It was Thomas Jefferson who famously wrote that the core of American identity rides on the preservation of life, liberty and the ability to blast every cell in our sickly bodies with frigid artificial air the second the weather gets slightly hot. But what Jefferson failed to consider when penning his seminal treatises (note to stoned high-school students: He didn’t actually write that, head elsewhere to plagiarize) was just how much the cost of energy would rise along with the republic.
Not sure what kind of setup T-Jeff had at Monticello, but it was likely more efficient than the junkbox ‘80s-era window units most of us rely on to chill our sweatbox South Philly apartments. There’s no more defeating feeling than swimming through sauna-like, ice-on-neck surroundings, only to be steamrolled by an insane PECO bill whose total resembles Chase Utley’s batting average (good Chase, we mean). What’s a stinky, sticky, sans-central-air citizen to do?
Mooch off other peoples’ AC, of course.
Now that it’s really beginning to get hot and stay hot, here are 10 places around town dedicated to cooling their cubic footage as if it contains perishable produce — perfect for a core-temp-reducing layover in the middle of a walk or bike ride, no purchase necessary. Regardless of how loudly the mercury weeps this summer, they will be comfortable and accessible to the public — possibly even too freezing, requiring a sweater, which is insane if you think about it. Whatever, you’re not paying for it. Free freon for everyone!
Cooled to meat-locker lows to accommodate the environmental demands of fussy tourists in golf shirts, Old City’s Bourse building is an ideal layover on a jaunt toward Philly’s northern wards. Ben Franklin’s ghost lives here, and there’s also a Smoothie King, so you can use the money you’re saving on energy bills to buy a $20 cup of puréed banana.
If you prefer to take your free AC in moleman-like lairs of subterranean commerce, hop off at Market East and get into The Gallery. Weird things happen at The Gallery. There’s a Taco Bell, as well.
Independence Visitor Center
Now that fanny packs are cool again (#badgalriri) you can totally wear one and get away with playing tourist here, browsing informative brochures among the hoi polloi while feigning a deep interest in early government. There’s also public restrooms and free WiFi to listen to your podcasts about the cyclical relevance of fanny packs.
The Free Library
Branches of the Free Library throughout the city tend to have their share of AC issues, but never the mothership at 1901 Vine. Perfect opportunity to read a book and enrich your mind, and/or search for National Treasure-style clues leading to a horde of Freemason gold.
Barnes & Noble
Philadelphians are very fond of their independent bookstores, which is wonderful, but mom-and-pops don’t always have the best HVAC systems. Compromise: Soak it in at B&N on Rittenhouse Square while browsing a magazine you’d never spend your own money on (behind on Girls and Corpses? us too), then make your actual reading-list purchases at the indies.
The Super Fresh in Northern Liberties
This gargantuan Girard Avenue market is so goddamn cold they could store Jurassic Park dinosaur embryos on the shelves and have them be totally fine. Also, its fancy and fragile glass facade resembles something that bad guys slo-mo smash Ducati motorcycles through in The Matrix.
The Bellevue Food Court
Another AC-blasting below-street-level escape in Center City, the Bellevue is decidedly upmarket from The Gallery, but in addition to the baller restaurants they’ve got a regular food court for all us normal poor people. Eat some Saladworks and question your life a little bit, or just sit underneath the escalator, where it is easiest to avoid all human interaction.
The Philly Phlash
For two bucks, this city-run shuttle service can you take you to many loitering-friendly places offering gratis AC. But the buses themselves are also chest freezers on wheels.
If you can deal with an insane parking lot, kiddies hopped up on $1 ice cream cones and the bizarre interior air quality that makes you feel like you’re on nitrous when you’re trying to buy something called a “Selje,” then the South Philly Ikea is the ideal air-conditioned haven for you. Don’t pay attention to the arrows painted on the floor. The more you follow them, the more you will struggle and the faster you will become incapacitated, like when people get nets thrown on them in gladiator movies.
The Comcast Center lobby
The headquarters of our very own chill-blasted Evil Empire are worth visiting for several reasons, namely the 2,000-square-foot HD wall (doesn’t really matter what it’s displaying, it’s so big) and, of course, Panda Express.
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