Philadelphia, PA, Guide (6/52)

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Philadelphia Guide

Philadelphia might just be the best weekend break you’ve never considered taking. The City of Brotherly love is undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment. With some of the best food, art, and aimless wandering to be had in the North East, there’s more than enough to satisfy even the most discerning and jaded of New Yorkers. It really is a mystery to us that nobody recommended we visit sooner. Less than 90 minutes by Amtrak Philly is perfectly proportioned to pack a weekend of exploring, unique enough to give you that sense of having really gone somewhere totally new, and close enough to have you back home in time for bed on Sunday night. What are you waiting for?…..

Friday night

The City of Brotherly Love abounds in great value high quality hotels and airbnbs. Courtesy of some Kimpton points we stayed at the Hotel Monaco off Rittenhouse square in the heart of downtown. When it comes to dining, Philly’s food scene is out of control good. Check out Eater for foodie inspo, and plan your trip around where to stuff your face. Some of the city’s best options are neighborhood BYOB gems like Helm, where the ever changing seasonal menu is written up on the chalkboard walls each day. Pick up some wine and jump in an Uber. After dinner walk a few blocks to Root, a tapas and wine bar with a sleek aesthetic to match the quality of its pours.

Saturday

9am Breakfast on Rittenhouse Square

Grab a gourmet donut from Federal Donuts on Sansom street, and some fried chicken too if you’re feeling truly decadent. Walk to the beautiful Rittenhouse Square where the farmers market should be in full swing. The square, more like a park with its fountains and imposing trees is a great spot to find a bench to soak in the city’s ambience. When you’re done, head back down Sansom street and make a beeline for Dizengoff’s and their delicious topped humus. Continue down Sansom, and take a left onto Broad Street passing underneath Philadelphia’s City Hall.

11:30am Redding Terminal

A right on Arch Street will bring you to Redding Terminal a neon clad indoor food hall that has been delighting foodies since 1892. More Kitsch than gourmet these days, it’s worth poking around until something takes your fancy: Did someone say Philly cheese steak?

12:30pm To Society Hill

Continue down Arch Street and take a right on Independence Mall. This will take you past all those sites you read about in AP history. Liberty Bell, check. Independence Hall, check. Ben Franklin’s grave, check. Cross right, through the plaza by Independence Hall back onto Sansom Street where you’ll hit the gorgeous jewelers row. Grab a coffee from the hipsters at Arterial Agents and head into Washington Square Park. From there its onto Society Hill and the largest concentration of original 18th and early 19th century residential architecture in the US. The neighborhood is loosely defined as between Walnut, Lombard, Front and 8th streets. Follow whatever streets look interesting and get lost among the architecture, coffee shops and boutiques spilling into Queens Village. The shops around Philly Aids Thrift are a useful point of reference to orient towards if you’re in need of direction.

3:30pm Sprue Street Harbor

Making your way down toward the river, board the four-masted 1904 wooden ship Moshulu for a drink on the deck. Yes the drinks are overpriced, but the sun drenched setting on the river more than justifies it.  Continue your waterfront wanderings through the vibrant Spruce Street Harbor Park and up to race street pier for views beneath the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Just across the road the bar at La Peg is another great spot with an outdoor beer garden and plenty of cornhole to compliment the views.

5pm Elfreth’s Alley

Continue up Race Street and turn left onto North 2nd street. The flagship United by Blue store with its environmentally minded outdoor gear and apparel, is a great spot for a coffee. Across the road you’ll find Elfreth’s Alley, which lays claim to the title of “America’s oldest residential street” dating to 1702. It’s a little twee, but the 32 houses and cobblestone streets possess a certain charm if you don’t mind sharing them with other tourists. If you’re in the mood for ice cream The Franklin Fountain is just down the road at Front and Market street, where bow-tie clad servers dish out old school ice cream and other treats in an early 1900s ambiance.

8pm Where to eat in Philly

Dinner tonight? Zahar, Vedge, or Vernick if you want to go big, Barbuzzo if you want more casual Italian fare. After dinner (and maybe a little before dinner too), take yourself on a tour of the town’s best speakeasies. The sultry Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co still sets the bar for highest quality libation in town. But nearby the Ranstead Room and Tippling Place,  and the Hop Sing Laundromat in Chinatown give it a close run.

Sunday 

9:30am Breakfast and the Barnes Foundation

One of you should get in line for the monstrous portions at Sabrinas, while the other goes to collect tickets for whatever the special exhibit at the Barnes Foundation. The purpose built museum is every bit as stunning as the collection of post-impressionist and early modern art that it houses. High Street on Market is an excellent alternative shout for breakfast if you’re looking for something lighter. A visit to the historic Eastern State Peneteniary which operated from 1829 to 1971 hosting such dignitaries as Al Capone and Willie Sutton, would make for a great alternative to the art museums.

12:30pm Philadelphia Art Museum

From the Barnes museum walk along the Ben Franklin Parkway towards those famous steps beneath the Philadelphia Art Museum. Along the way briefly drop into the Rodin museum to admire the largest collection of his sculptures outside of Paris. If nothing else, look for the museums astonishingly crafted doors depicting the fall of man. On to the Rocky Steps. Enjoy watching folks line up to pose for with raised fists by the Rocky Statue and then join the line yourself. You could spend hours wandering the collection at the museum. We opted to wander around the back of the museum, through the sculpture garden and down to the banks of the Schuykill River and the famous boathouse row instead.

3pm Fishtown

Hop in an uber to the headquarters of La Colombe coffee in Fishtown, Philadelphia’s own Brooklyn. The eminently instagrammable warehouse turns out their famous blends along with some delicious baked goods. Next door, Jinxed Fishtown peddles antiques, while the boutiques along East Girard (MilkCrateCafe, Street Glitter Gallery, Keys to the Attack, NicNacs4peanuts, Delicious Boutique) are worth perusing. When you’re done loitering, wander back over to Frankford Hall to enjoy the raucus bavarian beer garden and bar games.

7pm Homeward Bound

Time to head home – has it only been two days? – though you’ll be tempted to push back your train and have one last meal before you do.

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