15 Philadelphia Sights and Signs That Tourists Would Never Understand | Philly Views
June 27, 2017

15 Philadelphia Sights and Signs That Tourists Would Never Understand

Written by Kevin Kinkead

Philadelphia is a phenomenal city for people-watching. Apparently, it’s also become a popular tourist destination.

There are a lot of interesting folks walking around town doing … interesting things. Stand at the corner of 2nd and Chestnut on a Friday night, or try the Wawa at Headhouse Square at any time to experience this “diverse” behavior.

Philly also provides great static visuals, things that don’t actually move but provide amusement and intrigue in a variety of ways.

Some make us laugh, some make us cry, and some don’t make sense at all. It’s all part of the beauty of living here, even if it confuses the hell out of people who are just visiting for the weekend.

Here are 15 signs and sights that are just so unmistakably Philly.


To Wachovia Center

This sign still exists at the intersection of Packer Avenue and Front Street.

The Wachovia Center hasn’t been a thing since 2010, when the naming rights to our basketball and hockey arena were transferred to Wells Fargo as the two banks completed their merger.

Below that sign is another outdated jawn, directing drivers to the “Naval Business Center” and “Cruise Ship.”

The former is the official term (that nobody uses) for the Navy Yard. The latter refers to the terminal that used to operate up until 2010 or 2011, when the DRPA pulled the plug.


Fresh Donut

A popular in-and-out breakfast spot at 7th and Girard, the use of a singular noun in place of the plural version makes me laugh for some reason.

The shop has coffee, sandwiches, and your typical breakfast items on the menu. A posted menu inside the shop says “donuts” instead of “donut,” so I guess the singular thing is just a quirk with the outdoor signage. This place does appear to have more than one donut available for sale.


Give me equilibrium or give me meth

An old advertisement for open mic night at an aptly named East Passyunk bar.

The Dive used to host all kinds of random events, and probably still does. Citywides used to be $2.50 during happy hour and they probably still are. The sign outside the bar appropriately looks like a repurposed Narragansett can.



It looks like there’s enough room up there to move the ‘A’ and ‘T’ closer together, but they remain divided.

I have to admit that I saw Coolio perform “Fantastic Voyage” at Cheerleaders after this year’s Wing Bowl. That could either be viewed as a high point or low point in one’s life.



This one is placed in the parking lot of a local media outlet, which goes to show that poor spelling is not just restricted to grade school, but also exists in a top five media market.

“Violaters” is kind of the way “violators” sounds when you account for the Philly accent, so at least there’s that.


I f%$#@^! love it

Scrawled in the bathroom of a South Philly dive bar, it’s a tribute to the popular Pokemon-esque Japanese game.

You basically collect monsters and train them to fight against each other. The first version came out on Playstation 1 back in the day, but there was an Android game that was released a few years ago, which is probably what this person was playing.


Noise complaint issues

When Pantera karaoke gets real.

There was a local bar that used to host “heavy metal night,” and when things would get a little rowdy, slam dancing would accompany the mostly bad vocal attempts at Phil Anselmo and Bruce Dickinson. That resulted in a bit of a schism with the people on the first floor of the bar, and now heavy metal night is held at a different place.


I know it is legal, but..

Shout out to the Philadelphia subreddit for this gem. Nobody likes a strapper.

Stuff like this happens all the time, especially in South Philly, where parking is at a premium. This a more measured voicing of displeasure, but sometimes things can get ugly.



Not only is this coin counting machine physically close to me, it’s also “closed,” as in non-operational.

This was spotted inside a Fishtown grocery store.


An offering to the river gods

This isn’t a sign, but it fits the story well enough.

A few weeks back, Schuylkill trail users were bewildered when they saw produce and flowers drifting down the river. Turns out this was an “offering” made as part of the Odunde Festival, taking place in nearby Grad Hospital.

Now your dog can swim through trash, too.


“Speak English”

This is probably the most well-known and controversial sign in city history. Joey Vento had this placed at the front window of Geno’s Steaks. It came down last year, five years after Joey’s son Geno took over the family business after his father’s passing.

The sign stayed up from 2006 to 2016.


Gentrifying Scum

Another shoutout to Philly Reddit.

This is in Point Breeze, where new houses are being built on the south side of Washington Avenue, an area that had been mostly left alone for years.

Some homes in the southern half of zip code 19146 have sold for as much as $475,000, a number that would have been completely unheard of in this neighborhood just five years ago.


Modern Day Colonialism

OCF Realty is owned by developer Ori Feibush, the guy behind most of the aforementioned Point Breeze development. He’s received a lot of push back from longtime residents as new houses go up in the area.

That said, I don’t know how realistic or legal it is to “smash back.”


Power of Attorney

When you need legal help and ear piercing at the same time, this is the number you dial.

This one is from West Philly.



PhillyVoice did a write-up on this banner, which was posted on the Schuylkill River trail by a resident who was annoyed with the city’s failure to fix a long-existing pot hole. We should all appreciate the sardonic nature of the note, complete with a picture of a skeleton that says, “Me waiting for this hole to be fixed.”

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