When you think of Philadelphia, chances are it's the "freedom images" that come to mind: The Liberty Bell. Men dressed in powdered wigs debating Revolutionary War strategy. Wise old Ben Franklin saving his pennies.
True, history does drive tourism in Philadelphia, but it's only the backdrop for this diverse, fast-moving city, where a great cheesesteak gets as much respect as a Five-Star restaurant, and neighborhood galleries are as popular as nightclubs among young singles.
Visitors, some 30 million each year, come as much to experience Philly's Fringe Festival of experimental and performance art as to view its revered Flower Show. It's the hometown of actor Kevin Bacon, tenor/movie star Mario Lanza, and singer Chubby Checker. How much more diverse could a town be?
Some sections of Philadelphia appear to be a parallel universe. Walking down Elfreth's Alley, a residential street since 1702, one spots a mom in a 300-year-old doorway, feeding a juice box to her toddler. Nearby, the windows of a walnut-paneled tavern (another snapshot from the past) are framed by white twinkly-lights. Walk a block and you can hear one of the finest jazz bands in the land. Across the street on a bench sits a costumed Betsy Ross, sewing red and white stripes together, sharing gossip with town visitors about her friends, the generals, as part of a living history program in which costumed historic figures walk Central City telling stories.
It's always been a city of meetings -- the old meeting the new, like the Philadelphia Orchestra welcoming American Bandstand, and a Vietnamese restaurant opening in the Italian Quarter, South Philly. Even in the beginning, William Penn planned his "City of Brotherly Love" as a Quaker utopia where Native American Indians would dwell happily among the new Dutch settlers. Philadelphia has always been a city of grand juxtapositions.
That's the city's allure. People visit for the historic attractions, but they come back for the extraordinary restaurants, award-winning visual and performing arts, and those very special features that exist nowhere else in the world, such as the Mummers Parade on New Year's Day, and the renowned Barnes Foundation, where more than 1,000 works of art, from Renoir and Cezanne to household gadgets deemed beautiful, share the same walls.
But the history in Philadelphia is no less special, and visitors should see it. Some, like the Franklin Institute Science Museum and Fels Planetarium, is for kids of all ages. The Philadelphia Museum of Art became an icon when Sylvester Stallone in the movie "Rocky" ran up its steps, but the art inside is the real draw. Touring Independence Hall is practically a requirement for first-time visitors. And some of the still-operating churches, such as Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church -- the oldest property continuously owned by African Americans in the United States -- and Christ Church, where Ben Franklin and other signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried in the adjacent cemetery, are attractions in themselves.
Fast Facts & Info
Fast Facts & Info
Geography and landscape: By the time you reach Philadelphia, the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountain ranges have leveled out. The terrain here is flat, and with its river-boundaries, Philadelphia can reap the benefits of all types of riverside commerce and activity, from rowing competitions on the Schuylkill River to fishing and shipping on the Delaware River. Since 2002, the city also has been a cruise port, with two cruise lines sailing to Bermuda from the Port of Philadelphia.
The city anchors the southeast corner of Pennsylvania. Directly across the Delaware River is Camden, New Jersey. Less than 25 miles southeast of Philadelphia is the Delaware state border; another 20 miles beyond that is Maryland.
General orientation: Most spots frequented by visitors to Philadelphia will be located in Center City -- which extends from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River as its east and west boundaries, and from Spring Garden Street and South Street on the north and south respectively) -- and the adjacent neighborhoods of South Philly and University City.
Within Center City, though, are the smaller neighborhoods of Old City, Chinatown, the Rittenhouse Square District, Washington Square District, Parkway/Museums District, and Society Hill, and corridor destinations such as Jewelers' Row, Antique Row, and South Street. The good news is Philadelphia is laid out on a grid system.
The lowest-numbered streets are along the Delaware River, running north and south; as you move west, you'll discover higher-numbered streets. Many of the streets running east and west are named for trees (Pine, Walnut, Chestnut, Spruce, Cherry) and are easy to locate on any tourist map. City Hall, at the city's center, sits on a giant roundabout at Market and Broad Streets.
Safety: Like visitors to any major city, Philadelphia's guests should always be alert, especially since Philly is a "walking city" and you might opt to walk to a restaurant six or eight blocks from your hotel, rather than take a taxi.
Some narrow streets can appear quite dark at night, especially the city's many alleyways and residential areas away from the places frequented by tourists. That said, however, Center City is a busy place at all hours and generally safe for walking.
Population: This is a city of 1.5 million residents (not counting the suburbs of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, which push the population to 3.9 million).
Climate/weather: This city enjoys a classic four-season climate, with winter temperatures plummeting to the 20s and temperatures in summer -- the tourist "high season" -- climbing to the humid 90s. Many find the "shoulder seasons," spring and fall, to be most pleasant; the air is dry and mild, making it the best walking weather.
If economy is a factor in choosing when to travel, try Philadelphia in the fall and winter, when convention business is slower and prices drop somewhat. Adults traveling without children might prefer these seasons because Philly's kids are in school and the city is less crowded with vacationing families.
Philadelphia is one of the easiest major cities to drive in, but a car isn't your only option in this town. Keep reading to learn more about getting around while visiting Philadelphia.
Visitors to Philadelphia will find they have lots of choices when it comes to traversing the city. Here are some of your options:
From the Airport
Car rental: From Philadelphia International Airport, you'll have plenty of options for getting into the city. All major rental companies, including Alamo, Budget, Avis, Dollar, Hertz, and National, have desks near the baggage claim areas (look for the signs) and rental car pickup is in Zone 2 of Airport Parking. The cost of a car rental varies widely between companies, car sizes, and seasons, but for a one-week rental the average cost of a mid-sized car is be about $200.
Taxi: If you prefer a taxi, the 20-minute ride from the airport costs a flat fee of $25 (per car, not per passenger) plus a customary 15 percent tip. Taxis are available 24 hours, and the airport taxi stand is located outside the baggage claim areas. Be aware that most taxis will only accept four passengers.
Public transportation: The Southeastern Pennyslvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates a high-speed rail service that takes travelers directly from Philadelphia International Airport to the City Center every 30 minutes "on the 9s" such as 12:09 pm, 12:39 pm, etc. The rail cars are easy to find and stop in front of all airport terminals and drop passengers at the 30th Street Station and Suburban Station at 16th Street, which are also the two stations where you also can catch the rail back to the airport. Adult fare is $5.50 for a one-way ticket.
Rush hour: Philadelphia might be one of the easiest cities to drive into, but from any direction, plan on a crawl during rush hour. From Interstate 76 ("the Schuylkill"), your best bet is to exit the freeway at 30th Street and head east on Market Street to get to Center City.
From Interstate 95, follow the signs to the Center City Philadelphia via Interstate 76 and exit at 30th Street near the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Rules of the road: Once you're in the city, don't forget that with few exceptions -- the Parkway, Vine Street, Broad Street, and lower Market Street -- every street is one way. Philadelphia's easy grid layout will minimize your confusion, but a street map, available free from the visitors center at 3rd and Chestnut streets, will be a handy reference for your entire trip.
Since the city is so walkable (one of America's best walking cities, according to Prevention magazine), you might want to park your car for the duration. The Philadelphia Parking Authority can give you up-to-date information on places to park. And do obey signs for bus-only lanes or you will be ticketed.
Public transportation, fares: The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), is the fifth largest transit system in the country and a terrific way to get around town, especially when you've shopped 'til you've dropped and are loaded down with purchases. City buses are ubiquitous; schedules and maps are available from SEPTA or from the visitor center (800-537-7676 or 215-636-1666).
The SEPTA rail system is handy for getting to South Philly for an Eagles football game (Orange Line subway), or for connecting between neighborhoods (Blue Line subway, Green Line trolley).
SEPTA's Regional Rail can get you to dinner in Ardmore, Villanova, Doylestown and other suburbs without the hassle of driving. For service to New Jersey, call the Port Authority Transit Corp (PATCO, 215-922-4600). Fares are $2 cash, payable as you board, or you can buy discount tokens in advance, $1.30 per token, at any subway station or Rite Aid store.
Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Not many cities can beat Philadelphia for shopping, dining, and touring on foot. Old City is a compact neighborhood where you'll find the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other important historic attractions. From there, Center City expands west to include the Washington Square District, Rittenhouse Square District, Convention Center District, and Parkway/Museum District -- all distinct, compact neighborhoods packed with parks, historic sites, great shopping, and restaurants, and all eminently walkable.
Walking between neighborhoods is easy, though covering all of them on foot would be impossible. Hail a taxi for longer distances, or call ahead: Olde City Taxi (215-338-0838), Quaker City Cab (215-728-8000), United Cab (215-238-9500) and Yellow Cab (215-922-8400) all are reliable. Taxi fares are $1.80 for the first 1/4 mile and 30 cents for each additional 1/4 mile, or per minute that the motor is running. There's no minimum of passengers, but most taxis will only transport three or four passengers per ride.
And to get between attractions if you're tired or the kids need a rest, hop a purple Phlash trolley for just $1 between 10 am to 6 pm May through November.
Once you know how to get around Philadelphia, you'll be ready to explore the city's sites and activities. On the next page, we'll talk about Philadelphia's special events and attractions.
Philadelphia Special Events & Attractions
So many of Philadelphia's biggest attractions are the historic sites everyone knows -- the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc. -- but many of the city's lesser-known attractions, old and new, are just as compelling.
The Philadelphia Flower Show, the biggest flower show anywhere, isn't famous, at least among gardeners, but it's this region's harbinger of spring and kicks off a season of unique events that includes antiques shows, jazz fests, outdoor concerts, and tours of the city's three-centuries-old homes.
Philadelphia loves showing off its quirky museums, literary sites, innovative galleries, and neighborhood secrets year-round, but it's during the warmer months when the sidewalks fill with the curious that the city puts on its best celebrations.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Philadelphia
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Philadelphia
When in Philadelphia in May, stop and smell the roses at the Rittenhouse Square Flower Market (Rittenhouse Square, 1800 Walnut St), an annual event since 1914. If you like the neighborhood, stay until June when everyone converges on the Square for the two-week Fine Arts Show Annual, where both professional and student artists have a fresh-air opportunity to showcase and sell their work.
If you like your events more on the active side, the venerated Penn Relays (University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field, South and 33rd Sts) will be more your style along with 50,000 other spectators and 20,000 participants in the country's premier college and high school track and field competition. Or, you might appreciate another mega-collegiate event, the Dad Vail Regatta on the Schuylkill River each June.
Philadelphians train all year to run in the Philadelphia Marathon, usually held the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but an even bigger favorite is the Philadelphia Distance Run, a half-marathon held in late September.
For professional sports, baseball fans head to South Philly and the new Citizens Bank Park (1 Citizens Way), home to the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. And, of course, football fans eager to watch the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles head to Lincoln Financial Field (11 St and Pattison Ave), home to the 2004 Super Bowl participants. Season ticketholders have taken up virtually every seat in the football stadium, so the chances of securing a ticket will be tough. You can opt for catching the game in an area sports bar with the locals instead, and a prime spot to check out is Chickie's & Pete's Cafe (1526 Packer Ave), where you can watch the game on 14-foot flat-screen TVs and enjoy a good Phili cheesesteak sandwich.
If you'd rather keep exploring, check out the Eastern State Penitentiary (321 S 4th St), the circa-1829 prison that invented the word "penitentiary" because the Quaker-inspired punishment involved isolation, thought to make criminals more "penitent." Visitors can tour Death Row and the solitary confinement yards, research genealogy of Al Capone and other inmates, and attend creepy readings of works such as Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." In July, celebrate Bastille Day here and watch French revolutionaries drag Marie Antoinette to the guillotine.
You want quirkier? Take the family to the Insectarium (8046 Frankford Ave), every Philadelphia schoolkid's favorite field trip, where they can visit a working beehive, "Cockroach Kitchen," "Arachnid Alley," and a gross-Mom-out petting corner.
If that doesn't give you goose bumps, try the Mutter Museum (19 S 22nd St), where a collection of preserved tumors, skeletons of giants, and other medical oddities are preserved and displayed. (Small or squeamish children probably shouldn't make this stop.)
For a real sense of how life in Philadelphia has changed since 1680, visit the recently refurbished Atwater Kent Museum (15 S 7th St). With hundreds of artifacts, this small museum shows the kinds of dolls children played with, the sunbonnets ladies wore, and the kinds of storefronts you might have strolled past in Center City, hundreds of years ago.
And, since you're in the city where "liberty" became America's official buzzword, a visit to the new (2003) National Constitution Center (525 Arch St) on Independence Mall is in order. Designed by the famous architect I.M. Pei, this museum is hardly a dry history lesson; you can learn how the Constitution affects your daily life, by "taking" a Presidential Oath of Office, "sitting" on the Supreme Court and watching an inspiring multimedia show. While you're there, check out the voting machine from Palm Beach, Florida, used in the contested 2000 election.
Stop in at the Philadelphia Zoo (3400 W Girard Ave), which was America's first zoo and home to the nation's first white lions. Today the zoo is a prime location for rare and endangered animals, from red pandas to Rodrigues fruit bats. You can also explore a four-story tropical tree or take a balloon ride 400 feet up on the country's first passenger-carrying Zooballoon.
Philadelphia has a vibrant arts and culture scene -- you'll find that even walls throughout town are covered with murals. Keep reading to learn more about experiencing the arts and culture in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Arts & Culture
Since the days when Ben Franklin's writings and inventiveness so dramatically changed his neighbors' lives, Philadelphia's creative spirit has thrived. Today, hundreds of galleries, performance stages, music venues and arts schools operate here.
Some, such as the acclaimed Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Academy of Music, are famous institutions, while dozens of community-based artistic efforts have gained their own momentum. One that's earned the national spotlight is the Mural Arts Program (MAP), begun in 1984 as an anti-graffiti project. Over the years, more than 2,400 lifeless walls have been transformed into historic scenes and inspiring landscapes. Watch for them as you walk around town; they're everywhere!
Arts organizations everywhere are financially challenged these days, but Philadelphian's have found strength in numbers: More than 300 non-profit cultural groups are united in the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, whose ongoing "Campaign for Culture" works to boost arts awareness and attendance at cultural events.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Philadelphia
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Philadelphia
Beyond those, you'll find smaller gems such as the Painted Bride Art Center (230 Vine St), an Old City alternative arts organization that not only offers poetry, dance, theatre, and jazz, it even mounts art exhibits. "The Bride" is a professional venue with attitude; performers have included Carlos Santana, Spalding Gray, and Penn & Teller.
Another respected-but-small acting company is Freedom Repertory Theatre (1346 N Broad St), which is Philly's "Avenue of the Arts." This African-American theater, housed in an historic mansion, presents plays ranging from its signature drama, inspired by Langston Hughes' gospel play "Black Nativity," to classics by James Baldwin.
And for affordable, outstanding drama, try Philly's university theaters. Temple University's Theater Program (Tomlinson Theater, 1301 W Norris St), is the longest-running in the city, and featured "Hamlet" and "The Heidi Chronicles" in a recent season, while Villanova (Vasey Hall, 800 Lancaster Ave, Villanova), offers one of the few master's-level theater programs in the United States.
For dance, no company perks up an audience like Headlong Dance Theatre (1170 S Broad St), which draws on influences as diverse as ballet, sign language, tap, and life experiences in its choreography. This is not your mother's ballet company.
The visual arts, too, are strong in Philadelphia. The Clay Studio (139 N 2nd St) is all about clay; exhibits might include gold-and-lapis teapots by an artist who was inspired by delicate Japanese kimonos or more whimsical items.
For a true Philadelphia treasure, don't miss the Rodin Museum (22nd St and Franklin Parkway), which is considered the largest Auguste Rodin collection outside Paris. Bronze casts of Rodin's greatest pieces are among the 128 sculptures displayed, along with his Eternal Springtime, Apotheosis of Victor Hugo, and a bronze cast of his immortal The Thinker.
Philadelphia is ringing (literally) with famous landmarks and architecture for visitors to enjoy. Learn more about these sites on the next page.
Philadelphia Architecture & Landmarks
Philadelphia's Colonial-era buildings aren't only the city's most visible legacy, they're its most enduring; built of brick and stone, homes and public buildings here haven't deteriorated as quickly as those in cities of wooden construction.
In Philadelphia, you'll find entire streets on the National Register of Historic Places. Most attractions within the city, from restaurants and shops to concert halls, museums and offices, are housed in a historic building. Some are owned by and protected with your tax dollars, through the U.S. National Park Service; others are maintained by smaller non-profit organizations and historical societies.
Some of the architectural highlights are spectacular, such as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge across the Delaware River, 13/4 miles long and a good choice for a morning walk along its foot path, since it's easily accessible at the eastern edge of Independence Mall. City Hall, Christ Church, the Masonic Temple, and Reading Terminal Market are other architectural standouts.
But in Philadelphia, even the homes are architecturally important. Those built before the 1750s, such as the smaller two-rooms-per-floor abodes on Delancey Street, are the earliest, with brickwork in the old Flemish Bond style alternating long and short sides of bricks as they go along.
Those in Old City that were built after the Revolution adopted such features as Georgian cornices, arched brick doorways and grand symmetry to the point where some have false windows or doorways, just to make the facades more symmetrical! Then as you move away from the Delaware into Washington Square, you see the post-1790 Federal designs taking over, all maintained under strict preservation guidelines. In Philadelphia, preservation is an integral part of development.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Philadelphia
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Philadelphia
One of the city's finest examples of late Victorian architecture is The Bourse (21 S 5th St) behind the Liberty Bell. Now renovated as two interior arcades surrounding a massive skylight atrium, this circa-1895 former stock exchange's brick-and-sandstone exterior belies the modern interior. Gracing the next corner is Independence Square (Chestnut St between 5th & 6th), with Independence Hall, Old City Hall, and Congress Hall all comprising Independence National Historic Park (5th and Chesnut Sts), making their forthright statement: Here, liberty began in America.
The simple lines and almost-unadorned exteriors of those landmarks stand in contrast to their wildly ornate counterpart at Broad and Market streets, the French Second Empire-style City Hall. Capped by A.M. Calder's 37-foot statue of William Penn, City Hall took 30 years to build. You can walk through the courtyard to get a sense of the size; even better is riding up to the "tower view" in Penn's shoelaces, 548 feet above, for the city's best view, taking in the ports, the upper and lower Delaware Valley, and western New Jersey.
On a smaller scale, Mobil Two-Star City Tavern (138 S 2nd St), now a restaurant, was considered the "power lunch" spot in George Washington's day. Completed in 1773, this is the spot where Paul Revere brought news of the closing of Boston's port by the British, and it's the site of the initial gatherings of the First Continental Congress. Rebuilt after a fire, the Tavern's wide-planked floors, stone fireplaces, and Colonial-style furnishings reflect its prominent heritage. This is a good place to try some 18th-century dishes like prime rib or tavern lobster pie!
Who doesn't love getting some shopping while on vacation -- especially in Philadelphia, where there's no sales tax on clothing? Keep reading to learn about Philadelphia's shopping scene.
Visitors come to Philadelphia the first time for the history, but they come back for the shopping. On the front edge of every emerging East Coast trend, Philly's entrepreneurs are the first to offer the season's hottest trends in clothing, jewelry, and home decor.
The biggest concentration of shops is in the city itself, with some communities, such as Manayunk, known as shopping destinations in themselves. In the suburbs, towns along the Main Line and in West Chester and Bucks County are shopping draws, as are the mammoth, 450-store King of Prussia Mall and the outlet stores at Franklin Mills.
The best news of all: Pennsylvania doesn't charge a sales tax on clothing -- a major consideration when you consider the dollars saved during a shopping trip.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Philadelphia
Singling out the best shopping opportunities is difficult in Philly, because every shopping district can boast "the finest" in some area, and some of those are included in the suggested itineraries to follow. That said, you can't do better than a shopping day in the neighborhood of Manayunk, a short drive up the Schuylkill. Along the Main Street corridor you'll find quality shops such as Nicole Miller Fashions (4249 Main St), Smith Bros for Jeans (4430 Main St), and Belle Maison (4320 Main St).
Unlike many cities, Philadelphia still boasts some old-fashioned department stores, such as Lord & Taylor (1300 Market St). Formerly the Wanamaker's, Lord & Taylor is more upscale and, thankfully, kept Wanamaker's 30,000-pipe organ; be there at noon and 5 pm for daily concerts. The best way to listen is with a glass of wine in the third-floor cafe.
Then move down the street to Strawbridge's (801 Market St), anchoring the eastern end of The Gallery Shopping Mall (801 Market St). Visit the recently downsized, but still intriguing, food hall. If you dine at the Mobil Two-Star White Dog Cafe (3420 Samson St), be sure to step into its Black Cat (3424 Sansom St) next door, a wonderful crafts shop offering handcrafted items of every style and material, from aluminum to paper and fabrics.
You can find dozens of older rare items, crafts, handmade linens, and more along Antique Row (9th South and Pine sts, from 9th to 17th streets along Pine). You'll be kept busy with about 25 antique stores lining the avenue.
The South Street District (from the Center City area, it's five blocks south of Market Street) offers thrift stores, one-of-a-kind off-beat shops, cafes, and street musicians for those who don't mind the smell of incense or light reflecting from crystals in store windows.
What city guide is complete without a look at the nightlife? Keep reading to learn more about Philadelphia's entertainment opportunities and its active after-hours scene.
Philadelphia Nightlife & Entertainment
Philadelphia is definitely not a city where the sidewalks roll up after dinner. All bars may stay open until 2 am, and private clubs -- many of which are known as "bottle service clubs," which sell memberships for the privilege of patrons bringing and opening $200 bottles of booze - stay open much later.
Where the action is sometimes depends on your age. Those in their 20s and 30s have revitalized Old City, where the hottest new restaurants and clubs are located. On the younger side, clubs in the Northern Liberties neighborhood are emerging as places to hit on the weekend. The more sophisticated, over-40s crowd gather at the see-and-be-seen spots around Rittenhouse Square -- especially Rouge, where being beautiful is almost required -- and the sexy Alma de Cuba.
Philly's gay and lesbian scene is concentrated mostly in the "Gayborhood," that area of bookstores, clubs, bars, and restaurants between Walnut and Locust Streets, from 9th to 13th. For a quiet evening, Judy's Cafe is popular (627 S 3rd St), but most have louder music and dancing. You'll find plenty of suggestions in Philadelphia Gay News, Philly's gay paper.
The hot trend in Philadelphia restaurants is the BYOB (Bring-Your-Own-Bottle) eatery. It's a new custom, developed of necessity: The city's acclaimed chefs are known for mentoring their proteges, who naturally wanted to open their own restaurants, but only a limited number of liquor licenses are available in each neighborhood. And when a license is available, it can cost $300,000 or more, far beyond the budget of a young entrepreneur. Gradually, the young chefs tested the waters with BYOB restaurants, which now are some of the city's hottest places to eat!
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Philadelphia
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Philadelphia
You can expect to pay a cover charge to get into most Philly nightclubs, but they'll rarely be more than $10. The anchor-nightclub of the sizzling Old City neighborhood is Brasil's (112 Chestnut St). It was a hot place before Old City became trendy, and it still is. The dance floor is mirrored, and you'll see the city's best salsa moves happen there on weekends.
Another very cool spot is Fluid (613 S 4th St), whose blue wood floors even look cool. This is no place to spend a quiet evening; the pace is fast and everybody keeps moving.
They do different dancing at Polly Esther's Culture Club (1201 Race St), where one dance floor is for 1770s disco, the other for 1980s retro.
For those who just enjoy a good sports bar during the Eagles and Phillies games, you'll love the Cherry Street Tavern (129 N 22nd St), a super-friendly place where you'll get a bit of history with your brew; the polished bar with beveled glass is original with the tavern, open now for more than a century.
But the most popular stepping-out in Philly these days is on the First Friday of each month, when about 40 galleries in Old City open their doors and serve wine and munchies to thousands of singles who want to mingle, people-watch, and browse the art. First Friday lasts from 5 to 9 pm; most Old City galleries are located along Front and Third Streets between Market and Vine.
Ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? Keep reading to learn about the best spots to relax and unwind while visiting Philadelphia.
Relaxing and Unwinding in Philadelphia
Whether your idea of relaxation is rock climbing or people-watching, Philadelphia has choices to suit every preference. Many can be found in magnificent Fairmount Park, which at 8,700 acres is the world's biggest landscaped city park, with 100 miles of paths and trails. You can rent sailboats here, or visit a Japanese teahouse, or just lie in a meadow and watch the clouds.
Philly doesn't have a natural beach, but the 87 municipal pools are free. Tennis, golf, horseback riding, and rollerblading all happen in Fairmount Park, and there are plenty of spas and health clubs when you feel like working out or being pampered. You can even take a quick class in belly dancing.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing and Unwinding in Philadelphia
A good lazy day in Philadelphia starts with the paper and a great coffee bar, and La Colombe (130 S 19th St) is the best. A good way to tell: you'll see the city's best restaurateurs there, waking up after a late work night.
Those who can't bear to start even a "day off" without first checking their e-mail duck into the ING Direct Cafe (at Walnut and 17th Sts), where the coffee is good and the Internet access is free.
Golfers wouldn't think of spending a relaxing day any other way but on the links, and Philadelphia offers several opportunities to do so. Walnut Lane Golf Course (800 Walnut Lane), 5.8 miles from Philadelphia, is an 18-hole, par-62 public course. Golfers should be aware that it has a few small sand bunkers incorporated into its design and the narrow fairways are lined with trees.
The Philadelphia Quartet Golf Club (1075 Southampton Rd), 15 miles from the city, is a nine-hole, par 54, semi-private course that only offers public play during the week. A beautiful creek, wide fairways, and well-bunkered greens are located on the property. The John F. Byrne Club Golf Course (9500 Leon St) is an 18-hole, par-67 public course. Make sure to bring an extra ball or two in your bag prior to teeing off because water hazards come into play on six holes. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Course (20th and Pattison Ave) is an 18-hole, par-69 public course with an open front nine and a tight back nine and water hazards on eight holes. The Bala Golf Club (2200 Belmont Ave) is an 18-hole, par-68 private course built on rolling terrain with small greens, deep bunkers, and water hazards that come into play on four holes.
If fishing is your way to unwind, both Pennypack Creek and Wissahickon Creek are stocked April through December -- but don't forget to buy a license, which costs $15 for three days. Pennypack Creek cuts across northeast Philadelphia, while Wissahickon Creek runs through Fairmount Park in the northwest corner. Maps with access information are available at the Municipal Services Building (1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd), where you also can purchase your fishing licenses.
If pampering means a facial, try the "Sun-Kissed Sea Facial" at RejuvinEssence (2535 Huntingdon Pike, Huntingdon Valley). The 90-minute citrus experience will have you glowing head to toe.
As for the men, they can go to Shaving Grace (269 Main St, Exton) for the "Straight to Heaven" package: a straight-razor shave, 60-minute massage, haircut, manicure and cigar.
If you'd rather not strike out on your own in Philadelphia, an organized tour might be the way to go. Keep reading to learn about tours you can take while visiting Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Organized Tours Overview
Touring in Philadelphia is about having fun while you learn. Take the I Glide Segway Tour (877-GLIDE-81). Segways are self-balancing scooters that save your legs from the wear and tear of walking. After a hands-on training session near the Museum of Art, the escorted tour will have you gliding along the sidewalks for three hours.
If you're drawn to the darker side of things, you'll love Ghosts of Philadelphia (5th and Chestnut Sts), featuring burial grounds, potters fields, and the ghosts of traitors and heroes, all by candlelight.
The Neighborhood Tourism Network takes visitors into the Latino community, through the Jewish culture, or to an understanding of Philly's role in the Civil Rights struggle, among other offerings. Philly also has a Ride the Ducks tour (6th and Chestnut Sts), a wacky ride past the historic attractions and into the Delaware River.
And by all means, take a popular horse-drawn Carriage Tour (5th and Chestnut or 6th and Market Sts), but not on a hot summer afternoon. The horses call it a day when the temperature reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so plan your tour in the cooler morning hours.
Of course, you'll need a place to call home in between doing all of these activities. On the next page, learn about the hotels in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Hotels Guide
Some of the finest hotels in Philadelphia are located in historic buildings. That includes the Mobil Three-Star Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue (Broad and Walnut Sts), whose light fixtures were designed by Thomas Edison and Library Lounge Bar is the very definition of intimate elegance.
You can't go wrong at the posh eight-story Mobil Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia (1 Logan Square), with its Federalist decor and luxuries, or Mobil Three-Star Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia's (10 Avenue of the Arts) striking decor, luxurious rooms, marble columns, and architecture inspired by Rome's Pantheon.
The easiest way to secure the best bed and breakfast for you is through A Bed & Breakfast Connection/Bed & Breakfast of Philadelphia. The agency handles reservations for more than 100 regularly inspected inns across the region.
If you drive to Philadelphia, always ask the hotel or inn about its parking rates because they can be exorbitant. You should also know that Philadelphia's city, county, and state hotel taxes total 14 percent, adding significantly to your rate. But with more than 15,000 hotel rooms in the city, and another 16,400 hotels in the surrounding four-county area, you're sure to find the perfect room for your budget and preference.
As with Philadelphia's hotels, the restaurant scene features options that cater to any type of traveler. Go to the next page for our Philadelphia restaurants guide.
Philadelphia Restaurants Guide
No one could have predicted the hottest trend in Philadelphia's restaurants: the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) eatery. It's a new custom, developed out of necessity: The city's acclaimed chefs are known for mentoring their proteges, who naturally wanted to open their own restaurants, but only a limited number of liquor licenses are available in each neighborhood. And when a license is available, it can cost $300,000 or more, far beyond the budget of a young entrepreneur. So, young chefs have been opening BYOBs for the past several years, and they've built loyal, enthusiastic clientele.
Some BYOB restaurants with reputations for quality are Django (526 S 4th St), which recreates a casual, subtle elegance of a European bistro; La Boheme (246 S 11th St), which serves Mediterranean fare; Pumpkin (1713 South St), which features a mostly seafood menu in a cozy dining room; and Lolita (106 S 13th St), which serves Mexican food and also encourages customers to Bring Your Own Tequila.
The old favorites still shine, most notably Mobil Five-Star Le Bec-Fin (1523 Walnut St), which underwent major interior renovations in the last few years and is known for its elegance and 19th-century Parisian-style dining salon. You should try chef George Perrier's signature crab cakes or roasted chicken breast and leg wrapped in bacon.
Mobil's Four-Star Lacroix At The Rittenhouse (210 W Rittenhouse Square) is known for its gourmet warmth, subdued elegance, and diverse wine selections. Diners select three, four, or five dishes from the menu divided into four courses to be served in any order. A must-try dish is the beef tenderloin or lamb served with potato gnocchi. You can also enjoy a lovely treetop view of the square.
Some newcomers, though, have redefined the restaurant scene. The contemporary Japenese cuisine and ambience at Mobil's Three-Star Morimoto (723 Chestnut St), whose "Iron Chef" namesake opened to rave reviews, are dazzling. Its sushi bar, with a selection of live fish, is delightful.
Mobil Two-Star Fork (306 Market St) was one of the first hot spots in Old City and is still going strong -- but good eats in Philadelphia don't always mean a big tab. The New American bistro serves a seasonal menu that reflects international influences.
Every visitor should be required to try a famous Philly Cheesesteak, and two of the best are made in South Philly: Pat's King of the Steaks (1237 E Passyunk Ave) and Mobil One-Star Geno's Steaks (1219 S 9th St). Both are 24-hour joints, neither takes credit cards -- and don't forget the Cheez Wiz.
When the shopping gets tough, shoppers eat at Mobil's Three-Star Jake's Restaurant (4365 Main St, Manayunk), a lively, eclectic destination that has anchored the shopping corridor for the last decade. In season, sauteed soft-shell crabs are wonderful here, served with jalapeño goat cheese flan.
If you relate to Bette Midler or George Clooney, or if you'd like to, you might see them in the Astral Plane (1708 Lombard St), munching on a seafood strudel topped with a sweet onion.
For one of the city's biggest selection of spirits, try Meritage (500 S 20th St). They serve a wonderful Coq au Vin-braised Cornish hen with chanterelle and crimini mushrooms.
If you're in South Philly but not in a pizza-pasta mood, eat at the new, quietly elegant Paradiso Restaurant & Wine Bar (1627 E Passyunk Ave). But it's still South Philly, so expect to eat hearty; try the pork chop stuffed with cheeses and shallots, served with a sweet potato mash.
Tipping in Philadelphia generally is expected to be 18 percent of the pre-tax tab. For exceptional service, many diners tip 20 percent.
On the next page, check out our suggested itineraries for visiting Philadelphia. These can help you map out your visit, ensuring that you'll hit on all the highlights.
Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Philadelphia
You've just read about the sights, sounds, tastes, and events that draw visitors to Philadelphia -- from historic landmarks like the Liberty Bell to the city's vibrant nightlife. But how can you fit everything into your visit? We've provided some suggested itineraries, divided into different areas of interest, that will help you hit the hightlights you most want to see.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Philadelphia's Special Events & Attractions
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Philadelphia's Special Events & Attractions
A seemingly endless array of special events and attractions await you in Philadelphia. Here are some must-see suggestions:
1 day: With just one day in Philadelphia, make history your theme. Use the tremendous resources at the Independence Visitor Center (6th and Market Sts) to plan your whirlwind day.
Set the tone with quick visits to the Liberty Bell (Market and 6th Sts) and Independence Hall (5th and Chesnut Sts), just across the street in Independence Square where Americans first heard the Declaration of Independence.
Just east of the Liberty Bell, cross 5th Street and take a break in The Bourse (S 5th St), the 19th-century Philadelphia Stock Exchange, now restored and transformed into a small shopping mall and food court.
From here, take your pick of historic homes to browse: In Ben Franklin's Franklin Court (Chestnut St between 3rd and 4th sts), you'll see vivid displays depicting Ben's careers as a foreign diplomat, publisher, inventor, and statesman.
At the tiny, 250-year-old Betsy Ross House (239 Arch St), you're sure to learn much you didn't know about this working mother and entrepreneur. And you must stroll down Elfreth's Alley (126 Elfreth's Alley), the country's oldest street, at 2nd Street between Arch and Race streets.
After dark, take the high-tech Lights of Liberty interactive walking tour; you'll think it's 1776 again. Pick up headsets at the PECO Energy Center next to Independence Hall (5th and Chesnuts sts).
Have dinner that night at Mobil's Three-Star Moshulu Restaurant and Bar (401 S Columbus Blvd), a restored tall ship at Penn's Landing. The place is know for its seafood, so try the Jail Island Salmon with lump crabmeat, bail risotto cake, and roasted white corn.
2 days: It's tempting to see everything in the Franklin Institute (20th St and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy), where you can "watch yourself age" on a computer or play with synthesizers in the Jamming Room.
Just south is the Please Touch Museum (210 N 21st St), where younger kids can be television stars, operate the cameras, or frolic in a Maurice Sendak setting. Between the two museums is the unique CoreStates Science Park, where the family can relax, "shop" at a grocery, or make "rain" from a special cloud.
When it's playground time, try little Delancey Park (Delancey St between 3rd and 4th), with plenty of kid-friendly sculptures to climb. A good dinner choice with kids is Planet Hoagie (1211 Walnut St), with 60 different hoagies on its menu. Try the Chicken Corleone with roasted red peppers.
3 days: The "real Philly" is its neighborhoods, and much of Philadelphia's appeal is that people actually reside in every corner of the city, even sections better known as shopping or financial districts.
Center City is anchored on the west by Rittenhouse Square (1800 Walnut St), a beautifully maintained park built in the 1930s and surrounded by mansions and exclusive shops and restaurants known as Philly's "elegant hip" area.
On the eastern border, along the Delaware River, sit Old City -- where the city began, stomping grounds of the Founding Fathers, in recent years reclaimed by 20-somethings for hot new restaurants and clubs -- and Society Hill area (7th and Lombard sts), a residential district for the city's first (and many current) elite residents.
South Philly is the colorful Italian quarter, home to the boisterous Italian Market and where you'll find the most exquisite cannoli on the planet. South Street, "where all the hippies meet," was Philly's version of Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s and still is the funkiest area with New Age shops happily co-existing alongside tattoo parlors, bars, cafes, art galleries and artisan shops.
In adjacent Queen Village, some of the city's best cafes and bistros are tucked in between old homes. For a more "small-town Main Street" flavor, Manayunk and Chestnut Hill both offer sidewalk cafes, boutiques, galleries and great strolling areas.
When in Manayunk, stop for a taste of the "Big Easy" at Bourbon Blue (2 Rector St), just off Main Street. One of its best dishes is the blackened catfish, then try powdered-sugary beignets for dessert.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Philadelphia's Arts & Culture
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Philadelphia's Arts & Culture
The thriving arts-and-culture scene in Philadelphia keeps visitors extremely busy. Here are a few sightseeing itineraries for you to consider:
1 day: You don't want to overlook great literature as you take in Philly's arts scene, and Poe was one of the best. The simply furnished Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site (532 N 7th St) was Poe's home for two years, 1843-44; some of his best work, including "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," was published when he lived here.
Rare manuscripts and first editions are archived in the Rosenbach Museum and Library, housed in a graceful Society Hill townhouse (2010 Delancey Pl), including the original manuscript of Ulysses as part of a remarkable James Joyce collection. Herman Melville's first editions are displayed in Melville's own bookcase, and Maurice Sendak drawings are among some 270,000 documents and 30,000 rare books housed here. You can always find old manuscripts and publishing artifacts displayed at the Free Library of Philadelphia (1901 Vine St), including early American hornbooks, early printings, and about 130,000 local maps.
And when your eyes are tired of squinting, stop at a contemporary art exhibit hosted by one of Philadelphia's major art schools: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (118-128 N Broad St), Moore College of Art (20th St and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy), Temple University's Tyler School of Art (1801 N Broad St) and the University of the Arts (320 S Broad St). For a creative meal, try another classic dish at The Restaurant School (4207 Walnut St), where cooking students receive mentoring from Philadelphia's top chefs. Of the four restaurants, try the constantly changing prix fixe menu in the "Great Chefs of Philadelphia" atrium restaurant.
2 days: While you're roaming the city watching performance art, look for what Philadelphians call their "Calder family public art triple-play": The famous Alexander Calder mobile hangs at one end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Great Stair Hall (26th St and Benjamin Franklin Parkway). A short walk down the Parkway brings you to dad Alexander Stirling Calder's Swann Fountain (Logan Square, 20th St and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy). And overseeing both atop City Hall is granddad Alexander Milne Calder's statue of city founder William Penn (Broad and Market Sts).
If you're feeling artistic yourself, drive down the Schuylkill (Interstate 76 West), exit at Kelly Drive and find a spot where you can sit and draw Boathouse Row (near Kelly Drive and 26th St), the much-photographed home of the area's most elite rowing clubs. By day, the boat houses make a colorful panorama against the water, but they're no less photogenic at night, trimmed in tiny lights that create a shimmering reflection on the river.
For dinner, try the Fazzoletti (pasta) with duck at Mobil Three-Star Vetri (1312 Spruce St), whose owner is a good friend of TV chef Mario Batali.
3 days: You haven't seen art in Philadelphia until you've been to the provocative Institute of Contemporary Art (118 S 36th St). Two years after the museum's opening in 1965, Andy Warhol's art -- his first museum show -- shocked the city's arts patrons. ICA's Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibit in 1988 instigated a national debate over arts funding -- you never know what the next installation will spark.
Old City is home to a bevy of small, private galleries, and they're worth at least an afternoon of browsing. The Eyes Gallery (402 South St) specializes in colorful Latin American folk art -- santos, retablos, and hand-hewn sterling silver jewelry are popular items. Locks Gallery (600 Washington Sq South) couldn't be more different from The Eyes; although many pieces are from name artists like David Hockney and Francesco Clemente, you can always find more affordable choices, too. The city's oldest gallery, open since 1865, is Newman Galleries (1625 Walnut St), dealing in Bucks County artists and traditional painters, but don't be intimidated by the gallery's status; signed, limited-edition prints start as low as $200.
Even many Philadelphians are unaware that one of the city's largest art galleries is City Hall (Broad & Market Sts), with more than 250 sculptures by Alexander Milne Calder alone in its permanent collection. It's also a good place for browsing with no pressure to buy!
Digest the day's art with the signature mushroom soup at Friday Saturday Sunday (261 S 21st St), then dive into their Chile-rubbed strip steak and have a bottle of vino; the restaurant sells all wines at just $10 above cost. And don't be misled by the name because this restaurant is open every day of the week.
Architecture & Landmarks
Architecture & Landmarks
History is the name of the game in Philadelphia, so tourists flock to the city to see its architecture and landmarks. Here's some help in planning what to see:
1 day: Start with a hearty breakfast at the Down Home Diner in Reading Terminal Market (12th and Arch Sts), the massive "gastronomic bazaar" that once housed 800 purveyors of meats, produce, and baked goods. (Its refrigerator alone consisted of 52 separate, temperature-controlled rooms in 1892!) Today, the brick structure, now connected to the Convention Center, still is Philly's primary farmer's market. You can find goodies from Amish cheeses to European breads, fresh meats, and picked-this-morning produce.
Philadelphia's Masonic Temple (1 N Broad St) gives visitors a lot of architecture in one place. Seven large halls were designed to exhibit the world's "ideal" styles: Renaissance, Ionic, Oriental, Corinthian, Gothic, Egyptian, and Norman. It's one of the country's largest Masonic halls and among the most prominent because it archives letters and emblems of its most distinguished members -- George Washington and many other Founding Fathers.
In the afternoon, walk to Carpenters' Hall (320 Chestnut St), built in 1773 as the guildhall for the city's carpenters who, in spite of Philly's prolific stone and brick construction, had plenty of work building steeples, furnishings, and such features as doors and window frames. The carpenters wanted to showcase their talents with their hall, a fine example of Georgian-style architecture, built of 13-inch-thick brick walls with 10-inch cutouts at the corners and a "rubble foundation." Important tenants have included Ben Franklin's Library Company -- America's first lending library -- and the First Continental Congress.
After so much discourse with the Founding Fathers, you'll want a steak for dinner, at The Prime Rib (1701 Locust St), known for what else? Their prime ribs. If red meat isn't your thing, try their award-winning crab cakes.
2 days: Spend a day with Philly's upper crust, starting with the Powel House in Old City (244 S 3rd St), which is named after a colonial dignitary. Chances are if you were a dignitary in those days, you attended one of Mayor Samuel Powel's "sinful dinners," as John Adams called them, at this 1765 mansion. Saved from demolition by a preservation society, the house shows the affluent life in such restored spaces as the 18th-century garden and the huge upstairs ballroom featuring a 1790 crystal chandelier.
The Physick House (321 S 4th St), one-time residence of Philip Syng Physick, father of American surgery, is another gracious mansion, this one was built in the 1780s by a wine importer. It's the last remaining freestanding Federal townhouse in Society Hill and reflects the clean tastes of the physician who once treated Dolly Madison, and told President Andrew Jackson to quit smoking. Don't miss the 19th-century garden with its period plantings, grotto, and winding paths.
In the afternoon, drive to Fairmount Park (4231 N Concourse Dr), the 9,200-acre park system starting at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and continuing northeast to see the 29 Colonial mansions sprinkling the landscape; most are overseen by the Museum of Art. If you plan to tour any, four are generally regarded as most beautiful: Lemon Hill Mansion (Kelly Drive and Sedgeley Drive) is full of curves in its generous archways, huge windows, and sumptuous oval parlors.
Mount Pleasant Manion (located in Fairmount Park) was once owned by Benedict Arnold. Its carved woodwork and ornate inlays prompted John Adams to describe it as, "the most elegant seat in Pennsylvania." Strawberry Mansion is Fairmount Park's largest home, featuring a Federal-style main section and Greek Revival wings. And Woodford Mansion, the Tory headquarters during their occupation of Philadelphia in 1779, is known for its collection of Colonial housewares.
Let Buddha calm you during dinner at Mobil Three-Star Buddakan (325 Chestnut St), where the dining hall is graced by a 10-foot Buddha and a soothing water-wall. Try the pan-seared Chilean sea bass with butternut squash and sake truffle jus.
3 days: Given the fire hazards of early homes, it's a miracle that any Colonial Row Houses still survives in the city. Several streets are particularly good for seeing them up-close, including Walnut Street between 3rd and 4th Streets. The old shutters, paneled doors, brick or stone demarcations between floors, and fire-insurance markers -- helping firemen identify homes with paid insurance -- distinguish the houses.
You'll also enjoy the newer, stone homes on the tree-named streets west of Broad Street. The best house-spotting, though, is on tiny Delancey Street, where almost all display the sure giveaway that it's an authentic historic house -- i.e., the boot scraper outside the front door. You'll also note that in Old City, most homes sport a plaque noting that it's a designated Historical Place.
For an affordable but delicious dinner, head to Beau Monde (624 S 6th St) for a savory buckwheat crepe. One of the best is the scallop crepe with chives and seafood sauce.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Philadelphia's Shopping
Shopping in Philadelphia encompasses all kinds of goods, from the funky and unusual in the South Street District to antiques, jewelry, and high-end housewares. Here are a few shopping itineraries you'll want to consider:
1 day: What finer way to spend the morning than browsing antiques? Philly's Antique Row, the stretch of Pine Street from 9th to 12th, is small enough to knock off in one morning. About 25 antiques stores line the street; a favorite is M. Finkel and Daughters (936 Pine St), specializing in fine folk art and antique needlework samplers.
Not all shops along Pine sell antiques; you'll also find several quality handicrafts shops and a fascinating handmade-linen shop called Linu (1036 Pine St). Look here for rare linens from Latvia, where the owner once lived.
It's a short walk then to South Street (from the Center City area, it's five blocks south of Market Street), a funky, six-block corridor of shops, bars, and restaurants where you'll find jewelry, antiques, books, clothing, music, and unmentionables -- but don't expect to shop here before noon.
If there's a book or poster you haven't been able to find, chances are you'll find it in Book Trader (510 South St). Shop for unusual jewelry and home accessories at the Eyes Gallery (402 South St) and Mineralistic (319 South St,). The most famous shop is Zipperhead (407 South St), where leather rules.
Mobil's Two-Star Cafe Spice (35 S 2nd St) is a good choice for dinner in this neighborhood, with its large portions and an ambience more elegant than the prices. Try the Lamb Vindaloo, a spicy lamb dish cooked with potatoes.
2 days: It's easy to spend an entire day shopping the Rittenhouse Square District (1800 Walnut St, roughly defined by Broad, Spruce, 20th and Market Streets). Generally, the shops along Chestnut are discount stores, and those along Walnut are more upscale retail shops.
One little-known treasure is the AIA Bookstore and Design Center (117 S 17th), a book and design store selling books, unusual home accessories, jewelry, and stationery. At 17th and Chestnut is deep-deep-discount Daffy's (1700 Chestnut St), where prices are up to 75 percent off on numerous items ranging from house wares to high-end wardrobe staples.
Along fashionable Walnut Street are stores such as Anthropologie (1801 Walnut St), Born Yesterday (1901 Walnut St) for upscale baby gifts; Knit Wit (1721 Walnut St) for women's designer fashions; and Lagos (1735 Walnut St), where Oprah is said to shop for gems.
3 days: The one-hour drive to New Hope in Bucks County is one of the prettiest drives in the state, following State Route 32 along the Delaware River. One of New Hope's strongest draws (and that of Lambertville, N.J., just across the bridge in New Hope's little downtown) is antiques. Some good choices are A Stage in Time Antiques (12 W Bridge St), selling arts and crafts furnishings (think Stickley), as well as accent pieces inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School; and Cockamamie's (6 W Bridge St), specializing in Art Deco lighting.
While you're there, check out New Hope's eclectic assemblage of gift shops, too, including Bow Wow (102C S Main St), where you can buy gifts "in more than 200 breeds" of dogs -- mugs, throws, ornaments, cookies -- dogs everywhere. A different kind of place is the Medieval Gallery (86 S Main St), selling all things medieval such as armour, jewelry, home decor, and "alchemy Gothic." Craving normalcy? Stop into the Jonathan Rice Collection (102B S Main St) for luxury American- and European-designed jewelry and gifts.
A real Bucks County classic is Marsha Brown's, a Creole-and-steak eatery located in a restored stone church (15 S Main St, New Hope), serving Marsha's family recipes. Try the Bourbon Street Sauteed Catfish for a real Southern treat.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Philadelphia's Nightlife & Entertainment
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Philadelphia's Nightlife & Entertainment
Philadelphia's BYOB restaurants, dance clubs, and jazz scene can keep you entertained no matter how long your stay in the city. Here are a few venues you won't want to miss:
1 day: If you're in Philadelphia, you're in a great jazz town; John Coltrane, favorite son Grover Washington Jr., and other jazz legends all played here. Start at Mobil Three-Star Zanzibar Blue (200 S Broad St), downstairs in the Bellevue, where the surroundings are elegant and the big names play.
If you don't feel like dressing up, head for the smoky, always-busy Ortlieb's Jazzhaus (847 N 3rd St) in Northern Liberties, housed in a former brewery and charging no cover Sunday to Thursday.
Wrap up the evening with some blues at Warmdaddy's (Front and Market Sts), featuring performers the caliber of Koko Taylor and Murali Coryell. Especially enjoyable is Monday night "gumbo" of comedy, music, and speaking.
If you enjoy oysters, no place does them better than Sansom Street Oyster House (1516 Sansom St), a moderately priced spot with specials on the chalkboard and shuckers shucking fresh oysters behind the bar at lunchtime. If you're not crazy about oysters, there's a full seafood menu as well; the Grilled Marinated Bluefish is quite tasty.
2 days: On any given night, a lot of business travelers are visiting Philly, and they love their lounges. One of the finest is Alma de Cuba (1623 Walnut St), whose first-floor lounge is a sultry, alluring spot serving wonderful tapas.
Another interesting place is the Denim Lounge (1712 Walnut St), whose rooms are all decorated in a different style -- but all with low, sexy lighting.
If you want to see and be seen, get thee to Mobil Three-Star Le Bar Lyonnais (1523 Walnut St), downstairs from the renowned Mobil Five-Star French restaurant Le Bec-Fin. The celebrated owner, Georges Perrier, usually makes an appearance.
The best celebrity-spotting, though, happens at 32 Degrees (16 S 2nd St). But you'll probably have to indulge in the high-priced "bottle service" if you want to rub elbows with pro athletes and rock stars here.
It's already a dress-up night, so have dinner at the fabulous Mobil Four-Star Lacroix At The Rittenhouse Hotel (210 W Rittenhouse Square). Diners choose several items from a menu of interchangeable courses. Try the Young Rabbit Fricassee with creamed carrots and "pillow pastry."
3 days: Philly is a down-and-dirty city at heart, so don't leave without hitting some good bars and brewpubs. For Guinness fans, Fado (1500 Locust St) is the place for good Irish and European draft beers, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, live Irish music.
If you're staying near the Convention Center, Independence Brewpub at the Terminal (1150 Filbert St) will be just a short walk, and they're open until 2 am for fresh-brewed beer and munchies.
Monk's Cafe (274 S 16th St) is a small brewpub, but it also imports kegs of Belgian ales.
Popular with locals is the Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant (1516 Sansom St), and you can always choose between a light ale, an amber ale, and a dark porter.
A good place to down some chow before sampling the pubs is Marra's in South Philly (1734 E Passyunk Ave), the oldest restaurant in the neighborhood. All things Italian rule the menu: if it's Friday, the squid is delicious.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Philadelphia
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a great place for visitors to kick back and enjoy life's simple pleasures, such as good food, a nice spa treatment, or a stroll in the park. Here are some ways to plan your time if you're looking to relax and unwind:
1 day: If it's Sunday, start with a long, leisurely brunch at the Mobil Three-Star Fountain Restaurant (Mobil Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel, 1 Logan Square), chosen Philly's "Top Table" by Gourmet magazine. You won't regret the splurge.
Then take a 10-minute walk to Rittenhouse Square (1800 Walnut St), find a comfy park bench in the shade, and kick back for some of the best people-watching in the city: rich society matrons walking their poodles, backpackers relaxing, and couples snuggling or quarreling.
For an even more serene setting, visit the Japanese Exhibition House and Gardens in Fairmount Park (4231 N Concourse Dr), a typical 17th-century Japanese scholar's home with walls of paper and a garden, pond, and bridge.
If you crave even more silence, go north of the park to Wissahickon and Pennsylvania Creeks, but keep in mind you'll have to park your car and walk, or ride a bicycle. The primeval trees block all city noise, even though it's within the city limits. Keep walking and eventually you'll come to the only covered bridge remaining in an American city.
Keeping it casual, have dinner at the New Deck Tavern (3408 Sansom St) in University City. It's a comfortable neighborhood hangout. The soups are meals in themselves, but heartier appetites might want the Shepherd's Pie.
2 days: Bikers and bladers visiting the city stop at Drive Sports at the edge of Fairmount Park, the southernmost Boathouse Row building (2601 Pennsylvania Ave) to rent their bikes and rollerblades. There are no better paths than those along the Schuylkill on Kelly Drive.
If you'd rather be on foot, Philadelphia's municipal golf courses are renowned for their challenges and beauty. The John F. Byrne Club Golf Course (9500 Leon St) is an 18-hole, par-67 public course with elevation and rolling fairways designed by Alex Findlay. Make sure to bring an extra ball or two in your bag prior to teeing off because water hazards come into play on six holes. Karakung Golf Course (7200 Lansdowne Ave), adjacent to Cobbs Creek, has is an 18-hole, par-71 public course with terrain changes and water hazards coming into play on at least eight holes.
Keep relaxing at Mobil Two-Star Zocalo (36th St and Lancaster Ave), serving authentic contemporary Mexican dishes. In summer, ask to sit on the back deck and enjoy some Cochinita-pulled pork in a citrus reduction with corn tortillas and red rice.
3 days: If unwinding means more vigorous exercise to you, try one of the 115 tennis courts in Fairmount Park -- but call first (215-686-0152) for a tourist's permit. Joggers, too, will find all the beautiful trails they need in Fairmount Park, including an 8.25-mile loop starting in front of the Museum of Art. Hikers will appreciate the park's trails and dirt roads. If an indoor workout is called for, the Sporting Club (220 S Broad St) sells day passes to guests of most hotels.
If all that moving around wears you out, step into the Curtis Center (601 Walnut St) and allow the magnificent Favrile glass mosaic, The Dream Garden, to energize you. The "hidden" artwork was assembled by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1916 and was inspired by a Maxfield Parrish painting.
Somehow, a good workout calls for a tangy meal in Chinatown. Sang Kee Peking Duck House (238 N 9th St) is famous for its Peking duck, but you can also try the "Happy Family Bean Curd" with shrimp, pork, chicken, squid, scallops, tofu, and veggies.
That's just a small sampling of the many ways you fill your days while visiting Philadelphia. With its shopping, fine dining, nightlife, and outdoor activities, Philadelphia has much to offer in addition to its historic landmarks.