Two weekends ago, myself and ten others took the Greyhound Bus from New York City to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I want to see as many cities and states as possible while I’m spending a year in New York and eventually, tick off all 50 states of America.
I had been in New York for six weekends and was ready to see something new. No, I’m not bored of New York but I just wanted to see a new city and get out of NYC for the day and tick off another state. So a two hour journey to Philly at 9am it was.
Expectations vs reality
I was really surprised by how quiet the city was. It was around 11am on a Saturday morning and the place was like a ghost town. It wasn’t the city vibe that I was expecting at all, but then again, I may have gotten so used to New York, that busy is now the new quiet. It was refreshingly cheap as well which was a welcome change.
I’ve weirdly always wanted to take a Greyhound Bus somewhere, just from seeing it in the movies all the time and well, it wasn’t anything special really. The bus driver was funny but we were sat near the back of the bus right beside the toilet, so the whole journey smelt of pee which wasn’t great as we were all quite hungover from the night before.
The best part about the bus journey was getting to see a lot more of America on the drive there, and the return bus fare was only $22. Bargain. Virgin trains could learn a thing or two.
We passed through New Jersey and were on the highway most of the time, but once we got outside Philadelphia, we started to see the housing estates and stores and so many motels. It was weird to see a motel in person, as again, it’s something I’ve only ever seen in movies and I couldn’t get over how many of them there were, all one after each other.
What to see and do
Food was first on the itinerary as most of us had wakened with fifteen minutes to get ready to leave for the bus. That’s what three hours of sleep will do. So we headed to Reading Terminal Market which was a huge warehouse filled with fresh produce but also a lot of different food outlets to choose from and a lot of seating areas.
It was kind of like a typical food market you would find in London (Borough Market or Box Park in Shoreditch) or Duke Street Market and the Baltic Market in Liverpool, only with an added supermarket on the side. The only thing to note is that it’s very crowded and very busy, but the food is great!
After the market, we took a walk around the main city center, around City Hall, around the Skyscrapers, but again, it wasn’t crowded in the slightest. We were walking towards the famous Rocky Steps and passed the ‘I love Philly’ sign and the LOVE sign which wasn’t the one we were expecting – it had been removed and replaced with a smaller sign (not so insta-friendly).
The walk to the Rocky Steps reminded me of Pall Mall in London, just like the walk towards Buckingham Palace. Overall, we did 33,000 steps that day so be prepared for a lot of walking when you visit Philadelphia. There were a lot less steps than I expected (Rocky Balboa was a bit of a drama queen) so we ran from bottom to top and completed the famous scene from Rocky. Obviously this part of Philadelphia was a lot busier with a lot of tourists taking photos and videos everywhere.
After the long walk and because of the hot weather, we called into a pub on the walk back which just happened to be an Irish bar. I am yet to go into a bar without it unknowingly being Irish-themed. So I had a Magners and felt right at home.
Afterwards, we walked back through the city to the Liberty Bell and queued for around 20 minutes to see the famous bell. Very anti-climatic, but another tourist thing ticked off the list. We then passed the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed – all very National Treasure.
Then it was the walk to try the best Philly Cheesesteak in Philly. We walked out of the city and into the suburbs and got to see where a lot of people lived. The streets and houses were very rustic America, very pretty and already decorated for Halloween. The further out we went, the less nice and more remote it became but it was nice to see a lot more of Philly than just the main streets.
We ended up at a booming corner of Philly where two world-famous Philly cheesesteak vendors face each other and have people queuing to try both to compare. I chose Pat’s and have to say I fully enjoyed my $11 Philly cheesesteak even though it was insanely greasy. There was definitely no room in my stomach to try Geno’s on the opposite side of the street.
Philly in a day
We had previously planned on heading to Philly for two days but it was proving too expensive as we had left it quite last minute. Being honest, I think it was the better decision to go for one day only as seven hours was more than enough time to see what we needed to see in Philadelphia.
That’s four states that I’ve now ticked off the list and think the next few trips outside NYC are going to be Washington D.C., Virginia, Chicago, Illinois and Boston, Massachusetts.