I took the kids on a day trip to Philadelphia this weekend and spent the afternoon in Philly’s Chinatown. I’ve been to Philly many times before but had no idea it had one. That’s silly of me since most big cities have their own Chinatown (even if DC’s Chinatown has been gentrified). I drove up to Philly from DC to attend the holiday version of Mom Mixer (a separate post later) and Chinatown was the perfect way to spend a few hours before we drove back home.
Thanks to my friend Stephanie of NeurosesGalore recommended that we visit “The Hello Kitty Store” aka Asia Crafts, Inc while in Chinatown. If you’re a fan of cute things from Japan, you need to go to this store. In the window was a giant stuffed Totoro. So cute! If I had anywhere to put him, I might have considered buying it. Have you seen the movie, My Neighbor Totoro? It’s a great family movie about a magical cat from Studio Ghibli (who also made Spirited Away).
We saw all sorts of Sanrio character products, plus Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pucca, and the kids’ favorite: Pokemon. There also non-character items like cute little Japanese erasers in the shape of fruit and Kokeshi dolls. Since we’re planning a Pokemon birthday party soon, I let the kids choose some Pokemon posters. The posters can do double duty as party decorations and for their bedroom wall. If you go, make sure you bring cash because there’s a $20 minimum for credit cards. That’s probably not hard to hit, but if you’re on a budget it might be helpful.
In fact, make sure you have cash because we visited several bakeries and restaurants that only accepted cash. Thank goodness I had enough money to buy some banh mi to eat on the drive home! We had a late lunch at Pho Cali (Cali is the Vietnamese way to say California). I had to get a giant glass of Vietnamese ice coffee while we waited for our huge bowls of pho. The staff was pretty friendly once they realized that we spoke Vietnamese. The staff was very curious about the kids: mainly asking if they spoke Vietnamese. They were very nice and loved chatting with the kids.
Sophia wanted dessert and we must have stopped into 5 or 6 Chinese bakeries. We treated ourselves to a fat slice of chocolate roll cake-only $1. The kids split it and couldn’t finish the cake. I noticed a lot of Vietnamese words on store signs and food labels. One bakery had the sweets labeled in three languages: Mandarin, Vietnamese, and English. I wonder if there are of Chinese-Vietnamese folks there. That means that they are ethnically Chinese but their family lived in Vietnam. I did a quick search online but wasn’t able to find anything. I did learn that Philadelphia’s Chinatown was a lot bigger than it used to be, but portions of it were razed in the 1960s to construct the Vine Street Expressway and the PA Convention Center.
I’ve never thought of Philly as a day trip from DC until this weekend and it was perfect. The drive was about 2 to 2.5 hours; longer for us because we stopped for bathroom breaks and one instance where Jaxson decided his eye hurt and screamed for 10 minutes. You know, typical road trip issues when traveling with kids.
I would definitely visit Philly’s Chinatown again. We took a short cab from Center City (where Mom Mixer was). I couldn’t find a cab to take us back, but thank goodness I remembered about Uber, a car service. If you’ve never used Uber, it’s so easy and everything is done through your app. You request a car on the app (if gives you a quote beforehand) and your fare is charged to the credit card on file so no money exchanges hands. In fact, tip is included. The kids also enjoyed watching the little black car move closer and closer to us on the app’s map. If you’ve never tried it, sign up using my affiliate link for $10 off your first ride.
I’m looking forward to returning to Philadelphia. Do you like to visit your local Chinatown?