The Sound (Bites) of Philadelphia (Fall 2006 Trust Magazine briefing)

  • October 23, 2006
  • By Sara Friedman

Joe “Bubbles” knows Philly. For 70 years, he has worked at Esposito's butcher shop in the Italian Market, which gives him insider knowledge on “who's who and where's what” in South Philadelphia. Joe is one of the many engaging and expert hosts of SoundAboutPhilly, a new series of Web-based audio tours that anyone can download onto an iPod or listen to online. The project was conceived by Trusts' staff and developed by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.

Philadelphia is the first city to create free podcast tours on a grand scale, essentially turning the city into an open-air museum and giving tourists customizable “choose-your-own-adventure” ways to explore its history and neighborhoods. The podcasts, located at, introduce Philadelphia from numerous, historically informed yet personal perspectives; a click on a city map takes you to the “sound-seeing tour” that starts at that corner.

The concept of podcasting became popular in 2004, with the increased availability of iPods and other MP3 players. With the release of software designed for these devices, users began to create their own audio files and share them on the Internet. A major appeal of podcasts is their portability—making them a perfect sightseeing companion.

The Trusts-supported SoundAbout Philly launched in September with tours under the categories of History Unplugged, Flavorhoods and My Philly, each with 10, 4-to-6-minute segments that can be mixed-and-matched.

History Unplugged explores Philadelphia's heritage and the nation's founding through Welcome Park, Carpenter's Hall and Washington Square West. Kyle Farley, president of Poor Richard's Walking Tours, is the principal narrator, and he takes a chronological approach in describing the city's east-to-west development, with fact-based accounts not found in the average textbook.

Flavorhoods gives a peek at Philly's many diverse neighborhoods through the foods found there, reminding listeners that there's more to the city than cheese steaks and soft pretzels. The varied culinary highlights are an effective way to convey the city's rich immigrant history.

My Philly segments are narrated by a colorful cross-section of everyday Philadelphians who describe their favorite places and things to do in the City of Brotherly Love—the real insider's scoop. A guide named Ivy introduces her young professional friends as they go to their favorite after-work spot and, on another tour, catch an art-house movie at the Ritz Theater on a rainy day. Another local guide winds his way through historic and charming Delancey Street from Society Hill to the Schuylkill River. And Port Richmond natives take the listener step-by-step through the complicated process of ordering at Taconelli's Pizzeria, where you have to request your dough a day ahead.

Tours centered on the city's religious, African-American and colonial history will be rolled out over the next few months, and the marketing corporation plans future tours on music, art, sports and individual neighborhoods.