No, not the Rocky Steps every other tourist comes to take a photo with. While the Philadelphia Museum of Art is great, Philly offers several other great museums that are less photographed, but make just as good a backdrop. For example, the Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy), aside from its collection of Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, Van Gogh, and others, opens up to a hollow interior bounded by floor–to–ceiling windows to let in snippets of sunlight. The vast open space itself has hosted events from weddings to retirement parties to class reunions, which should clearly point to the beauty of the space. The Foundation was conceived as a “Gallery in the Garden, Garden in a Gallery,” the idea of which is clear with the surroundings of the museum. Outside, the beige limestone wrapping the building is offset by the cherry blossoms (soon to bloom) flanking the gravel walkway. This pathway outlines the reflecting pool in the center, which is towered over by The Barnes Totem, a 40 foot tall sculpture. There’s a sense of calm and peace about the Barnes Foundation, one that needs to be experienced and captured. And the best part? It makes anyone seem (keyword: seem) at least somewhat cultured.
The Town Square
While Rittenhouse Square is great and all, it’s incomparable to Fitler Square, just next to Rittenhouse. With rows of colorful, colonial–style houses and flowering trees, it's the perfect vibrant location for a spring snap. Many of the buildings date from the mid–19th to 20th century, and most are only four stories, providing a reprieve from Philly's skyscraper skyline. While it's mainly a residential area, several spots offer delicious snacks. Take The Fitler Dining Room, which provides open air seating for easy people–watching while brunching, Trattoria Carina, a bright neighborhood Italian restaurant serving savory pasta, or the glazed donuts of Rival Bros. Coffee.
Nothing makes for a better Instagram background than a cool wall, and, luckily, Philly boasts one very much underrated: The Electric Street. Psychedelic shapes in hot pinks, greens, and purples float atop the cinder block background, and cast vibrant glows over anyone who poses near them.
Located on Percy Street just south of 9th and Wharton streets, it's designed by artist David Guinn and lighting designer Drew Billiau. Billiau, whose work has been featured at the New York Theatre Workshop, Opera Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, BalletX, New York Music Theatre Festival, among many of others, brings a unique, theatrical point of view to this standard street. The mural does more than beautify, it also provides a social service, aiming to deter crime.
The Coffee Shop
Surprise, surprise. There’s more to a coffee shop than coffee chats and “getting coffee” to “catch up” with someone. For example, the cool, hexagonal tiled floors of Ultimo Coffee (2149 Catharine St.) do well to make a cozy environment for one of the first specialty coffee shops. The classic white interior of Shot Tower Coffee (542 Christian St.) is offset by its pastel green exterior. With low–hanging lamps, it’s the perfect place to curl up with a book, write your own, or take in readings and storytellings the cafe hosts. Along the same green lines, the Lebanese market and coffee shop Suraya (1528 Frankford Ave.) is lined with moss–like greenery covering the walls. Inside is a plethora of soft lighting to focus the attention on the patterned dishware and traditional pastries.
The Floral Shot
And lastly, with the weather finally beginning to brighten up a little, Vault + Vine (3507 Midvale Ave.) is an aesthetic urban jungle, a self–described urban oasis for fresh flowers, succulents, and coffee. It’s a new version of the Philly staple, Peicha Chang’s Falls Flowers. Its pieces are locally created, using nature as an inspiration. But the relationship is two–way: as a B Corporation, it’s committed to sustainability as well. Another floral boost is Souvenir Jewelry (1327 Tasker St.). Albeit a shop and not necessarily a public space for a photo, it’s worth going to and seeing because of its hand–painted floral wall details and handmade jewelry. The modest storefront displays neons of a heart and rose, the pattern of which is carried over in the interior, where another pink neon sign sports the slogan “Heavy Metal Forever.” It’s a play on words that captures the essence of this jewelry shop. Hardcore with a feminine twist.