The number one movie of 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, was also a boon for Nissan, which coincidentally released a new model of its popular SUV, the Rogue. On a test drive of the 2017 Nissan Rogue, I drove the car to Philadelphia for a rogue’s list of fun, including spending the day at the Eastern State Penitentiary, the world’s first penitentiary. We also found plenty of delicious food. Hear all about our Rogue adventure during our road trip to Philadelphia!
Going Rogue: Taking a New Nissan on the Road
Despite living his life on the straight and narrow, my attorney husband loves to explore the dark side of the law. Alcatraz off San Francisco, Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, and Orange is the New Black all hold a special appeal to him. So he was right on board when I suggested a road trip to Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia.
Since the Nissan Rogue we had for the week was so roomy, we brought a few friends along. We were pleasantly surprised by the leg and head room in the back seat. My friend Tim, who is 6’1″, had ample space for his long legs, and the car was quiet enough that we could chat quietly over the Sirius XM radio.
Philadelphia is a haven for foodies, and even boasts a vegan donut shop, Dottie’s Donuts. We had to make a pilgrimage here, and have a meal at Talula’s Garden. Even in winter, Talula’s had plenty of greenery, and a view of the magical outdoor space that is highly coveted in warm weather.
Better Safe than Sorry
Perhaps recognizing that visitors to a former prison are usually law abiding, the Eastern State website warns about street parking. It’s not that the area where the fortress-like building sits is unsafe, but the parking rules are difficult to decipher. There is one or two hour parking on certain days, unless you have a permit, but it was unclear from conflicting signs if we were in an area where we could park for over an hour. And you definitely need two or three hours to do your trip justice. We finally gave up and put the Rogue in a parking lot.
The Basic Tour
With admission, you get a free audio tour, narrated by my Brooklyn neighbor, Steve Buscemi. It takes about an hour to go through the first part of the tour, which shows the spartan conditions the prisoners endured, all in the name of penitence.
Much More to See
The audio tour goes on to include stops that explore the architecture, daily life and notable inmates who did time here. There are also short interactive tours throughout the day. You can see the punishment cells, synagogue and operating room, or take a free hour long guided tour (with admission). There are also installations by artists throughout the massive site. Be sure to see the exhibit Prisons Today, which looks at the “three strikes your out” laws and the effects of mass incarceration on communities and families.
Dress for the Weather
I knew the Rogue had heated seats, so I figured I didn’t need a heavy jacket. I hate driving while encumbered in a big coat (though with so many fingertip controls on the steering wheel, I didn’t have to stretch much). What I forgot to factor in was the lack of heat in the prison, with its cement floors and stone walls. In fact, on the audio tour, you hear a former prisoner say that Eastern State was always hot in summer and cold in winter. So dress accordingly (another note: the only bathrooms are port-a-potties, but the prison had running water and central heat before the White House).
Compact yet Roomy
The Nissan Rogue is classified as a compact sport utility vehicle, but it is surprisingly roomy. We were bringing a birthday cake with us in the car and although we had plenty of room in the cargo area, I didn’t want that cake to slide around on the two hour drive. My big round plastic cake carrier actually fit snugly under the driver’s seat, still giving our rear seat passengers enough leg room and protecting the cake from bumps and bruises.
Not that we felt the road so much. The big tires gave us a smooth ride and the all-wheel drive made navigating through a snow squall one evening no problem. The Rogue has a rear windshield wiper and quick rear defroster, so driving in bad weather is easy.
The SUV is also loaded with safety features that make driving breeze. The cross traffic alert – an orange button that lights up in either side when a car is approaching – helps keep you safe. The Rogue has a 360-degree-view camera, making street parking easier. But in Philadelphia, street parking is so hard to come by that we had to valet the car at Talula’s Table ($18!).
Note: Nissan loaned me the Rogue for a test drive. I was not otherwise compensated. Opinions expressed are my own.