It’s only mid-September, but before you know it, students will be wearing heavy coats and sweaters. Until that day arrives, I’m providing outdoor things for you to do. Readers can soak up rays and breathe in that oh-so-fresh Philly air.
E-mail me with suggestions and, remember, all of the spots featured have the Colleen Dunn seal of approval.
1. I know West Philly is probably not in your backyard, but since students are movers and shakers, you should stop in at this dine-in or take-out spot.
Mexicali is a small café that serves delicious California-influenced Mexican food. I wasn’t familiar with that term, so the owner of the café, Richard (who didn’t want to give his full name) clarified what it means. They don’t use lard. They have tofu on the menu and unbleached flour and Canola oil are used to make the homemade tortillas.
The establishment has a large selection of burritos (they come in two sizes) ranging in price from $2.59 to $6.29. So cheap! They also offer stacked enchiladas (four per order), quesadillas, nachos with meat or veggies and soft tacos (two per order). I’ve eaten there on four occasions, and each time my experience was pleasant and the food was yummy. I’ve never seen it super busy, either, which is nice.
2. If you appreciate Indian music and culture, this is your event.
This Saturday, the Philadelphia Ratha Yatra Festival will take place. Its highlights include a free vegetarian/vegan meal for attendees and a parade starting at noon that leaves from Love Park and travels down the Parkway toward the Art Museum.
Performers will dance and present dramatic shows. Vendors will offer Indian clothing, crafts and books for sale. Exhibits will explain about different Indian religions, gods, types of yoga and meditation.
Even though this is a religious-based festival for Hindus, the beauty of it is that Ratha Yatra (translating to the pilgrimage and procession of chariots) is open to all ethnicities and religions. This festival is celebrated in major urban locations around the world.
Last year, I attended and enjoyed the street festival and felt welcome as an attendee.
3. Many of you have passed it, but how many have actually entered? This was my thought as I traveled through the mosaic corridors of Philadelphia’s Magic Garden at 10th and South streets. Isaiah Zagar began building the massive art sculpture in 1994 and it’s still a work in progress. Lucky for me, public tours cost a mere $3.
At first I was hesitant because I only had $4 with me. Thank God that I went in, because I was amazed. This Magic Garden, indoors and out, encompasses several levels with many passageways. Walking by it on the street, I had no idea how involved it was.
Zagar has a long history in Philadelphia. When he moved here with his wife in the 1960s, they rented a space, opening The Eye’s Gallery. Since that time, he completed over 100 murals in Philadelphia, most made using mosaic techniques. He offers a two-day workshop several times a year for outsiders to learn these techniques.
In 2005, he nearly lost the Magic Garden due to a lawsuit battle between him and the owner of the lot where it stands.
I tried to talk with Zagar, but he claimed to be too busy. According to a frequently asked questions handout, Zagar describes his interest with “found-art sculptural environments” and “folk art environments.”
“Art should not be segregated in museums; it needs to live free among us. No one can predict where art will emerge. It’s like a mushroom, with roots that extend for miles and miles underground, unseen,” Zagar said in his handout.
Colleen Dunn can be reached at email@example.com.