Explore off-the-beaten-path oddities in Newport, RI; Philadelphia; and Charleston, SC.
Mon May 10 2010
By train: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2 hours from NYC)
Part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the unforgettable and disturbing Mtter Museum (19 S 22nd St; 215-563-3737, collegeofphysicians.org; $14) has more than 20,000 anatomical and medical oddities on display, dating back to the 19th century—including a plaster cast of conjoined twins, a stretched-out colon more than eight feet long and the well-preserved Soap Lady, a woman whose body fat turned to a soaplike wax after burial. Following that, the Mummers Museum (1100 S 2nd St; 215-336-3050, mummersmuseum.com; $3.50) may seem almost tame in comparison—the institution showcases string music and extravagant costumes from the city's 10,000-strong annual New Year's parade. "Mummers are working people who, once a year, put on incredible outfits," explains the museum's executive director, Palma Lucas. "Some with hundreds of mirrors on them, sequins and headdresses."
Philly is filled with public art, but none is as exuberant as Philadelphia's Magic Gardens (1020 South St; 215-733-0390, philadelphiasmagicgardens.org; $4), a labyrinthine mosaic installation that artist Isaiah Zagar fashioned on a formerly vacant lot. The Gardens' winding tunnels and sculptures are covered in found objects like bicycle wheels, mirror shards and hand-painted tiles, glittering a half-block long. By the time you get through that, you'll have earned yourself a hearty meal at Carman's Country Kitchen (1301 S 11th St, 215-339-9613), which prides itself on putting "the cunt back in country." The four-item menu changes every day, and brunch is served daily—last week featured pancakes and waffles with bourbon banana sauce, and cracker-coated catfish (each $12). Munch while admiring the restaurant's considerable collection of phallic ornaments.
Since everything else you set eyes on in Philly will be completely bizarre, rest your head at the convenient and elegant bed-and-breakfast La Reserve (1804 Pine St between 18th and 19th Sts; 215-735-1137, lareservebandb.com).