Catching a glimpse of Philly's funky side

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While historic landmarks like Penn's Landing and the Liberty Bell are still main attractions in Philadelphia, the city has a lot more to offer than a history lesson.

South Street in historic downtown Philly is one place that draws thousands of visitors every day, from all walks of life, thanks to its beautiful murals, specialty boutiques and eateries that sell the famous Philly cheese steaks.

With unconventional shops and a variety of restaurants, there is more than enough to do in one day on South Street, for everyone from the daytime shopper to the late-night partier (many locations don't close until 2 a.m.).

Getting there

Be prepared to pay tolls. From Baltimore, take I-95 north. In Delaware, follow the signs for Philadelphia/Port of Wilmington, using I-495 north, which will merge into I-95 north. In Pennsylvania, take the Broad Street exit (No. 17). Make a right onto East Passyunk Avenue and then make a right on to South Street.

Where to park

Parking can be a challenge, especially if it is a warm weekend. Side streets have spaces available, but you have to keep an eye out. Meters are available, but the easiest option is to park in one of the small lots just off South Street.

Where to shop

Blondie Boutique (520 South St., 215-925-6488): This store is definitely for the fashion-conscious young woman who likes nice clothes at a good price. Blondie has multiple sales on shoes that can't be beat, especially during the change of season, and a great selection of fashionable, unique jeans.

Ethnics (307 South St., 215-627-625): If you like handcrafted imported jewelry, furniture, art or pottery, check out this store. Many items come from Indonesia and are one-of-a-kind. Be prepared for sticker shock, but there is always something on sale.

Zipperhead (407 South St., 215-928-1123): The spikes, studs and leather at this punk and rock 'n' roll clothing store could scare off some, but it has a strong customer base, according to some of the employees. Everyone from teens to stylish adults can be found looking through the unique accessories.

Condom Kingdom (437-439 South St., 215-829-1668): This store is not really for the kids, but it is one of the biggest attractions on South Street. Shaped like a castle with iron gates, condoms are only one part of the vast array of merchandise that can be purchased here (most of which is too racy to mention). The plastic sperm swimming overhead toward the center of the store, or the "egg," serve as your guide throughout the store.

Where to eat

Ishkabibble's (337 South St., 215-923-4337): While other stores claim to serve the best Philly cheese steak, Ishkabibble's has perfected the art of the chicken "cheese steak." The sandwiches are filled with large chunks of chicken and covered in white American cheese. Ishkabibble's claims to be the home of the original chicken cheese steak, and there is always a wait, but it's definitely worth it.

The Chef's Market (231 South St., 215-925-8360): This small market has a wide variety of gourmet food to eat in or take out. Everything from pasta, fresh vegetables and scones to sushi can be purchased. The Chef's Market was voted "Best Gourmet Market in the Delaware Valley."

Jon's Bar and Grille (Third and South streets, 215-592-1390): Not only does this place have great food with a great view, but also it is the birthplace of Larry Fine of the Three Stooges. What more can you ask for? American cuisine, and if you like pizza you can choose between the Larry, Moe or Curly.

Lorenzo & Son Pizza (305 South St., 215-627-4110): The largest piece of pizza for the smallest amount of money. Three dollars will get you a slice of pizza and a soda, but don't ask for toppings: The answer is no. The pizza is so good that putting anything on it would ruin this Italian delight. Don't count on just walking into this place for a quick bite. The line wraps around the store and out the door, down the street.

Rita's Water Ice (239 South St., 215-629-3910): Philly lays claim to not only the cheese steak, but also the chilly treat called water ice, a cross between Italian ice and a slushy. You can get this only about four months out of the year, so don't miss it. Rita's also serves old-fashioned frozen custard and creamy custard shakes. Also try a gelati, which is water ice and frozen custard together.

Bars/music

Downey's Restaurant: Drinking House and Dining Saloon (526 S. Front St., 215-625-9500): Combining a restaurant and traditional pub, Downey's speaks to the Irish soul. This pub/restaurant serves traditional Irish meals like corned beef and cabbage while the walls are covered in Irish memorabilia. An open deck overlooks the Delaware River (The night view is especially breathtaking). You can enjoy your drink with a great view until 2 a.m. almost every day of the week.

Copabanana (344 South St., 215-923-6180): The food here is great, but the margaritas are even better. With its Tex-Mex menu, this place just screams family outing, but it also turns into a place to party at night.

O'neals (South and Third streets, 215-574-9495): This is a family-owned Irish pub with at least 13 beers on draft at one time that change from week to week. If you like rugby, you can meet the Schuylkill River Exiles Rugby Club every Thursday or Saturday after a game.

Free or cheap

Philadelphia is covered in murals, and South Street has a few. Venture down the side streets and explore the meaning behind this beautiful art in the city.

Fat Tuesday (431-433 South St., 215-629-5999) This is the easiest way to enjoy the sights of South Street without doing too much walking. Simply order an appetizer or drink, and sit and watch the people go by. You can listen to great music and enjoy a nice spring day.

The Laff House (221 South St., 215-440-4242): Take a break and visit the comedy club that plays host to local and many famous comedians. Tickets are about $13, but get a $2 discount just by visiting their Web site, www.laffhouse.com.

Information:To learn more, visit www.south-street.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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