You can feel the history in the air in Philly, especially when you’re running up the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps made famous by the Rocky movies. But it’s more than just the historical landmarks and film locations that make this city awesome, the food and the people make it a worthwhile visit. So if you find yourself in City of Brotherly Love, check out my weekend getaway guide to Philly for my top things to do!
Where to Stay
Loews Philadelphia – This is right in the center of the city, close to City Hall, the convention center, and Reading Terminal Market. This is where I stayed and had an awesome view of the city. It’s very convenient if you’re attending a conference in the hotel or the convention center is just a few blocks away.
The Rittenhouse – This luxury hotel is located in a beautiful neighborhood and offers a Forbes Four Star experience. They feature large guest rooms at least 400 sq. ft, free parking, lovely views and world-class amenities. They also house two well-known restaurants, Lacroix and Scarpetta; two bars, Bar 210 and Library Bar; and the Mary Cassatt Tea Room.
Hotel Monaco – Looking to stay in the Old City? This hotel is situated in the nation’s most historic square mile, just across the street from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. This beautiful boutique hotel features amazing views of the city and is walking distance to restaurants, bars, and attractions.
Where to Go
Reading Terminal Market – One of my favorite places in Philly and similar to our own Grand Central Market, this market has been in business since 1892. Here you can buy food ready-made or fresh fruit, cheese, meats, Amish goods, and more. Famous merchants include Dutch Eating Place, Termini Brothers, Beiler’s Donuts and more!
Magic Gardens – Check out the mind-blowing mosaic creations of artist, Isaiah Zagar at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. It’s part museum, part fun house and completely Instagram-worthy. This non-profit art museum and gallery space includes an immersive outdoor art installation and indoor galleries that host local artists’ works.
Liberty Bell – No visit to Philly is complete without seeing the historically famous Liberty Bell. The iconic symbol of American independence bears the message: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Since it is a top attraction, I recommend visiting around 6pm (it closes at 7pm) to avoid crowds. It is free and open to the public, but you will have to go through metal detectors to see it.
Independence Hall – Right across the street from the Liberty Bell is the Independence Hall, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed. It is free and open to the public and they offer tours every 15 to 30 minutes depending on the season.
Philadelphia Museum of Art – Fans flock to this museum where the Rocky Balboa statue is located, which was donated to the city of Philadelphia by Sylvester Stallone. Running up the stairs to the East Entrance of the museum and taking a photo of the city has become a must-do for first-time visitors. Don’t forget about going inside the museum though, which is one of the largest art collections in the country.
Elfreth’s Alley – This National Historic Landmark is known as the nation’s oldest residential street dating back to 1702. This alley includes 32 houses that was said to be the homes of 18th-century blacksmith, Jeremiah Elfreth, tradesmen and their families, including shipwrights, silver and pewter smiths, glassblowers, and furniture builders.
Where to Eat
Dutch Eating Place – There are so many places to eat in the Reading Terminal Market, but this Pennsylvania Dutch counter in offering homestyle breakfasts & lunches definitely stands out. Located in the Amish section, you’ll find that there’s always a line for their blueberry pancakes and apple dumplings.
Beiler’s Donuts – Don’t be shocked by the line that wraps around these freshly made donuts, they’re definitely worth the wait! Founded over 30 years ago with their flagstaff location at Reading Terminal Market, thousands gladly wait in line to get an Apple Fritter (or three) and one of their to-die-for donuts!
Oyster House – Head over here to get the freshest Philly fish and raw dishes. Don’t skip the oysters and order the Sweet Emilias from New Jersey and the Pemaquids from Maine – so good! Try to catch their happy hour, Monday-Friday 5-7pm, and Saturdays from 9-11am.
Double Knot – One of the best meals I’ve ever had was at Double Knot on 13th Street! The main room is a cafe that serves drinks and a smaller menu, but the main restaurant is downstairs. Make a reservation, wait or do whatever you have to do – because the food is fantastic! My favorites include the Tuna Rice Cracker, Edamame Dumplings, Black Cod Fried Rice, Roasted Hamachi Collar, and the Uni Sushi.
Friday Saturday Sunday – I was in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood and found this restaurant on Yelp. It looked busy but I luckily found a spot at the bar. Everything was delicious! I ordered the Scallop Ceviche, Grilled Shrimp and the Plum Tarte Tatin. I made friends with the couple next to me and they recommended the Chicken Liver Mousse, Mussel Toast, and the Confit Carrots.
Where to Shop
13th Street in Midtown Village – This bustling street right in the center city features a row of restaurants, bars and boutiques. I highly recommend stopping in at Bella Turka if you’re shopping for some amazing jewelry (I bought a beautiful necklace from Turkey) by local and global artists.
Rittenhouse Row – Located near Rittenhouse Square, this popular shopping district features an array of retailers, shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars.
Old City – Take a stroll along 2nd street in Old City near the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Penn’s Landing to peruse a variety of attractions, restaurants and independent boutiques.
Special thanks to Buick for flying me out to New York City and providing a Buick Encore for my drive down to Philadelphia for the AAJA National Conference! Transportation, accommodations and meals were provided by Buick on this trip.