2013 in Philadelphia was marked by the fleeting, spontaneous phenomenon known as "pop up." From shops to beer gardens, and Orchestra performances to winter wonderlands, many of the best attractions to hit Philadelphia this year were ephemeral delights. In a year that’s number signals bad luck, we can only hope that by some stroke of good fortune, many of these find a way to stick around.
We break down some of the welcome additions to Philadelphia this year, but don’t be surprised if some of these hot spots don’t return in 2014. Sorry triskaidekaphobes, but we're keeping our list count in theme with the year.
13. Shawmont Trail. Thanks to a $1.4 million project led by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Philadelphia and Montgomery counties are now safely connected via a new one mile trail renovation. It’s no Panama Canal, but the expanded portion of the 23-mile Schuylkill River Trail allows runners and cyclists a safe passage away from automobile traffic.
12. SEI Innovations Studios. Just when we think the Kimmel Center can’t get any cooler, it goes and opens studio space to attract and cultivate new talent. The intimate theater is aimed at a younger demographic than those in the parquet boxes, and its 200 seat theatre promises to host a variety of performances. The building’s Spruce Street entrance displays a stylish 22-foot-tall glass panel structure that allows for changeable graphics.
11. Franklin Flea. Upscale flea might seem like an oxymoron, but the temporary shopping spot managed to bring some much-needed foot traffic to Market East. A veritable bazaar including art, funky fashion, live music, hot food, and eccentric wares, Franklin Flea enjoyed a November-through-December run as a “weekly winter flea market” at the old historic Strawbridge & Clothier building at 8th and Market. Borne from the ashes of Brooklyn Flea, this indoor market with a hometown name and feel still has room to grow, and will reopen in April 2014. We’ll see what effect, if any, it will have in a Market East strip starved for shopping options outside of The Gallery.
10. Hollywood Recognition. It’s been a while since Philadelphia got its due respect on the big screen. Sure there’s been the odd Jennifer Wiener or Alice Sebold adaptation, plus that streak of biennial efforts from M. Night Shyamalan, whose caliber of work seemed to weaken with each new film, but our fair city finally basked in the limelight of silver screen recognition when Silver Linings Playbook was up for Oscars in all the major categories in this year’s Academy Awards. The Llanerch Diner, a City Line staple affectionately known as “The Big L” provided the setting for a key scene by this year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence, and Delco and city residents alike could point out familiar spots as the world watched. Major films such as World War Z with Brad Pitt, and Fanny with Richard Gere were set or filmed in Philly this year. Could more Hollywood crews be on their way?
9. Philly Pheud. The concept is simple: A local TV game show based on the familiar format of Family Feud, but with a Philly twist. Our sports teams may not have been very competitive this year, but this new game show tests Philly groups on their knowledge of city history, culture, traditions, and sports, and provides both audiences and contestants the chance to trade trash talk and flaunt the competitive edge that defines our sports fans. The fight cards so far have showcased such heavyweight match-ups as St. Joe’s versus Temple, The District Attorney’s office versus the Defense Attorneys, The Inquirer versus the Daily News, and of course, Pat’s versus Geno’s. Disclosure: This writer and his philly.com colleagues recently set a record for the show’s highest score. Challengers are welcome.
8. The Cronut. It’s not our creation. We recognize that. The delectable, calorie-count-be-damned fusion of croissant and doughnut started in New York with chef Ansel Dominique in SoHo. Thankfully, local bakeries like Swiss Haus, Potito’s, and Frangelli’s cooked up their own versions of the glazed craze soon after to meet the growing local demand. Swiss Haus jumped on the scene early, creating a concoction of fried dough, glaze, and cinnamon with cream inside for $5 each. The taste? Who cares if we didn’t invent it? Who cares if it launches us back among the ranks of fattest, ugliest cities? They’re just that good.
7. KidZooU. Zoos are already a fun place for kids to visit. What makes KidsZooU exceptional is its aim to engage all children up to age 12, especially those with autism and other special needs. This unique zoo and education center opened in April with miniature horses, Australian parakeets, coral reef fish, and rare breeds of farm animals that kids can play along with. The Philadelphia Zoo also opened another, albeit less exotic structure this year: a new parking garage.
6. Benjamin Franklin Museum. Originally designed for the 1976 bicentennial but recently renovated, this underground museum dedicated to the first American is new in most every way, save for its site. Gone are the tired old “telephones” to commune with Franklin’s contemporaries. Visitors can now see real Franklin-owned artifacts and view interactive videos. For almost three years we were without a museum for our most famous resident, but as of late August there is finally an institution with enough technology and innovation to honor the man for whom it was built.
5. The Oval. There’s no more parking lot in the middle of the Parkway. No matter. With this summer’s opening of the pedestrian-friendly park on Eakins Oval, visitors could take a break from their Art Museum district wanderings at this central location outfitted with plenty of lawn space (including a bar area for the over-21 crowd), food trucks, fun games, and a stage for entertainment. Bright orange flags flanking “The Oval” signaled a welcome landing spot for both tourists and local itinerants, and though it retains that seasonal pop-up charm, it should return with warm temperatures in the spring.
4. Waterfont Winterfest. In a meadow you can build a snowman, but that’s about it. At the new urban winter paradise around the Penn’s Landing RiverRink, you can ice skate, sip drinks at the pop-up bar, shop for crafts and gifts, conspire by the fire pits, stroll through a dazzling, sylvan holiday setting, or let your imagination dance along with the colorful nightly light shows. The blue bird may have gone away, but unlike the new bird, this winter wonderland isn’t here to stay. The Waterfront Winterfest will only last until January 5, but here’s hoping it will become an annual tradition.
3. New coaches. There’s no nice way to put this. The 2012-2013 sports year in Philadelphia was forgettable at best. For the first time in nearly 20 years, not one of the four major teams made the playoffs, and it cost all four coaches their jobs. 2013 saw four new faces at the helm of our teams, with Chip Kelly, Ryne Sandberg, Brett Brown, and Craig Berube carrying the game plans and the city’s hopes in their grasp. It’s unfortunate that such sweeping changes had to occur, but if any of them can get us back into contention, we’ll embrace them with open arms. So far Kelly and his playoff-bound birds are already feeling the most love.
2. PHS Pop up Beer Garden. Of the many pop-up happenings in Philadelphia this year, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society takes the cake for its beer garden on South Broad Street. Situated right across from the Kimmel Center, this temporary urban escape featured food from the Garces group and a stunning, colorful setting with picnic tables and local brews. The majestic summertime haunt turned back into its pumpkin of a vacant lot when the calendar struck fall, but we can endure the unsightly space through winter if the PHS promises to pop back up in the same spot next year.
1. Paine’s Park. Finally, skateboarders in Philadelphia have a place where they are not just tolerated, but celebrated. Once exiled from LOVE Park, boarders now have a beautiful new home on the Schuylkill banks with the Art museum as a backdrop and a clear view of the skyline that is just as inviting for non-skaters. The well–lit park is full of benches for spectators, a stage for concerts and outdoor movie showings, and of course a state-of-art concrete course designed by Anthony Bracali. Franklin’s Paine skate plaza stands as a testament to the City of Brotherly Love’s progress of peaceful coexistence, as well as an impressive feat of urban development. Let’s hope 2014 brings more of the same.