What lockdown has been like in Philadelphia

May 19, 2020
Urban Adventures

My name is Adam and I am a guide and Team Leader at Philadelphia Urban Adventures. I moved to Philly over 10 years ago from New Hampshire to pursue a Masters Degree in History. Living in a city that has a larger population than the entire state of New Hampshire was a bit of a culture shock, but in the best of ways. Philadelphia swept me up immediately! As a history buff, I of course knew of the historical significance of this city. What amazed me, however, was everything else that Philly has to offer: a trendy, innovative restaurant scene, world class art and science museums, an extensive public arts program (Philadelphia boasts over 3,500 murals), endless hiking and riding trails through beautifully preserved woodlands, scores of concert venues, electric nightlife, and more. I was hooked.

I started as a part-time guide with Philly UA two years ago, and have since been promoted to Team Leader. I work with an incredible team of tour guides. What makes our team so special is not just the local knowledge (which is unmatched!), but also the diversity of backgrounds and expertise that the guides possess. My colleagues are teachers, students, artists, musicians, environmentalists, urban planners, and social workers. This way, our guests don’t just learn about Philly’s unique history but also about how the city has grown culturally and socially. We love to provide the full picture!

Obviously the COVID-19 crisis has led to a temporary cease of tours, but our team is excited to eventually get back out there and show Philadelphia off to new guests from around the world.

Adam leading a Philly tour pre-pandemic | Philadelphia Urban Adventures

COVID-19 has left no part of Philadelphia untouched. One of the hardest hit communities is also one of the most overlooked: the homeless community. Homelessness is a large issue in Philadelphia, and during this crisis, these people have little protection. They have no refuge. They have nowhere to quarantine.

But programs in Philadelphia are working tirelessly to help. One such organization, the Mural Arts Program, is a network of artists who have created a vast tapestry of public art throughout the city. We frequently incorporate these murals on our tours. The artists, whose works often aim to bring light to social issues, now focus on those who have been battered by this crisis. Mural Arts has sponsored an effort to create “space pads”, dazzling social-distancing signs that are being utilized across Philadelphia, including food service sites. These signs offer an alternative to impersonal, “sterile” signs, and help to bring a sense of hope and togetherness.

Step Up to the Plate is an amazing collaboration effort to provide food to vulnerable Philadelphians in a safe environment. In its first three weeks of operation, they provided close to 50,000 meals. They are proud partners of the Mural Arts Program, and have situated many space pads on their sites. This is just one example of how different organizations are coming together to help Philadelphians, all Philadelphians, through this dark time.

Step Up to the Plate provides food to vulnerable locals | Philadelphia Urban Adventures

The COVID crisis has forced people to think about how they live and how they affect the environment around them. One positive that I hope comes from this negative time is a focus on how to lead a sustainable life. Philadelphia has greatly improved in this area, growing from a polluted, burned-out city of a bygone manufacturing era to a leader in urban sustainability. As a guide with Urban Adventures, I look forward to sharing this growth with guests.

Food security, natural conservation, reimagined spaces…these are just some of the initiatives that Philadelphia has emphasized over the past 10 years. Our municipal leaders have teamed with concerned citizens and business owners to incentivise composting, educate city students on urban farming, remove toxins from our rivers, rehabilitate abandoned piers and rail lines into green spaces, and much more. Our mayor has declared the goal of becoming a zero waste city by 2035, an ambitious goal that would have been laughed at by previous administrations. But it’s happening.

Our Philly UA team has created a series of private tours that bring guests to these farms, parks, conservation sites and locally sourced restaurants to show how the city of Philadelphia is leading the charge towards sustainability. After this crisis ends, this is the Philadelphia success story that I am the most excited to share.