The smell of melted cheese is in the air, someone is chanting E-A-G-L-E-S in the nearby park, and people are debating over which cheesesteak and beer pairing is best. There’s only one place in the world like this — Philadelphia. And some of us were lucky enough to have grown up in such a great city. If you were so fortunate, here are nine things you had to have done while growing up in Philly.
1. You marveled at eclectic South Street, and nearly died of excitement when you were old enough to walk it by yourself.
It’s hard to explain the feeling you had when your parents said they would meet you later, and set you free to roam South Street by yourself. You’ll never forget walking down the street filled with hundreds of shops and some of the best food in the city, i.e. Jim’s.
2. You were raised as a die-hard sports fan.
We were brought up to go into every game thinking we would win, we would scream at the TV, knock over our buffalo chicken dip, and slam our foam football on the ground. Regardless of records, statistics, and all reason and logic, being a die-hard Philly fan is basically a rule for growing up in the city.
3. You hotly debated over where to get the best cheesesteak.
Every kid had a favorite spot for a cheesesteak — and their spot would be the best. Whether it’s the atmosphere, the workers, the way they melt the cheese, the roll, the onions, or the location, everyone had and has a top pick, be it Pat’s, Geno’s, Barry’s, Steve’s, Jimmy’s, etc.
4. You lived for the hot summer days when kids played kickball in the street and went tubing down the Brandywine.
During the summer, we’d play outside on the street, a courtyard, or a basketball court on the off chance that we got a whole one to ourselves (very rare, but known to happen). Playing kick the can, dodgeball, kickball, or one-on-one soccer in the streets, we used the city as our playground. And on the weekends, we’d beg our parents to take us to the Brandywine and go tubing.
5. Once the leaves started to fall, you planned your Halloween activities weeks in advance.
The only respite to the weather getting colder and school starting again was the promise of Halloween. The weekend activity changed from tubing to apple picking at Linvilla Orchards. Cruising down Route 95 for the 30-minute drive out to Linvilla, the falling leaves and cool breeze immediately put you in the mood for hot apple cider. As you got older, the trips to Linvilla were followed by a trip to Eastern State Penitentiary. The 3D haunted house was the event to go to with friends; holding hands while walking through an absolutely terrifying run-down prison solidified your friendships.
6. After Halloween was over, you couldn’t wait to meet the Santa at Wanamaker.
For a week in December, the Wanamaker’s Light Show was a mesmerizing event, with a huge Christmas tree lit up at the forefront. After the light show, you’d sneak behind the tree and take the elevator upstairs to Dickens Village to meet Santa.
7. Your group of friends referred to the rich people in the big houses as the “Main Line.”
And you knew it was good to befriend a kid from the Main Line because they usually had great snacks and maybe “Dance Dance Revolution.” You also learned to never sleepover at their house on a school night because traffic back into Philly during morning rush hour is a nightmare.
8. You walked the trails of Fairmount Park with your family on Saturdays, and later with your friends.
As a teen, venturing to West Philadelphia was a half-day trip that was very exciting to take with your friends. Taking the 61 bus from Market and heading out toward Manayunk felt like traveling to Europe. Walking around the 9,000 acres without parental supervision, listening to music, your Jansport backpack filled with snacks, and talking about what movie to go see later was the epitome of a Saturday.
9. Penn’s Landing was where you went on your first dates.
Once you hit eighth grade and you were ready to go out without parents, Penn’s Landing became the perfect teenage winter date spot. We’d rent some ice skates, share a hot chocolate, and pretend not to be freezing.