25 Reasons We Love Philadelphia

Forget the Liberty Bell. Artists, designers, and restaurateurs are rewriting this city's history.

1. Yes, yesthere are cheesesteaks
Two of the oldest cheesesteak restaurants in South Philly—Pat's and Geno'shave a long-standing feud worth weighing in on. Pat's claims to have invented the cheesesteak. Geno's claims to have perfected it. Both serve equally generous portions of rib-eye steak, grilled onions, and Cheese Whiz on freshly baked Italian rolls; we'll let you decide which is worth lining up for. Pat's, 1237 E. Passyunk Ave., 215/468-1546, patskingofsteaks.com, $7.50; Geno's, 1219 S. Ninth St., 215/389-0659, genosteaks.com, $7.50.

2. There's actually affordable art
With its cheap rents and thriving gallery scene, Philly has become a haven for artists fleeing pricier New York. "You can make your mark quickly here by filling a void," says Daniel Fuller of the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, which funds galleries. The upside for visitors: There are plenty of places to pick up one-of-a-kind pieces, such as the Art for the Cash Poor festival, where nothing is priced over $200 (inliquid.com, June 13–14), and the Art Star Craft Bazaar, where 150 painters, sculptors, and designers unload their works (artstarcraftbazaar.com, May 30–31).

3. A river runs through it
Date night in Philly could mean dinner and a movie, or something more intrepid: a moonlight kayak tour. Starting at dusk in the summer, instructors from Hidden River Outfitters provide a half-hour lesson, followed by a 90-minute guided paddle on the Schuylkill River. 215/222-6030, schuylkillbanks.org, $50 per person.

4. Latin Emeril is in the house
Ecuadoran-American restaurateur Jose Garces, known as the Latin Emeril Lagasse, imported tapas to Philly in 2005 with his Andalusian wine bar Amada (217–219 Chestnut St., 215/625-2450, amadarestaurant.com, plates from $5). Now, he's moved on to Mexican with his candy-colored Distrito restaurant—the pulled pork and pineapple-salsa tacos do Mexico City proud (3945 Chestnut St., 215/222-1657, distritorestaurant.com, tacos from $9).

5. Backstreets are laid bare
Even old-timers don't know all of the narrow streets tucked between the main arteries of the city's oldest neighborhoods. Good thing the guides from the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks have a handle on things. One of the group's most popular walking tours is Littlest Streets East of Broad, which winds its way through a small-scale section of Center City. 321 S. Fourth St., 215/925-2251, philalandmarks.org, $10.

6. Steve Wynn can't touch this
More than 100,000 pieces of glass make up The Dream Garden, a mosaic designed by Philadelphia artist Maxfield Parrish in 1916 that graces the lobby of the Curtis Center. Ten years ago, the Tiffany-made rural-landscape mural was sold to casino mogul Steve Wynn, whose plan to move it to Las Vegas provoked a citywide outcry. The Pew Charitable Trusts stepped in with funding to keep the masterpiece in Philly—and Wynn stepped back into the shadows. 601645 Walnut St.

7. Designers sell the clothes off their backs
Mary Clark and Megan Murphy opened Vagabond eight years ago to have a place to peddle their own lines (Stellapop and City of Brotherly Love, respectively). Now, the shop sells vintage clothing alongside the works of other local designers, such as Bario-Neal's jewelry made from reclaimed metals. 37 N. Third St., 267/671-0737, vagabondboutique.com.

8. You can dance till dawn in a diner
Mark Bee, a local restaurateur, bought the Silk City Diner two years ago, polished its grease-coated, 1950s-era pink Formica counter, and opened a club. Now, it's the place in town to dance on weekend nights, when DJs spin everything from early '80s Siouxsie and the Banshees to the latest by Beyoncé and M.I.A. 435 Spring Garden St., 215/592-8838, silkcityphilly.com, cover from $5.

THIS IS PHILADELPHIA


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