Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Perfect Weekend in Philly

We just came back from a weekend in Philadelphia, where we discovered what we think are some pretty cool things to do. Here's the lowdown, and every day this week, I'll post pictures from all the places we went.

Where to stay: 
We decided on the Rittenhouse, since it had an indoor pool and was centrally located. We had a room with two double beds and nice daylight, and the rate was $215, for a Sunday and Monday night. However, I know on weekends it can easily be double that. We met locals who said the Sofitel is great. The Marriott Courtyard looked good when we drove by it, and upon looking at it back at home, I'm disappointed I didn't know about it. It's on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's right around the corner from the Reading Terminal Market. Plus, it has a big beautiful indoor pool, and it's cheaper than most other hotel options. We also walked by the AKA, right on Rittenhouse Square (well, a couple of doors down), which has smartly done short term rentals, but there's just a 2 night minimum stay. Since they have kitchens, you can actually take advantage of shopping at the Reading Terminal Market. That or the Marriott would be my pick for next time. While the Rittenhouse was perfectly nice--staff were really helpful, fast, and thoughtful, I was a little irritated that they didn't have a free coffee setup in the morning. When we asked about it, they said they only have it from 5-7am! After that, you have to order it from room service ($15 for a pot of coffee with the delivery and service charges), or go downstairs and buy it from the restaurant (which was charging $8 for a beer, so I didn't bother seeing how much a cup of coffee was.)  We discovered that the Metropolitan Bakery is just around the corner, and has great coffee to go, pastries (many of them whole grains), and organic local yogurts--but we found this the morning we were leaving.

Where to Eat: 
Definitely have dinner at The Dandelion, which is right near Rittenhouse Square. It's a Stephen Starr restaurant (the guy best known for opening Morimoto and Buddakan), and it's an English pub vibe. But not too much so--it isn't schticky at all. Menu standouts were duck bolognese, slow roasted pork belly (only $14!), and the deviled egg bar snacks!
We tried Noble for dinner on Sunday night, when they have a 4 course prix fixe menu for $38 per person. It was superb, not too fussy, and fantastic value. I bet it's great on other nights too.
I think lunch at the Reading Terminal Market is a must. We ate at the Down Home Diner, primarily because Matt wanted to try scrapple, but we also wanted to try the Pearl's Oyster Bar, and just didn't have time. This is a huge indoor market that opened in 1892, and has over 80 vendors. Remember that it's closed on Sunday, so if you are here over a weekend, sear that into your brain, so you aren't disappointed. 
On our way out of town, we stopped for breakfast at Cafe Lift, which is in the more industrial part of town, but also about 5 minutes from the Franklin Institute. We ate french toast, huevos rancheros, and a breakfast burrito, and were impressed with all of them--great ingredients, clever preparations, and a cool vibe.
Depending on where you stay, I'd grab breakfast at the Metropolitan Bakery, or I'd get things at the Reading Market (remember, La Colombe d'Or coffee comes from Philadelphia), and just walk around and find what suits you.
One afternoon, you have to go to the Franklin Fountain, which is an ice cream fountain from 1904. It's completely perfectly caught in time--even the staff are dressed accordingly--and the ice cream is insane. It is one place where next time I would spring for a sundae--they do it right.

Things to do:
The Please Touch Museum is great, but probably not for kids older than 8 or 9. It's perfect for the 3-7 set, but a 2 year old would be very happy there, if just splashing around in the water/duck exhibit, and an 8 year old would probably dig the Alice in Wonderland and the hospital and grocery store sections. Don't plan on having lunch or snacks here--the cafeteria is bleak.
The Franklin Institute is worth the trip in itself. We could have spent a whole day there--from the heart exhibit to making our own paper to the electricity exhibit--there was so much to do and learn, and we were all into it. The cafeteria here actually had some good looking food, so in a pinch, you could eat lunch here.
We checked out the Betsy Ross Museum and loved it--it's small, and you get through it very fast. It's also near the Franklin Fountain, so you could park the car and walk to both places. It's also just off of N. 3rd Street, where there are several cute stores. Our favorite was Sugarcube, which has a mix of new and vintage, for men and women, and carries brands like Steven Alan, Ulla Johnson, and Dunderdon. Some stores that were closed, but looked good, were Mode Moderne and Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
We did a Liberty Bell drive-by. It was closing, but we rushed through the exhibit (good thing it was free!), got to the bell, took a picture, and got out. 

Our favorite store of the weekend was Morihata, a Japanese lifestyle store, right up the street from Cafe Lift. We would buy almost everything in the store for our gift closet--all of them perfect for the person who has everything. The best Japanese towels, bottle openers, bicycle bells, toothbrushes. Fantastic.


  1. This sounds like a great weekend get-away! I really love everything you included here, and the advice. We live just north of NYC, so I can see following in your footsteps someday soon! Thank you!

  2. I'm glad you like it Heather! And that was just in two days--next time I'll research the Italian section. Have you checked out yet? that is the project i have been working on for a year--we will have lots of good travel advice there too!