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Vacation Philadelphia

Tourist Guide

Falling for Philly
The City That Loves You Back

Center City in Philadelphia
Center City


Society Hill Homes in Philadelphia
Society Hill Homes

Depending on where you're staying, Society Hill is an easy stroll — or you can hop aboard a westbound SEPTA bus or take a cab if it's raining. No area of Philadelphia is too big to traverse on foot, but there are other options. Horse-drawn carriage rides are popular in this part of town, and the PHLASH visitor's bus is a cheap and easy way to see the major sites. A stock trading company, The Free Society of Traders, which was associated with Pennsylvania founder William Penn, established Society Hill in the 1680s. Many members of the fledgling federal government lived in this now-restored neighborhood when the city served as the nation's capital.

Explore the neighborhood at your leisure, taking in the architecture and discovering the neighborhood's hidden alleys and winding walkways. The Society Hill boundaries are generally defined as between Second Street and Washington Square Park on Fifth Street. Walnut Street marks the northern perimeter, and Lombard Street is the southernmost boundary. Buildings open to the public include the Powel House and the Hill-Physick-Keith House (commonly known as the Physick House). Built in 1765, the Powel House was owned by the last mayor of Philadelphia while it was still under the rule of the Crown, and subsequently the first mayor after the U.S. became the new Republic.

Dr. Philip Syng Physick, known as the Father of American Surgery, inhabited the Physick House from 1815 to 1837. If you're looking for historical facts about other buildings in Society Hill, just keep your eyes open for the navy blue signs giving the details.

Hill-Physick-Keith House in Philadelphia
Hill-Physick-Keith House

End your tour near the southern end of Society Hill, and walk one block down to South Street. At Fourth Street you will likely see a line of locals and tourists extending outside Jim's Steaks. Here's your chance to get a taste of a Philly cheesesteak dripping with grease, but be sure you know the proper way to order or risk the wrath of the employees. If you say, a cheesesteak wit', that means with fried onions; wit' Whiz, means onions and a generous swab of processed cheese goo. Provolone is another option.

If you're a connoisseur seeking the real cheesesteak experience, walk about ten minutes (or take a cab or bus) down to the heart of South Philly. At the intersection of Passyunk, Ninth and Wharton Streets, you'll find an interesting scene where Philadelphia's many personalities work toward a common goal... processed cheese and chewy steak on a sandwich bun. Burly South Philly Italians line up amid tourists and the occasional post-prom or wedding couple at the counters of Pat's King of Steaks and — across the street — at Geno's Steaks. Both are open 24/7. Each claims to be the originator of the cheesesteak and boasts its share of addicts. Do a taste test if you're feeling especially hungry and have no preexisting heart condition.

Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, is where William Penn is said to have landed
Penn's Landing is where William Penn is said to have landed
If you're not a meat eater, there are plenty of establishments on South Street for lunch. If you're at Pat's or Geno's, make your way back to South Street. Walk west up the street, taking in the curious and crowded social scene. Pierced teenagers loiter outside trendy clothing boutiques, while throngs of suburbanites park their SUVs to make a weekend afternoon of visiting the cafés, bars and shops. Head back east when you've had your fill, and continue down to Penn's Landing. This is a stretch along the Delaware River where William Penn is said to have landed. It is a nice spot for a stroll or a picnic, and you can watch the boats cross by in front of your view of New Jersey on the Delaware's eastern side.

Linger here for a while and visit the Independence Seaport Museum, or head back to your hotel for a rest before dinner. Consider dropping in for a drink and delicious tapas at Tria, where there are many imported beers and wines by the glass and fantastic cheese plates.

Dine tonight at Monk's Café, a popular little spot with the locals that doesn't take reservations. Good advice: get there early. Monk's is a Belgian-style pub offering 200 draft beers and numerous other tasty libations. It has a pleasant, neighborhood feel where strangers often become friends. The menu lists traditional Belgian fare with tempting sides such as frites with an outstanding dipping sauce. If your appetite isn't for mussels or a large plate, try one of the burgers or a tuna steak sandwich.

Xochitl serves up authentic Mexican food in Philadelphia

If you're in the mood for Mexican, try the wonderfully aromatic Puebla cuisine at Xochitl (pronounced so-cheet). The margaritas at this establishment make a good argument for hanging about after dinner. There's more Mexican and great margaritas and guacamole at El Vez, or across the street at Lolita where, if you bring your own tequila, the restaurant will provide exotic mixes for margaritas, such as watermelon juice. For outstandingly original Mediterranean fare, try vegetarian-friendly Barbuzzo, also on the 13th St. restaurant corridor.

Getting your second wind? Catch an independent art film at one of the Ritz theaters in and about Old City, or check out the Lights of Liberty show at Independence Park. The show depicts the area's historical events with images projected on buildings and monuments.

Continue to Day 3


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* Society Hill Homes image by Kelly Anne Martin; Penn's Landing image by Ericmc783


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