A Philadelphia getaway weekend is perfect for a first long distance trip involving air travel from South Florida. We went for a long weekend and came back wishing we had spent more time. It’s eminently walkable, its art museums offer world class collections of art history’s greats, and it’s a serious eating town. And a very important plus at this point in time, a visit to the place where this nation’s history began, the Constitution was created and Declaration of Independence signed. It all seems more meaningful than ever. Here are more reasons for a visit and tips on what you can do and where to eat in a getaway, including a link to 30 different mini-itineraries designed for special interests.
Stay in Center City. It’s a half hour walk or less to most places you’ll want to go. And of course this time of year, with the crisp fall weather, walking is a total delight. We stayed at the historic Notary Hotel, part of the Autograph Collection. Across from City Hall, it was named for the place people went, documents in hand, to have them notarized. It being run by Marriott with solid safety protocols in place, we felt comfortable on that score, though note none of the food and beverage facilities are open.
Book an historic walking tour of the Old City District, a quick and convenient introduction for first-time visitors. See Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, Ben Franklin Post Office (the first and still operating), and more. Then you’ll wander down Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street with houses dating from the early 1700’s.
We totally enjoyed hearing the facts and anecdotes, especially about Benjamin Franklin, whom tour owner Tim is an expert on, Speaking of history, Independence Hall holds monumental significance to the development of the nation. In 1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in the building’s Assembly Room. Just 11 years later, representatives from a dozen states met here to lay the framework for the U.S. Constitution. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park, and guided tours are available year-round.
Walk to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, modeled after the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Some of the city’s most important cultural institutions you’ll want to visit are housed here, including the Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute, the Rodin Museum and the crowning Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Set on four-and-a-half acres of landscaped grounds, the Barnes Foundation boasts an eye popping collection that features 181 Renoirs (more than any other collection), 69 Cézannes (more than in all of France), 59 Matisses, along with works by Manet, Degas, Seurat, Prendergrast, Titian and Picasso. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the largest art museum in North America, is a short walk away. Inside are vast collections, including Renaissance, American and impressionist art, and a number are iconic works of the artists. The one-acre Sculpture Garden extends the museum’s galleries to the outdoors. Both museums have cafes that are open now.
Another well worth a visit is the museum of my alma mater. The University of Pennsylvania museum is known for its collection of art and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Greco-Roman World, Asia, Africa and the Americas (including a Native American exhibit).
Not into museums or history? Spend your time walking and exploring some of Philly’s varied neighborhoods. Visit Philly has no fewer than 30 mini itineraries designed according to interests – from sports and parks and outdoors to family, date night, shopping, food and drink and culture. https://www.visitphilly.com/features/things-to-do-right-now-in-greater-philadelphia/#neighborhoods
If you stay at The Notary have breakfast and lunch at the Reading Terminal, what I have dubbed the temple of comfort food. We went crazy! A square block in size, it houses 80 small, independently owned businesses covering food from around the world, Philly’s greatest hits, housewares, and restaurants. Be sure to go to the Dutch Eating Place for their blueberry pancakes. Mr. W called them the TKO of pancakes.
Lunch is time for sampling Philly classics which you can also do at Reading Terminal – the philly cheesesteak at Carmen’s or the new competitor for top title, DiNic’s roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone. Plan on going there before you leave for the airport to pick up some top bacon (choose from among a half dozen varieties), artisanal cheese, baked goods and lunch before you board.
Philly has an incredible variety of ethnic restaurants for a city its size. I’m talking its own Chinatown, at least 11 West African restaurants with everything from food from Liberia and Mali to Nigeria and Senegal, Asian, Med varieties galore, and on and on. Hot favorite now is Israeli spot Zahav but note they get booked weeks in advance. Other popular ones recommended by Philly food writers are the Vernick, Suraya, Parc Brasserie, City Tavern where waiters and waitresses dress up in colonial costumes and Vedge.
As you read, we had a terrific time. On tap is an encore to our Philadelphia getaway weekend.
Note: All photography courtesy of Visit Philadelphia
And in case you missed it, my experience on my first flight during COVID-19 tips on how to stay safe and airlines with best safety protocols: