#take12trips: Complete!

Back in January, I set the audacious goal of taking 12 trips in 2016 (an idea I borrowed from Clare over at Need Another Holiday). It felt absurd for a number of reasons, including the fact that I have a full-time job with limited vacation time, and the memory of only leaving New York City four times in all of 2015. But I set the goal anyway. The guidelines I set for myself were pretty simple – if I left New York’s five boroughs, it counted – and that certainly made it easier to accomplish. As of the end of last month, I’ve taken 12 trips – and there are more to come! Here’s a look back…

The Washington Monument on a foggy day, Washington DC
1. Washington, D.C.

I started the year by jumping on a bus to visit my friend Courtney in her new home, and we had a great weekend hanging out, eating and sightseeing – despite the rainy weather and the fact that we both had horrible colds.

Sunset in Allen, Texas
2. Dallas

Trip number 2 came somewhat unexpectedly when I found dirt-cheap flights to Dallas on my mom’s birthday weekend. It was my first trip to see them in about a year and a half, so we had a great time shopping, visiting museums and just hanging out!

Marina Green, San Francisco
3. San Francisco

My best friend and I decided to meet up in her favorite city for once – bonus that I had never been and had always wanted to go. It definitely lived up to the hype!

Sunrise on the beach in Nassau, Bahamas

4. The Bahamas

Another spontaneous long weekend away because of a cheap flight, this one motivated by the miserable New York winter.

View of downtown Phoenix, Arizona
5. Phoenix

I re-ignited an age-old tradition this year by spending a week in Arizona for MLB spring training! Bonus that I have a ton of friends and family there, and my parents joined me as well.

Breakneck Ridge, New York
6. Breakneck Ridge

My friends somehow tricked me into climbing a mountain upstate, but I was well rewarded with ALL THE FOOD in Cold Spring after.

View from One Liberty Observatory Deck, Philadelphia
7. Philadelphia

I didn’t love Philadelphia, true, but I was thrilled to take advantage of a transitional period and squeeze in an adventure!

Long Beach, New York
8, 11. Long Beach

I have, as you know, become quite the professional beach bum this summer. It’s just too easy to take advantage of!

Mural in Jersey City
 9, 12. Jersey City

I haven’t written about Jersey City at all, because I’ve just been hanging out at my friend Ashley’s apartment, but hey – the walk through Little India is cultural and the street art is on point.

Jones Beach
10. Jones Beach

Not my favorite beach, if only because it’s so hard to get to, but hey – can’t beat a day trip.

I’m excited to see just how many trips I can cram into 12 months – I’m off to Texas again on Wednesday, and I’m thinking at least one more beach trip before summer ends. But as I’ve learned – some of the best vacations are spontaneous!

Four delightful highlights of Philadelphia

TRUTH TIME: I didn’t really like Philadelphia when I went down there for a day last month. I was all set to write a piece on how weird it is when I, a self-proclaimed City Girl, don’t like particular cities – and I still might. But for now, I want to inject a little bit of positivity into my memories and present four things that I found to be delightful, despite not loving Philly as a whole. Unsurprisingly, half of these things are food.

The history

Independence Hall, PhiladelphiaIndependence Hall, Philadelphia

The first thing I did after getting off the bus was tour Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Touristy to be sure, but it was so cool -at least to this history buff – to be standing where George Washington and his peers once stood and hashed out our freedom.

The architecture

Philadelphia City HallView from One Liberty Observatory Deck, Philadelphia

The observatory itself left much to be desired, but I can’t deny the beauty of Philadelphia’s architecture, both old and new.

Reading Terminal Market

Philly cheese steak at Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

This food market – the oldest in the United States – is like Chelsea Market times 100. As soon as I walked in the door, my senses were assaulted and I was overwhelmed with choice for my lunch. I obviously settled on a Philly cheese steak (it was better than it looks!), but even then there were multiple booths to choose from! As a foodie, this place was heaven on earth – I even returned in the late afternoon to pick up donuts for the ride home.

Happy hour at Brü

Happy hour at Brü, Philadelphia

I passed by this bar in the afternoon. It was 95 degrees outside and I still had hours to kill before my bus, so I was drawn in by the happy hour specials and spent two hours at a table by myself, eating a pretzel and drinking local beers. I even pulled out my Kindle and did my community group reading for the week!

I do hope to return to Philly one day and do it “right” (I think some of my dislike stems from my own mistakes in planning). What should I see and do next time around?

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia

If there’s one thing Philadelphia is known for, it’s history. The city played a crucial role in our nation’s early years, and when I popped down for a day last month, I was really excited as a history buff to learn as much as I could.

What I didn’t quite expect was that so many of the historical places are still open and thriving today! As much as I loved seeing things like Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed) and the Liberty Bell, I also adored wandering Elfreth’s Alley, the USA’s oldest – and possibly cutest – residential street.

Red shutters in Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

Built in the early 1700s, Elfreth’s Alley occupies about one block in the Old City neighborhood and has been home to a diverse group of Americans over the centuries.

Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaYellow shutters in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaAmerican window in Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

I was in town just a couple weeks before the Fourth of July, but I like to think this little street is this patriotic year-round.

Red door and shutters in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaElfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

Elfreth’s Alley has a museum which was closed, because I visited on a Monday (not my best planning job, I’ll admit). But one young (I assume…) resident had written up some facts about the street and displayed it in a  window!Purple shutters in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaLamppost in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaElfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

I sort of assumed it would be expensive to live here, but then I saw a woman about my age come out of one of the buildings and go about her day, so the dream is alive! Which house would you want to occupy? I’m calling dibs on the one with the yellow trim!

Visiting One Liberty Observatory Deck in Philadelphia

Y’all know me well enough by now to know that I’m borderline obsessed with observatories (see: New York, Boston, San Francisco, New York again and again). So I’m sure you can imagine my sheer delight at discovering Philadelphia’s One Liberty Observatory Deck, which opened just last year. How perfect for my one-day adventure last month!

View from One Liberty Observatory Deck, PhiladelphiaView from One Liberty Observatory Deck, PhiladelphiaView from One Liberty Observatory Deck, Philadelphia

Except… it wasn’t. One Liberty is my least favorite of the observatories I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. It felt dark – whether it was the windows themselves or the carpet and walls, I can’t say. It’s structured so you can’t get right up against the windows, and frankly, there’s not much to do besides look out the windows. I strongly believe that if you’re going to charge someone to go up high in a building, you should provide more than views – there were a handful of displays with random facts about Philly, and two areas with about two-minute informational tracks on repeat, but that was it. I stuck around for over an hour taking photos just to feel like I had gotten my money’s worth.

View from One Liberty Observatory Deck, PhiladelphiaView from One Liberty Observatory Deck, PhiladelphiaView from One Liberty Observatory Deck, Philadelphia

In spite of this, I got some cool photos. And in the interest of staying positive: The architecture was incredible, and there was an offbeat sculpture of Benjamin Franklin the likes of which I’d never seen.

Benjamin Franklin at One Liberty Observation Deck, Philadelphia

To be honest, I’m sure you’ve already gathered that I don’t really recommend a visit to One Liberty Observatory Deck. But if you do want to check it out for yourself, tickets are $19 and are available online or in person (there was no line when I went, and now I can see why). And hey, if you go and have a different opinion – please tell me! I don’t like it when I don’t like observatories.

What’s your FAVORITE observatory?