Philadelphia, Dec. 2013

Merry friggin’ Christmas from the City of Brotherly Love.  We spent a day in South Philly and Center City and I got the photos to prove it.  What kind of urban yuletide adventure did we enjoy?  Read on!

South Philly

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Home of cheesesteaks, an open-air market, and the place where all the hippies meet, South Philly is a great place to walk around.  We made a goal of going to get a couple of cookie cutters from this awesome kitchen store called Fante’s which is over 100 years old and just a cool place, but unfortunately it was closed that day.  So we looked at the graffiti and the market shops like the butcher, the variety stores and the open-air vegetable stands and headed to center city.  The area is called the Italian Market – “America’s oldest outdoor market” – but currently has a large Mexican and Asian presence among the pasta shops as well.  You can get tacos, Pho, and homemade sausage all in a few blocks!

Center City

We aimed for the Wannamaker Building next.  This glorious example of 1870’s Renaissance architecture at its finest is alive and well, currently housing a Macy’s.  It was the first department store in the US, brought as an idea from Europe by – of course – John Wannamaker and developed into a lavish, successful urban destination complete with the world’s largest pipe organ that has over 28,000 pipes.  The organ is played regularly, and at this time of year, there is a light show as well.  The building is also famous for its bronze eagle originally from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, which was happily surmounted by Really and Truly.  People sit on the floor around the eagle to watch the light show.

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We watched the light show, a short synopsis of several Christmas stories accompanied by old-school lights on a giant wall opposite the eagle.  The lights blink to show movement, much like a neon sign, and certain pictures are lit to correspond with the story told at the time.  Julie Andrews narrates, it is lovely.

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All lights shown at the finale (L) and just the train (R) during the show

Just up two floors on the escalator is another Christmas event – Dickens Village.  This display used to be housed in a Philadelphia department store that is no longer with us called Strawbridge & Clothier, which is memorialized in this interesting blog.  It is now at Macy’s at the Wannamaker building annually and it is worth the trip.  It is an animatronic recreation of 1840’s London, populated by characters from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with placards telling the story as you walk along.  It is free, though you can pay for an optional Santa picture at the end.

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Clockwise from top Left: the whole gang as photographed by yours truly, Dickens welcoming us to the Village, Fiercely reading a placard (actually Mr. Fantastic made us read them all out loud – people behind us had to pass us or wait!), Scrooge shaking in his boots with scary Christmas Future

Reading Terminal Market

Celebrating its 114th birthday in 2014, the historic and scrumptious Reading Terminal Market is just a few blocks from the Wannamaker building.  There are over 100 merchants including several Amish stands, local food at the Fair Food stand, butchers, produce, prepared food, chocolate, just about anything.

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All the girls (L), including Really who is excited about the egg nog, Truly and me (R) at a flower stand

The Market also has a really great train display this time of year.  There are buttons the kids can push- which they love and, I’m not gonna lie, so do I – to make things happen in the train scenes.  One button, for example, might make a light go on or a miniature child swing on a swing.

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Outside the Market, we saw two other things worth mentioning – a gourmet popcorn shop and a streetlight cozy!  Go Popcorn apparently is a new shop.  It has special weekly flavors such as Southwest Cheddar, Candy Cane, and Salt’N’Vinegar and they use locally-sourced popcorn.  We tried Wisconsin Cheddar and Brown Butter Caramel. Yowza!  OK, this is Mrs. Fantastic signing off and Merry Christmas!

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