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Pennsylvania: Out and About in Philadelphia

Terry from PA (Teaberry)

Google Map of Philadelphia

Philadelphia is my home town, and a great place to visit, too. It is our nation's 5th largest city, but with a real neighborhood feel. This city offers so much, in the way of American history, culture, live music, and art, really great and abundant places to eat, bustling nightlife, entertainment, and discovering all of the Colonial neighborhoods and their nooks and crannies, all juxtaposed against some of the most beautiful and dynamic modern architecture. Did you know that Philadelphia has the largest landscaped city park in the world?

What follows is a brief guide to your visit here. Philly is not only the cradle of liberty and brotherly love, but a lively and dynamic destination.

Terry's Google Map of Philadelphia: Detailed map showing sites, accommodations, restaurants

Terry's Photos of Philadelphia: 102 great photos of the city, art, parks, neighborhoods

Getting Here

Philadelphia International Airport is serviced by all domestic carriers and many international carriers. Cab-fare from the airport into Center City is about $25, and SEPTA, the regional transportation line, can bring you directly into the city by train for about $5.50, with stops at 30th Street Station (West Philly and University City), Suburban Station, and Market St. East (Center City).

If you arrive in the city by train, Amtrak services 30th Street Station, which easily connects with local buses and regional rail.

Getting Around

Philadelphia is the penultimate walking city, flat and designed in a grid pattern. It is quite easy to navigate and become familiar with. You will get a real sense of the city without a car and parking can be very expensive. There are "WalkPhiladelphia" signs all over the city, located mid-block, with maps, walking routes, and sightseeing suggestions. But if you don't feel like walking, SEPTA runs bus, subway, and trolley service all over the city and suburbs.

Philly has a hop-on/hop-off bus known as the PhillyPhlash, at $1 per hop, or $4 for an all-day pass. Make sure you get a good city map to carry around with you – it always helps.

Philly has bike tours, horse & buggy rides, Segway tours, and walking tours, both guided and landmarked.

Where to Go

The Historic District

Like the name says, there's lots of history going on here. But it's far from the stuffy class trip-type history you may be familiar with from your childhood. With some of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, this is the part of town where you will find quaint cobble-stoned streets, restored colonial homes, cafes, galleries, and bustling shops and nightlife. Independence National Park, which includes the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the newly-built Constitution Center, is in this district. Stroll around through the park and discover US history.

Philadelphia

The silhouette of the statue of Commodore John Barry, Father of the American Navy

The Washington Square District

Washington Square sits nestled in the publishing district, among beautiful 19th century residential streets, apartment buildings, and coffee shops. This area is only a short walk from South Street, the now punky/funky street where all the hippies used to meet – fascinating shops and people, too. You can also find Antiques Row and Jewelers Row in this part of town.

The Convention Center District

This is really the heart of Center City, and includes the Reading Terminal Market, Chinatown, and French-inspired City Hall, a must-see. And, of course, the newly constructed Convention Center. In this part of town you will also find the Philly's theatre district, and Macy's department store, housed in what was once Wanamaker's, the grand dame of department stores, built in 1911. A walk-thru on the first floor is worth your while, to admire the old-time flair of décor, the infamous Eagle statue, and the amazing pipe organ in the Grand Atrium, where daily concerts are still held.

The Parkway

This is Philadelphia's version of the Champs Elysees of Paris, a tree-lined promenade with beautiful fountains and statues. Along here you will find Logan Circle and its luscious Swann Fountain, the Franklin Institute Science Museum (take a walk through the giant human heart), the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Rodin Museum (largest collection outside Paris), and the Parkway's jewel, the Museum of Art, with over 225,000 pieces of artwork. There are breathtaking views of the city from the top of the steps.

Beyond the Parkway, behind the Art Museum, lies Kelly Drive, a great place for a bike ride, stroll, jog, or in-line skating. The boat houses can be found here, which are lit up like gingerbread houses at night – very pretty. This area is also the "gateway" to Fairmont Park, and not far at all from the Philadelphia Zoo.

Rittenhouse Square

A green oasis in the middle of the high-rent district, with lots of glamorous shops, great (and affordable) restaurants, sidewalk cafes, beautifully restored large town homes, and serious people-watching. Bustling.

University City

Just on the other side of the Schuylkill River, and home to University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, this is a vibrant neighborhood with a great mix of restaurants, nightlife, student life, and great cultural offerings.

Society Hill

Society Hill - cobblestoned streets, brick sidewalks, and refurbished colonial dwellings

Where to Stay

While many of these accommodations can be pricey, you can bid on the rates you would like to pay at Priceline.com or Hotwire.com, and walk away with an incredibly cheap price. Try it with the 3-star and higher hotels for the best rates.

In the historic district:

  • The Omni Independence Park – 4th and Chestnut Sts.
  • Best Western Independence Park Hotel – at 235 Chestnut St.
  • Hyatt Regency Penn's Landing – at 201 S. Columbus Blvd.
  • Society Hill Sheraton – 2nd & Walnut Sts.

In the central district:

  • Doubletree Hotel – Broad and Locust Sts.
  • Philadelphia Marriott Downtown – 12th and Market Sts.
  • Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown – 1 Juniper St.
  • Hampton Inn Convention Center – 1301 Race St.
  • Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia – 10 Avenue of the Arts
  • Loew's Philadelphia – 1200 Market St.

In the Rittenhouse district:

  • Latham Hotel – 135 S. 17th St.
  • Sofitel Hotel – 120 S. 17th St.
  • Westin Hotel – 99 S. 17th St.
  • Rittenhouse Hotel – 210 W. Rittenhouse Square
  • Four Seasons – 1 Logan Square
  • Rittenhouse 1715 - 1715 Rittenhouse Square Street

Where to Eat

Philadelphia is a "foodie" city. This town underwent a dining renaissance 30 years ago, and it has yet to lose steam. Some of my favorites are below:

Horizons Café: 7th & Kater Sts. Vegetarian/vegan. Outstanding, even if it wasn't veggie. You'll never miss the meat.

Bistro Romano: 120 Lombard St. Italian.

L'Angolo: corner of Porter & Rosewood Sts., in South Philly. Italian. Try the antipasti misti.

Fountain Restaurant: 1 Logan Square. Fine dining – probably #1 in Philly.

Friday, Saturday, & Sunday: 216 S. 21st St. Romantic, great food.

Audrey Clare: 20th & Spruce Sts. Corner bistro – Mediterranean.

El Vez: 121 S. 13th St. Mexican.

Buddakan: 325 Chestnut St. Asian fusion - Excellent.

Capogiro's: 2 locations: 13th & Sansom Sts, and 20th & Sansom Sts. THE best gelato and sorbetto this side of the Atlantic.

My complete list of favorites can be found my Google Map of Philadelphia, including most of their websites for descriptions and hours.

A Visit to Philadelphia Wouldn't be Complete Without

1. Visiting the Reading Terminal Market – our nation's first farmer's market, but so, so much more!

2. Visiting the Art Museum – awesome!

3. Eating a soft pretzel.

4. Eating a Philly cheese steak (try Jim's, at 4th & South Sreets).

5. Eating a hoagie (try Lee's, on 44 S. 17th Street).

6. Seeing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

7. If it's hot out, make sure you try a Philadelphia water ice – the best!

8. Relaxing in Rittenhouse Square after a lovely meal or a day of sightseeing.

9. If you happen to be visiting during the first Friday of any month, check out "First Fridays." In the Old City area, over 40 art galleries and shops have open house on the first Friday of every month – a cultural and social event, with crowds meandering and wandering through the neighborhood and shops.

10. Strolling along the residential streets around Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square. Beautifully restored colonial homes – immerse yourself in local flavor.

Resources

Slow Travel Google Map - Philadelphia: Terry's detailed Google Map showing sites, accommodations, restaurants

Slow Travel Photos: Terry's photos of Philadelphia; 102 great photos of the city, art, parks, neighborhoods

www.septa.org: South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

www.gophila.com: Philly Phlash

www.philamuseum.org: Philadelphia Museum of Art

www.readingterminalmarket.org: Reading Terminal Market

www.centercityphila.org/docs/walkphila_infosheet.pdf: Walk Philadelphia maps (PDF file)

www.philadelphiapass.com: The Philadelphia Pass, admission and discounts to top sights in Philly

www.phillyfunguide.com: PhillyFunGuide

Get more information from the Wikitravel Philadelphia Travel Guide.


I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and find this whole area to be one more beautiful part of the world. See Terry's Slow Travel Member page.

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