We took a weekend trip to Philadelphia!

For the last two years we’ve had magnificent spring breaks in France and Spain. This year, M’s enjoying a two-week vacation-and-exchange-trip to Spain with her school, and the rest of us. . . had no particular plan at all. So we decided that we needed some sort of getaway.

I have the vague notion that I went to Philadelphia with a high school friend as a pit stop at her Grandma’s between college visits, but it’s entirely possible I’m making that up. Cute W and J hadn’t visited Philly, ever. So we decided to go and be tourists.

The drive to Philadelphia is about four hours for us, so we left on Friday morning and arrived in town in time for a late lunch. Our first stop was Reading Terminal Market, which was an easy walk from our hotel. We all love exploring a market, and you know how much Cute W likes to follow Yelp where it leads us. As it turned out, there was a huge volleyball tournament in Philly over the weekend. This was fun because J is such a volleyball enthusiast, except when it made her wish a teensy bit that she was walking around with her teammates in their shorty-shorts instead of hanging around with her parents. Oh, well. Anyway, the market was a complete mob scene. Starving J requested some Indian food, and Cute W followed the recommendations to some massive meat sandwiches (why no, we did not limit ourselves to fish on Good Friday). We scored a table–no easy feat!–next to a couple of volleyball dads, one of whom was very chatty. At one point, J breathed quietly at me, “Dad’s finally found someone friendlier than he is!” Sadly, we weren’t super-impressed with our lunches, but that didn’t deter us. Cute W put himself into the massive line for donuts while I took on the challenge of locating and acquiring items from an article I’d read about the must-eat items in the market. By that time we were all really, really eager to escape the crowds, so we took our booty (a selection of donuts, mini-pretzel dogs, and mini whoopie pies) outside to a park bench.

The donuts were tasty, but they didn’t approach the greatness that has become our Platonic Ideal of Donuthood, the ones at Do-Rite Donuts in Chicago. We really appreciated the mini pretzel dogs, which made me wish that we hadn’t even attempted the other lunch items so that I could have had more room to overeat these. We actually had plans to return and buy more of them, along with some cheeses, on Easter morning, so that we could bring them along to my sister’s house. But then the market was closed on Easter. Not like they mentioned that on their website. Or on any signs. Or, like, anywhere. Can you tell that I’m bitter about this? Finally, we didn’t get pictures of the mini-whoopie pies that we tried. But they were delicious. In fact, it turns out that J had never tasted a whoopie pie before, and as she sampled them, she said, “I feel like these whoopie pies are so delicious that I should have already tried them before. I mean, I should have had access to these sometime in my life already.” Indeed.

We rolled our bloated bodies away from the market and headed to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. When I did my Philadelphia research, I just knew that this was the kind of place that J in particular would love, and they recommended pre-ordering tickets, so we’d done that. It was excellent! J said, “I love this place. I had high expectations and it’s better than I expected.” Gotta love that! Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is an indoor and outdoor space with a crazy amount of quirky mosaics as well as an art gallery. We loved the art and the mosaics. The outdoor part is this nutty three-dimensional maze, which you can get a sense of via their virtual tour.

The mosaics include found materials like bottles and bicycle wheels and little surprises everywhere. Here’s a fish swimming in a little opening in a wall, and beyond that–surprise!–more mosaics. And there, tucked under a bunch of bottles, is a pregnant mermaid.

Even the bathrooms were jammed with mosaics.

It was a super-fun place to visit. Younger kids were loaned laminated scavenger hunt sheets, so they were running around like crazy searching for squirrels and birds and all sorts of animals. J said that if she ever gets a ton of money she’ll go back and buy some of the artwork. It’s a small place, but well worth a visit.

There was more walking around, and then we went back to the hotel for a rest before heading back out to–you guessed it!–eat some more. J was craving a burger (she has been less vegetarian-oriented these days), and Cute W consulted Yelp and found Oh Brother. It was really, really delicious.

Cute W and J had burgers, which they enjoyed, but I think they were both a little jealous of my pulled Buffalo chicken sandwich, which was exquisite. Yes, that’s right, nobody had cheese steaks. Leave us alone. We also love the chili lime fries (J thought that they could have been more chili lime-ish, but she is crazy because they were perfect).

After eating, we really did walk around a bit, even though it was chilly and rainy. I feel the need to assert that we walked around because the last stop of the night was ice cream at Happily Ever After. Not just any ice cream, either: it was liquid nitrogen ice cream, which apparently is a trendy thing now? They threw the cream and flavorings into a Kitchen Aid mixer and blasted the whole thing with nitrogen to make it freeze and solidify immediately in a dramatic storm of steam. The idea is that the super-quick freeze makes the ice crystals in the ice cream smaller, so the resulting ice cream is creamier and denser than regular ice cream. And it was super creamy and dense. We tried two flavors: Nutella and mango.

The shop itself was fun, too, with different random movie and pop culture posters and toys as well as an old school arcade game. But we didn’t linger long, because by this time we were exhausted and ready for bed.

More on Philadelphia soon.

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