For a person who not only plans to visit every major US city in this lifetime, but also prides herself in this endeavor, it was a little embarrassing that I had never been to Philadelphia. A historic city just an hour and 15 minutes away from New York on the train. Turns out, my boyfriend had never been either. I hired a dog sitter and we decided to run away for a weekend at the end of September.
DAY 1 – Friday
This is was one of the last hot days we had on the East Coast, so I was able to wear shorts and a t-shirt for the day. We were sweating but it was a beautiful day. We were able to check into our hotel early, the Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, and we were even upgraded to a bigger room, on a higher floor.
Pro Tip: Business travelers typically check out early on Fridays which means you have a better chance of checking in early. This applies to hotels like ours that are in a business heavy district.
Reading Terminal Market: Absolutely our first stop was food related. Are you joking?! Had to be. We were absolutely overwhelmed by the early lunch crowd and amount of options but we settled on Franks A Lot because the BBQ chicken looked so good. (Not because Frank is my boyfriend’s name.) Food was solid but it was dessert that nearly made me cry.
He had a donut from Beiler’s Donuts (couldn’t help but notice the boxes all over town, people are obsessed!) I had Bassett’s ice cream. I chose coffee topped with melted marshmallow sauce. This ice cream was so freaking creamy and I admired how it was just ice cream scooped in a bowl. It was not made for Instagram… it was made for bellies. It was so delicious and really put me in a good head space to look at historical stuff.
Liberty Bell: Fully satiated we walked our way to the Liberty Bell. (We actually walked there twice because SOMEBODY had his pocket knife on him…) We passed a bunch of historical buildings on the way but these made me mostly sad. They were surrounded by a not so great part of town and looked lonely. But onward we went (twice). The museum was free and there wasn’t a long line. I’ll be honest when I say we skipped most of the history and zipped right on up to see the bell. It looked like you would imagine and we took pictures in front of it anyway.
Ben Franklin’s Grave: Since we did this trip without a set itinerary we sort of wandered around looking for what was cool and what had no lines. We saw a sign pointing toward Ben Franklin’s grave and so we followed it and wound up at a pretty old cemetery. We paid $2 to get in but had the same reaction as everyone else there: “It’s $2 to get in? What?” “I mean… I guess it’s only $2.” Walking this cemetery reminded me like walking Pere Lachaise in Paris… only I didn’t know who anyone was. Ben’s grave was covered in pennies, which made no sense, but he’s buried with his wife, which I found quite nice. In a creepy way.
Random Deli: Right after the grave viewing we needed alcohol so we stopped at a random deli, had a wine and a beer on the patio, and watched a lady ride one of those city tour buses, while riding a Segway. Simultaneously. #idontdolegs
Rittenhouse Square: After our historical duty was served, we wandered around Rittenhouse Square for a bit just trying to get our bearings and see what good food was around. It was on this walk that I spotted two of our Saturday activities that I LOVED and will point out later. (Sweet Charlie’s & The Dandelion) We also discovered a Tiki Bar that we would visit later. I can not recommend getting lost enough. It pays off!
NAP INTERLUDE THIS WAS THE BEST. TAKE NAPS. I never take naps in my real life. I always take naps when I travel. I believe in not getting crabby while exploring.
Village Whiskey: We went here on the recommendation of an old high school friend of mine. We waited for about 5 seconds for a table, got to sit outside, and I had hands down one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. The Ginger Rogers (dry gin, ginger syrup, lemon, rhubarb bitters, sparkling rose). I do love a rose cocktail. Fries were pretty good (but I am a fry CONNOISSEUR, so it’s hard to impress me) and my cobb salad was really yummy.
Tiki Bar: Exactly what it says it is. Rum cocktails and a laid back vibe. I absolutely loved finding a rooftop in Philly. It wasn’t even crowded! It was a perfect night cap for a warm day.
DAY 2 – Saturday
We woke up eager for brunch. After a quick Google search of places that do boozy brunch we found Day By Day in Rittenhouse that was referred to as a Philadelphia staple no less than 5 times. I was thrilled. But first we made two stops along the way…
Fat Jack’s Comicrypt: We found this adorable shop on our walk to brunch and popped in. Amazing collection of comics and everyone working there was really nice. It’s such a pleasure to be able to go into a bookstore and not have it be loud and busy like most in NYC. So enjoyable!
Sophisticated Seconds: I had Googled good thrift stores the day before but all the returns, including this one, read like consignment shops with pricier stuff. When I went in however, I was super surprised, and pleased to find a whole range of stuff. I picked up an adorable red cashmere sweater dress here.
Day by Day: Ah, finally brunch! We messed up a little and didn’t realize that this place, like many others, was BYOB. But it was probably for the best as we had a long day ahead of us. Frank ate an INSANE stack of Challah French Toast and I had a yummy, healthier omelette. I really liked the atmosphere here and the food was as good as the reviews said.
Philadelphia Museum of Art: We had originally intended on going to The Franklin Institute to look at the impressionists, but as we neared that building we couldn’t help but notice the GIANT, BEAUTIFUL building down the way. We guessed it had to be the PMoA, so we decided to walk toward it. (See how not having an itinerary can be so fun!?) As we neared it we noticed a Rocky statue, not realizing we were at the Rocky steps! We of course raced up them and snapped a ton of photos (of the steps, of this crazy sculpture out front, of each other) before entering the museum.
What an absolutely pleasurable experience. I am from New York so I am so used to being in an overcrowded museum just mushed in a mix of people. On a Saturday afternoon the Philly Museum of Art felt practically empty and we were able to amble about at our leisure and see some seriously cool art. I have never felt more relaxed in a museum! Ever. We had so much fun here and since it cooled down considerably and was cloudy– it was a good dark day activity.
Sweet Charlies: Frank paid for a cab to take me to Sweet Charlie’s so I could eat more ice cream. This was closer to what I am used to. A long line, Instagrammable treats, and a cult following. BUT WOW. This is the best, best, rolled ice cream I have had. It is so rich and creamy. Incredible.
NAP TIME WHAT WHAT
McGillin’s Olde Ale House: After my rest (haha) we went out for happy hour drinks. College football beer bar. Standard fare, but loved that it was in an alley with a beer garden. People were able to gather in the street without getting run over.
Jamonera: It turned out that some friends from NYC were also in town, who knew!? We met them at Jamonera, which had been consistently packed since we arrived. I was so excited. We even had an outside table! Here we had two pitchers of sangria, and I again, ordered some fries. These were yummy thick cut fries, almost like potato skins, and they paired nicely with the sangria.
Tinto: We still had some time before our 9pm reservation at The Dandelion, so we had a glass of sangria at Tinto, next door to Village Whiskey. This had also come recommended from my friend so we popped by. Service was excellent. Sangria was yummy. And I definitely wound up leaving my credit card here, but didn’t know it until I woke up the next morning… sorry Tinto crew.
The Dandelion: The cutest restaurant ever! It reminded me of One if by Land, Two if Sea in New York City. The restaurant is an entire townhouse and there is seating in different rooms on different floors. I got to sit in a little booth nook! I was thrilled. We split a bottle of red wine here (Cannonball, a favorite) and we both had the Crab Risotto after a few appetizers. I typically like my risotto softer but the ambiance, all the red wine my system, and the olive plate made up for it. Adorable date spot. My coworker also brought her parents here a week later and they enjoyed it as well.
DAY 3 – Sunday: Our train was at 10:30. We had somehow been given a free breakfast at the hotel with our upgrade but I was a little hungover to enjoy it. I did definitely have some eggs though, before dragging myself to Tinto. Thank god the team there is SO nice and accommodating. The card was locked in a safe, so I left my address and got on my train. In the end, I made my friends go pick it up. What a mess!
Visiting Philly for the weekend was perfect. It’s so close, so you have almost no travel time, and the food is really phenomenal. I would definitely recommend going if you’d like to do Major City Lite. All the perks, none of the crowds.