Philly on a Budget

Ever feel like you would love to go explore Philly but do not want to spend money? Ever feel like you want to eat the closest thing to a home-cooked meal or even try something new?

There is an insurmountable number of things to do and places to explore at little to no cost. Enjoy a full day out in Philadelphia for under $20 — after all, walking around and exploring the city is completely free! In this piece I will be writing about an entire day outing in two different budgets, under $20 and $20-$40. I will be using a combination of some of my favorite places to go, along with recommendations I have received from others.


Unfortunately, transport is the one inescapable cost. For a full day out, get the SEPTA independence pass for $12, and use it all day for any public transportation to travel around the city. Over the last few weeks, Lyft has had an ongoing promotion of 50 percent off on weekdays, and Friday is the perfect day to go out since not much happens around Swarthmore. Split the Lyft between four people and it ends up costing around $3.50-$4 per person one way. Rent a Zipcar at an hourly price, or maybe you are lucky to have an awesome friend with a car on campus!

Under $20

One of my absolute favorite places to go for a relaxed afternoon is Spruce Street Harbor Park. Situated right on Penn’s Landing beside the Delaware River, the park has hammocks all over the place and an amazing view. Lie down on the hammocks with a few friends, enjoy the fresh air and take in the sun’s rays before this weather leaves us. Take a picnic blanket and a few snacks and really enjoy the area. The hammocks are located right in front of a marina on the river, where you can rent kayaks, paddle boats shaped like swans and more. Rent a 5 person rowing boat for $5 for half an hour, only $1 per person. Take turns rowing as you catch up with friends and get to know them outside of the swat bubble. I would definitely recommend making the most of this while the weather is still sunny. Get up and walk by the roller skating rink that turns into an ice skating rink by the end of November, and either join in on the fun or just enjoy the ambiance of other families and festive decorations around the rink, situated right by the water.

Next, head out to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I would suggest going on Wednesday evenings after 5 or on the first Sunday of every month to take advantage of their “pay what you  wish” hours. Admire paintings by Picasso, local folk pieces, modern art and even a Japanese tea room. There is so much to see and admire that you can easily spend many hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

My personal favorite place to eat is a Middle Eastern restaurant and lounge in University City called Aloosh. They have a deal where four appetizers cost only $20, and provide more than enough food to split between two people. Aloosh has a range of Middle Eastern dishes and food that can be enjoyed for under $20, along with a great atmosphere, a varied soundtrack and bellydancers on weekends. The decor in the restaurant is very cozy and yet very cultural, with a fun atmosphere and a relatively young crowd. A group of around 20 Swatties who were on campus early this fall went to Aloosh and absolutely loved it — Highly recommended.


For all the other Asian-fusion food lovers out there, Philly has an abundance of amazing Asian-fusion places. Han Dynasty and Aki are two of my favorite places to go. Han Dynasty is more laid-back and casual, with great food and a location in the heart of University City that is  constantly packed with college students. Aki is a Japanese-fusion restaurant that can be ordered a la carte or as an all-you-can-eat sushi menu with over 100 dishes to order for $26.95 per person. Pick either one of those two for lunch or dinner; they will definitely not disappoint.

After lunch, head to the current number one on my Philly bucket list: Escape the Room. It is an interactive game and a mystery puzzle that takes place in one room with ten people, and the objective is to work together, using clues to solve the mystery and escape! You have 60 minutes to use everything you have learned about attention to detail, reading between the lines and using your creative side — all things that Swarthmore emphasizes, so hopefully you have no trouble escaping. Escape the room has two options: ‘The Office’ and ‘The Dig,’ both for $28 and with a maximum of 10 people.


To top off your exhilarating Escape the Room experience, head to Capogiro’s for what has been rated the best gelato in the world — a delicious dessert just under $5.


It is easy to feel confined to the Swarthmore campus to save money, but the experiences and subsequent growth as a person through new experiences is incomparable, and worth every trip into a new place or city. Feel free to reach out to me for any other recommendations on a budget!



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