When you find yourself in a city, you might not know which way to turn first. Philadelphia is no different—you know about the historical sightseeing spots and the popular tourist locales, but what if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path? Well, no compilation or list will cover everything that Philly has to offer (because, if you didn’t know, there’s a ton), but we can at least start somewhere. Check out these colorful places in the city that are just some of my favorites.
Location: 3025 Walnut Street
You can hear everyone from well-known artists to local performers at World Cafe Live, one of the best places in Philly to enjoy good sounds. This multi-level venue, home to the renowned WXPN radio show, is a converted Art Deco factory building that hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Downstairs Live’s contemporary design and top-notch sound system make it the perfect concert hall for nationally-renowned artists. Upstairs Live is a smaller, more intimate space with an urban chic atmosphere where local acts can showcase their talent. Weekly Monday Night Jazz Jams and Philly Rising open mic nights highlight WCL’s commitment to local talent—both offer artists from the Philadelphia area an opportunity to get on stage and perform. Other awesome artists who have passed through World Cafe Live are David Cook, Melanie Martinez, and No Good Sister. Check out their extensive full lineup here and be sure to see a show!
In the area: Both levels offer food and drinks, but for something different Koreana Food (which offers michi, bubble tea, and more) and Pizza Rustica (featuring wood-fired pizza, paninis, and charming white-and-red-checkered tablecloths) are good options. The Institute of Contemporary Art is nearby too, so check out some of the awesome art there for FREE!
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Location: 1020 South Street
Yes, odds are that you’ve heard of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens before or you’ve been already. But who’s to say you can’t go again? And if you haven’t already, it’s a must-see. “It’s such a unique place with so much to offer every time you go there,” says Tara More, a freshman at Villanova University. “It was awesome to see that an artist had a vision to take someone’s trash or recyclables and turn it into a beautiful piece of art.” The outdoor and indoor space, covered in glistening mosaics, was designed by local artist Isaiah Zagar. He constructed the madly imaginative space out of cement and funky pieces like bicycle spokes and shards of ceramic. The result is an inspiring creative labyrinth that can be viewed during the day or at night. In addition to tours, there are exhibitions and mosaic workshops. The admission is only $5 for students, and tours are available throughout the year!
In the area: Check out the distinctive Pan-Latin décor and delicious brunch menu at Mixto before a tour, or grab some coffee and relax at local-artwork-decorated Chapterhouse Café & Gallery.
Fishtown is a Catch
Location: Fishtown neighborhood
There’s too much in this flourishing Philly neighborhood to highlight just one space, so here are just a few must-see spots. Johnny Brenda’s is another awesome venue to enjoy good food and music; the menu, which changes so often that it’s only scrawled across chalk boards, features delicious locally-grown food and craft brews from the Philadelphia region (21+). Local bands representing the city’s extensive indie rock scene love to perform upstairs in the restored two-tier concert hall. If you’re less inclined to a music space, check out “hole-in-the-wall” Sketch , an art-themed burger joint that boasts meat and vegan options and an extensive toppings list (I personally recommend the smashed onion burger and their milkshakes). While you wait for your delicious patty, you can doodle and create your own artwork too! Or maybe Mexican is more your style—Loco Pez is another spot with character. It’s an affordable taqueria inspired by taco trucks in Los Angeles, and it features wallpapering with Mexican comics and a jukebox full of classic hits. For an even more relaxed scene, you should stop by Barcade (21+). It’s exactly what it sounds like: a bar and an arcade fused into one. You can grab a drink and enjoy over forty classic arcade games (with classic prices of only a quarter a game).