Cities and Culture, North America, Pennsylvania, Places, USA

Philadelphia: City of Motherly Love

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Fact. Mother’s Day was invented in Philadelphia. In the early 1900s, Philadelphian Anna Jarvis advocated for the holiday to commemorate none other than her own mother who worked tirelessly to improve the lives and opportunities for women all over the East Coast.

I love Mother’s Day. And I wouldn’t trade the homemade cards, the pancakes served with forks whose handles seem to have been dipped in maple-syrup, and the hot sticky kisses for anything in the world. But, like all holidays that involve my kids, it’s exhausting.

Wait, I’m not alone? You mean there are other moms out there who need to recover from their own holiday? Apparently so.

And what better way to celebrate surviving another year of motherhood than with other mothers?

Two weeks ago, six area family travel bloggers met up in Philadelphia looking a little road-worn and our voices slightly hoarse from the last-minute “don’t forget…” and “whatever you do, don’t…” and “make sure you…” instructions we left with our kids and their caretakers.

Here were my bits of maternal wisdom, etched in white board marker for emphasis:

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It ‘s no secret that I live in the House of Brotherly (mostly)Love and I have appreciated Philadelphia with John and the three boys on numerous occasions, taking biking tours, visiting its many parks, and exceptional science and children’s museums. We love the city.

But what did it have to offer this group of slightly harried moms in three short days?

Let’s start with the essentials:

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We didn’t have to stray far from our South Philly vacation rental to stumble upon one fantastic shoe store, Bus Stop. Besides the shoes, we loved the carefully chosen jewelry, fragrances, and bags.

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The luxury of not living in suburban car culture for the weekend (and not raising serious eyebrows by showing up at school pickup with boozy breath) is that we could indulge in a lunchtime drink. Jones totally delivered with fresh, unusual drinks like a jalapeno Tom Collins.

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Public art

I can’t think of a better thing to do on a sunny Philadelphia day than a Mural Arts Tour. The Mural Arts Project was born in an effort to—literally—clean up the city by creating outdoor murals that would reflect the flavor, history and circumstances of its unique neighborhoods. Today, you can view over 2,000 murals in all corners of the city and they all have a story to tell. We followed our friendly guide through parts of the center city and China Town, hitting about a dozen murals along the way. They also offer trolley tours, bike tours, and custom tours.

The mural above depicts Philly’s vibrant immigrant history and incorporates both mosaic and paint.

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Intimate art and conversation

The Barnes Foundation has been on my list since it opened a few years ago and I’ve tried to go several times with the boys only to be turned down in favor of—really anything else. How wise they were. I really enjoyed going with adults, with a knowledgeable docent, and no one to run after.

What I found most interesting were the docent’s insight about the art of collecting art, which Barnes had turned into an—yep—art! By arranging his vast collection in particular ways on a wall and adorning blank spaces with metal hinges and other industrial hardware, Barnes forces the viewer to make connections between different art forms and artistic eras that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional museum setting (i.e., the Impressionist room or the Art of Ancient Greece).

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A well-curated vintage flea market is one of my happy places and we stumbled upon a great one: the Franklin Flea. It’s only open on Saturday and calls itself a winter market but has been extended to several summer dates. In other words, check the website before you go.

My favorite finds were old skeleton keys and hotel room numbers, Turkish towels, and exquisite kimonos brought back by a woman who lived in Japan while her husband was stationed there.

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I did not buy a kimono. The regret is weighing me down, curbing my back with sorrow, my only support a cane of bitterness.

Treats in Midtown Village

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Nothing soothes a damaged shopper like gelato. I indulged in two flavors, cashew and dark chocolate, at Capogiro’s in Midtown Village. Some of the crazies I was with had affogato, a shot of rich espresso (after 4:00 in the afternoon! I said crazy, didn’t I?) topped with a floating mound of gelato.

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We strolled in and out of quaint shops browsing at jewelry, housewares and clothes, satiated on culture, great conversation, sugar and (for the moms gone wild) caffeine.

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On our last day, we solemnly followed as one of the world’s ultimate mother figure was hoisted through the streets of the Italian Market, waving to the growing throngs of people pinning dollar bills to her ribbons, along with their deepest wishes and dreams. As always happens when I’m away from them, I kind of wished my boys were with me, while simultaneously wishing for more trips with friends. And the beauty of traveling with other mothers is that I didn’t even have to look at them to know they were thinking the exact same thing.

A big big thanks to the Barnes Foundation, the Mural Arts Program, and VisitPhilly for their generous support.


4 Responses to “Philadelphia: City of Motherly Love”

  1. I love this post. The photos are great, too. I hope to take my family there soon and indulge in a little history and good food.

    Posted by Pretty Wellness | May 30, 2014, 2:09 pm
  2. Ooh–that kimono…I am a little sad for you. :) Our brief stop in Midtown village makes me want to go back and go from restaurant to restaurant to sample.

    Posted by Elena | June 4, 2014, 1:51 pm


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