art creativity neighborhoods outdoors shopping

Cherry Street Pier

cherry street pierOn a blustery October weekend, we trekked from the 2 street station to explore  Cherry Street Pier.  This latest Delaware River waterfront renovation  is next to Race Street Pier and Fringe Arts. The Pier offers close-up, wraparound views of Ben Franklin Bridge.  The $5 million transformation of the 55,000 sq. foot Pier has much to offer. There are walk-in artist studios, sustainable plantings, shopping and food trucks for quick bites and drinks. We saw flyers about music and live entertainment as coming attractions.


cherry street pierA 3-weekend-long free Festival for the People hosted by Philadelphia Contemporary launched the Pier. This eclectic celebration of visual arts (tattoos to technology) encouraged visitor engagement.  We spun fluorescent sculptures and watched others pecking out verse on old-school manual typewriters. However, we gave a pass to riding industrial tubing seesaws and joining drop-in yoga.


What we enjoyed most was chatting with the artists and exploring their work. We learned that there was a lot of “hurry up and wait” for the artist tenants here. For example, an artist confided she had only 3 days notice to get her space ready! That explains why many studio spaces were still in progress and closed to visitors. It’s described as a gallery shopping experience. So, cherry street pierit would be helpful to see prices for the artworks.


Also, we are curious to discover what the huge wood structures (shown in the yoga photo) are for. They looked like they’re for sitting and eating. But the chairs were too short and tables too massive for us to move. After strolling the Pier, we recommend heading to nearby United by Blue for instagram-worthy french toast and salads.




art creativity holiday outdoors special events summer events

Last Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

last bastille day at eastern state penitentiaryOn July 14, 2018, I ambled behind hundreds of sweaty revelers down Fairmount to celebrate the last Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary. For the past 24 years, the historic prison has co-hosted a Bastille Day show and after-party with their neighbor, the London Grill.  It began as a lively intimate restaurant party each July 14. But the event soon exploded in size and pageantry into an elaborate music and drag cabaret extravaganza. The 2018 publicity claimed it is Philadelphia’s largest free theatrical performance.

The Guillotine and Edith Piaf last bastille day at eastern state penitentiary

The pre-show featured multiple beheadings of juicy watermelons, based on thumbs down votes from the crowd. The annual executioner this and every year was  Sean Kelley Senior VP and ESP’s first employee. The main attraction, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, made a dramatic entrance on the main tower parapet.  John Jarboe was a winged Edith Piaf in gold lame, crooning and rappelling down the stone fortress. When he reached the entry door, he unfurled a huge banner proclaiming RESISTEZ!

Joan of Arc, Ben and Cautionary Tales

What followed was a rapping and dancing procession of famous heroes who fought for freedom and justice. Joan of Arc made a live phone call to Senator Pat Toomey’s office, encouraging the crowd to shout out their protest messages.  The Handmaids appeared as a harbinger of worse disasters to come, and Marc Zuckerberg sang You Belong to Me (courtesy of the Police.)

Marie Antoinette and Tastykakes

last Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

The eagerly-awaited annual climax was the appearance of Marie Antoinette. She was enacted with gusto and a frightful pink wig by Terry McNally, co-owner of The London Grill. She swigged Chardonnay and mocked the complaining masses below. Finally, she uttered her famous line, for the last time: Let them eat Tastykakes!
The crowd below was pelted with a rush of  Tastykake butterscotch krimpets –2,000 packages were flung down from the balcony. The lucky bourgeoisie in the receiving area checked their wrappers to see if they were a lucky winner of a large Tastykake stash. I took that as my cue to head out as Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me boomed down.


day trip dog friendly neighborhoods outdoors parks

Washington Avenue Pier

Washington Avenue PierWes, our shiba inu Apollo and I celebrated our first nice weekend in April with a hike along  Washington Avenue Pier.
The park is located off 1301 S. Columbus Boulevard where it intersects with Washington Avenue. Although I’d driven by it in South Philadelphia for years, I’d never ventured over.  I thought there was not much to it–just a waterfront lookout. When it made the 2018 list of 25 best Philadelphia parks, I decided it was time to explore. Plus, our pup needed a good run.  Locals park in the Ruby Buffet shopping center by the Steelworker’s building, and look for the wooden pole signage for the trailhead.

Delaware River Trail

We trotted to keep up with our lunging pup. We headed first down a soft cinder path, detouring to a sandy Washington Avenue Piernook, for Apollo’s introduction to the beach (he was not a fan). Next, we climbed a 16′ spiral staircase lookout, part of a 65′ sculpture by Jody Pinto. Be prepared to sway a bit as you perch on the top step. Spiro offers excellent river views  from the Ben Franklin Bridge far left to the Walt Whitman down right. We were about to head back to the car, when Apollo bolted toward a bed of wildflowers.Washington Avenue Pier

Wildlife Sights


Apollo’s hunting instincts were spot on. He led us on a hidden gem of a hike along a paved Delaware River Waterfront Authority trail for about 1.5 miles. We passed a few bicyclists, hikers and a rogue pier fishing family. However, we had the trail mostly to ourselves, and saw more wildlife than on our National Parks vacation! There were seagulls, hedgehogs,cormorants, ravens and geese. The trail was lined with budding trees, abandoned piers and spectacular river views. It leads to the new Philly public fishing Pier 68.

Washington Avenue PierOur non-sporting class dog sniffed from a distance at several feral cats. The strays looked well-fed and stared at us calmly from the other side of a chain link fence. We soon discovered why the feral cats looked fit. We met 2 volunteer cat lovers who were out bringing food and fresh litter for the cats. Their homestead also adjoins the Walmart shopping center  lot. Washington Avenue Pier

On our way back, we stopped to watch a tiny tug boat towing a large barge down the river. We’re looking forward to doing a return visit this summer, when all the trees are in bloom. Let’s hope the Pier keeps its low-key, off the beaten trail status going forward.


sports winter events

Eagles Superbowl Championship Parade

On February 8 2018, I joined hordes of fans decked out in green to cheer on the Birds at the first Eagles Superbowl Championship Parade.


On February 4, I was impressed at how everyone in my South Philly neighborhood burst into the streets to celebrate. It was just moments after the  Philadelphia Eagles whomped the Patriots 41-33 in Superbowl 52.  On that frigid night, I was greeted by fireworks, cheers and car horns blaring as I steered our puppy along his nighttime walk. I had to switch up our usual route because fans were marching 4-6 abreast in the streets, chanting  E -A-G-L-E-S. They were barking and howling because we were “Underdogs No More” as the local headlines proclaimed.  Everyone headed to Broad Street and City Hall to celebrate into the wee hours. Despite Philly fans’ reputation, there were only a few knucklehead incidents, as Mayor Kenney dubbed them.

The city mood was joyous and festive for days afterwards, with Center City  lit up in green and Thank You Eagles signs everywhere. The Flyers and 76ers caught the spirit and went on winning streaks that stretched for weeks! Bud Light stepped in to help Lineman Lane Johnson honor his promise to buy everyone in Philly a beer if they won. The marketing geniuses at Bud Light changed their slogan from Dilly Dilly to Philly Philly and emblazoned it in skywriting on parade day.


Given how superstitious Eagles fans are, I was surprised when the city set up parade route barricades a week before the Superbowl was played. The City reversed the parade route used for the 2008 Phillies Championship Parade.  The Eagles 5-mile parade route started at the Link stadium, headed straight up Broad Street to City Hall, then down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum (Rocky steps).

I scoped out the early morning crowd levels by watching ABC 6 TV’s coverage. When I saw that die hard fans were camped out around the Art Museum for the ceremony, I headed in the opposite direction–to the parade kickoff at  AT&T station. I was able to squeeze in right before 11am to catch the police motorcycle escort leading the procession.


There were about 26 Eagles buses in the parade, for all the Eagles players, their families,  cheerleaders and other staff. On the first bus, some guy in a black coat hopped off to shake hands and mingle with the crowd. I learned later that was Doug Pederson brandishing the Vince Lombardi trophy for fans to see!
The crowd hurled beer cans to the players who caught and chugged them on the fly, like the pros they are. I missed seeing Jason Kelce in Mummer regalia, but I caught his headline- making rant and No one likes us, we don’t care chant, watching the ceremony from the comfort of my home. Check out the photo below of the weirdest tribute attire I saw that day–Liberty Bell Eagles wear. Here’s the full parade highlights recap from


art creativity

Theater Skam’s Fashion Machine

fashionmachineOn a brutally cold January evening, we trekked out to Fringe Arts  by Penns Landing to join a unique audience participation event: Theater SKAM’s Fashion Machine. As devoted Project Runway fans, we were intrigued to see how kids could create a whole new outfit in just an hour. It always took 1-2 days and maximum drama for adult Runway contestants to accomplish the same task.

I’m in!

Attendees were warned to come dressed in clothes they didn’t mind having destroyed (my word).–The theater greeters preferred the word reimagined. They did promise to leave one item unscathed from each outfit chosen. We had to declare our intentions by slapping either  “I’m in!” or “I’m Chicken” stickers on our chest. The photo at right shows attendees who are fessing up to being chickens. I was a little nervous volunteering to be in, thinking they’d go for the blank slate potential of my old black pullover sweater and leggings. However, they had plenty of willing souls. I also suspect “the fix” may have been in. The designers seemed pretty chummy and comfy with the”volunteers” chosen from the get-go. But it was all in fun since there were no valuable prizes at stake.

fashion machineIt was reassuring (after 1 year in Trumpworld)  to see such a diverse group of boy and girl designers ages 9-13. The kids broke into 4-person teams to consult with their clients.

There was the obligatory sketch, then “run and snatch as much fabric as you can in 2 mifashion machinenutes” step. Then clients handed over their clothing and padded around in terrycloth robes for rest of the hour.


Skam is a Canadian theater troupe based in Vancouver, BC. They were inspired to do this project after their high-stakes theater experience in which kids cut adult volunteers’ hair. For the Fashion Machine Phillies crew, they offered 12 hours of training. They not only taught sewing machine use, but also covered the history of fashion styles, how to chat up clients and weaving techniques. The 4-person team did video interviews with the students which they shared during the nerve-wracking 30 minute countdown to the runway show.

Before & After Designs

fashion machine

Here’s an example of how the young designers transformed a before outfit into an original creation with limited resources.
The groups worked amazingly well together and didn’t ask much for adult help.

The main stress was that the sewing machines kept jamming. Yet, unlike Project Runway contestants, they did not resort to the glue gun.





At the runway shfashion machineow, the clients got into the spirit, strutting and twirling with pride as the audience cheered everyone on. It was the perfect finish to an engaging and inspiring evening. Here’s the group photo of all the designers and their models.



art creativity special events

Fireflies Experience

On a balmy Saturday evening in early October, Wes and I headed to Philadelphia’s Sister Cities Park  in Center City see Cai Cuo-Quong’s Fireflies Experience. Cai is an internationally renowned artist who was commissioned by the Association for Public Art (aPA) to create an engaging public work to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Ben Franklin Parkway (Parkway 100). The Parkway is our city’s premiere hub for culture, history and major events –a tourist mecca that rivals Old City with Independence Hall.

Unique, Illuminated Lantern Artwork

The artist created a luminous, multisensory group experience that is a spectacular kickoff to the centennial celebration. Cai’s work features 27 pedicabs, each illuminated with colorful paper lanterns. The 2-seat cabs are pedalled by a driver who gives a one-way ride along the Parkway between Sister Cities Park and Iroquois Park (by the Art Museum).

Every cab was aglow with a unique constellation of fanciful shapes. Some cabs had a theme (stars, animals, outer space). Some were more of a hodge-podge. We enjoyed the parade of 1, 2 or  3 pedi-cabs all in motion  down the Parkway promenade.

Free Pedicab Rides

Fireflies experienceAmazingly, the rides are free and given with a smile by enthusiastic aPA volunteers. We found out too late, that ride reservations were required. The site promised that some walk-in spaces would be available. When we tried our luck however, we were warned to expect a 1 1/2 hour -2 hour wait. And there was no guarantee of a ride. The photo is the long line, an hour before the show closing.

The Fireflies Experience was blessed with dry, warm weather throughout the September 15-October 8 installation. In these days of stress and strife, it was a much needed lift to be surrounded by exuberant  riders and strollers. Even the folks on the long lines were in great spirits.Thank you aPA and Cai!

day trip food neighborhoods

Heritage Walk and Fells Point

For a unique outdoorsy day trip or weekend getaway, how about a drive to Baltimore to explore the Heritage Walk and Fells Point? It’s an easy, two hour ride from Philadelphia to the Inner Harbor. First, fortify yourself with iconic local cuisine. We headed to Phillips Seafood on the waterfront for lobster rolls, crab cakes and fries doused with seafood seasoning. A little pricey, but worth it.

Around Inner Harbor

Heritage Walk and Fells Point Next, stop in to the Baltimore Visitor Center and pick up a Heritage Walk guide. It’s $5: a cheap alternative to paid walking tours, and you can meander. We strolled by docked historic ships to the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse. Hard to believe that a grown man could squeeze into its tiny lookout. As we headed east, we happened upon the somber National Katyn Memorial. The majestic sculpture is a tribute to victims of the 1940 Polish massacre by the Soviets. Nearby is a preserved Underground Railroad stop and a smallish Little Italy neighborhood.

Fells Point

Heritage Walk and Fells PointWe did a collective double-take when we approached Fells Point. This historic, hip neighborhood bore a striking resemblance to our hometown. There were cobblestone streets, renovated brick buildings, trendy eateries and scarce parking.
Heritage Walk and Fells PointTo clinch the comparison, there was a street festival celebrating pirates, and the arts, of course.
While cruising Thames Street, you should stop at The Horse You Came In On Saloon. It’s famous as the last watering hole Edgar Allan Poe visited before he died.

Heritage Walk and Fells PointShot Tower and a Museum First

To complete the heritage walk loop, head a few blocks north and west to the Phoenix Shot Tower.  For over a century, workers dropped molten lead from the top to form a half million bags of shot a year.  Our last stop was to pay homage to the Peale Museum built in 1814. It was the first building in North America specifically designed to be a museum.

This post covers only a few of the free highlights of a Baltimore walking tour. We’ve held on to our guide for a repeat visit.


day trip special events spring events

Light City

As soon as I saw the dazzling TV ad for Light City, I headed online to make plans for a family road trip to experience Baltimore’s free festival of light, music and innovation.  This is the Light City Festival’s second year. It features a week long celebration in early April of outdoor art and performances around the city and beyond. The festival attracted 400,00 visitors in 2016 and undoubtedly more this year.

Light Art Walk

We picked a hotel a few blocks from the Inner Harbor, tourist central.  For the festival, the waterfront was transformed into a 1.5 mile Light Art Walk, glowing with more than 50 illuminated art installations. To avoid the surging crowds, we did the Disneyland trick and walked the trail in reverse order. It worked, mostly.

Interactive Art Experience

We were able to get up close, touch and interact with the art. It was so much fun! For this sculpture, people would line up to dance and sing: their actions made the  colors change and lights flash.
In The Pool (shown above), luminous reflective discs throbbed a rainbow of colors as visitors hopped, shimmied and slid across the big circle.

People Watching

It was equally entertaining to see how others plunged into this multi sensory adventure. One of my favorites was watching how others reacted to Ovo. You enter this giant egg frame and are pelted with lights, sounds, and mist (gentle or soaking). I observed from a dry distance.

The Festival definitely had a party atmosphere, since it stayed open until midnight. We were too busy exploring to sit and listen to the live music, but it made a great soundtrack for the evening. I think we’ll be back for Light City 2018!