Shaun McBride (aka Shonduras) takes some downtime at Bardascino Park in Bella Vista

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When you’re a social media star, one of those influencers whose entire job consists of sharing stuff online, you get around. But until last week, Shaun McBride — aka Shonduras, aka the personality who’s been called Snapchat’s first viral celebrity and just notched a million YouTube subscribers — had never been to Philly.

His take? Rad. “You guys live in the most coolest city ever!” he said during an interview at Spruce Street Harbor Park near the end of a two-day stay. “You should appreciate it. Seriously, this place is amazing.”

Judging from some off-the-record comments, which Mc Bride didn’t want quoted because they disrespected a famous neighboring city, and his ~personal brand~ is intensely positive, he really meant what he said.

McBride preps for a video shoot in the Italian Market Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

However, “I didn’t expect it to be, like, old and historic and beautiful,” he admitted.

So yeah, perhaps he wasn’t paying attention during the American Revolution part of his history class, but at least he’d heard of the city. Before he left on this trip, he said, he and his wife got in a debate about whether Philadelphia was actually a city or a state. She was sure it was the latter — “It was one of the first 10 states or something!” — so they made a bet, with the winner getting a free 10-minute back rub. McBride was looking forward to collecting as soon as he got back home to Utah.

Food was the another thing that impressed him. “Cheesesteaks are awesome, sure,” he said, “but I also went to some fancy restaurant and had macaroni and cheese with lobster. That’s like my favorite food when I was 3 years old meets the fanciest food I’ve ever eaten. It was like this great collab of food in my mouth.”

Hey, if someone finds lobster mac ‘n’ cheese  mind-blowing, more power to him. Or perhaps they don’t have lobsters in Utah?

“They do, but we’re not close to the ocean. Utah lobster is like, boxed, packaged and sent over on covered wagons.”

Comcast is what brought the 30-year-old here in the first place. Or rather, Xfinity Mobile, the telcom giant’s foray into the cell phone game. The company reached out to the influencer with the idea that he could help show off the way the new mobile plan lets users save money on data by layering Xfinity’s extensive wifi hotspots over an existing LTE network. Per McBride, who gets tens of thousands of snaps an hour, “Snapchat just kills your data.” So the partnership made sense.

A plan was devised to have McBride traipse through Philly and test out the network by visiting various sites and asking fans to snap him doodles — his own creative finger drawings on snaps are what catapulted him to fame — which would then be turned into a giant mural. Luckily, the Xfinity Mobile marketing folks are local. Which means the itinerary for the project combined tourist tropes with stuff that’s actually cool.

Even Pat’s Steaks owner Frankie Olivieri Jr. got into the Snapchat action Credit: Billy Penn

So Shonduras ran up the Rocky Art Museum Steps, yes. He did the Pat’s and Geno’s thing (but refused to crown a winner, that would have been too negative). He spent some time with a Ben Franklin impersonator, and checked out the skyline from the South Street Bridge.

But he also rode a bike across the high wire at the Franklin Institute (“This is an entire museum about hearts!” he exclaims in the YouTube video of the trip), was schooled on what “water ice” is by the workers at John’s, and got to ogle the mosaic murals that cover Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens: “It’s like a modern day pirate’s house! Philly’s just rad.”

The Mummer Museum provided even more fun — “What’s a ‘Mummer’? That’s not even a word!” — but the most on-brand locale had to be the FDR skatepark, where McBride was wowed by the extensive landscape of DIY ramps and halfpipes. Before he became Shonduras, he was a snowboard sales rep, and he’s still an avid skater who can pull off some serious tricks. In fact, Love Park was probably the reason he’d heard of Philly in the first place. Though he couldn’t visit this time around, since it’s currently under construction.

“I grew up dreaming of going to Love Park,” he explained. “And then you guys demolished it, good job on that.”

Oh well, nothing is forever. Especially on Snapchat.

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...