CenterCityTeam Category

For Presidential Candidates in Philly, It’s All About the Cheese

July 29th, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on For Presidential Candidates in Philly, It’s All About the Cheese

There have always been those who take their cheesesteaks very seriously… some would say, too seriously. The cheesesteak purist brigade comes out in force whenever there is a discussion about how to order Philadelphia’s quintessential food, and they have very definite ideas about the “right” and “wrong” way to eat one of these sandwiches.


When it comes to cheesesteaks, some people have diehard opinions.

Wisconsin governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker came to Philadelphia yesterday. As part of his city tour he visited both Pat’s and Geno’s, the competing cheesesteak kings of Philly. Local press was all abuzz with the news: Governor Walker ordered his sandwiches with American cheese and no onions. Did Walker commit a gustatory foul by not ordering Cheez Whiz? Depends on who you ask.

Back in the day, presidential hopefuls Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ordered their cheesesteaks with Cheez-Whiz. That seems to be considered the safe option. But it’s a fallacy to assume that it’s the only “acceptable” condiment for a cheesesteak. Geno’s owner Joey Vento told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2008 that he himself has never eaten his cheesesteak with Cheez-Whiz, and that he recommends the provolone cheese. Surveys show that most customers prefer American cheese, followed by provolone. Cheez-Whiz actually came in third place.

In ordering American, Walker showed himself to be heaps smarter than then-candidate John Kerry, who ignited a minor firestorm back in 2004 when he ordered swiss cheese during his visit to Philadelphia. American cheese might or might not be the best option, but I think everyone agrees that it’s better than swiss.

Of course, there are those who would say that maybe everyone shouldn’t take cheesesteaks so seriously!

City Officials Tight-Lipped on Transportation During Pope’s Visit

July 28th, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on City Officials Tight-Lipped on Transportation During Pope’s Visit

As the city of Philadelphia clamors for more information about what transportation options will be available and what will be disrupted during the pope’s September visit, officials are remaining mum on the matter.


pope francis

With two months to go until the pope’s visit, Philadelphia residents are curious as to how transportation will be affected.

The Pope will visit on the weekend of September 26-27 for the culmination of the World Meeting of Families. He will attend a Festival of Families and hold a mass celebration on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that is expected to draw over one million attendants. With two months to go until Pope Francis arrives, officials still have not released any official word on the transportation situation.

Mayor Michael Nutter announced today that the public shouldn’t expect any updates on the transportation question until at least the first week of August. He says that the city is still in the process of formulating plans regarding security zones and possible street closures and so cannot comment on the matter at this point. Maps has appeared over the weekend showing potential security zones and vehicle-free areas but Nutter dismissed these maps as erroneous. It was announced last week that one bridge connecting the city with New Jersey would be closed.

Nutter said that nothing else is finalized and that the U.S. Secret Service will have the final say on what measures are taken for security reasons. Meanwhile, SEPTA frustrated many residents by putting off a scheduled 3 p.m. press conference Monday that was supposed to announce details regarding the resumption of sales of One Day Regional Rail Passes for the pope’s visit. SEPTA has announced that the conference will be rescheduled for some time later this week.

Philly News Briefs: 7/27/15

July 27th, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on Philly News Briefs: 7/27/15

1.) So, it turns out there will in fact be a fence going up in Center City during Pope Francis’ visit in September. Despite what you may have heard, however, nobody knows exactly where the fence will be going. Rumors swirled late last week that the fence was on track to be constructed from Girard to South Street and from river to river. Officials have confirmed that report to be false. Parking Authority Deputy Director Richard Dickson told the press recently that the exact details of the fence’s perimeter have not actually been decided, and that details are changing from day to day. He also said that the fence would be more like a “traffic box.”

hale building

A close-up on the Hale Building shows its ornate details.

2.) The iconic Hale Building of Center City will soon have a new owner. The unusual-looking building at Chestnut and Juniper Streets is under contract to be bought by Brickstone Realty Cos. The sale is being heralded as a new lease on life for one of the city’s most distinctive looking landmarks. With its mansard roof and laundry list of ornate architectural details (balconies, cornices, columns), the building definitely stands out. It was jested in 1981 when a surveyor wrote a report to the state historic preservation office in 1981 that, “A man who could invent a thousand motives in the course of a design, Hale was inclined to use them all in the building.”

3.) A group of local teens have brought the International Youth Poetry Slam Championship home to Philadelphia. Philly Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM) won the finals of the Brave New Voices (BVN) contest, which was held in Atlanta last week. The six-person team demonstrated extraordinary writing and performance skills, as well as fantastic creative energy.

Are Hotels Still Available During Pope’s Visit?

July 24th, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on Are Hotels Still Available During Pope’s Visit?

The topic of where to sleep in Philadelphia during the pope’s visit in September has been a hot one. With over 1.5 million visitors expected to flood the city over the last weekend in September and less than 20,000 hotel rooms available in the city, it doesn’t take an experienced mathematician to determine that the numbers don’t work. Airbnb has been awash with home rentals available for thousands of dollars per week, there has been talk of students and pilgrims sleeping on museum floors in sleeping bags, and the city is even considering allowing camping in Philadelphia’s parks.


If you have the money, rooms at The Loews Hotel are still available during the papal visit.

That’s why it is such an outrageous thought to consider that there still might be hotels available in Philadelphia over September 26 – 27. And yet, according to a recent NBC Philadelphia story, that is exactly the case. Jaimi Gordon, public relations director for The Loews Hotel at 12th and Market Streets, says that there are still 100 rooms available during the weekend of the pope’s visit. And NBC found at least seven other hotels in the city that were available for the full weekend – checking in Friday and leaving Monday.

Gordon said that most people must be assuming that everything is sold out. After all, if the mayor is talking about people camping out in parks, it must be a foregone conclusion that everything civilized is long gone. And yet, it’s not true! The only catch to all of the available hotels is that they are pricey. NBC found the cheapest option to be the Hotel Monaco on Chestnut Street for $305 per night. At The Loews, rooms start at $599 per night and there is a three-night minimum stay. On the other hand, you are only minutes from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. If you have the money, it’s definitely a sweet deal.

Take a Bite of Some Philly Foodie News!

July 23rd, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on Take a Bite of Some Philly Foodie News!

Philly food has been in the news lately. Here’s a roundup of all the yumminess.

ice cream

Chill Moody contemplates options for the CHILLadelphia ice cream flavor.

California-based Jamba Juice has continued its move on the East Coast and set the gears in motion to bring several franchises to Philadelphia. There is already a Jamba Juice at the King of Prussia Mall, and new locations just opened at the corner of Routes 29 and 30 in a new strip mall development in Malvern on August 18 and the Willow Grove Pointe Shopping Center. Now, the chain is taking aim at Center City. Company representatives say that as soon as they find the perfect spot they will be moving in downtown. Jamba Juice is famous for its smoothies, but it also sells sandwiches and baked goods.

Do you love some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? You’ll be thrilled to hear that Philadelphia is being honored with its own signature B&J flavor, thanks to a collaboration with West Philadelphia musician Chill Moody. The new flavor is called CHILLadelphia, although the exact components of the ice cream flavor are still being tested. Several combinations are being considered for the CHILLadelphia name, with the winner scheduled to be announced during the Made in America festival in September. Proceeds from the ice cream will benefit Chill Moody’s “nicethings” scholarship fund.

Local foodies are super familiar with the famous budino dessert pudding made by Chefs Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran of Barbuzzo/Jamonera/Lolita/Verde/Little Nonna’s fame. The pair have put out a frozen budino pop that will delight anyone with a sweet tooth. The pops will be available at Verde’s Marcie Blaine Chocolate counter for weekends in August and September. The pops cost $5 each and feature a core of salted caramel and dark chocolate cookie crumbs wrapped with frozen caramel pudding. It’s then hand-dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt. Get one and taste a little piece of heaven!

Sale of “Pope Passes” Crashes SEPTA Site

July 22nd, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on Sale of “Pope Passes” Crashes SEPTA Site

Those trying to buy the special SEPTA regional rail passes for the weekend of the pope’s September visit were thwarted yesterday by high volume crashing the site. The site for buying the passes went live at 9 AM yesterday and crashed almost immediately. By 10:30 AM SEPTA decided to shut down the site and the ticket sales indefinitely. The agency has announced that it doesn’t know yet when ticket sales will resume, but promises that riders will have a notice of at least 24 hours before it happens.


SEPTA says that it does not know when the regional rail passes will go back on sale.

SEPTA clearly was unprepared for the sheer volume of people wanting to buy passes. News reports stated that the agency had tested the site for volume last weekend, and determined that it should be capable of processing 1,700 requests per second and up to 600,000 visitors at a time. Clearly, demand surpassed that. The site had 900,000 visitors in the first ten minutes that it was available. One hour later, after sales had been shut down, 64,000 people were still trying to buy passes.

Normal weekend rail services will be suspended during September 26-27 as Pope Francis comes to town for the World Meeting of Families. SEPTA’s regional rail system will operate from only 18 stations to keep an express service available. The passes are only being sold online. They are $10 each and good for a specific stop apiece. They are good for one day only. Before the site crashed only 28 transactions went through. Those transactions amounted to 201 passes, or an average of 7 passes per transaction. There is a limit of 10 passes per transaction.

What’s With All the Special Events in Philadelphia?

July 21st, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on What’s With All the Special Events in Philadelphia?

It’s an exciting time to be in Philadelphia. It seems like not a month goes by that there isn’t some high-profile special event or visitor in town drawing attention to the city. Last week saw President Barack Obama visiting for the NAACP annual conference. Bill Clinton was also in town recently. The pope and the Dalai Lama are visiting in the fall. The Tall Ships festival came to town last month. And next year will see the Democratic National Convention coming to Philadelphia. That’s just a sample of the many exciting tourism draws that have been happening lately.


The Tall Ships festival was just one of several special events to come to Philly recently.

The question is, why Philadelphia? You and I both happen to know that the city is pretty great, but what is drawing crowds?

One answer has to do with Philadelphia’s deep roots in the annals of American history. The home of the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross House just feels American, and people feel like it’s a great place to visit. Special event organizers are drawn there because there are so many hotspots to keep visitors entertained.

Philadelphia’s convenient location on the East Coast doesn’t hurt, either. It has great public transportation and is easy to navigate, making it a strong option along the same lines as New York City or Boston.

A change in demographics has breathed fresh life into Philly, making it a more exciting place to visit. Back in the 1980s, the city’s population was fleeing en masse. But now baby boomers and young professionals have flooded back in, making for a youthful and exciting atmosphere.

In short, there are multiple reasons why Philadelphia is hotter than ever. One thing is for sure – the tide of attention to the city shows no signs of slowing down.

Seeing Pope Francis On the Cheap

July 20th, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on Seeing Pope Francis On the Cheap

It’s been a known problem ever since the pope announced that he was coming to visit: there simply are not enough rooms at the literal inn(s) for all the faithful welling into Philadelphia to see him. With an estimated one million visitors expected to flood the city and only tens of thousands of hotel rooms – all booked solid, of course – there has to be a place to put everyone. For some people, sleeping on the floor is a worthwhile sacrifice in order to see the pontiff.


Would you sleep on the floor for a chance to see the pope?

Museums, classrooms, and churches will end up sheltering some of the faithful – particularly young people – who come to Philadelphia. Yoga mats or sleeping bags will have to make do for those without beds. Lewis Held, director of group travel for, a Pittsburgh company that organizes worldwide Catholic tours, said that many student groups will be accommodated this way. They consider it a worthwhile trade off for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the pope.

It’s not that there haven’t been other options for those who didn’t lock down one of Philadelphia’s <12,000 hotel rooms. Sites like Airbnb have done a brisk business with those who have offered rooms or even entire houses or apartments for rent within the city… for a steep price. With weekly rental rates running into the thousands of dollars, there haven’t been many frugal options for those watching their pennies. Philadelphia city officials announced that they were discussing the possibility of allowing camping in city parks during the weekend of the papal visit, so that’s another option. For many faithful, it doesn’t matter where they rest their head, just that they get to see the pope.

Get Your Feet Moving on Philadelphia Dance Day

July 17th, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on Get Your Feet Moving on Philadelphia Dance Day

Get ready, Philadelphia – National Dance Day is coming, and the city will be celebrating it in its own special way. Philadelphia Dance Day, an offshoot of the national celebration, will be held on July 25th. From ballet to meringue, waltzing to tap, salsa and tango to contemporary, every form of dance is acceptable. Dancing is good for both body and mind. Not only is it great exercise, but it is also a fantastic form of personal expression and an emotional outlet. So get out there and dance! You don’t have to be a great dancer – or even a good one – to participate. It’s not about the quality of your performance, it’s about how much fun you’re having.

national dance day

Get ready to get moving on July 25th.

National Dance Day is the brainchild of the creators of “So You Think You Can Dance,” a popular reality show. It is now organized each year by the Dizzy Feet Foundation. Deborah Hirsch, president of Philly Dance Fitness, confirms that the goal of Philadelphia Dance Day is just to get people out and get them moving. Hirsch’s company has been organizing the local Dance Day festivities for years. Last year, a dance workshop drew over 900 participants!

This year, over 20 workshops throughout the city will invite dancers to get moving. There will be a $5 evening dance party held in Rittenhouse Square at the Ethical Society building. Participating studios will offer classes in a wide variety of dance styles, which range from belly dancing to hip-hop. Hirsch, being asked what classes are most popular, commented that, “The most popular for the fitness set are classes like cardio pop and zumba, but there is a growing interest in tap and social dances like tango and salsa.”

The CENTERfold: Make a Splash on Spruce Street

July 16th, 2015 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on The CENTERfold: Make a Splash on Spruce Street

There’s nothing like a gorgeous, roomy home – especially when it’s in Center City. Today’s CENTERfold is a complete beauty. 2031 Spruce Street features six bedrooms and four bathrooms spread over an incredible 4,000+ square feet of living space.


A tribute to elegance, this home is a class act all the way through. Built in 1915, it is imbued with the kind of ageless dignity and beauty that comes with a home celebrating its centennial. On the first floor, lovingly-tended hardwood floors and paneled walls adorn the formal living room. A gorgeous mantle is the centerpiece of this room.


The dining room is large and features enough room to seat just about as many guests as you could ask for. Rounding out the bottom floor is the kitchen, which sports lovely granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, as well as generous amounts of both counter and cabinet space for everything you might need.


The second floor features a formal den. Sun-soaked and tasteful with beautiful built-ins, it makes a great living space for a large family. The master suite is on this floor as well. The third and fourth floors consist of four additional bedrooms, each of a good size and opulent fixtures, along with three roomy bathrooms.


You can’t beat this home’s location. Smack dab in the middle of Rittenhouse Square, you are just steps away from all the dining, shopping, and entertainment that the city has to offer.


For $1,780,000, you could make this home yours today! You’d be hard-pressed to find a home with as much taste and character as this one in a similar price range.