Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I travelled across the world on my own for my 21st birthday. It would have been a daunting experience had I not been in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, the city of brotherly love and the hometown of my fictional hero Rocky Balboa. Often overlooked, I believe, in favour of the beach in L.A. or the bright lights of New York City, Philadelphia has a lot to offer in its own right.
Its historical district, established as a National Park, is a unique experience. Of course it is extra special for Americans and American history enthusiasts such as myself, but as you walk along Chestnut Street up to Independence Hall, it is impossible not to imagine the journey in 1776. There is an aura to the area which is irresistibly charming, whether you’re walking passed the house where Benjamin Franklin lived or you’re walking up the Rocky Steps.
Tours are available all over the historical district. You can learn about the rising sun on the back of President Washington’s chair in Independence Hall, why it is referred to as the upper and lower houses of government and even what life was like for ordinary citizens of that era in the city and across the country. It was a momentous point of human history and Philadelphia has fulfilled its duty to preserve and promote it. In the 1950’s Jefferson house, where the former President stayed during 1776, was a hot dog distributor, but now it is a museum to his efforts in crafting one of the founding documents of the United States of America – the Declaration of Independence.
Anyone who knows what truths the Second Continental Congress held to be self-evident in the summer of 1776, as they declared to the world that they would no longer be subjects to King George III, will undisputedly enjoy Philadelphia. If you are interested at all in the nation’s history or its government, you can explore the National Constitution Centre and the Liberty Museum, visit Independence Hall, chat with dressed up Revolutionaries and walk around reconstructions. You can even visit where the original stars spangled banner was designed and created.
Even if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about and the year 1776 doesn’t mean anything to you, there is still something to enjoy in Philadelphia. You can treat yourself to the city of brotherly loves delicacy, a Philadelphia cheese steak and take a photo with the statue of Rocky by the Philadelphia Art Museum. You could catch a baseball game and cheer on the Phillies. Even when you think you’ve seen it all in Philly, you can get a Megabus over to the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C. for the day at a decent rate – which I recommend you do.
Honestly, it is the American enthusiasts who will enjoy Philadelphia the most. It is a unique city, which was at the heart of one of the most radical, revolutionary and downright dangerous acts in history. There is nothing quite like walking into the room where delegates from the original 13 colonies came together and discussed the matters of their day. It is my opinion, however, that unless you have an understanding of what happened there to begin with, you are less likely to appreciate just how amazing Philadelphia really is.