Lifestyle

From Non-Alcoholic Wine to Indoor Skydiving, Cheers to Booze-Free Fun in Philly

The best sober activities to do in Philadelphia instead of drinking.

Photo credit: Max Mester
Photo credit: Max Mester
Photo credit: Max Mester

Philly is a city of dives and cocktail bars (we’re a little short on clubs), but we wouldn’t blame you if you’re looking to trade Citywides for smoothies. There are still plenty of ways to have fun without a sip of booze, aside from the usual suspects of museums or scenic nature spots. Whether you’re looking for non-alcoholic wine and zero proof cocktails or solid hangout ideas that aren’t sitting in a bar, here are the best options for a sober good time in Philly.

Photo credit: Gab Bonghi
Photo credit: Gab Bonghi
Photo credit: Gab Bonghi

Non Alcoholic Wine and Non Alcoholic Drinks in Philly

The Volstead by Unity

Manayunk, Free entry
The city’s first zero proof bar (this one) opened in 2022, employing people in recovery and returning from incarceration. The food menu is totally vegan and features a cauliflower burger (and other meat-free burger varieties), a seitan cheesesteak, pizzas, and fried pickle slices. Sip on alcohol-free versions of classic drinks like the Old Fashioned, Sangria, Hot Toddy, and Citywide.

Zero-Proof Cocktails

Various locations, Free entry
Bars citywide are getting hip to the zero proof trend, with many offering must-try alcohol-free sips. Try the highlight of Bolo‘s NA menu, aka the Punch It! (mango, coconut cream). Get all of the fun of a margarita, sans hangover, thanks to Forsythia’s Free Spirit (NA tequila, hibiscus, plum shrub) as well as the 75 Year Old Virgin (juniper, cara cara, and NA sparkling wine). Go for an NA version of an Aperol Spritz at Stratus Rooftop Lounge with the Amalfi Coast (Lyre’s Zero Proof Bitter Italian Liqueur). Take your dirty chai obsession to the bar with a Dirty Chai Shakerato (chai, espresso) at Urban Farmer (their Cadillac Shirley Temple and Flight of the Dove are also great). Over at Darling Jack’s Tavern, the Raspberry Ricky (basil, bubbles) will tickle your tastebuds. The offerings at Kiddo include the Dale’s Tonic (grapefruit, lemongrass, cinchona bark) and Black Raspberry (macerated black raspberries, champagne vinegar). For a calming tonic, try Doctor’s Orders (lapsang souchong, ginger, honey) or One Last Question (sarsaparilla, vanilla) at Wilder.

Non-Alcoholic Wine

Various locations, Free entry
If you miss the experience of a refreshing glass of wine after a long day, there are local spots where you can get alcohol-free versions. For January, Panorama at the Penns View Hotel offers flights of de-alcoholised wine from around the world. East Passyunk’s Barcelona Wine Bar has two alcohol-free wines on offer (one red, one white). Both the Rittenhouse and Wash West locations of Tria serve a slightly-sparkling apple juice from Normandy. The cozy Superfolie serves up a zero-proof sparkling riesling for those temperate drinkers.

Coffee

Various locations, Free entry
The local coffee scene brews a mean cup of joe that’ll put you in a better mood than any booze could. Some worthy spots to add to your personal Philly coffee bucket list include La Colombe (their Fishtown flagship location is the perfect spot for a lazy morning); Elixr Coffee Roasters (stop into the Rittenhouse location after a day of shopping); Ultimo Coffee Roasters (spend an afternoon working at the Newbold cafe and hop across the street to South Philadelphia Taproom for happy hour); Thank You Thank You Coffee Brewers (a cozy spot in Washington Square); Caphe Roasters (Vietnamese coffee and killer banh mi in Kensington); and Rival Bros. Coffee Roasters (a pick-me-up pitstop on a stroll down East Passyunk).

Breakfast

Various locations, Free entry
Wake up chipper and refreshed-and beat the brunch crowd-for a delightful Philly breakfast. Dig into a tasty breakfast sandwich on a chewy bagel from Kismet or try to wrap your mouth around the fluffiest eggs imaginable courtesy of a Middle Child sandwich. A fresh cup of diner coffee and hashbrowns await you at Sulimay’s. Cafe Lift has a new location on Spring Garden, but the same great Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. Don’t miss the elevated Hot Pocket at Honeysuckle Provisions, featuring smoky collards and egg. If you’re craving biscuits and gravy, Honey’s Sit N Eat is your go-to. Those who b-fast know The Dutch-and their sweet Dutch Baby-is a standard.

Afternoon Tea

Various locations, Price varies by location
For a classy and decadent experience without the hangover, consider afternoon tea. Tea tiers at The Dandelion feature pots of English Breakfast, Chamomile Tea, Green Tea with Mint, Darjeeling Earl Grey, Chai Tea, and Honeybush and Rooibos and those delightful finger sandwiches. Scones, petit pies, and international teas from India, China, Japan, and Taiwan are on the menu at the Mary Cassatt Tea Room at the Rittenhouse Hotel (reservations are recommended). Fresh teas are imported from France to the Prince Tea House, where the Brown Sugar Bubble Mille Crepes Cake is also a favorite.

Photo credit: Becca Mathias, photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens
Photo credit: Becca Mathias, photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens
Photo credit: Becca Mathias, photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Outdoor Activities to Do in Philadelphia Instead of Drinking

Ice Skating

Various locations, Starting at $5
Nothing gets the blood pumping like a couple of laps around an ice rink. Pretend you’re the star of your own seasonal Hallmark movie at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, where, in addition to ice skating on an NHL-size rink, you can get romantic on a ferris wheel and warm up with hot chocolate. Over in Dilworth Park, Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink gives skaters the chance to glide in the shadow of City Hall. Twinkle lights and winter foliage adorn the outdoor space around the rink, where you can cozy up next to a fire pit. (There are other nearby indoor rinks if you’d rather stay out of the elements.)

Longwood Gardens

Kennett Square, PA, $13-25
No matter the time of year, Longwood Gardens, the sprawling and meticulously upkept outdoor grounds and indoor conservatory, is the perfect place for zero ABV enjoyment. Marvel at nature throughout every season: Watch the gardens bloom to life in springtime and ogle the dazzling lights during the holiday season. Come summer, the fountains erupt with light and music.

Beyond The Italian Market Walking Tour

Italian Market, $95
Philly-based food writer Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme guides visitors through the Italian Market, a neighborhood steeped in culinary history, and the surrounding South Philly area on this three-ish hour walking tour. Taste pastries, banh mi, tacos, lox, and so much more. Remember to wear your walking shoes: You’ll cover about two miles.

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park, Free
The city’s largest park-covering just over 2,000 acres-is yours for the exploring. Within the park’s boundaries are tons of hiking trails, serene hideaways, historic mansions, and picnic spots. Train like a famous athlete and run the Boxers’ Trail or take it easy and enjoy the views of the Schuylkill River on the Schuylkill River Trail. The grounds surrounding Fairmount Park Horticulture Center are particularly idyllic in the springtime when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Six historic houses, 18th century villas, known as the Park Charms, are available for tours throughout the year, and if they’re not open, the edifices themselves are worth enjoying from the outside.

Farmers Markets

Various locations, Free admission
Step one in your mission to turn your kitchen into your own farm-to-table restaurant: Source those farm-fresh ingredients. Weekly farmers markets are held in parks throughout the city, like the popular Clark Park Farmers Market (Saturdays year round) and Headhouse Farmers Market (Sundays year round). Vendors come from around the area to sell organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, artisanal cheese and breads, fresh-cut flowers, and so much more.

Photo credit: Paul Biris via GettyImages
Photo credit: Paul Biris via GettyImages
Photo credit: Paul Biris via GettyImages

Sports Activities to Do in Philadelphia Instead of Drinking

Ultrazone Laser Tag

Bensalem, PA, Starting at $9.50
You’re never too old for a friendly game of laser tag. Bensalem’s Ultrazone boasts a multi-level arena with space for up to 39 players. The blacklit course is ideal for both nostalgic grownups and kids looking for corners to hide. Strap on your pack and pretend you’re in a video game come to life.

iFly Indoor Skydiving

King of Prussia, PA, Starting at $70
If you don’t have the guts to jump out of a plane but still want the experience, consider indoor skydiving. iFly’s King of Prussia facilities feature a super-strong wind tunnel that simulates the experience of skydiving. Just hop into a flight suit and helmet, learn the basics at a quick orientation, and spread your wings and fly. No liquid courage required.

Acro& Partner Acrobatics

Various locations, Starting at $25
Tried Crossfit, pilates, yoga, spinning, and everything in between? Take on a new physical challenge in fitness acrobatics. Combining aspects of yoga, gymnastics, and weightlifting, beginner classes cover fundamental poses, like Front bird, Throne, Whale, Thigh Stand, and how to transition between them. Sign up solo or with a partner.

SPIN Ping-Pong

Center City, Starting at $29 per hour
This subterranean ping-pong “social club” features 16 tables for competitive table tennis players. Make reservations (for groups of two to 10 people) ahead of time to ensure you get a spot. Yes, there is a bar, but they have two zero proof cocktails and non-alcoholic beers and sparkling wine on the menu. Munch on pizza, fries, and guac in between games.

Formation Sauna + Wellness

Northern Liberties, Starting at $85
After all this athletic activity, you probably need some rejuvenation. Sit in the steam at Formation Sauna + Wellness, where a 90-minute session gets you exclusive access to the sauna and cold shower hydrotherapy. If you’re looking for more pampering, you can add on a DIY skincare treatment, a foot soak, a massage, and meditation.

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Allie Volpe¬†is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn’t slept in days. Follow her on Twitter:¬†@allieevolpe.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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