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Philadelphia: Off the Beaten Path

Discover the city’s hidden gems over a weekend of great museums, restaurants and shops

Melrose Diner

Credit: G. Widman for GPTMC


Only have a long weekend to spend in Philadelphia? No problem. With this action-packed tour of the city’s best eateries, shops, museums and historic spots, you won’t miss a thing.

This weekend itinerary includes visits to classic landmarks like The Liberty Bell, along with lesser-known attractions like the Maxfield Parrish-designed Dream Garden mosaic at The Curtis Center. And we hope you’re hungry — you’ll be dining at both noted restaurants like Bar Ferdinand and the small bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) eateries that visitors often miss.

Friday 12:30 p.m.

A Nosh Before Sightseeing

Before you head out to explore Historic Philadelphia , fuel up with some great Philly cuisine. Check out Zento if you like creative, delicious sushi. But if you prefer rich, aromatic spices, head for the international flavor of Konak, which serves elegant Turkish cuisine in an airy atmosphere.

228 Vine Street
Konak Turkish Restaurant
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday 2 p.m.

Hit the Historic Sites

After eating, the first order of business is checking out Philadelphia’s famed attractions. You can pick up free, timed tickets to visit Independence Hall at the Independence Visitor Center (you can also order them in advance for $1.50 per ticket) and get information about seeing Carpenters’ Hall and the new Liberty Bell Center , home of the famous cracked icon.

6th and Chestnut Streets
Liberty Bell Center
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday 4 p.m.

Modern Shopping on Old Streets

Once you’re full of colonial history and a tasty lunch, explore some of Old City’s more recent developments.

The blocks of 2nd and 3rd Streets between Market and Race are brimming with high-end galleries, furniture shops and chic clothing boutiques. The wearable wares range from the eclectic duds at Smak Parlour to the Seven and James brand jeans at Charlie’s (the men’s version of Charlie’s is on the south side of Market; the women’s, on the north) to the locally designed duds at Vagabond . Browse the obscure independent jazz, rock and hip-hop releases at AKA Music, ogle the sleek furniture and house wares at Minima and Mode Moderne and admire the art at the Clay Studio.

601 Walnut Street
Dream Garden at The Curtis Center
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday 5:30 p.m.

An Unexpected Work of Art

With your purchases carefully stowed in your daypack, work your way back toward Walnut Street and head west to The Curtis Center. In the lobby of this former publishing building is one of the city’s hidden art gems: The Dream Garden , a stunning Tiffany glass mosaic based on a painting by Maxfield Parrish.

Nearly sold and removed in the late 1990s, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts joined forces to buy it and keep it in its original location for all to enjoy.

601 Walnut Street
Dream Garden at The Curtis Center
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday 6:30 p.m.

Dinner in Chinatown

Continue northward to Chinatown and explore the eclectic neighborhood’s famous Friendship Arch, earthenware shops and Sanrio outlets.

For dinner, walk up to 11th Street to Lee How Fook, one of Philadelphia’s very best Chinese restaurants. Lee How Fook means “Good Taste for the Mouth” — and we couldn’t say it better ourselves.

The restaurant is a BYOB, which means you’ll need to do some libation hunting beforehand. The closest liquor store is at 5 N. 12th Street, so hit that up and pick up your favorite bottle to share at your table.

219 N. 11th Street
Lee How Fook
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Friday 8 p.m.

Arts and Drafts

If it’s the first Friday of the month, wander back over to Old City to catch the First Friday celebration on 2nd and 3rd Streets. Most of the area’s art galleries will be open to the public until about 9 p.m., wine and cheese included.

If you’ve come during one of the other weekends, we recommend catching some live music — and some local brews — at either The Tin Angel (for the subdued crowd) or The Khyber (for the raucous crowd).

56 S. 2nd Street
The Khyber
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday 12 a.m.

Last Call!

For a quiet nightcap, order a flight of wines at Il Bar, located in the Penn’s View Hotel on Front Street. The wine flights are organized by region, so every set is an education.

For a more riotous scene, head to Sugar Mom’s. Their nostalgic menu is full of pierogies and fries, while a great selection of local beers is on draft — and for the kid in you, get cozy on over-sized couches and play pinball way into the wee hours.

14 N. Front Street
Il Bar at the Penn’s View Hotel
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Saturday 9 a.m.

Breakfast at a Philly Classic

Another heavy-duty day of touring requires a hearty breakfast, like a classic bacon and eggs combo at the equally classic Melrose Diner , where the waitresses wear 1950s-style uniforms, call you ‘hun’ and bring your food with speed and efficiency.

1501 Snyder Avenue
Melrose Diner
Philadelphia, PA 19145

Saturday 10:30 a.m.

No Bones About It

It’s time to explore University City, home to several world-class institutes of higher learning, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City.

First stop is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology . It’s a must-see for enthusiasts of sphinxes, mummies and early-culture artifacts — and there’s almost always a fantastic special exhibit to check out.

3260 South Street
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Saturday 11:30 a.m.

From Antiquity to Modernity

Next, check out the modern paintings, sculptures and videos at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). Founded in 1963, the ICA has been a leader in the presentation of contemporary art for more than 40 years.

And the best news? The ICA recently started to offer free admission. So stop in and enjoy the artwork, on the house.

118 S. 36th Street
Institute of Contemporary Art
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Saturday 12:30 p.m.

Burgers with a Conscience

After two museums, you’ll be hungry for a more physical form of nourishment. Walk to the White Dog Café for a burger, sandwich or salad. Founded by famed activist Judy Wicks, White Dog sources from local producers in order to create food that is both tasty and socially conscious. How ‘bout that!

3420 Sansom Street
White Dog Café
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Saturday 1:30 p.m.

Window Shopping Aids Digestion

After lunch, take a bit of time to explore the other area shops — among them The University of Pennsylvania bookstore, Smith Bros. Jeans, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters.

3428 Sansom Street
Black Cat Gift Shop
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Saturday 2 p.m.

An Afternoon with the Masters

The rest of the afternoon belongs to the marvelous Philadelphia Museum of Art , where you can browse the vast permanent collections of modern, Impressionist and ancient art. There are often special exhibits showing at the museum — make sure to check and see if one coincides with your visit.

And adjacent to the Art Museum is the new Perelman Building , whose Art Deco façade fits the grand collection of fashion and modern design inside.

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Saturday 4:30 p.m.

Back to the Center

Then head back to Center City for a late afternoon stroll around Rittenhouse Square. For more shopping, wander over to Walnut Street and hit Puma, Diesel, Kiehls, Coach and the many other high-end shops. Or check out the smaller, locally owned boutiques on Sansom Street — such as the ladylike fashions at Petulia’s Folly and the new and rare finds at Joseph Fox Bookshop , the city’s oldest independent bookstore.

1724 Sansom Street
Joseph Fox Bookshop
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Saturday 7:30 p.m.

Northern Lights

Saturday night is a great time to survey the artsy Northern Liberties neighborhood and its after-dark offerings.

For dinner, head to Bar Ferdinand , a Spanish tapas restaurant that’s equal parts culinary and cool. Definitely order a sangria or two and the sautéed mussels to share.

If you want to get in some exercise, look no further than North Bowl , a bowling alley that pays tribute to The Big Lebowski, local brews and soul music. And the food — like Cherry Coke BBQ Pulled Beef, Thai beef skewers and veggie corn dogs — is both delicious and fun.

909 N. 2nd Street
North Bowl
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Saturday 10 p.m.

Still Going

You certainly have your options after dinner.

If it’s beer that you want, then it’s beer you shall have — at Standard Tap , a local favorite with two floors of bars and intimate nooks. A beer and a shot is the standard here — it’s best to ask for a Kenzinger and make public your salute to the nearby Philadelphia Brewing Company .

But if it’s live music that you want, catch an indie act at Johnny Brenda’s, a beer-and-food powerhouse in Fishtown with an equally awesome upstairs music venue.

1201 N. Frankford Avenue
Johnny Brenda’s
Philadelphia, PA 19125

Sunday 10 a.m.

Down South

Your final day in Philadelphia should begin at the birthplace of Frankie Avalon, Marian Anderson and Rocky: South Philly.

Get in line early for the inventive omelets and pancakes at Sabrina’s Café in the Italian Market . And while you’re waiting, pick up an authentic cappuccino at Anthony’s Italian Coffee House. And maybe some fresh produce to take home.

9th Street and Washington Avenue
The Italian Market
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Sunday 12 noon

The Magic of Cheesesteaks

After a leisurely brunch, head up to South Street to check out Isaiah Zagar’s incredible, mosaic-covered Magic Gardens at 10th and South Streets. Isaiah’s work is actually sprinkled all over the city (especially along South Street), but the Magic Gardens is the central display of his genius.

And if you haven’t already heard, Philly is kind of famous for its cheesesteaks. If you haven’t yet leapt at the chance to get a sizzling sandwich, now’s the time to stop by the legendary Jim’s Steaks at 4th and South and grab one for the road.

400 South Street
Jim’s Steaks
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Hotels + More

The Basics


If you’re traveling from New York, New England, DC, Baltimore, Harrisburg, etc., Amtrak is easy – Book online at Amtrak or call 1-800-USA-RAIL.


If you drive here, stash your car off-street until you leave. Though you might enjoy an occasional cab, trolley or carriage ride, there’s nothing you can’t reach on foot. Parking regulations are enforced in the historic area, and you may find yourself getting towed with un-municipal efficiency.

Start at the Center

The Independence Visitor Center (IVC) — the exclusive pick-up location for free tickets to Independence Hall — offers personalized trip-planning services, free WIFI, brochures and maps, informational exhibits and films, a gift shop, two cafes and tickets to all major tours and attractions in the Philadelphia region. Located at 6th & Market Streets across from the Liberty Bell, the IVC is your one-stop-shop for tickets, souvenirs, itinerary planning, maps and more. Stop at the IVC when you arrive in Philadelphia, or call 800-537-7676 to speak to a live concierge.


You can’t get much more young and fun than the aloft Philadelphia Airport , which combines modern design, interactive resources and lots of cool extras to make your Philly stay fresh and affordable.

The Independent , meanwhile, is a new boutique hotel right in Center City. Each guest room features its own unique design, while the building — an example of Georgian-Revival architecture — is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Hyatt Regency is one of the historic area’s newest hotels, a tower right on the Delaware River. You can sit at the outdoor bar and listen to the creak-creak of moored boats.

The Philly Overnight® Hotel Package is a popular getaway — and a terrific deal. It’s available throughout the year and gives you free parking (worth $50 or more) and special offers and discounts – in addition to deluxe accommodations in Center City Philadelphia. Check out the package, then pick your favorite hotel.

More food and drink, please!

Of course, what we’ve recommended is just a sample of the amazing range of food and drink in Philadelphia. Take a closer look at the city’s Dining and Nightlife offerings and pick your favorites.

4301 Island Avenue
aloft Philadelphia Airport
Philadelphia, PA 19153



Center City Philadelphia: Rittenhouse Square, Old City, Bella Vista and beyond


On foot or in a taxi


3 Days


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