South Philly Day Trip on $50

Days without a plan are few and far between in our house. We’re always running here or going there. On this rare unplanned morning, we decided a day trip was in order. I often find myself getting ‘itchy’ to travel. Wanderlust is certainly alive and well in my blood!

Today we chose South Philadelphia, affectionately known to most as South Philly. We picked this spot because it was within reasonable driving distance and there is no shortage of stuff to see and do that won’t breaking the bank. South Philly is screaming with diversity and cultural experiences. Hosting many unique bars, clever shops, museums, and artsy joints, this most southern neighborhood of Philadelphia is a must see if you’re passing through the city.

Although excited for some adventure, we did have a problem. We’re planning on going away in a few weeks on a big trip so we’ve been in spending time-out. Let me introduce our challenge of the day: spend less than $50 in the city, take lots of pictures, and leave with bellies stuffed full of tasty food. I’m happy to say we accomplished all of the above!

 

First Stop: Federal Donuts
1912 South Second Street, Philadelphia

 

Donuts, Chicken, and Coffee? I was skeptical too but let me tell you, for this little South Philly corner coffee shop, it totally works! We went into this day trip planning on eating everything in sight for the least amount of money possible so admittedly, we did not try the chicken but it looked incredible and we’ll definitely be stopping back on our next drive through town. We did opt for some donuts. Who can turn down a hot donut? Definitely not us!

Today they had three flavors on their classic menu; cinnamon sugar, cookies and cream, and strawberry lavender. These tasty flavors only cost $1.50 each! The specialty flavors cost a little bit more and those flavors included hot cocoa, banana cream pie, blueberry pancake, and tres leches. We’re pretty boring people so we chose to try the cinnamon sugar and the cookies and cream.

We decided to eat on a cute bench in front of the shop. Our thoughts upon biting into this donut masterpiece? Incredible! Made fresh from the fryer in front of us, they were so fluffy and airy. The satisfaction after we finished eating these tasty wheel shaped morsels made both of us agree that we could easily eat one or ten more. Although slightly messy, they were evenly covered in delicious seasoning. It was the perfect sized snack and it only cost $3.00!

The lady in front of us ordered some chicken and I couldn’t help but eves drop on her lunch. It also looked delicious! How about each order of chicken comes with a donut!? Crazy but clearly it works for Federal Donuts!

The ambiance of the shop is really clever also! With chicken wire lining the donut case and metal pull down stools to sit on while eating at the pine stained bar, you’ll feel like you’re eating in a country farmers kitchen.

 

South Street

Our next stop was the infamous South Street. We parked the car in a nearby parking garage off of Front Street. Parking is at a premium on South Street. We parked in a parking garage which I’m more comfortable with because I’m insanely overprotective of my car (silly, I know) but you can definitely save money by parking on the street. Don’t forget to feed the meter. The PPA was out in full force on this day!

We started out by walking west, beginning at 1st Street and continuing on down to 10th Street. There is plenty to see here! If we had more time and a bigger budget, we would have stopped for some drinks at the Twisted Tail or Tattooed Mom.

I mentioned that South Street reminds me of a less entertaining and dirtier Duval Street from our visit to Key West. Let me explain, South Street is lined with eclectic bars, quaint shops, and full of culture, just like Duval Street, however unlike Duval Street, it’s not super clean and tucked into the awnings of vacant shops we found some shady pot smoking characters that were taunting passer-bys. I never felt that we were in danger; it was just something I could have done without on our visit.

One of the beautiful parts about South Philly is the curb appeal created by residents thinking outside the box and painting their doors funky colors. Even though most of these homes are row houses, they each have their own individual personalities. Some are colonial, some are vibrant and expressive, others are exclusively artistic. We couldn’t help but snap some pictures of the ones that caught our eyes.

South Street is definitely budget friendly. If we were there longer and had a little bit more cash we would have taken advantage of the many South Street tour options. Visitors can take a ride on the big bus, hop on a horse drawn carriage, or rent a bike for the afternoon. Make sure you check Groupon before your trip to take advantage of local deals on South Street.

We also took a walk out onto the South Street Pedestrian Bridge. Located at the very beginning of South Street, on this bridge you can stand overtop of passing cars and look out onto the Delaware River at the magnificent Ben Franklin Bridge.

 

Lorenzo’s
305 South Street, Philadelphia

 

As we were people watching and taking in the diversity of South Street, we walked by a tiny pizza shop. We thought nothing of it until a customer walked out of the store with a slice that’s bigger than my head! Not that I have a large head but holy shit this was the biggest slice I’ve ever seen!

Needless to say, we had to stop. Each slice was only $3.50! We decided to split one so that we could enjoy more food throughout the day without feeling like beached whales. Both of us weren’t expecting much just because with the large size and cheap price, we figured it might not be as tasty. Boy, were we pleasantly surprised! The sauce was perfectly sweetened, not to sweet but not to salty, the cheese was melted just right, and the crust was cooked all the way through. Amazingness!!

Take a minute to appreciate the size of this slice. That’s a normal sized water bottle next to it! It’s so big that they have to serve it on two full sized paper plates!

Lorenzo’s doesn’t have a place to sit down but they do have a stand up bar that customers can eat at. I was grateful for the bar accommodations because I wasn’t sure how I was going to eat such a massive slice of pizza, walk, and not get it all over myself. A third hand would have come in very handy at that point. The stand up bar was also perfect for people watching, which South Street is never short of.

 

Magic Gardens
1020 South Street, Philadelphia

 

I was super excited to see the Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (aka PMG). This nonprofit museum and gallery was created by found items, bicycle wheels, colorful bottles, unique tiles and anything glass, glittery, reflective, or shiny. The photographs I’ve seen are beautiful so I figured visiting it in person would be just as great. However, when we got there, we discovered that it costs $10 per person to get in. Now let me say that I think the mission of the PMG organization of preserving local artwork and creating community programs is awesome, we just didn’t find spending $20 on our budget friendly visit to South Street to photograph pretty colored glass worth it. If you have the $10 in your budget and you enjoy unique art, then I highly recommend you pay the admission fee and check out the museum.

There are awesome photography opportunities from outside the museum that we took advantage of. The front of the museum is definitely enticing for visitors that may be up in the air about visiting the inside. Rock took this artistic reflection shot of me while I was throwing my internal temper tantrum over having to pay an admission fee.

There are other murals throughout the city created by the original PMG artist, Isaiah Zagar. We found some tucked into alleyways as we explored deeper into South Philly.

 

Mural Mile

Mural Mile is a self guided tour throughout the city of beautifully painted walls. We didn’t find any street signs for Mural Mile but you can easily find maps of the tour by performing a simple Google search

We caught bits and pieces of Mural Mile while walking on South Street. Somehow we were so focused on taking pictures of glass murals that we missed photographing any painted murals but they were still pretty awesome nonetheless. The murals start around 6th Street and go as far down as 13th Street, while traveling on South Street. If you have the time and a camera, check out the fantastic displays! Oh and did I mention the tour has my favorite price tag? It’s FREE!!!!

 

Geno’s Steaks
1219 South 9th Street, Philadelphia

So the time has come where I mention the last stop on our tour and the REAL reason we come to Philadelphia. It’s not for the diverse culture, it’s not to people watch or shop, it’s for the cheesesteak. I love this enticing food so much that think the cheesesteak should be included in the food pyramid as it’s own separate category.

When in Philadelphia, you must have a cheesesteak. But where? Not all cheesesteaks are created equal and it seems that each corner shop offers this most perfect hoagie for sale. How do you choose?

We aren’t locals, but we come to Philadelphia a couple of times a year. The two main tourist recommended stops for cheesesteaks are Pat’s and Geno’s. If this is your first time in Philly, grab one of each and decide which you prefer. People all over the world will ask you, “Pat’s or Geno’s?” when you bring up Philadelphia cheesesteaks. We’ve had both and decided that Geno’s is our favorite between the two.

One of the coolest parts about Geno’s is the vast display of police patches and celebrity photographs posted across the inside of the restaurants awning. Open all year round with covered outdoor seating, visitors can take in the sights that makes Geno’s so special regardless of what the Pennsylvania weather has to offer that day.

Now I have a confession. As much as I enjoy a fresh Geno’s cheesesteak, my favorite way to eat it is heated up in the microwave the next day. I’m probably going to cheesesteak hell for admitting this but it’s true. There’s something entirely perfect about letting the greasy meat sit into the bun and then remelting the cheese overtop of it for lunch the next day. I promise you that it’s worth a try! For this I suggest buying two steaks, one to eat right there on the spot and the next for lunch tomorrow.

Someday I will do an amazing blog post about where local Philadelphian’s suggest for the best cheesesteak but until then we’ll stick with Geno’s or our second favorite, Tony Lukes. Regardless of where it comes from, eat the steak when in Philly!!

 

So did we stay under our $50 goal?

Here are the final numbers:

  1. Federal Donuts (2 airy fresh donuts at $1.50 each) $3.00
  2. Lorenzo’s Pizza (1 GIANT slice of heaven) $3.50
  3. Lorenzo’s Pizza (1 water to help digest the slice of heaven) $2.00
  4. Parking on South Street (at an insanely overpriced garage) $15.00
  5. Gino’s Steaks (2 philly cheesesteaks at $10.00 each) $20.00

Grand total for the day           $43.50

We had enough for a single scoop at the Franklin Mint but decided we were so full that there wasn’t enough room in our stuffed bellies for homemade ice cream. Such a tragedy, but I assure you we’ll be back!

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