5 Things To Do In Philly When You’re Broke AF
How I Solo-Traveled My Way Through Philadelphia, PA in 36 Hours
If you’ve never hopped on a bus late at night, slept on the road, and woke up somewhere brand new in the morning, I highly recommend it. Plus, when the bus ticket costs a grand total of $30, how could you say no? Your neck might hate you in the morning like mine did, but in terms of both dollars and discomfort, it’s a small price to pay in the name of budget travel.
Sleeping on an overnight bus from Buffalo to Philadelphia by myself was the second craziest thing I did this summer, next to hopping on a plane to Austin and sleeping in a stranger’s house. No, I’m not having a couple-years-before-my-quarter-life-crisis life crisis. Or am I?
Regardless of however you might find yourself in Philly, here’s a handful of things you need to check out, according to me. Especially if you’re a poor college kid, a 20something millennial aimlessly wandering through life, or a person just generally trying to have a good time for not a lot of mulah.
The Franklin Fountain | 116 Market St.
I can’t even tell you how many ice cream shops I walked by during my twelve hours walking around the city, but I promise, this is the one you need to go to. Why? For starters, they serve handmade ice cream with local ingredients in a Chinese takeout-style box. At this point, need I say more?
While I’ll admit that the Instagram photo-op is what originally drew me in to this place (I’m basic AF), I was even happier to learn that they actually serve vegan options, too! So that was pretty much the cherry on top of an overall super cute spot with touristy historical undertones and a killer menu.
And if you’re still not convinced, just go there and try to tell me you didn’t have fun eating ice cream out of a box. Just try.
The Liberty Bell - N 6th St & Market St
If you went to Philly and didn’t see the Liberty Bell, did you really go to Philly? Sure, it’s super touristy, but if you only do one history-related thing while you’re in Philadelphia, the literal birthplace of the United States and, in turn, one of the most historical cities in the country, I’d definitely recommend checking out the Liberty Bell. I went on a Saturday afternoon, which would arguably be one of the busiest, most touristy times to go, and the crowds weren’t even really that bad, so you aren’t allowed to use that as an excuse to not go.
You’ll have to briefly get through security, but once you do, there’s a museum-like hallway full of (actually) interesting articles, videos, and such that you can take your time walking by, watching, and reading through before you get to the actual bell, which is at the end of the building. The best part? It’s completely FREE! We love a free thing.
explore the city of philadelphia to find the perfect spot for an instagram Photo
I’m a pretty big advocate of the fact that when it comes to traveling, it’s important to sometimes just unplug, put the phone away, and take everything in organically rather than through a rectangular mini-computer screen. On the other hand though, there’s definitely nothing wrong with taking the time to snap some cute pictures and Instagram stories to provoke some travel-envy among your friends and family. Luckily, Philly is absolutely beautiful and photogenic AF. Here were just a few of my many favorite Instagram-worthy spots around the city that would look amazing on your Instagram grid:
Murals and Street art around the city
Sadly I don’t know what this mural is called, who the artist is, or where it was (I was very disoriented after the bus dropped me off at 7:30am- message me if you know either of those things plz), but I do know that it’s beautiful, and there are so many others just like this one all around the city. Find your favorites here.
Philly Love Park
I want to be honest- when I heard “Philly Love Park” and saw the Google image search results, I thought it was going to be a park full of statues like this one, but it’s really just two statues, this one, and one that says LOVE, both of which can be found on the corner of 16th St and JFK Boulevard. They’re super cute, and I would have loved to get a cute picture with my boyfriend under one of them had he been with me, but it’s kind of tough to get a picture without people in your way. You’ve been warned.
Philly Chinatown Friendship Gate
This amazingly colorful, 40-foot gate serves as the entrance to the Chinatown neighborhood in Philly and can be found on the corner of 10th and Arch St. I think taking pictures of Chinatown gates in different cities is my travel thing.
Channeling major Rainbow Road vibes for this one. I loved everything about walking through the area lovingly nicknamed Philly’s “Gayborhood,” which was so colorful at every turn, they even had rainbows on the street signs. This mural, named Philadelphia Muses, greets you with the rainbow intersection at the beginning of the neighborhood, and serves as a modern take on the classical muses. Get a better look at this iconic piece of street art here, or find it in person at the corner of 13th and Locust St.
Thrifting at Philly Aids Thrift - 710 S. 5th St
Philly AIDS Thrift is not your average thrift store, I can promise you that much. Since opening in 2005, this massive thrift shop on South 5th Street sells donated, vintage-y items with all of the proceeds going towards fighting HIV/AIDS in local communities. And when I say that this store is massive, I really mean it- I got lost inside like, twice in an hour. It was crazy.
(I didn’t take any pictures of the inside of the thrift store while I was there, so please enjoy this photo sourced from here.)
Philly AIDS Thrift was hands-down the coolest thrift store I’ve ever been to, with something new to discover around every corner of their two-story space. From vegan cookbooks to children’s Halloween costumes to full-size couches and home furniture, they had it all. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s a really fun way to get lost for a while browsing through a ton of interesting finds.
I actually bought a really cute shirt there, took it back to my Airbnb to try on at the end of the night only to realize after forcing it on myself that it was way too small for me, and had to discreetly and nonchalantly venture into the shared kitchen and cut myself out of it. It was a great time. I think the only thing that could have been worse in that situation is if I had tried it on in the dressing room at the store, so it’s safe to say I’ve never been more thankful to be lazy and very much not about trying on clothes before I buy them.
Philly Magic Gardens - 1020 South Street
Spanning the length of three city lots, Philadelphia Magic Gardens is a collection of beautiful indoor and outdoor mosaic murals by Philly artist Isaiah Zagar (who still lives in Philly, and I actually saw him on the street while I was walking around!). The two story outdoor labyrinth immediately immerses you within the art, and serves as an incredible experience that is worth way more than the $8 I paid to get in.
Something you might not know about the project is that it actually started back in the 1960’s, when Zagar began crafting his beautiful murals throughout South Street on both private and public walls. The artist devoted himself to helping to revitalize the community through public art, and even rallied to defend it when the construction of a highway threatened to eliminate South Street completely. Now, Zagar’s work can be seen not only in the designated PMG gallery, but also tucked away quietly on private walls, on the side of businesses, and abandoned alleyways throughout Philly’s South Street. Walk too fast and you might miss them!