Ideal Philadelphia Day with Storyteller Denise Valentine

In her SideTour, acclaimed storyteller and folk artist Denise Valentine doesn’t just want you to hear about the role African Americans played in Philly’s history (and, indeed, the country)—she wants you to feel it. Her passion for the subject is apparent in her animated speech, her active Twitter feed and now, in her ideal way to spend a day in Philly.

9:00AM: Get a café breakfast to go I’ve been looking for a chance to sit down for a morning bite Trolley Car Café in East Falls, but I always get my food to go so I can move to my next stop. It’s a converted old bathhouse, with its own fresh herb garden and quaint outdoor seating.

9:30AM: Savor a good book I head to a favorite reading spot on Benjamin Franklin Parkway to enjoy my meal and my current book, “Makeda” by Randall Robinson. In between pages, I can take in magnificent views of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Main Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, both designed by African-American architect Julian Abel.


Photo: Some rights reserved by Kansas Sebastian

12:00PM Grab a quick lunch After a leisurely morning I take a short walk down Arch Street. I usually grab a bite in Chinatown or at the historic Reading Terminal Market, which offers a dizzying array of places to eat with an atmosphere of hospitality and entertainment. You’ll find standard Philly fare here: cheese steaks, soft pretzels and apple dumplings baked by Amish farmers, as well as exotic cuisine from around the world.


Photo: All rights reserved by Morton Fox

12:30PM Visit with history, part 1 The next stop is the African American Museum of Philadelphia. It’s one of my favorite spots in Philly, and the starting location of my SideTour. Currently, you can enjoy “Come See About Me,” which boasts the Mary Wilson Supremes collection of stunning dresses and features an examination of the impact of the Supremes on the 1960s. A must-visit is the core exhibition, “Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia, 1776 to 1876.”

1:30PM Visit with history, part 2 I continue the museum exploration with a trip to the National Museum of American Jewish History, which I visited for the first time earlier this year to see “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges.” A current special exhibit, “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” is a celebration of the famed children’s book author who was the first to feature an African-American protagonist in a modern full-color picture book.


Photo: Denise Valentine

2:30PM Visit with history, part 3 Once I’ve had my fill of being indoors, I take a short walk to the President’s House and Slavery Memorial at Independence National Historic Park. Our first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, occupied the house that once stood here when Philadelphia served as a temporary capital. The Slavery Memorial remembers the nine enslaved Africans that Washington brought with him, 10 years after Pennsylvania’s Act of Gradual Abolition.


Photo: Denise Valentine


3:00PM Sit and tell stories Next I’ll head to Washington Square, also know as Congo Square, to meet with folks and chat. It’s a former potter’s field where Revolutionary War soldiers and victims of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic are buried. Africans called it Congo Square because it was the one place they were allowed to congregate to speak their languages, eat traditional foods, dance and sing. It was also where they were held in bondage to be shipped to points further south.


Photo: All rights reserved by Justin Murphy

5:30PM Jazz it up at happy hour A great place to wind down after a busy day is Warmdaddy’s on Columbus Blvd. On Friday evenings from 5:00PM to 7:00PM, radio station WDAS-FM broadcasts live from the bar.

Join Denise for her walk through the African-American history of Philadelphia with SideTour.


Hot in Philly: Taxidermy in the City

If you’ve already spent afternoons strolling down Market Street and people-watching at the Gallery, then you’re probably looking for something a bit more unique this summer. Take a walk in someone else’s shoes and dip your toes into something new with this offbeat weekend option.


Take on Taxidermy This Saturday afternoon, join SideTour for a taxidermy workshop in Kensington. Spend over two hours with Beth Beverly, an artist, fashion designer and licensed taxidermist, and participate in an interactive demonstration of the preservation and mounting of a recently deceased chicken.

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Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.

Celebrate the 4th of July Spirit with SideTour

Enjoying our country’s independence with your family and friends doesn’t have to end at the fireworks. Keep the spirit going at a SideTour that ups your grilling game, boosts your bartending skills or even teaches you a thing or two about the American Revolution itself.



Become a Grill Master Expand your repertoire beyond hotdogs and hamburgers in this upcoming SideTour, where you’ll prep and grill impressive recipes including grilled guacamole, Chimichurri steak, whiskey pineapple and bacon-wrapped shrimp.

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Hidden in Philadelphia: America’s Oldest Botanical Garden

Philly is rich with early American landmarks, but here’s one you may be less familiar with: Bartram’s Garden on 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard is the oldest surviving botanical garden in the U.S. John Bartram, who was anointed “Royal Botanist” by King George III, officially founded it in 1728. But its history can be traced back much further. Artifacts found on this fertile ground—which you can see by appointment—indicate that Native Americans as far back as 3,000 BCE used it seasonally.

What You’ll See Despite its long history, the garden is far from stuck in the past. Today you can wander through its 45 acres and admiring flora like Franklinia, the garden’s signature flowering tree named for good ol’ Ben Franklin himself. You can also seek out a photo op with the oldest Ginkgo biloba tree in America. Be sure to spend some time in the meadow and soak up the view of Philly’s skyline.


Photo: All rights reserved by Toc and Barbara

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Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.

Dive Into Team Building That’s Actually Worth the Instagramming


Harvard alumni group making paella at a 3-course Spanish feast.

At SideTour, trust falls and rope courses just aren’t our style—and it looks like a ton of awesome businesses and clubs agree with us. We’re thrilled to say that the past few months have been super busy for SideTour for Companies, working with dozens of groups as diverse as Microsoft to OKCupid to Vanderbilt’s alumni network. Continue Reading


This Weekend in Philly: Get Awesome at Awesome Fest!

Neon nostalgia is alive and well in Philadelphia this summer at the third annual summer extravaganza The Awesome Fest, which celebrates the ‘80s with 10 weeks of bands, free movies and other special events at a variety of venues and city parks all around town.

Gear Up for Opening Weekend The Psychedelic Furs, a new-wave Brit band famed for the eponymous theme song to John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink, headline the opening night festivities this Friday at The Trocadero. And Saturday night, get all dolled up for ‘80s Prom Night, with a screening of (you guessed it) cult classic Pretty in Pink, followed by breakdancing, running-man-ing and electric-sliding the night away at 360 Lounge in Parx. A prom king and queen will be crowned.

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A Foodie’s Philadelphia: 12 Hours with Caterer-Blogger Barrett Bridenhagen

Cheese monger and caterer Barrett Bridenhagen’s company and blog, Dirty Laundry Kitchen, is a foray into comfortable, elegant entertaining. So when she’s not hawking fine cheeses at Salumeria in Reading Terminal Market, she’s cooking, taking photographs of food or, best of all, dining somewhere new for inspiration. Naturally, her ideal day is designed around what’ll be eaten—and walking around a bit to earn those three squares.

As told to SideTour

10:00AM: To Market, To Market One of the coolest parts about Reading Terminal Market is that it’s truly a primary grocery store for many Philadelphians. Stop at Salumeria and ask for Barrett and I’ll happily help you select your “soul cheese” (it’s kind of like a soul mate). Then grab a goodie from Metropolitan Bakery—if it’s Sunday, go for the hazelnut apricot demi-baguette. They also sell an olive bread that’s perfect for savory French toast with a bacon blood orange marmalade. It couldn’t hurt to pick up a loaf even if you won’t get to a kitchen for a few days—stale is good when it comes to French toast.

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What To Do in Philly This Weekend: 3 Historic Walks

If you’re in town this weekend, it’s time to take a walk. See a hidden side of the city with SideTour, and discover Philly’s roots as a bastion of religious freedom, civil engineering and manifest destiny—then impress your friends with fascinating tidbits.

SATURDAY: “Holy Experiment” Walk Philly was founded on the idea of free worship—a radical concept in 1682. Stroll through Old City and Society Hill this Saturday, and historical guide Steve Zettler will introduce you to the congregations of the city, and the protests, fires and fights they faced while upholding Philly’s holy dream. Continue Reading


Philadelphia Architecture, Shopping and More: A day with VIADUCTgreene’s Paul VanMeter

Professional landscape gardener Paul VanMeter is a co-founder of the non-profit VIADUCTgreene, which advocates to transform the viaduct, an abandoned stretch of the Reading Railroad, into a linear greenspace through Philadelphia. He also hosts a SideTour walking experience on which you can Explore Philly’s Secret Urban Jungle on a Viaduct Tour. In addition to his many outdoor ventures, he has a few indoor spots he thinks are worth visiting (or at least cruising by). 

As told to SideTour: 

8:00AM Take in the View Start the day with a stroll to Reading Terminal on 12th and Market to admire the reflective curved facades of the 1893 Terminal Headhouse and the 1929 PSFS Building (now the Loews Philadelphia Hotel), then revel in the views from PSFS’s 33rd floor; I love elevated perspectives and contrasts.

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8 Best Breweries and Brewpubs in Philadelphia

Beer lovers, set down your pints and take a look: We have the definitive list of the best spots in Philadelphia to sip a tasty brew. Rich Wagner, a Pennsylvania beer historian and SideTour host, highlights his top picks for great beer made right where you’ll drink it.

Yards Brewery

Philadelphia’s oldest and largest production brewery, started in 1994. It’s now in its fourth location right near the Sugar House Casino. Well-known for their “Ales of the Revolution,” they produce a variety of beers including specialties made on an original three-barrel brewing system. The tasting room is open daily.

901 N. Delaware Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19123 (215-634-2600)

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