the rittenhouse effect

While the Rittenhouse Square shopping district certainly has its share of overpriced, trendy designer chain stores, there is something here for everyone—even if you don’t have a trust fund. This is the center of the shopping scene in Philly, so even if you just go to window-shopping at the one-of-a-kind boutiques or to see visit the Square decked out in lights it is a must-stop on the holiday shopping agenda. Roughly bordered by Broad and 20th streets, with the bulk of stores concentrated on Chestnut and Walnut, the area provides undeniably elegant gift options and offers as much variety as a mega-mall in a much more pleasant environment.

If you have the cash, check out unique boutiques like Asta de Blue (265 S. 20th St.) and Sophy Curson (122 S. 19th St.) for a positively swank selection ranging from designer dresses (Lacroix, Blumarine) to contemporary clothing (Zelda, Harari) to stylish shoes. Asta de Blue proudly boasts the largest collection of Arche footwear beyond Manhattan. For exquisite jewelry for that special someone, there is a much more original alternative to the generic designs of Kay Jewelers and Zales. Deborah Finn’s Rittenhouse Jewelers (220 S. 20th St.) provides a unique assortment of inventive and tasteful necklaces, bracelets, and rings.

Daffy’s (17th and Chestnut St.) offers the brand name clothes, shoes, ties, and apparel at discounts as high as 80% off for men, women, and children. They also have a house wares section with cheap offerings that don’t look cheap. City Sports (1608 Walnut St.) has the best jerseys, spots gear, and sneakers for those athletic types on your list. The Sharper Image (1518 Walnut St.) stocks endless amounts of random doo-dads and grown-up toys that are guaranteed increase comfort levels of recipients.

For the geek in all of us (and we all know it’s there), there’s Out Of Time (1410 Chestnut St.) & Fat Jack Comics (2006 Sansom St.). Both offer a Comic-Con’s ransom of graphic novels, action figures, and other memorabilia to entertain yourself (because we all know that the X-Men rock). For cheap music, check out Coconuts (1717 Chestnut St.) for great artists both old and new, popular and rare. You can even sell back those CDs you paid too much for at Tower for store credit.

But why settle for material gifts when you could give the memories of a great show? The Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St.) offers a wide array of shows for any tastes with numerous discount tickets for students or rush seats (visit www.princemusictheater.org for box office hours and a show schedule).

f you still insist on visiting the huge chains, you’ll find Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Barnes & Noble, Williams Sonoma, Express, H & M, and the two Gaps (regular and Outlet) and many more. They are popular for a reason, you know.

university city charm

Charming safes, restaurants, and shops line the sidewalks of University City, which happens to be the stomping grounds for Penn and Drexel students. Its continually-growing shopping district makes it a convenient place for many students to handle their holiday shopping in between classes, but even if you’re not a local, these unique stores make University City worth a visit.

American Apparel (3661 Walnut St.) is a vibrant, hip store that is new to the area. The chain’s loyal following loves their clothes for their simple lines, extreme comfort and because they are available in every color. They aren’t exactly cheap, but the jersey cotton and terry fabrics will put a smile on any friend’s face. Shirts and shorts cost between $20 and $30, and women’s intimates are between $10 and $15. The store also features scarves, bathing suits and adorable doggie sweaters.

If you’re looking for shoes, look no further. The Natural Shoe Store (220 S. 40th St.) is overflowing with shoes of all styles and brands, and most are marked down. Many women’s sandals, slippers, and clogs are less than $20. Comfy sneakers by Rocketdog, New Balance and Saucony are priced around $36. Even Timberland boots for women and men are marked down between $50 and $75. Look for the bright yellow sale stickers.

The Marvelous (220 S. 40th St.) sells CDs, comics, music books and records. The unique CD selection features unique artists, along with a few more well-known names, such as The White Stripes and Phish. All CDs are between $10 and $15. Vinyl records feature everybody from John Lennon and The Steve Miller Band to names most have never heard of. These records are priced anywhere from $3 to $15.

Looking for a gift for that girly-girl of the family? Definitely make a stop at Douglas Cosmetics (3601 Walnut St.) The best smelling perfumes, the trendiest makeup, and the most soothing spa baths and treatments can all be found here. Just make sure you’ve got some money to spend. Perfumes start at $30. Spa and bath treatments are about $20. And even a simple lip gloss starts at $15.

Featuring used and sold books, Last Word Bookshop (3935 Walnut St.) is the perfect place to find that special gift for your bookworm friend. The bookstore covers a wide range of subjects—from fiction and children’s classics, to history and anthropology, with a large drama and poetry section. Shelves even contain books in German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese and Italian, and books are priced anywhere from $3 to $30.

If you’d rather have new books, just skip over to Penn Bookstore (3601 Walnut St.) It’s just as big as any Barnes & Nobles, offering books for school, non-fiction, cookbooks, the new Harry Potter—basically everything. There are sometimes special deals offering 20 percent off, and the upstairs is filled with clothes (mostly Penn gear), school supplies, and other random stuff. Grab a coffee upstairs at the café if you need a shopping pick-me-up.

south street style

South Street is one of Philadelphia’s most notorious hangout spots. Packed with bars, restaurants, tattoo shops, and eccentric people, it has all the essentials for a memorable night on the town. But its eclectic shops — concentrated primarily between 2nd and 7th streets—also make it one of the best places around to find unique gifts.

The abundance of second-hand retailers on South Street can be especially useful to the holiday shopper on a budget—and who isn’t? Greene Street Consignment Shop (700 South St.) has a collection of designer clothes and accessories for men and women at unbeatable prices. Sure, this stuff is used, but unlike the average thrift store that sells anything, consignment shops carefully screens items before putting them on the racks to be sure they are in relatively good shape. And where else can you find name-brands items from Banana Republic, J.Crew, Anne Klein, Ralph Lauren and Armani for as low as $6? There are also great retro finds at stores like Retrospect (534 South St.), Time Zone (535 South St.) and Philly Vintage (530 S. Fourth St.).

South Street also has several costume jewelry stores like Nova Ice (441 South St.), M2 (618 South St.), and Siglo Accessories (641 South St.), with plenty of trinkets that make great stocking stuffers. At Nova Ice, the broaches, which start at $7.99, come in many different designs including flowers, butterflies, stars, and even martini glasses. M2’s large selection of reasonably-priced jewelry and handbags start at $5, and Siglo Accessories’ trendy jewelry ranges from $4 to $30. A bit more expensive, but well worth it, Nangellini (832 South St.) sells individually-designed crocheted and knitted hats, wraps, bags and other “wearable art,” with bags ranging from $8 to $125 and hats between $50 and $60. No two items are alike.

Posters and artwork make wonderful gifts and are available at Beyond the Wall: Posters and Prints (415 South St.) at good prices. There is an extensive collection of vintage, music, photography, movie, political, and animal posters for $15.00. All are all 27×40 and can be framed for additional costs. Unframed 8×10 prints start at $4, while pre-framed 8×10 prints cost $12.95. Matted prints are also available in sizes 8×10, 10×20, and 11×14, starting at $5.95.

Surprise your loved ones this holiday season with some trendy yet economical gifts from one of the most stylish shopping districts in Philadelphia.

going to the gallery

In the bustle of the holiday season, it sometimes comes down to a last minute scramble to collect gifts for everyone from crazy Uncle Johnny to Cousin Sue’s new baby. The Gallery at Market East is a one-stop shopping hit that can cover almost any of your gift-giving needs. With its main entrance on 9th and Market, the Gallery stands four stories high and spans four city blocks. Don’t be fooled

high end trend

It’s sandwiched between two better-known neighborhoods—Rittenhouse and Old City—but Washington Square West is hardly in their shadows. The vibrant urban enclave was once known more for wigs and drag queen hustlers than for high-end shopping and entertainment, but millions of dollars in development has made Philly’s fabulous “Gayborhood” into a hot destination. Expensive condos perch on top of expensive boutiques and sidewalk cafés, and its various stores make it a perfect stop for holiday shopping, whether you’re indulging yourself, or buying gifts for others.

The neighborhood extends roughly from Washington Square at 8th Street west to Juniper Street, and from Lombard Street north to Walnut, although it’s also beginning to claim the former no-man’s-land extending to Sansom Street. New York developer Tony Goldman has invested heavily in the area, bringing more shops, restaurants, and apartments to its streets. Goldman’s most visible success has been on South 13th Street near Sansom, where a row of trendy stores welcomes pedestrians through floor-to-ceiling windows. And yes, “trendy” does mean expensive in this case.

Open House (107-109 S. 13th St.) offers a wide selection of house wares and furniture within its exposed brick walls. The fastest-selling items are the scented candles, followed by handcrafted soaps, picture frames, and lamps. Decorative plates and vases are also in abundance. Expect to pay at least $22 for throw pillows and almost as much for candles.

Next to Open House is bShehu (113 S. 13th St.), a tiny boutique for “women who aren’t afraid to take risks.” Its shelves stock labels like Twinkle, Tom K, Just In Case, and Saja, and are definitely for those with fat wallets in addition to risk-taking temperaments. Pieces range from $30 for some of the t-shirts to $600 for many of the dresses.

Next you’ll find Sparacino Mens (115 S. 13th St.) and Matthew Izzo (117 S 13th St.). Sparacino’s is a high-end male clothing store, that carries lines like Ben Sherman, 4 You, and Penguin by Munsingwear among its pants, shirts, jackets, clubwear, sweaters, shoulder bags, and jeans ($88 for a pair of Ruffers). It also carries watches, accessories, and jewelry. Next door, Matthew Izzo has women’s clothes, candles, lotions, and shaving cream on the first floor, and a second floor devoted to men’s clothing. Jeans range from $135 for Hudsons to $214 for Blue, and those seeking expensive underwear can delight pairs by Adam ($25) or Ginch Gonch ($31.50).

Take a quick break from the work of shopping and stop at Capogiro Gelato Artisans (119 S 13th St.), where the art of handmade Italian gelato hasn’t been forgotten. The seasonal selection includes standard flavors like chocolate and pistachio, as well as innovative ones like Rosemary Honey Goat’s Milk and Mascarpone Fig. A mini-cone costs $2.50, and a three-flavor dish runs a rather steep $5.50, but the $10 pint makes a high-quality gift.

The venerable Robin’s Bookstore (108 S. 13th St.) sits across 13th Street from Goldman’s row, and its bright, mosaic storefront has defied bland corporate chains for decades. Robin’s has been in business since 1936, and its philosophy is “complete access to ideas.” They carry a wide variety of eccentric and hard-to-find titles, and have a huge magazine section upstairs.

Slightly south is Rustic Music (333-335 S. 13th St.) with its new and used CDs, amps, vinyls, and large selection of guitars and musical equipment.

Those wondering why Washington Square West is nicknamed the “Gayborhood” need to look no further than Giovanni’s Room (345 S 12th St.). The large, venerable gay and lesbian bookstore is probably the only place you’ll ever find a shelf devoted to the “lesbian mystery” genre. It has an enormous selection of specialty books, music, movies, calendars, cards, and magazines, as well as all the rainbow paraphernalia you could imagine.

Nearby is the hilariously-named P.H.A.G. (252 S 12th St.), whose name stands for Philadelphia Home Art Garden. This campy, kitschy little shop has decorations and ornaments, like holiday pillows ($22.50), novelty mood magnets ($6.50), and sets of graphic plates ($26.50). It also has a wide array of saucy greeting cards.

A block away is Twist (1134 Pine St.), a bright new addition to the relics of Antique Row. In addition to an interior design consultancy, the little store has designer furniture, lamps, cushions, picture frames, vases, and glassware. A set of three scented candles runs $17.50, while a popular porcelain tray makes a nice $20 gift. For those with more money to spend, a lovely hand painted glass tray costs $48.50, and a cloisonné inlaid enamel jar is $120.

A few blocks east of this fashionable action sits the bones of the Washington West neighborhood—the small, locally owned restaurants, take-outs, and stores that flavor the district. The mostly-quiet streets south of Jefferson’s campus are a delight for pedestrians and window shoppers. Particularly notable is Russakoff’s Books and Records (259 S 10th St.) a small, densely packed second-hand shop selling new and used CDs, DVDs, books, and vinyls.

old city is loaded … with cheap gifts

Don’t be afraid to set foot onto the cobblestone streets of Old City. Between all the expensive restaurants and boutiques, there are a few great places that can even fit into a more limited budget. Here are a few to try.

Gourmet of Olde City (26 N. Third St.) explodes with delicious aromas. From incense and candles, to coffees, teas and imported chocolates, this place just makes you want to curl up under a cozy blanket and drift away to another world. Many of the one-of-a-kind specialty items for the chef-wannabe in your family are cheaper than you’d expect—like the pizza cutting wheel ($9.99) or the Cuisine Perel Infused Vinegar (8.95), which was featured on Oprah. Owner Irene Mossman, says that the vinegars are so sweet they can be used both in salads and on top of ice cream. She also offers custom-made gift baskets. The best thing about this shop is that anything you get here looks expensive—but it isn’t.

The Ritz Movie Theatres feature movies that appeal to film fanatics and art school nerds, along with a few good mainstream offerings. The films are mostly released by independent studios and rarely have big-name actors. You can buy a gift book for $30 for that movie snob who thinks he knows more than anyone about film, or for that friend only catches the blockbusters to give them a taste of what real film can offer. The discount coupons in the book can be used for tickets to the films or for the exorbitantly-priced snacks at the concession stand. Visit www.ritzfilmbill.com for locations and phone numbers.

AKA Records (27 N. Second St.) has something that is increasingly hard to come by—cheap music. The colorful music store features new and used CDs and records from a large, impressive selection of artists. Have a friend who rocks out to early 90s punk? Get them the Pixies Sellout 2004 Reunion Tour DVD for $14.99. Or for your lit-loving English major buddy, go for the What Happened to Kerouac? DVD for $12.99.

Almost anyone can scrounge up enough to buy something at Big Jar Books (55 N. Second St.) All of the books are used, so for the people you really want to impress, head back over to Gourmet of Olde City. But Big Jar has a wide variety of books on poetry, classic literature, art and politics, and if nothing else—you can take a shopping break and buy yourself something here. Don’t miss the stack of Dr. Seuss books for only $3.95 each.

Don’t forget about Spot or Mittens! When Hanukkah rolls around, get your Jewish dog a Menorah chew toy from “Chewish Toys” at BONeJOUR Pet Supply (14 N. Third St.) Or if you’re dog is a raving Democrat, invest in the “George W. Political Pet Toy,” for $12.50. The Velvet Rhinestone Collar ($8.50) is a great gift for your prissy, spoiled cat. But even if you don’t have any pets to spend much-needed money on, it’s likely that you know someone who spends more time with their pets than they do with you, so a gift for their pet definitely counts as a gift for them.

off and running

26.2 miles. 138,336 feet. 1,660,032 inches.

At 8:00am on Sunday, November 20th, thousands of runners will be lacing up for the 12th Annual Philadelphia Marathon.

Starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, competitors will head to Penn’s Landing along Arch Street. They will race along Columbus Blvd and eventually hit Chestnut Street, where they will run until hitting 34th Street. Eventually, you’ll be able to find them along West River Drive and Kelly Drive. Expect things to get slightly congested around Green Lane Bridge, where there will be a turnaround slightly past the 20th mile. For the last six miles, the Schuylkill River will be to the right of the runners heading down the homestretch.

While combating fatigue and dehydration, the racers must also deal with the inevitable ups-and-downs of marathon running. Running long distances along flatland is hard enough, but this marathon requires its participants to travel along inclines and declines throughout its race. You may think running along a decline may be beneficial, but it isn’t. Each runner must maintain their rhythm, and tackling an incline or decline disrupts that pace, which can cause major problems. There will be water and fluid stations at many points, but don’t be surprised if some runners get sick along the way.

The Philadelphia Marathon is open to anyone willing to fork over the $60 fee before November 1st. After that, it jumps to $70. If you still want in, the 2005 Philadelphia Marathon Health and Fitness Expo will be in full swing at Eakins Oval, which is the site for the start and finish of the marathon, on Friday, November 18th from noon to 7:00pm and on Saturday, November 19th from 10:00am to 6:00pm where the charge will be $80. But think about this. Competitive times for marathon runners (these are elite athletes) are usually around two and a half to three hours. A normal person runs one mile in about nine to eleven minutes. You do the math.

For those who would take the option of not running a full marathon, there is also the Rothman Institute 8K (4.97 miles) option as well, which starts at 8:30am on Sunday, November 20th. For those of you who cannot run 26.2 miles (myself included), this is the better option. You still get the same thrill of the race but only endure one-fifth of the grind.

The Philadelphia Marathon, which has been an enormous success in its short tenure, encourages healthy living and lifelong fitness. It gives each of us a chance to see highly trained athletes up close and an opportunity to visit the Expo to find out more about healthy living. Visit www.philadelphiamarathon.com for more information about running, volunteering, or attending to cheer on the athletes.

philly's fight club

It’s a scene straight out of Mortal Kombat. Hard, expertly trained bodies glisten with sweat, and deftly punch, kick, and head-butt each other until a knockout. The atmosphere is dark, and a vicious and rowdy crowd is brimming with excitement for the fall. No, this isn’t the alley behind Emerald City on a Saturday night. It’s the main event this Friday at New Alhambra, where dozens fight to be the champion of the Evolved Muay Thai Amateur Kickboxing Championship title.

Though a few blocks off Delaware Ave., the scene at Evolved Fighting is more electric than anything you’d find at the waterfront. It’s the Mecca of Philly Mixed Martial Arts. Haven’t heard of it? Evolved Fighting is the organization dedicated to promoting and supporting Mixed Martial Arts, and does so through its intense competitions.

The Mixed Martial Arts form of fighting includes a wide variety of styles, including many international forms, as well as Muay Thai kickboxing, which is the style of Friday’s competition.

Muay Thai relies on punches, kicks, head-butts, and standing grappling for a knockout. The sport demands extreme physical strength and speed, as well as an expertly trained mind. Successful Muay Thai kickboxers are not only physically devastating in the ring, but are also ready to wear down their opponent mentally.

Because Muay Thai is so challenging, it has developed the nickname “King of the Ring.” Muay Thai was developed from the ancient battlefield tactics of the Thai army. Today, Muay Thai is practiced by thousands of people all over the world, and is the national sport of Thailand, and will provide a great show this Friday.

Despite the violence, the fighters are well-protected in practice, ensuring full strength for events such as Friday’s. Of course, that doesn’t mean what’s to be seen in the ring will be PG-13. This and other Evolved Fighting events are the pinnacle of excitement and showcase the brilliance of Mixed Martial Arts. Again, think of Mortal Kombat, just without the fireballs.

Want to be a part of the crowd? The Evolved Championship takes place this Friday, November 11th, at New Alhambra, and promises to be an exciting and unique way to spend a Friday night in Philadelphia. The outside ring is located on 7 Ritner Street, about two minutes from Delaware Avenue, off of Oregon Avenue.

General admission is $35 at the door. Ringside seats are available for $50, and special VIP costs $55. Tickets are available on the website, evolvedfighting.com or by calling 215.520.9682.

philly or psu?

Where to begin? Oh, I know: what is wrong with you people!

We’re halfway through the college football season, and as of now, the Penn State Nittany Lions (with their 7-1 record, as of press time) are a legitimate contender in the NCAA. They’re ranked 8th in the nation by the AP, 10th by USA Today, and are coming off wins over pigskin powerhouses Minnesota and Ohio State. Head coach Joe Paterno has been taking swigs from the Fountain of Youth, and a Bowl game isn’t out of the question.

Now, bring the attention 200 miles out of the sticks and over to Philly, and we’re all furrowed brows and clenched fists about our rivals winning.

Wait? We’re not? No boos? This is Philadelphia