickets before. Did you happen to snap some pictures of the parking spot? Sometimes if you send pictures, explain how you aren’t from the area, and show that the handicap spot wasn’t well marked, you can get the ticket reduced or even removed completely. Might be worth a try. Good luck!

    • Jenna April 27, 2015 at 11:27 am

      Yeah, Mark is appealing. We don’t get parking tickets often, but he’s sort of the master of that. He’s gotten some reduced and/ or dropped. We’re waiting to hear back!

  • Heather April 27, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Sorry such a beautiful day ended up feeling wasted. Some of our visits to NYC feel exactly like that, lines and parking tickets included! I hope you are willing to venture to Philadelphia again, it really is a charming city, especially on a beautiful spring day. I lived in center city during medical school, it is a great city for biking. The girls might enjoy the Franklin Institute, or the Mutter museum, or the (free!) Smith Playground. Try, try again!

    • Jenna April 27, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      I’ve been wanting to go to the Mutter museum for 20 years! Someday, someday…

  • C April 27, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Aww, I lived in philly for two years, it’s no New York but it has its charms. If you ever decide to go back(you guys should!) there’s a train that takes you from ny(Penn station to philly via septa & nj transit. You do have to transfer but it’s easy and parking(no possible tickets!) I would always take my friends into the city via public transport than walk from 1st(to see the bell with no lines in the morning) all the way to upenns campus for an all day affair.

    • Jenna April 27, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      When I went down for business on my last 2 visits I took the train. It was very pleasant way to travel, but the tickets do add up for all 4 of us. Although with this ticket it probably would have been a wash 🙂

  • Shibui April 27, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    So I got a ticket once in a not very well marked spot. I took a picture of the situation and sent it off to the appropriate agency. They dismissed it because the law says the sign has to be legible it was so faded you couldn’t read it!

    • Jenna April 27, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      It’s definitely possible to dispute it – we shall see!

  • Arlene April 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Hi. I don’t think you mentioned this in a previous post, but can you tell me what kind of cake your husband made for you on your birthday? You talked about a cake survey but didn’t share your responses. I’m assuming that’s a picture of it, right? It looks gorgeous and yummy!

    • Jenna April 27, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      oh right! I did mention on Instagram, but neglected to describe it here. It was a white cake with lemon frosting and a blueberry lavender filling. Might be one of my favorites now.

  • Shira April 27, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    I live in Philly, and the parking authority here is the WORST. I’m sorry you had to deal with it. I hope you’ll give it another chance!

    • Jenna April 27, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      We will Shira, we will!

  • Mieke Zamora-Mackay April 27, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I am sorry to hear about your experience with the parking authority. That would really put a damper on any experience. For what it’s worth, if you decide to come back, please feel free to let me know. I live just 20 minutes away from the city on the Jersey side. Taking the PATCO Hi-Speedline train into the city is the best way in, and you’ll never have to worry about that parking situation again!

  • Joo April 29, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Oh no!!! Next time, take the train or park your car at a parking lot (a lot less than that friggin’ $300 ticket!!). And if you can plan in advance, swing by the Franklin Mint Museum (I’ve taken my little cousins there and something about seeing money made them very excited!), the Franklin Institute, Barnes museum, and eat at one of those trendy places like Continental, or for you and Mark, Monks for some great mussels, burgers and beer 🙂

  • Alexis April 30, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Great photos. Next time you go back, check out the Mutter Museum (medical oddities) and eat at Zahav. Amazing Israeli food. You need reservations tho. Also, Federal Donuts for fried chicken AND donuts!

    • Jenna May 2, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Federal donuts was on our list. But we never made it!

  • susan // fleurishing May 2, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Ugh, Philly is the worst when it comes to parking! Next time you’re in town let me know – would love to see you and show you our favorite spots. 😉

    • Jenna May 2, 2015 at 10:04 am

      you were in Paris then!