I’ll be honest. Nothing feels better than stepping out of your last class on Friday and realizing that you are free for the weekend. It’s an especially great feeling when you live in a city with SO much to do and SO little time.
But I also know know that nothing feels worse than checking your bank account balance and seeing a number that is much lower than you were expecting.
So for all of you college kids on a budget, I’ve put together a list of my 5 favorite things to do on the weekend for little to no cost. (I’m not including the cost of transportation, which is only $3.60 round trip on the subway, and you might even be able to walk to these places!) Maybe I’ll inspire your weekend activities! Read on…
1. Rittenhouse Square [Free! + a cup of coffee]
WHAT TO DO: If you live in the city and have never been to Rittenhouse, GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE! This is hands down one of my favorite places to go when the weather is nice (and even when it’s cold). Take the Broad Street Line to the Walnut-Locust stop, head down Walnut towards 18th Street, and you’ll hit the park soon after. On the way, you’ll walk past a Starbucks, so my recommendation is to grab your favorite drink and take it with you.
WHY I LOVE IT: I am a people watcher. I could do it for hours. I just love to watch the hustle and bustle of life happen all around me. Rittenhouse is absolutely perfect for this. Plus, there’s always someone entertaining. Be it the fantastically talented juggler, the swing band, or even just another bored college kid and his guitar, you’ll have something to watch. It’s beautifully laid out, easy to walk around, and another plus: a popular spot for dog walkers. If you’re an animal lover like me, you’ll totally dig it. There are also special events held here depending on the day, so Google before you go! There is a farmer’s market on most Saturdays, but double check it’s times before you leave.
2. The Italian Market [free; bring CASH]
WHAT TO DO: I am a through and through Italian girl. My grandparents have taught me the ways of pasta from scratch, fresh bread and real and true olive oils. So it should come as no surprise that I absolutely love the Italian Market. This little gem is on 9th Street. To get there easily, take the Broad Street Line to South Street. Walk down South until you hit 9th Street, and it starts about a block in once you’ve begun the walk down 9th itself.
WHY I LOVE IT: The real question here is, what don’t I love about the Italian Market. This is true and authentic Philadelphia. Produce, fresh fruits, beautiful flowers, and nearly anything you could purchase at the Fresh Grocer can be found here, sold by local vendors who line the street, for dirt cheap. I mean DIRT cheap. You will literally not find this stuff cheaper anywhere else. The bustle of the market, as it is a popular destination, is all part of the charm. There are also some of the most amazing bakeries I’ve ever eaten in. I suggest picking up a fresh cannoli if you’re hungry, or a cup of gelato to satisfy the sweet tooth. Even if you aren’t shopping for food, this is great place to just soak up the atmosphere of Philly and enjoy a nice day out and about.
3. Magic Gardens at South Street [$5]
WHAT TO DO: This one is just cool. Located at 1020 South Street, this is hands down one of the coolest urban art displays in the country. For $5, you can enter the garden itself to check out the art display. The mosaic art, which lines the building walls as well as the “garden” itself was created by an artist named Isaiah Zagar. The glass, bottles, tiles and mirrors that line the place are absolutely breath-taking and make AMAZING Instagram posts! 😉 They’re open daily, but be sure to check specific hours before you go as they do change depending on the seasons.
WHY I LOVE IT: This is one of those “go-to” places in Philly, particularly on South Street, that is so worth seeing at least once. You can’t miss it as you walk down South, and it’s so eye catching that you almost have to go in. It is displays of urban art like the Magic Gardens that remind me why I love the city so much. We have such a vibrant and eclectic mix of people in the city. This is just one great example of an outward expression of just one of those thousands of unique personalities. It’s also great knowing your money is going to a good place, as your admission price is used to help fund the non-profit organization that runs the gardens themselves as well as funds art education resources for the city.
4. Franklin Fountain at Penn’s Landing [$5-10]
WHAT TO DO: I scream, you scream…that’s right, ICE CREAM. Franklin Fountain is an old fashioned, straight out of the past, soda fountain. It’s located just near 2nd and Market, so getting there is not difficult. Stepping inside is a little like entering a time machine. All of the decor is endlessly interesting, with period antiques furnishing the place. Their staple? Homemade ice cream, scooped into the original ice cream container (which looks just like a Chinese take out box). The staff, called soda jerks, are all dressed to the part, and everything down to the red and white paper straws have the inner history dork in me squealing! I love this place. I absolutely adore it. Their ice cream is a bit more expensive than something like Dairy Queen, but you are truly paying for quality and experience when you dig in. It is so good, even I can justify spending my hard earned cash here.
WHY I LOVE IT: Why NOT?!? It’s old fashioned, full of charm, and located directly across from Penn’s Landing, a cool site to see if you’ve never seen the view of the river from the city. If you and your friends are just looking for a nice way to spend a great spring day, this is the place. As far as ice cream goes, the soda jerks are more than willing to let you try before you buy. My personal recommendations are Peanut Butter, Maple Walnut, and Hydrox (OREO!!!) Cookie. It is a must visit. Beyond the ice cream they also sell old fashioned candy and soda that I have literally never seen anywhere else. I am such a geek about this stuff, so I totally love it. Once you’ve got your ice cream, take a walk over the Landing or even to the dog park just across the street. It is a great place to just sit and relax, and one my friends and I frequent very often.
5. The Kimmel Center, KimmelSTIX ,[$10]
WHAT TO DO: If you are a theater nerd, or you just love performing arts, this is the ticket (haha!) for you. The Kimmel Center, which is located directly at the Walnut-Locust stop on the Broad Street Line, is amazing at offering student friendly rates to certain shows that are playing at their theater. This could include operas, cultural performances, musicals, comedy shows, or even speaker series. The Kimmel Center is a beautiful, breathtaking theater that brings in world-renowned programs each show season.
If this sounds like something up your alley, you’ll need to sign up to receive access to the student priced tickets when they go on sale. This one does take a little bit of planning in advance, as you need to sign up for the service. However, it’s totally worth it. Do it RIGHT NOW if you have a moment.
First, register for KimmelSTIX online using this form. According to the Kimmel Center website, “KimmelSTIX is open to high school, college and graduate students, ages 18 to 30, with a valid student I.D. card.” Once you’re all good to go, you’ll recieve an email each month letting you know what shows will have ten dollar tickets available.
WHY I LOVE IT: Repeat after me: “You cannot beat a ten dollar ticket.” Did you say it? Good. Say it again. You really can’t beat the price here! Regular costs for these shows can range anywhere from $20 to over $100 just to see these shows. Because the Kimmel Center understands that college students don’t always have expendable income, they make it nearly impossible to say no to attending their shows with this discount. I use this service almost every month, and I have yet to be disappointed. If you have some time to plan, this is an amazing way to spend your weekend.
So that’s the list! If you are from the area, what hidden gems do you frequent that didn’t make the list? And if I’ve inspired you, please let me know! I love the feedback. Hopefully this little list will help you make the most of this first weekend of what finally feels like Spring, and many more weekends in the future. You guys RULE.