Out With The Kids on East Passyunk Ave

I don’t think I’ve ever used the full name of this site in the title of a post in that way. In 6+ years and all the out with ’em adventures we’ve had, it never once occurred to me to work that in like I have today. Strange. Also, dumb.

Anywho, those who follow me on Twitter likely already know what we four were doing on Saturday. We were invited down to a blogger day during Second Saturday on EPA / East Passyunk Ave (one of the many interesting things bloggers get to partake in from time to time — an odd world, this) and was tweeting non-stop (until my weak-battery iPhone threw in the towel) photos of my girls enjoying the rad shops and eateries of a Park Slop, Brooklyn-esque 5-block stretch of Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. This struck me as very bizarre at the time, as the Mrs. is from that area, having grown up not far from Mamma Maria’s Italian delicacies, and I spent a couple of years in the city as a young man — and neither of us were aware of the growth of this fiercely independent neighborhood. When you’ve got an indie hardware store, comic book shop, garden center, hairdressers, pubs, restaurants, childcare facilities, and cutesy stores selling handmade wares, I’m pretty much butter in your hands, only less gross to clean off.

Of the many lovely shops we ventured into and out of over the course of our 6+ hours there (exploring EPA alongside the fantastic foursome from Inner Child Fun), the loveliest by far was Nice Things…Handmade.  There, we not only bought our first Christmas gift of 2012 (a stocking stuffer for my dad), but also a toy so insanely perfect for my zany pair of daughters.

The Family Box from Mama May I is tailor made for kids whose playtime is decidedly heavy on the imaginative. The six ‘figures’ and their hand-sewn nappies and pillows are an open-ended question in a yes/no world, and for youngsters willing and able, this wooden family is one that can provide hours of creative playtime in the car, at home, on a plane or wherever fine play is had.  The simply elegant Family Box is exactly the kind of toy you tend to find in indie shops like Nice Things….Handmade (1731 EPA), in authentic neighborhoods like East Passyunk Ave.  When you get far away from the color coded, big box world of the mass marketed toy industry, you’re more likely to find products that foster ingenuity and cleverness, and ones developed with a passion for something other than a beefy bottom line.

Also awesome on EPA:

  • A 4-pack of daycare facilities under the Alphabet Academy banner that are so stunning I was simultaneously wishing 1) to be a child again, 2) to have a child again, and 3) to live in Philly again.  None of these wishes are legitimate outside of the Alphabet Academy, but damn if I didn’t have fun just being in their clean, well-designed, and Eco-friendly childcare spots. And the view of the city from the secure rooftop playspace? Wow!
  • South Philly Comics (1840 EPA), where we picked up “Night of the Scaredy Crows,” a Jr. comic (paperback) book from DC Super-Pets! as well as an original, well-thumbed edition of Wonder Woman for $1!
  • We fell in love with Urban Jungle (1526 EPA) straightaway.  The garden center instantly transported us back to Barcelona, where city street level flower shops customarily spill out onto the sidewalk and where inside you find a treasure trove of wrought iron, stone, and weathered wood garden accoutrements. There, we were introduced (and the girls’ given a pair of) Growums, a thoroughly modern in-home garden kit that is kinda like Farmville, except real and not a time-wasting vat of stupid.
  • The newly opened Kings Music (1828 EPA) offers private lessons in their quaint and comfy EPA storefront.  The Bear, who has been itching to take piano lessons for over a year now, got a mini-tutorial from a classically trained female instructor at Kings and came away beaming!
  • Speaking of cathartic joy, CUPCAKES!  The girls got to decorate and devour their own at Ms Goody (1838 EPA), while the wifey indulged in a cake truffle (OMY — that’s Oh My Yum in my own personal txt shrthnd).

Is this small section of Philly as hip as Northern Lib? Not yet. Will we be back to East Passyunk Ave? Absolutely. We will spend a lot of money and eat well?  Yes and yes.  Oh, the food!  I didn’t mention how many super dining spots are on the Ave. Here are some:

  • Plenty (1710 EPA) looks charming (and the font on the awning — slightly different than on the website — makes me melt).
  • Los Caballitos Cantina (1651 EPA) with its super al fresco garden spot on the corner looks to be thee EPA spot for guac, tacos, and adult Mexican beverages.
  • The famous Mamma Maria’s (1637 EPA) and the less famous but equally as terrific Mr. Martino’s across the street are as good an Italian foodie experience as you’ll find in the whole of the city of brotherly love.
  • There are bars too, and gastropub type places for your burger cravings.  The only thing missing from my viewpoint?  A diner.  A hip neighborhood has to have an all-night spot for bagels, coffee, and, well since it is Philly, scrapple.

Whether you live in the city or are traveling to Philly with the family for tourist purposes, an afternoon stroll on East Passyunk Ave is in order.  EPA is a bit off the beaten path, as most things worth finding in life tend to be.

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