This past weekend, I participated in #2 on my list of “5 Very Pennsylvanian Holiday Ideas”, Running With the Santas, a Santa Clause-themed barcrawl and party held annually in Philadelphia. Running of the Santas began in Manayunk in 1998 and is an annual event where participants dress up like Santa and at a given time, run from a designated starting point dubbed “The South Pole,” to another designated ending point dubbed, you guessed it, “The North Pole.” Running of the Santas is not the barcrawl you and your friends put together. They estimate 5,000 to 8,000 Santas every year, so much so that bars and hotels around the city offer deals and discounts.
My sister and I decided to attend the event this year, as it would also coincide with her first weekend back in Philadelphia. She’d gone to Drexel and lived there for five years, but had been working as a nurse in Scranton since graduation. She finally got a job back in Philly and last Monday, my family and I moved her down into her new apartment, near the intersections of Spruce and Tenth. This would be the first weekend to take advantage of her extremely convenient location. We purchased VIP tickets in advance via Living Social and I also got myself a Santa costume on Ebay for $50.00, not bad for an investment piece.
This year the “South Pole” was Finnigans Wake, a bar I always associate with Christmas because we go there to see Secret Service every year after my good friend’s annual Christmas party. The “North Pole” was The Electric Factory, a “run” of approximately 5-6 whole blocks. This is a daylong event, with doors to Finnigans Wake and the Electric Factory, as well as drink specials, beginning at 9, so when I arrived in Philly Friday night we vowed to go out to dinner, take it easy and get to bed at a reasonable time. I should have known that making such wild claims would result in a late last call and rough morning. I’ll blame that my sister’s apartment’s ultra convenient location and the fact that I met up with some friends who hadn’t all been together for a while for my poor will power.
We had dinner at Bru’s Crafts and Wurst, a Hofbrauhaus-esque German style “beer hall” directly across the alley from McGillin’s. The German Hefeweizen I ordered was tasty (look at me being a beer snob) and the giant hot dog was good, but I think I’ve been spoiled by visits to the Hofbrauhaus so wasn’t blown away by the atmosphere. It’s small and the rap music and dimmed lights went for a trendier, rather that cheesily authentic vibe I was hoping for. Naturally we spent some time in McGillin’s, probably my favorite Philly bar, afterwards, before retiring for the night to Fergie’s, another fun Irish pub in Center City, where the bartenders and other patrons were extremely patient about our musical selections and “performances.”
We’d wanted to start around 10 on Saturday but since we woke up around 9:30, it clearly wasn’t in the cards. By the time we grabbed my friend a Santa Costume, ordered some pizza from Santucci’s (which is amazing, btw) and pregamed a bit, it was already close to four so we headed straight to Finnigans. Driving through center city, we actually got nervous. I thought there would be Santa’s everywhere, but we were the only jackasses decked out. Luckily a couple of blocks from the bar, that all changed.
Hands down the best part about Running with the Santas is seeing literally thousands of people traipsing up and down the streets and in and out of bars looking like Christmas vomited all over them. It was hilarious and I recommend wholeheartedly that anyone in the Philly area next December give it a whirl.
What I wouldn’t recommend is buying the VIP tickets like we did. Supposedly they gave you access to all the participating bars, got you easy access into the “North Pole” and gave you access to special VIP tents, but we didn’t end up utilizing any of those things, and in fact, once we got to the Electric Factory, we ended up waiting in a huge line with both people who had preordered tickets like us and those just purchasing them that day. If that’s how it works, you might as well just pay the $15.00 it cost to get in the Electric Factory. Most of the places have drink specials, so aside from the fact that we were drinking all day, it’s quite reasonably priced.
I would recommend that you make sure you’re either at Finnigans when the run starts or watch from the sidelines or participate, because as I stated before, it’s hilarious.
We left the Electric Factory around 8 at the suggestion of a friend who said we should grab dinner, which is good, because I was having a blast and probably wouldn’t have thought to leave on my own free will. After grabbing some food at Irish Pub, my friends headed to Tavern on Broad, where I’ve always had a good time because it’s relatively cheap and they usually play a lot of Journey, but there was a cover and I didn’t feel like I really had more than a beer left in me (aka I’m getting old), so Katelyn and I headed back to her place, where the best surprise of the weekend awaited us.
When I’d walked to her apartment initially I’d noticed a building a couple of blocks away with a giant portrait of Frank Sinatra on the side. I figured it was an Italian restaurant or whiskey bar or something super classy, because, well Frank, but it turns out that it’s actually my new favorite dive bar that I was only in for twenty minutes, Dirty Franks. We’d heard about it earlier in the day and decided that we’d check it out quick before calling it a night. The door to the bar is dirty and foreboding, so I already started feeling home, but when I walked in and got dirty stairs, saw a sign that said “cash only” and realized there were several dogs hanging around, I knew it was true love. Contrary to the dirty looks, the bartender was actually very nice, the music was a mix of current top 40’s and bad oldies and their special is a Kamikaze and pony for $2.75. It also has no website, only a Facebook page, and awful reviews on Yelp, and if you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity you know that those things make me swoon.
So all in all, Running of the Santas and the past weekend was pretty much a perfect way to kick off the “official” holiday season and now that we got clobbered with snow, it actually feels like Christmas time. If you’re interested, they have an event in Atlantic City this upcoming weekend. I’ll be heading to NYC this upcoming weekend and Philly again, the weekend after that, for two Christmas get togethers that I probably will not be posting on unless something really exciting happens. In NYC we’ll just be barhopping and the Philadelphia weekend is a house party on Friday followed by heavy pregaming, dinner at Mad River and Secret Service Saturday night; these are the weekends where you’re much more concerned with WHO you’re with, then where you are or what you’re doing. Then, it’s Christmas break, a whole 12 days for me, where I’ll pretty much settle myself into NEPA, pray for snow, probably gain 10-15 lbs if last year was any indication, and hopefully XC ski as much as possible.
I’m not planning on doing any weekend trip ideas for the remainder of the year (there is one more coming this week), simply because I do not have the time and want to enjoy my holidays. I probably will sneak a few posts up, but otherwise I’ll see you back after New Years with my resolutions, Recap of the year, and a whole bunch of other junk. Merry Christmas.