Why should we visit your town/city?
Philadelphia hums with history, an incredible food scene, and cultural treasures for all ages. Home to Independence Hall, the famous Philly Cheesesteak, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, our nation’s first capital has something to offer every traveler. An authentic “salt of the earth” vibe pervades Philly, from afternoons in Rittenhouse Square, where Philadelphians from all walks of life gather to enjoy street vendor lunches, to evenings spent at the Victor Cafe in South Philly, where opera students wait tables while delighting guests with Verdi arias. The city’s unmistakable authenticity will touch travelers of all tastes.
Where should we stay?
Hotel Palomar will not fail to delight serious travelers who appreciate the calm of an urban respite after a day of serious adventure. Located on 17th and Sansom (situated just a block away from Federal Donuts and Walnut Street shopping), the center city home away from home offers reasonably priced yet lovely accommodations. Apart from its ideal center city location, Hotel Palimar offers travelers myriad in-house delights. After a long day of exploring, hotel guests can unwind on a complimentary hotel yoga mat (seriously: there’s one in each room) and relax during the hotel’s evening wine hour. Guests can dine in at Square 1682 or explore one of Rittenhouse Square’s restaurants.
Where should we eat?
The food scene is dynamic in Philadelphia, spanning the culinary spectrum. While historic Chestnut Hill boasts McNally’s Tavern, an authentic speak-easy that will take you right back to the age of Art Deco and Prohibition, a fresh cocktail and savory pizza on In Riva’s Schuylkill River-side terrace will deliver a far more contemporary feel. Both are casual and family friendly. Parc, located right on Rittenhouse Square, across from the renowned Curtis Institute of Music, delivers a more formal feel. Its French-American cuisine (particularly its warm shrimp salad) will not fail to delight the discerning palate.
Of course, travelers seeking an authentic Philadelphia culinary experience know this is really only complete with a cheesesteak. The best steak I’ve had came from my Aunt Susie’s cast iron skillet, lovingly assembled in her Drexel Hill kitchen. Unfortunately, that experience is fairly unrepeatable, so I’ll have to suggest a similarly delicious alternative: Delassandro’s Steaks and Hoagies. While this mom-and-pop joint does not boast flashy signs or announce itself as aggressively Philadelphian, it gives guests something refreshingly different: a consistently good Roxborough steak that has drawn lunch-breakers for over half a century.
Barbuzzo’s and Victor’s, Italian restaurants in the city, both offer excellent dinner options. While both provide sophisticated Mediterranean cuisine, think of Barbuzzo as Victor’s hip grandson who lives and works in Center City. Victor, however, offers guests a meal, a cozy South Philly ambiance, and (lo and behold) opera. Servers surprise guests with periodic excerpts, delighting any and all with their talent and grace.
Which coffeehouses are the best and why (for coffee, for atmosphere, for both)?
Chestnut Hill Coffee is a Sunday afternoon favorite for families, couples, and old friends. A two-story space with an intimate, local feel, Chestnut Hill Coffee offers a fragrant blonde roast that coffee lovers can enjoy amidst the indoor ambiance or on a walk down historic Germantown Avenue. Center City’s Rival Bros offers a satisfying espresso and delicious baked breads (from High Street on Market). I particularly recommend the toast with peanut butter, fig, and maple syrup. The Callowhill Street location of Le Pain Quotidien is my real favorite, though—the perfect discussion spot after an afternoon at the Barnes, the Rodin, or the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
What sites should we see?
The Please Touch Museum is a children’s museum that I adored growing up in Philadelphia. Complete with life-sized (though, of course, non-operative) buses and planes that kids can wander through freely, this museum is perfect for younger kids with big imaginations. The museum finds its home in the Beaux-Arts style Memorial Hall, a remnant of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Architecture-loving parents will, no doubt, also delight in this museum’s awe-inspiring grandeur.
The Kimmel Center: This recent Philadelphian architectural wonder is worth exploring for its glass ceiling, roof garden, and design magnificence alone, even if you’re not attending a performance. While myriad Broadway shows, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Curtis Symphony Orchestra performances consistently grace the Kimmel’s Verizon Hall and Pearlman Theater, visitors need not book tickets to stroll through the Kimmel and experience its charms.
The Academy of Natural Sciences: This historic gem will not fail to please science lovers of all ages. Its giant paleontological displays will stun experts and amateurs alike, and the realistic diorama collections on the mezzanine and second floor will truly bring the animal kingdom to life for visitors. The third floor, however, is the Academy’s true treasure: its live animal displays (yes, visitors may hold the tarantula!) are a real highlight for kids and adults.
The Morris Arboretum: Suburban Wyndmoor, PA boasts one of the largest arbor collections in North America, thanks to the Morris Arboretum. Perfect during mild days of all seasons, the Arboretum boasts a stately rose garden, charming fernery, a swan pond, historic log cabin, and a Grecian Temple. Visitors will not get enough of the arboretum’s naturally beautiful grounds. The arboretum gift shop is also particularly great.
Boathouse Row: Philadelphia travelers would do well to pick up steaks to go from Delassandros, pack a tried and true picnic blanket, and, after a nice stroll down Boathouse Row, enjoy lunch by the bank of the Schuylkill. Nothing could be more Philadelphian.