I am a Philly kid born and raised. I bleed green (or at least I did before the whole Michael Vick debacle). I love purebred Philadelphians, we are loyal, hardworking, no nonsense, genuine people (think Congressman Russo from House of Cards minus the drugs). We have an edge for sure -- my wife has a t-shirt that reads "I am not angry, I'm from Philly" and it's true. We aren't angry, we are just passionate...about everything! But that is why I love us, and why others find us an easy target for hate (yea, I'm talking to you Jon Stewart and Joe Buck).
We can't be all bad though, I mean come on, this year alone we were not only named the host city for the 2016 National Democratic Convention, but the Forbes 30 Under 30 conference, billed as "the most influential gathering of Millennials in the world," will be held in Philly for a second consecutive year, and two of the world's most iconic holy men will be visiting; Pope Francis, who will be attending the World Meeting of Families, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is being awarded the prestigious Liberty Medal, awarded each year in Philadelphia. Can you see the clouds parting, the sun-rays beaming and hear the angels singing? It's like the gods are smiling down on our fair city. And for good reason!
Philadelphia is over 300 years old, making it one of the oldest cities in the United States. Yet, anytime the national news reports on a major storm, they skip right over us. Drive up and down Interstate 95 and you will notice no mileage markers to Philadelphia. Even in the list of categories for this post, numerous major cities are listed (New York, DC, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, even the small state of Hawaii) but no Philadelphia! We are the 5th largest city in the country, dwarfed by New York to our north (and no we are not the sixth borough of NYC) and Washington DC to our south. We are the best kept secret on the east coast, though not for much longer, as Philly has recently come into its own. Though Travel & Leisure has rated us the third most unfriendly city in America, others are more enamored with the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
Just this year, Philadelphia has ranked at the top of a variety of high profile lists including:
- #3 out of 52 best places to visit in 2015 by The New York Times
- #2 shopping city in the world by Conde Nast
- #1 place to eat ice cream in the WORLD (yes!) by National Geographic
- Best pizza in the US by Bon Appetit
- #2 top city to see murals by Huffington Post
- Best city for singles by Forbes
- #2 city for burgers by Travel & Leisure
Additionally, the Huffington Post just recently came out with 21 Reasons Philadelphia Is The Coolest City In America and 31 reasons Philly is the most underrated city, GQ stated that Philly has more going for it now than ever, Thrillist argued that we are the best city in the country, and Buzzfeed well, they just think we are weird.
It's no wonder everyone wants to jump on our bandwagon, as Philly has been at the forefront of, well everything, for centuries. Philadelphia has a list of firsts to rival any other city in the US and here are just a few of my favorites: the first hospital, lending library, science museum (The Franklin Institute), fire department, botanical garden, medical school, horticultural society, zoo, public parks, paper mill, abolition society, Union League (formed to support Lincoln during the Civil War), natural history museum, the first Thanksgiving Day parade and July 4th celebration (#PhillyOwnsThe4th), the first major protest in the US for LGBT equality, which took place in front of Independence Hall exactly 50 years ago this past July 4th, and the first professional football game (Fly Eagles fly on the road to victory...E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!!) just to name a few! We also have the oldest continuously inhabited street in the country, Elfreth's Alley, more murals than any other city in the world, thanks to the amazing Mural Arts Program, and the largest city park in the country, Fairmount Park, with 9,200 acres.
In addition to our firsts, Philadelphians deeply care about their city and others -- just look at the plethora of amazing non-profit organizations that are unique only to Philadelphia: Red Paw Emergency Relief Team, Young Involved Philadelphia, Philly Love Notes, Historic Philadelphia's living history: Storytelling Benches, Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, The William Way LGBT Community Center, Greensgrow Farms, Project HOME, Generocity...the list could go on and on. We are also a city of animal lovers (especially what I consider Philly's own breed of dog, the loveable mutt Pitbull) with organizations representing, including -- The Monster Milers, New Leash on Life, City of Elderly Love, Citizens for No Kill Philadelphia, Philadoptables, City Kitties, Hand2Paw, to name just a small few.
Additionally, as a lover of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM), I would be remise not to mention that Philly is a hotbed of these disciplines, I mean what else would you expect in a city where mister innovation himself, Benjamin Franklin did his best work and where the first computer was created? The City has taken a special interest in STEM and Innovation, creating the Freedom to Innovate initiative, "highlight its commitment to innovation and civic technology", and just last year changing North 3rd Street in the neighborhoods of Old City to Northern Liberties to N3RD Street making it the hub of web and tech nerds alike! Then of course there is the Philadelphia Science Festival, which would like us all to #GetNerdyPHL (to which I say a rousing, Huzzah!). Just recently Technicl.ly Philly has reported on the recent effort to make Philly the Silicon Valley of health IT, and for good reason, Philadelphia has some of the best hospitals, medical schools and nursing schools in the country. The University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine was the first medical school in the country, celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, and ranking in the top 5 med schools nationally. The University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing, which was the first nursing school in the country, was ranked the #1 graduate school in the country and is often ranked one of the best and highly funded research-based nursing schools. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has been at one of the top 2 spots in the country for years, along with many other local hospitals such as Wills Eye Hospital and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital earning top spots nationally.
Philly has also put the Art in STEAM with some of the best museums in the world including the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Rodin Museum, all on the beautifully designed Benjamin Franklin Parkway. But then what would you expect of the City with the first Fine Arts Academy in the country? Are you sensing a theme here?
And then there are the attractions that are unique to our fair city, and no I am not talking about cheesesteaks, pretzels or water ice! I am talking about the National Constitution Center, which is "the first and only institution in America established by Congress to 'disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people." Also, the 100 year old, 16,000 square foot, and 6 1/2 acre Smith Memorial Playhouse and Playground, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, the Mummers of course, the Mutter Museum, WXPN public radio, Boat House Row, LOVE park and Eastern State Penitentiary, once home to the notorious Al Capone (Boardwalk Empire anyone?).
Philly is the underdog city, we are scrappy, we never give up, and we have heart. That is why we are now winning the match against other East Coast cities. Can you hear it? ...Trying hard now...It's so hard now. Trying hard now... Getting strong now. Won't be long now...Getting strong now. Gonna fly now...Flying high now... -- cue the music, picture Rocky, the underdog, running up those beautiful iconic steps in Philly -- we are there, arms up Philly, we are strong now!