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Philadelphia City Trip

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge against the Philadelphia skyline in Pennslyvania

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

The secret's out. Publications from around the world have lauded Philadelphia as an important and exciting destination and the region now attracts nearly 40 million visitors annually. While history has been the city's calling card since the Founding Fathers sowed the seeds of revolution at the First Continental Congress in 1774, Philadelphia offers much more than its National Parks and costumed colonial figures. From its vibrant, eclectic neighborhoods — 152 in all — to its burgeoning downtown, awash in trendy restaurants, bars and boutiques, the city buzzes with energy and vigor. Yet much of the city's charm lies in its lesser-known enclaves. Stay three days or three weeks, and you'll find that Philadelphia possesses dynamism and enough off-the-beaten path discoveries to keep you guessing.

With a thriving café culture, a nationally lauded beer scene, major sports teams, world-class museums, buzzing rock venues, some of the best vegan restaurants in the country and a truly international population, this city has something for everyone. Mid-sized with a very small-town vibe, Philly's high culture and fine dining thrive beside neighborhood bars and verdant green space. Residents and visitors know that Philly has an intimacy New York can never hope to achieve, along with a creative edge that gets lost in glossier metropolises. Young people are coming here in droves because it's a fresh and forward-looking place to be — and it's still relatively affordable among major cities.

A guest room at The Franklin Hotel at Independence Park in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania

As in many East Coast cities, you don't need a car to get around in Philadelphia. If you choose to forego the rental, there are public transportation options provided by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). If arriving by air, take SEPTA's regional rail train to Center City and make your way to either the boutique Morris House Hotel near Washington Square or The Hotel Palomar, an artsy outgrowth of the Kimpton brand. Another alternative is the The Franklin Hotel at Independence Park: small, elegant and convenient to the historic district. Finally, if you're traveling without limitations, consider the swanky Rittenhouse Hotel or the Ritz-Carlton for their central locations and luxury accommodations.

PHILADELPHIA DAY 1: Christ Church, Independence National Historic Park and the Constitution Center

Wherever you're staying, the activities of your first morning are within walking distance. Start in Old City, with the town's legendary past. This part of Philly is rich in history yet packed with contemporary charm. After heading north on Second Street and crossing Market Street, you will notice Christ Church. Built between 1727 and 1754, its burial ground at Fifth and Arch Streets is home to the graves of such historic tenants as Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah.

Take a contemporary detour by visiting the notable art galleries and boutiques along Second and Third Streets. Don't miss a stroll down Elfreth's Alley, a National Historic Landmark. Still home to several lucky Philadelphians, this narrow cobblestone walkway is the nation's oldest residential street, established in 1702. Once a year, homeowners open their doors to give the public a glimpse into the historic row houses. Off Second Street on Arch Street you will find the unassuming Betsy Ross House, where the famed seamstress once lived.

The dining area in the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania

Franklin Square, one of the five public squares that William Penn laid out in his original plan for the city, is now a family-friendly park with an 18-hole Philly-themed miniature golf course; a classic 30-figure carousel; storytelling benches where you can hear tales of Franklin Square's past courtesy of the friendly storytellers of Once Upon a Nation; a picnic area and more. Four herringbone brick walking paths with nighttime lighting lead to the centerpiece of the Square, Franklin Square Fountain, an 1838 marble masterpiece enclosed by elaborate wrought iron. Bring a picnic for lunch, or have a bite from SquareBurger, a food concession opened by local restaurant czar Stephen Starr. Menu highlights include an impressive burger, Hebrew National hot dogs, and Tastykake shake, flavored with Butterscotch Krimpets.

Or take a longer break for lunch at a local eatery such as Fork or its sibling High Street on Market, both outstanding chef-driven establishments with signature baked goods. While Fork focuses on fine dining, High Street proffers casual fare with market-fresh salads, sandwiches and breakfast delights. Another option for those with a sweet tooth is to forgo lunch for the fine ice creams, sodas and shakes at old-timey parlor Franklin Fountain.

Finish your Old City tour by walking back to Market Street via Third Street. When you reach Market, cross the street and head one block west. Tucked into a location known as Franklin Court is the site of Ben Franklin's former home. All that's left is a recreated structure of metal beams giving a visual approximation of the home's dimensions, and a few glass-encased remains of the original building. It's worth taking a look at these preserved artifacts and reading quotes from Franklin's letters and diary engraved on the flagstones under your feet. This site is part of Independence National Historic Park. Continue west on Market Street until you reach Fifth Street. Here you will see Independence Hall — where the Declaration of Independence was signed — and that fractured symbol of freedom, the Liberty Bell. While wandering around this area you can also see the Franklin Mint building, Congress Hall, Carpenters' Hall, Old City Hall, Graff House and the First and Second Banks of the United States. Colonial re-enactors in period costume are evident in many historic areas, and you may even catch a glimpse of Ben Franklin.

Indepence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania

You should also leave plenty of time in your wanderings to see the Constitution Center — the world's only museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. Afterwards, stop by the City Tavern at Second and Walnut Streets — a recreation of the original tavern where the framers of the Constitution drank and took their meals. In this candlelit spot with a pleasant garden, the staff wears colonial garb.

Alternatively, take a more modern tack at Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Society Hill, where chef Michael Solomonov mines the Jewish cuisines of Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt and the Baltics. Choose from a casual mezze-centered menu or indulge in a chef's tasting. Zahav is an excellent choice if your family includes vegetarians and carnivores. Or check out Garces Trading Company, another winner from chef/owner Jose Garces with a pan-European menu spanning pizza and pasta to charcuterie and Breton stew.

After dinner, if you plan ahead and order tickets, you can walk over to the Walnut Street Theatre and attend a play at the oldest continuously operating theater in America. When the curtain comes down, call it a night.

Continue to Day 2


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