Detroit vs. Philadelphia: Underdogs duke it out

Editor’s Note: This story is the last in a series of “city smackdowns” pitting metropolitan rivals against each other and letting you decide which one’s best. Previous smackdowns featured Los Angeles vs. New York, Portland, Oregon, vs. Seattle and political convention cities Charlotte, North Carolina, vs. Tampa, Florida.

Story highlights

From Philly cheesesteak to fine dining, City of Brotherly Love offers many food options

Outdoors types can hike in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, stroll along Schuylkill River

Detroit has been through a lot but has a spirit that can't be destroyed, iReporters say

iReporter loves to walk through city's Hart Plaza, Eastern Market and Heidelberg Project

CNN  — 

In a battle of underdogs Detroit and Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love came out on top.

Philadelphia clearly won the popular vote in our unscientific poll, with 57% of the vote, compared with 43% for Detroit. Philly also won on Facebook with more than 1,750 “recommends,” compared with more than 1,575 for the Motor City.

“How can this even be close?” asks iReporter and Philadelphian Peter DeCarlo. “Philly beats Detroit on so many levels, just to name a few: food, education, sports, location.” His Philly suggestions include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Schuylkill River Trail, people-watching in Rittenhouse Square and sales-tax-free clothes shopping on Walnut and Chestnut streets.

“Detroit is more than crime and urban decay,” writes iReporter Barbara Smitter, who lives just outside the Michigan city. “It is art and philanthropy and enterprise and community. I have made it a personal mission to get out of my comfy suburban existence and see more of what makes this city so great.”


Philadelphia’s fans find plenty to celebrate beyond the Liberty Bell and running the “Rocky” steps up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Her hometown takes the cake when it comes to food, according to iReporter Katie Eisele, a suburban Washingtonian who was raised in the Philadelphia suburbs and regularly visits her family there.

“If you’re looking for a fancy, sit-down restaurant, any of the Stephen Starr restaurants are fantastic (like El Vez or Buddakan),” Eisele writes. “My parents also love Moshulu because it is on a beautiful ship right on the waterfront at Penn’s Landing. Also, Bistro Romano in Society Hill is a romantic and quaint Italian restaurant, great for a date night out. But if you’re looking for more of a grab-and-go type of meal … Sarcone’s Deli, Dalessandro’s or Reading Terminal Market are great.”

Speaking of Reading Terminal Market, that’s where you must go “if you’re looking to try a lot of different types of food at once,” writes iReporter Bob Malin, a lifelong resident. “From the fresh fish brought in the early a.m., to the Amish making lean cuts of any of your favorite meats, to Bassett’s famous ice cream and a number of candy shops, it’s your one-stop-shop for all things edible.”

You’ll also find the best sports fans in the world, according to Malin. “For a seat with a great view of the game, Citizens Bank Park is a great time,” he writes. “Or go to the Linc (Lincoln Financial Field) to see ‘The Birds’ take on the NFC East. And the Flyers and Sixers are always a good time. … (H)ockey is a game that Philadelphians can relate to, working hard to succeed.”

Philly also has world-class art, including “the soon to be relocated Barnes (Foundation), which houses an unbelievable previously private collection of 19th-century impressionist art, the largest mural arts project in the country, and an incredible number of events throughout the summer,” suggests commenter Beth Schade of Philadelphia.

Coming soon: “The Welcome America festival happens every year for the Fourth of July and is a massive free outdoor concert,” Schade writes. “Local favorite the Roots always show up. They are also known as Jimmy Fallon’s house band. There are (also) free pop-up shows all over town all summer, featuring lots of local favorites.”

One of iReporter Eisele’s favorite things to do is hike in Fairmount Park, but she doesn’t stop there. “While there you can take a stroll along Boathouse Row and see early-morning rowers along the Schuylkill River,” she writes. “Visitors can also visit South Street and see the trash mural walls or see a concert at the Theatre of Living Arts. And if you have kids, the Please Touch Museum or the Franklin Institute are great places to keep them (and you) entertained.”


The Motor City is probably most famous for being home to the Motown sound and the top three American automakers. And visitors can still explore the Motown era at the Motown Historical Museum or visit the Henry Ford Museum in the suburbs. However, our Detroit iReporters suggested going beyond the easy mark to explore the soul of the city and its suburbs.

Take a stroll through Hart Plaza with its many sculptures to see the city’s heart, suggests iReporter Smitter. “A short ride away and you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of Eastern Market and once again be bathed in the culture of this city,” she writes.

“A jaunt around the corner and you reach the Heidelberg Project,” a 26-year-old open air art project on the city’s East Side that uses everyday, discarded objects. “Take a bike ride on a Saturday around Belle Isle. And speaking of urban decay, just check out the Packard plant. It has become a haven of street art.”

John McGraw, an iReporter who visits Detroit several times per month for work, said he loves the spirit of the Motor City as well as its food, sports and culture. “The spirit of Detroit is tough; the city has been through a lot over the years, but there is a feel of determination in the air.”

His recommendations: “I really love Greektown and … if you like Mexican food you should try Mexicantown; it’s a little off the beaten path but well worth it. You can always hit a ballgame at Comerica Park, Ford Field or see the Red Wings at Joe Louis,” he writes. “I also like the Eastern Market, or head over to Slows for some (barbecue).”

In suburban Detroit, iReporter Cherl Addington adores “being nestled against Lake St. Clair, the penultimate playground tucked in between the Detroit River and Lake Huron. … It’s like it’s our own, smaller, personal backyard lake with Belle Isle tucked in at its tip. Belle Isle’s designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, considered it his crowning achievement. … To sit at the northern end of Belle Isle and look out at Lake St. Clair is to experience one of the most beautiful places on earth.”

Don’t judge a city by its hardest times, suggest our Detroit iReporters.

“When I moved to this area from the little city, I had all of the same misconceptions that you hear about,” Smitter writes. “Just give it a chance, and you’ll find that the city has so much more to offer than crime and fear.”

Is your hometown or the city where you live now misunderstood or unappreciated? Tell us where you live (or where you grew up) and why you love it so.