Day Sixty-Two: Christmas Visit to Philadelphia December 16th, 2016

I put my walk in Manhattan aside for the day and walked the streets of Philadelphia, PA for my annual trip on the Acela to visit the ‘City of Brotherly Love’. I go down to Philly twice a year on purpose for my cheesesteak fix at Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagie’s Cheesesteaks and to have Beiler’s Doughnuts and Basset’s Ice Cream, foods that you just can’t replicate in New York City or New Jersey. Not the way they do it. This requires a trip on the Acela to the Reading Terminal Market downtown.

During the holiday season, I also like to see the light show at Macy’s  (which I still call Wanamaker’s) and visit the tree at City Hall. Philadelphia has its own magic at holidays. There is such a beautiful holiday market that surrounds City Hall with all sorts of artisan crafted foods and handmade products. There was a slew of singers, actors and musicians that were entertaining the public.

The City Hall Christmas Tree may not be as big as the one in New York but no less nice. It was beautifully decorated and at twilight, covered with colorful lights. A lot of people were taking pictures around it or were getting ready to skate around the makeshift skating rink. It is not Rockefeller Center but the affect was just as nice and it really did put me in the Christmas spirit.

The first part of my trip was to see the light show at Macy’s next to City Hall. I still have a hard time calling it Macy’s considering it was the old Wanamaker’s store since its inception.  This beautiful grand dame of the department store industry was so much nicer when it was Wanamaker’s. There were beautiful restaurants, luxury departments and it was always nicely decorated for the holidays. Macy’s does a nice job but it was a different store in the 80’s and early 90’s. I still see traces of the old store in the movie “Mannequin”.

I have seen the light show about five times now and I know I can see the whole thing on YouTube but it is still fun to see it live in the store and hear the organist play the famous pipe organ. It really is an exciting show. I love the music and I love the way they display the story line. Julie Andrews does a nice job narrating the story. It is such a colorful program with all the lights and music. I love it when she says, “Farewell Frosty” to Frosty the Snowman. The crowds are huge and all over the main level, so if you go see it in the future get there early. The light show is only during the holiday season so take the special trip out to see it. It is only about twenty minutes long but still it is one of the things I look forward to seeing.

This is one of the nicest shots of the show I could find online:

My main purpose and what I made a B-line to was the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Somehow there are just regions where you can not replicate the foods from that area. Philly is one of those places. I had not been to the city since the spring and I needed my serious cheesesteak fix and the best place to do that in the downtown area is Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks.

Located in the center of the Reading Market which is only about two blocks from City Hall, Carmen’s has some of the best sandwiches in the city. I have my usual plain Cheesesteak with Cheese Wiz. Sorry New York City, we do a lot of things great up here but cheesesteaks like this are not one of them. They load a fresh, soft chewy hoagie bun up with thin sliced steaks and then load that up with loads of Cheese Wiz. Biting into that sandwich is heaven on earth and I enjoy every bite of it. It is always funny to see the staff watch me enjoy my sandwich and the guy that looks like the owner likes it that I enjoy it so much (See TripAdvisor review). It is also fun to talk to the other guests because they come here from all over for the same reason.

My next part of the trip was to Beiler’s Bakery, which has some of the best doughnuts in the world. These little gems are so beautifully displayed and are constantly being refilled that I do not think that there is a stale doughnut ever in that case. The line wrapped around the counter.

It is fun to watch the doughnuts fried out in front of you and then cooled on the racks. Then each doughnut is hand filled and glazed right in front of the customers behind the glass. All of their fillings are hand-made and are oh so good. I had a strawberry glazed with what tasted like fresh strawberry jelly and I had a peppermint cream filled doughnut that was a specialty for the holidays that had just a hint of the peppermint sweetness. It was a hard choice though. I could have eaten a dozen but you have to be good here (See TripAdvisor review).

After lunch was over it was off to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950”, which was well-worth the trip. You don’t get to see much of this art in New York museums or just on a smaller scale than this. The exhibition showed such a wide range of art from the traditional landscapes to cubism and the modern person. I liked the way the way that the curator set the exhibit up. It jumped around and as it flowed you saw the art from many perspectives. I advise readers in the New York area to take a trip down to see this exhibition.

I walked around the city after my museum visit and saw all the different holiday displays downtown. Philly really is a pretty city and the downtown has been much improved in the last ten years. It is so much more vibrant and safer than in years past.

Before I took the drive back up to New York City, I took one more stop at the Reading Market to go to Basset’s Ice Cream for a cone and stop at Beiler’s Bakery across from their doughnut stand to take some baked goods home. I can’t get Shoofly pie or proper moon pies at home.

Again the place was still so busy and I was able to load up on Whoopie Pies, Shoofly Pie and Sweet Rolls for the trip home and some Whoopie Pies for my aunt who needed some cheering up. They are so well-baked and delicious I wanted to eat them there. Everyone at the stand was so patient with me as I had to make my decisions. Add in a few fry pies and I was done for the day (See review on TripAdvisor).

Next was off to Basset’s Ice Cream for a cone for my walk back to the station. I settled on the holiday Eggnog flavor (Yum) and the Pomegranate and Blueberry flavor (unusual and worked).  On a fresh waffle cone there is nothing like it even in the winter. Everyone I passed saw the huge smile on my face and made comments about eating ice cream in the winter. Sorry folks, there is nothing like ice cream with butter fat in it to make a man smile (See review on TripAdvisor). It was a great walk back to the train station. All the lights went on in downtown and the City Hall Market looked even more festive.

The train station was beautifully decorated with lights, wreaths and a huge tree and it was nice to just sit back and relax until the train came. On the way back, the city was all lite in front of me. The boat houses on the river were lit with Christmas lights and boats passed by lit up as well.

The latter part of the evening when I got back to New York City was a quick trip to the Met to see their Christmas Tree and an evening of looking at the windows of Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. I took a quick trip through the holiday market in Bryant Park and then to Port Authority.  It really was the perfect day to get into the holiday mood.

Places to Visit:

Macy’s Philadelphia

1300 Market Street

Philadelphia, PA  19107

https://l.macys.com/philadelphia-pa

My review onTripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60795-d2108535-Reviews-Macy_s_Philadelphia-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

Reading Terminal Market

12th & Arch Streets

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 922-2317

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60795-d104158-Reviews-Reading_Terminal_Market-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

Philadelphia Museum of Art

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Philadelphia, PA 19130

(215) 763-8100

https://www.philamuseum.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60795-d10800264-Reviews-Philadelphia_Museum_of_Art-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

Beiler’s Doughnuts

Reading Market

51 North 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 351-0735

https://www.beilersdoughnuts.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d3964520-Reviews-Beiler_s_Bakery-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1033

 

Basset’s Ice Cream Shop

Reading Market

51 North 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA  19107

(215) 925-4315

https://www.bassettsicecream.com/our-store

http://bassettsicecream.com/l-58-%20Reading-Terminal-Market

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d2321510-Reviews-Bassetts_Ice_Cream-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

 

Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks

Reading Market

51 West 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA  19107

(215) 592-7799

https://readingterminalmarket.org/merchant/carmens-famous-italian-hoagies-cheesesteaks/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60795-d3606272-Reviews-Carmen_s_Famous_Italian_Hoagies_Cheesesteaks-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1042

 

 

 

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1 thought on “Day Sixty-Two: Christmas Visit to Philadelphia December 16th, 2016

  1. Even tough the light show is over, plan to see it at least once and then walk around Macy’s. Their windows in Philly were nicer than the ones in New York City and more old fashioned. Do not miss Reading Market!

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