Travel with a Local: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Why should we visit your city?
Philadelphia is full of history, an incredible food scene, and cultural treasures for all ages. At Independence Hall, the famous Philly Cheesesteak and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, our country’s first capital has something to offer every traveler. An authentic “salt of the earth” vibe permeates Philly, from afternoons in Rittenhouse Square, where Philadelphians of all walks of life gather to enjoy lunches from street vendors, to evenings in the Victor Cafe in South Philly, where opera students wait at tables guests are happy with Verdi arias. The unmistakable authenticity of the city will touch travelers of all tastes.
Where shall we stay?
Hotel Palomar will delight serious travelers who appreciate the tranquility of an urban break after a day of adventure. Downtown is located on 17th and Sansom (one block from Federal Donuts and Walnut Street shopping) and offers affordable, yet beautiful accommodations. Apart from its ideal downtown location, the Hotel Palimar offers travelers countless in-house delicacies. After a long day of exploring, hotel guests can relax on a hotel’s free yoga mat (seriously, there’s one in every room) and relax during the hotel’s evening wine hour. You can dine on Square 1682 or explore one of the restaurants on Rittenhouse Square.
Where shall we eat?
The Philadelphia food scene is dynamic and spans the culinary spectrum. While historic Chestnut Hill has McNally’s Tavern, an authentic speak-easy that takes you back in time to Art Deco and Prohibition, a fresh cocktail and hearty pizza on the terrace on In Riva’s Schuylkill River offers a far more contemporary setting. Both are casual and family friendly. Located right on Rittenhouse Square across from the renowned Curtis Institute of Music, the parc has a more formal setting. The French-American cuisine (especially the warm shrimp salad) will delight the discerning palate.
Of course, travelers looking for an authentic Philadelphia dining experience know that really only comes complete with a cheesesteak. The best steak I’ve ever eaten comes from my Aunt Susie’s cast iron pan, which was lovingly put together in her Drexel Hill kitchen. Unfortunately, this experience is pretty unrepeatable, so I have to suggest a similarly delicious alternative: Delassandro’s Steaks and Hoagies. While this mom and pop eatery has no noticeable signs or signs up as aggressively Philadelphian, it offers diners something refreshingly different: a consistently good Roxborough steak that’s been taking lunch breaks for over half a century.
Barbuzzo’s and Victor’s Italian restaurants in town offer excellent dinners. While both offer sophisticated Mediterranean cuisine, think of Barbuzzo as Victor’s hip grandson who lives and works in Center City. Victor does, however, offer guests a meal, a cozy South Philly setting, and an opera (lo and behold). Servers surprise guests with regular clips and inspire everyone with their talent and grace.
Which coffee houses 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 indoors or while strolling down historic Germantown Avenue. The Rival Bros in Center City has a satisfying espresso and deliciously baked bread (from the High Street on Market). I especially recommend the toast with peanut butter, figs, and maple syrup. However, Le Pain Quotidien’s Callowhill Street location is my real favorite – the perfect place to discuss after an afternoon at the Barnes, Rodin, or the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
What websites should we see?
Please Touch Museum is a children’s museum that I loved as a kid in Philadelphia. This museum is equipped with life-size (non-operational, of course) buses and airplanes that children can freely wander through. It’s perfect for younger kids with great imaginations. The museum is housed in the Beaux Arts-style Memorial Hall, a holdover from the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Architecture-loving parents will undoubtedly also be pleased with the impressive size of this museum.
The Kimmel Center: This latest Philadelphian architectural marvel is worth exploring for its glass ceiling, rooftop garden, and grand design alone, even if you don’t attend a performance. With countless Broadway shows, performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra gracing the Kimmel’s Verizon Hall and Pearlman Theater, visitors don’t need to book tickets to stroll through the Kimmel and experience its charm.
The Academy of Sciences: This historic gem will please science lovers of all ages. The huge paleontological displays will amaze experts and amateurs alike, and the realistic diorama collections on the mezzanine and second floors will bring the animal kingdom to life for visitors. The third floor, however, is the academy’s real treasure: the live animal exhibits (yes, visitors can hold the tarantula!) Are a real highlight for children and adults.
The Morris Arboretum: Suburban Wyndmoor, PA has one of the largest arbor collections in North America thanks to the Morris Arboretum. The arboretum is perfect for mild days in any season and offers a stately rose garden, charming fern wood, a swan pond, a historic log house and a Greek temple. Visitors won’t get enough of the naturally beautiful grounds of the arboretum. The Arboretum gift shop is especially great.
Boathouse Row: Philadelphia travelers should grab some Delassandros steaks, pack a tried-and-true picnic blanket, and after a nice stroll down Boathouse Row, enjoy lunch on the banks of the Schuylkill. Nothing could be more philosophical.