If you’re anything like me, the Love Letters Tour is one of those Philly things you’ve heard about over and over, but maaaay have never gotten your act together for. So, after many years of that for me (I’ve even put it on lists in the past!), I finally crawled out of bed on a beautiful fall Philly morning to finally check out what all the talk was about.
The Love Letter Tour is a series of ~romantic~ murals that you take in by train. The tour is organized by Mural Arts, and starts off at the PAFA building (128 North Broad Street). The tours are run by volunteers, and our group had about 12 people on it – so it was imperative that we stay together during the morning! We got an overview of Mural Arts and its new exhibits, plus a pass to come back for discounted admission to PAFA. Our guide took us around to some of the surrounding buildings, and then we set off to the El to officially begin our tour!
The series is officially called “A Love Letter for You,” and it was completed in 2010 by then-Philly artists Steve Powers (he has since left us for NYC). The series consists of 50 different murals on rooftops from 45th-63rd Streets, each pretty visible by the Market/Frankford El train, and each in the form of a love letter. You don’t see nearly all of the murals on this tour, but since everyone tries to sit together on the train (we got mixed reactions from normal train passengers when they got mixed up with our group), your tour guide talks you through ones you pass by. It’s a little hard to catch them all your first time, especially depending on where you’re sitting on the train, but it probably gets easier the more you ride the El.
The entire group also gets off at four different West Philly platforms to talk through all the murals you can see. There is definitely a lot of Septa station fence you have to peek through to get the best view, but these stops are definitely your best chance to take in some murals up close.
A huge advantage of the tour (rather than riding the El and doing it yourself) is the insider info your tour guide provides. We learned where to look for murals that played off of eachother, how neighbors contributed to Steve’s creations, and how current events influenced the work. I also loved learning how Steve tried to make the proclamations match the type of building it was being painted on (see that ravioli looking thing a few photos up? It’s actually a Jamaican beef patty – painted on a Jamaican restaurant). Since the murals are pretty old at this point, they’re working on restoring some of them now, but there are ones that are pretty faded.
The site says the tour takes 90 minutes, but ours was definitely over two hours, as your stops are totally dependent on when the train comes. *insert funny joke about how Septa is always late here* 🙂 Our tour guide always had a new tidbit to tell us, so it didn’t feel like we were waiting around. When you wrap up, you can ride the El all the way back and get off wherever you want (may I suggest a nice lunch at Little Nonna’s, perhaps?).
The tours run Saturdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 1pm. Tickets are $23 each (including the Septa token!) and you may be able to buy through Septa for a discount if you have a TransPass.
Overall, I think this is totally worth a trip for a fun weekend activity. It could be great for an outing with your girlfriends, a fun thing to do with guests, and, of course, on a date with your boo. It’s the perfect opportunity to see the city in a new light and get some history on those beautiful love letters you’ve seen around town. Let me know if you’ve done the tour below in the comments, or if you have a favorite mural! Have a great weekend, ladies! xx