Photo: Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

Dear Travelers to Philadelphia, Please Don't Visit Until You Understand These 11 Things

by Monica Williams Jul 14, 2016

1. Yes, cheesesteaks and hoagies are icons here…

Both literally and figuratively, cheesesteaks are huge. Philadelphia’s iconic sandwich, usually stuffed with thinly sliced pieces of beefsteak, fried onions and melted cheese, has been imitated at restaurants around the world but no one makes them like the hometown eateries.

Pat’s King of Steaks is the original home of the cheesesteak, around since 1930, and probably one of the most famous in Philly. Its biggest competitor is Geno’s right across the street in South Philadelphia. Both are open 24/7. Get a sandwich from both and argue which is best.

It may be sacrilegious to natives but there are “healthier” alternatives to those greasy beef steaks too. Ishkabibble’s, around since the ’70s, is widely believed to have the city’s only chicken cheesesteak and Blackbird offers a tasty vegan version.

2. …But our restaurant scene has grown up.

While beer and cheesesteaks have always been staples, Philadelphia’s restaurant industry is about more than just beef these days. In fact, the scene is exploding and the sit-down joints have even moved beyond Italian food to international smorgasbords. BYOBs are plentiful as are veggie joints and pretty much everything else.

For hot spots like Zahav, Laurel, Spraga, Fork and South, make a reservation well before getting to town.

3. And all that good eating means that our population is a little chubby.

Philadelphia has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, and also one of the highest rates of diabetes. The good news is that Philadelphians are fighting the epidemic – and winning. The overall obesity rate is on the decline.

Get Healthy Philly and the Food Trust have worked with almost 1,000 retailers to promote sales of healthier food and better access to healthy choices in the neighborhoods. In April 2015, Indego launched a bike-sharing program across the city, with more than 500 bicycles. Today, there are 1,000 bikes on the streets and more than 100 stations.

4. If you want to drink soda here, you’re going to have to pay our new tax.

Philadelphia recently became the largest city in the country to approve a tax on sugary drinks on June 16, 2016, with a 13-4 approval by City Council. A controversial 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on soda goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

Although Philadelphians are pretty ticked off by the thought of having to pay more for a diet soda, it might be good for the city and residents in the long run. Mayor Jim Kenney did not campaign for the soda tax as a way to improve the health of Philadelphians – in fact, he didn’t mention obesity at all — but the tax could reduce the soda consumption in the city, and in turn, lower obesity rates. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that regular soda consumption is linked to obesity. And the mayor’s plan to use the soda tax to send 6,500 additional kids to pre-K annually isn’t a bad thing either.

5. Philadelphia has an inferiority complex.

In other words, we hate New York. The Redskins are no good, either. Philadelphians have been known to be quite vocal when anyone says anything bad about our beloved town, especially if that person is from New York. For many years, the city was seen as a stop on the way to or from Washington or New York, the “better” cities on the Northeast Corridor. It’s a tough spot to be in.

In recent years, New Yorkers, wealthy investors from Asia, and black Americans from Washington have been migrating here and cashing in on our cheaper rents. With the Democratic National Convention this year and the Pope’s visit last fall raising our profile, you can expect a little more trash talking.

6. And we’ve also got a bit of an attitude problem.

Just one example of it is the fact that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which oversees taxis, once mandated etiquette school for Philly’s cab drivers. Another is that NFL players have said that Eagles fans — those guys who pelted Santa Claus with snowballs in 1968 and cheered when Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin was injured in play back in 1999 — are the most intimidating in the football league.

Honestly, when Philadelphians aren’t dropping F-bombs, booing athletes and being blunt, we’re a nice, down-the-earth bunch. Really. After all, why else would our nickname be the City of Brotherly Love?

7. Yo, we talk kinda funny here.

Hunting Park is pronounced Huntington Park, Olney is Ah-lah-nee, and everybody knows our football team as “the Iggles.” When we want a sandwich we go for a hoagie, not a submarine, and we always wash it down with “wooder ice” while we walk on the pavement, not the sidewalk.

The term “yo,” which was invented here, yo, is an interjection or gender-neutral pronoun that comes at the beginning or end of a sentence although it sometimes falls in the middle.

“Jawn” is a catchall term for every noun possible, as in “This jawn is hot”. Philadelphia’s lexicon is so unique we even have linguists studying it. Got it, youse guys?

8. We’re a city of firsts.

Established in 1682, the birthplace of American democracy is home to the nation’s first hospital and medical school, first stock exchange, zoo, successful lending library, pretzel factory, A.M.E church, Thanksgiving Day parade, and America’s oldest theater.

And although our cosmopolitan city is on the come-up, Philadelphia is also the poorest big city in America.

9. We’re also a leader in HIV and other STDs.

Philadelphians are being infected with HIV at a rate five times the national average and more than 50% more than New York City residents. We’re also a leader in STDs so if you choose to indulge, please wrap up.

10. If you’re a hetero male, you might be a little in over your head here.

There are almost 70,000 more single women than single men in the city or about 1,074 women to each 1,000 men. There’s a slightly higher rate than the Big Apple.

11. We take our art seriously.

You don’t have to go far in Philly to see good art. With more than 4,000 outdoor works of art, the largest number of murals in the country, Philadelphia is often called the City of Murals. Look up or down; you can spot a mural practically anywhere, beginning at the Philadelphia International Airport. If you’d like to go deeper, take a tour with the city’s renowned Mural Arts Program and see world-class public art by trolley, elevated train, or on foot. And see them now, if you can — as development and gentrification take over parts of the city, some of the most iconic murals are disappearing.

Indoors, we have the largest number of French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings outside of Paris, curated in a $25 billion collection at the Barnes Foundation. Beyond the Barnes, there’s the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s known to many as the place where Rocky Balboa ran up those 72 steps 40 years ago but the art collection inside is also world-class.

And of course, the country’s oldest art museum is here: the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, founded in 1805.

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.