South Philadelphia is home to several summer hotspots, from the Italian Market to Citizens Bank Park. Although open-air markets and Phillies games can be fun, there are a lot of other things do in the area that some locals might not know about. There are a plethora of hidden gems in the city, but these five places are worth checking out for what they have to offer.
Take Tai Chi and Yoga classes at Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church
Unbeknownst to some locals, Gloria Dei, or Old Swedes’ as it’s colloquially called, is the oldest church in Pennsylvania. It was built in the late 17th century and officially opened its doors in 1700.
Not only does the Episcopalian church hold weekly services but it also offers Tai Chi and Yoga sessions for non-practicing locals and frequent churchgoers.
“We’re a tight-knit, lively community,” said Jim Minacci, sexton of the church. “People don’t really know about these classes that we have but we do a lot of other things too.”
Old Swedes’ was recently one of the venues for Make Music Philly, a city-wide music festival.
Try Cambodian Street Food at Mifflin Square
For decades, South Philadelphia has been a hub for many Southeast Asian immigrants but some people still don’t know about the area’s formidable Cambodian community. On weekends, many Cambodians in the community gather at Mifflin Square to enjoy the nice weather and sell street food at an inexpensive price. From grilled chicken on skewers to green papaya salad, passersby can try authentic Cambodian delicacies while relaxing in the park.
Volunteer at Southwark/Queen Village Community Garden
For Philadelphia natives who’d like to cultivate a green thumb, this public garden encourages Queen Village community members to embrace nature. Although there is an application process to obtain a garden plot and they give first priority to Queen Village residents, the garden offers volunteer opportunities and provides the public with helpful horticulture tips. Since the garden is an all-volunteer initiative, every helping hand is valuable to the cause. The garden is also a site for local beekeeping – and volunteers get first dibs on fresh honey.
Contact SQV Community Garden about volunteer inquiries.
Enjoy a summer read from Mostly Books
A day relaxing at FDR Park with a good book is a rather enjoyable way of spending summer afternoons. For used books that won’t break the budget, try Mostly Books, which has a wide range of literary genres. As its name may suggest, they also sells comics, movies, music and photographs.
Bob Avicolli, a recent visitor to Mostly Books, was impressed with its graphic novels collection and was thrilled to get his hands on an Incredible Hulk comic book from 1997. Despite smart technology, the store embraces the novelty of traditional books, and so do locals.
“I hate Kindle, said Avicolli. “I have to have paper.”
Have lunch at Urban Outfitters’ Headquarters
Urban Outfitters’ Corporate Campus at the Navy Yard is a frequented spot for creative professionals. Located in a building reminiscent of a plane hangar, visitors can see what goes on behind-the-scenes at Urban’s campus while enjoying lunch or coffee at company eateries Jharoka and Shop 543.
“This is a very isolated area, so to have a place where people can come for good food options is great,” said Valerie Fazza, barista at Jharoka.
It’s common to see millennials sitting and working at one of Jharoka’s tables.
Behind the eateries and through glass walls, the employees of Urban Outfitters, Inc. can be seen dressing mannequins, sketching on large white paper and perusing through clothing racks. With its public café and studios, the Urban campus provides a unique setting for both inspiration and sustenance.
– Text and images by Jennifer Nguyen and Taisha Zeigler .