Philadelphia is so much more than cheesesteaks and Rocky (although who doesn’t love those too?). Philadelphia is one of America’s oldest cities and is actually our nation’s first capital. Consequently, there is so much culture, heritage and vibrancy that it is definitely worth a visit!
When to Go
For East Coasters, Philadelphia is the perfect weekend getaway all year round, a quick flight from most of the major cities. But for optimal weather and thin crowds, I recommend late summer or early fall. Having just visited in September, I can say, this time of year is perfect for sightseeing, not too hot, not too cold!
What to Do
Philadelphia is an extremely diverse city; you could see a beer garden, a Revolutionary-era historic home and a fine dining restaurant, all on the same block! So crafting your itinerary will really depend on where your interest lie. Here we are going to look at some historic highlights and some chic nightlife spots.
Probably Philly’s most “Instagrammable” street, Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest street in Philly and actually the oldest residential street in America!
The Powel House
An amazing architectural wonder, the Powel House is an elegant example of the Georgian style.
In the 18th century, this was a home visited by George Washington, Ben Franklin and many other Revolutionary leaders.
The Barnes Foundation
If you don’t have time to meander through the gigantic Philadelphia Museum of Art, I highly recommend the Barnes Foundation. Trust me, it looks small, but packs a major art punch. Holding one of the most vast collections of Post-Impressionist and Modern Art in the world, the Barnes Foundation is filled with masterpieces by Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso and Modigliani, among many others. (Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside the museum so you’ll have to go there and see for yourself!)
The Rocky Steps
I mean how can you visit Philly and not pay homage to the Rocky Steps? Run up them and feel like a champ! (Don’t worry, even Philly locals do it!)
One Liberty Observation Deck
The best vantage point in Philly is the One Liberty Observation Deck. Located in the city center, the building boasts panoramic views of the entire area. Pro tip: need a little break from all the site seeing, there are plenty of funky chairs up there just waiting for you to sit back and enjoy the view.
Where to Eat
For breakfast, you need to get the Italian Market Breakfast at High Street on Market. The peppers, coppa, broccoli rabe and eggs are just heavenly.
For brunch, I highly recommend splurging on the bottomless option at Aqimero at the Ritz Carlton.
As soon as you walk in, the Ritz treatment begins. Every staffer treats you like royalty, each course arrives at precisely the right moment and each bite is more satisfying than the last. Indulge in a few mango passion fruit mimosas while you dine on the prix fixe menu. I can guarantee that you will leave loving Philly after a brunch as luxe as this!
And after a long day of touring the city, you need to check out Alla Spina. Located north of the city center, Alla Spina is an Italian gastropub that has a cool vibe and even cooler food.
Elevated Philly staples are the name of the game here. Think delectable dry rub wings, baked oysters and a North Philly Cheesesteak. I also recommend checking out their craft beer and cocktail menu; it’s filled with seasonal favorites.
You didn’t really think I was going to write a guide on Philly and forget about cheesesteaks, did you? Well cheesesteaks are so deeply intrenched in the Philly culture that I decided they deserved their own space, separate from my normal restaurant recommendations in my “where to eat” section. If you read the guides online, the 2 front runners for “essential” cheesesteaks are Pat’s and Geno’s. And ironically, they are located just across the street from each other! I know this may be Philly sacrilege, but if you are a first timer like we were, I recommend getting one from each and seeing which you prefer.
However, once we got the scoop from some born and raised Philly kids, we found out that there was a 3rd local favorite that we just had to try—Tony Luke’s. And we got to try this at the Phillies game, and I have to say, as a Bostonian, it was a weird feeling seeing people eat cheesesteaks instead of hotdogs at a baseball game (For Bostonians baseball means Fenway Franks!). But that is exactly why we travel, to see other ways of living.
Where to Stay
For the luxury traveler, there are 2 amazing options. On the one hand, you could stay at the Ritz Carlton Philadelphia, which is home to that amazing Aqimero brunch in the city center. And on the other, you could choose the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton Hotel that has Philly’s best rooftop bar. Either way, you are going to have an amazing time!