Philadelphia and creativity are inextricably bound. After moving to the U.S. from Dubai, my greatest appreciation for Philadelphia was its quirky character, distinguished by the immense creativity that seems to reign all over the city. For example, The Magic Gardens, where household items are put together to form a stunning, intricate outdoor art installation, perfectly illustrates Philly’s unique spirit. From vintage thrift stores to South Street to Fishtown, creativity in Philadelphia is so abundant that it makes it hard to narrow it down to just a few recommendations. I am going to explore three very different examples of thrilling experiences you can have in Philly, including a unique, eco-friendly and vegan restaurant known as HipCityVeg, a great night out as a silent disco where you are able to pick your own music or have a conversation at any time you choose, and last, an ‘Art After 5’ cabaret, dinner, and drinks hosted by Philadelphia’s very own Museum of Art.
Many of Philadelphia’s restaurants have creative conceptual foundations, and HipCityVeg is certainly one of them. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of veggies and greens, and I seldom go a meal without eating meat. Coming from a family of huge ‘foodies’, I had always assumed that vegan food would be bland and lack the vibrant flavors that I had grown to thoroughly enjoy. So, as you can imagine, when a friend dragged me along to HipCityVeg, I wasn’t too thrilled. But to my surprise, it has become one of my favorite places to eat, and has impressed me more consistently than many other restaurants I have tried. The menu includes dynamic flavors in a fast-food style setting, and the creation of the flavorful dishes challenged my misconceptions about vegan food. I definitely recommend the Buffalo Bella along with the sweet potato fries and the arugula taco salad. The Buffalo Bella is rich and flavorful with a giant portobello mushroom that is crisp yet soft on the inside, and is perfect paired with the sweet potato fries that are a HipCityVeg signature, which improve almost any dish. The arugula taco salad is an excellent combination of a light, healthy yet delicious and satisfying lunch. I personally love to ask the people who work at HipCityVeg what their recommendations are, and they never disappoint.
Located in University City and Rittenhouse Square, HipCityVeg has a plant based and eco-friendly philosophy unlike any other. As their website notes, HipCityVeg is “about health and compassion for living things and the earth, but the food is about tasting good. It’s as simple as that.” They do their deliveries by bicycle, are 100% plant based, compost all packaging and kitchen scraps, and the interior of the restaurant is composed of energy efficient and recycled materials. I would recommend the Groothie specifically for a detox or for its health benefits, but realistically, I would eat here at any time of the year — on and off a diet.
After a great meal at HipCityVeg or really anywhere in Philly, a night out away from the typical Swat social scene can be much needed. The problem is that at any party or club, everyone at some point experiences two things: 1) you are not a fan of the current song playing, and 2) you would like to have a conversation with someone, but this proves to be close to impossible over the blaring music. Those two scenarios are a little too familiar to most of us, and at a Silent Disco both of these issues are overcome. Besides this, the Silent Disco provides a club experience like no other, and it’s worth trying at least once.
The concept of the Silent Disco is simple, yet genius. When you walk into the Silent Disco they hand you a pair of wireless headphones, and have three different DJ’s playing at the same time. You simply press a button on your headphones that light up blue, green, or red — each featuring a different DJ. Walking into this silent disco is somewhat bizarre, as you walk into an almost silent room, and still witness people dancing the night away, with the singing entirely out-of-sync as each person chooses to sing along to their favorite channel. Meeting someone new and getting to know them in a loud environment is always hard, but here you just take off the headphones and engage. If the conversation dies out or becomes relatively awkward (don’t worry, I got you covered, Swatties), then simply put the headphones back on and zone out back into your happy place. Tickets for upcoming events can be found on silentphilly.com
In my last piece, I briefly wrote about the Philadelphia Museum of Art and their pay-as-you-go option. The museum happens to be even more versatile than you probably thought. Rather than solely engaging in the everyday self or guided tours, visitors to the Museum of Art on Friday evenings can attend an event called “Art After 5.” From five to around nine every Friday evening, the Great Stair Hall becomes a unique cabaret, featuring different artists, music, and themes every weekend. Enjoy the live entertainment and the light food options available as well as the bar. Admission to the “Art After 5” performances and even guided tours are free during this time after you pay the standard museum admission. Admire the art on the walls along with art performances by some of the most creative minds. Upcoming events include Diwali Party, Holiday Jazz, Hanukkah Party, and Feliz Navidad. Stop by any of these events for a guaranteed great time! Philly has so much creativity to offer, much more than I could possibly cover in this column, but HipCityVeg, the Silent Disco, and Art After 5 are definitely three of my favorite unique go-to spots.