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The Art Lovers Itinerary

Three artful days in Philadelphia

An Art Lovers Weekend in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is an art lover’s kind of town—one that’s bursting with beauty on the inside and out. Credit: top left © The Barnes Foundation; bottom right courtesy the PMA; Top right and bottom left by B. Krist for GPMTC

Description

Philadelphia is an art lover’s kind of town — one that’s bursting with beauty on the inside and out. The region boasts one of the country’s top five art museums, the world’s greatest collection of Impressionist works, an internationally lauded public arts initiative and some under-the-radar gems, all waiting to be explored, experienced and pondered at a pace that’s all your own.

And, if you arrive on the First Friday of the month when Old City morphs into a sophisticated street festival as some 50 galleries stay open late and unveil new exhibits, you’ll see that Philly’s artistic appeal is also a blast.

Book Your Stay

Visitors can book the two-night Philly Hotel Package. It comes with free hotel parking and a special gift upon check-in, the package is available at more than a dozen hotels with rates starting as low as $169 per night.

Three Days of Art in Philadelphia:
Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Follow our suggested three-day itinerary below, spread out over a weekend. Click the day button (in blue) to proceed to the next day.

Friday 9 a.m.

Fuel Up

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel or try a flaky pastry at Miel Patisserie, the French bakery just off of Rittenhouse Square.

204 S. 17th Street
Miel Patisserie
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Friday 10 a.m.

Parkway Promenade

Take a bus, cab or walk to the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and start by exploring the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The main building’s vast collections could take all day, but be sure to check out the Asian wing, with installations of a Japanese teahouse, Indian temple hall and Chinese nobleman’s reception room. Across the street, the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building — an inspiring mix of 1927 Art Deco and skylit concrete modernism — is reserved for special exhibitions that often focus on design fields such as textiles, furniture and fine crafts. A ticket to the main building includes admission to Perelman, so take advantage of the deal by doing both.

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

Friday 1 p.m.

City Center

Walk a few blocks along the Parkway, towards Philadelphia’s dramatic City Hall — topped by an Alexander Milne Calder sculpture of city founder William Penn — to find some local art. Many Philadelphia museums carry beautiful and eclectic prints, jewelry, housewares and more, all of which make great gifts. The Art Shop at Moore College of Art & Design sells the creations of alumnae and students to the public. Who knows—you might buy a piece from a future art star.

Now it’s time to leave the Parkway, but you’ll be back for the Barnes Foundation and the Rodin Museum. There’s simply too much to do to pack it all into one day.

Broad and Market Streets
Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Friday 2 p.m.

An Eye-Opening Lunch

Enjoy the world’s largest LED video wall at the new Comcast Center, then take a well-deserved lunch break at Table 31, the restaurant off the lobby, blending steakhouse cuisine with Italian regional dishes.

1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
The Comcast Center
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Friday 4 p.m.

Rest Up

If you’re satisfied with your daytime visit to the Art Museum, you may want to go downtown to check out an eclectic collection of galleries. First, stop at Bridgette Mayer Gallery, just across the street from Washington Square. For 10 years, Bridgette Mayer has been committed to highlighting emerging and established artists, working mostly in abstract art, and her recently renovated space gives more freedom to showcase various types and sizes of works. Feel free to ask Bridgette or her friendly staff members to help you explore, understand—and maybe even buy—the pieces.

709 Walnut Street
Bridgette Mayer Gallery
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday 5 p.m.

An Art-tastic Evening Awaits

If you didn’t get to see everything you planned on, return to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and this time bring your dancing shoes! Each Friday evening, things get hopping here for the Art After 5 event, featuring live music, film showings and special gallery talks and tours. There’s time for one more cocktail — at the top of the famed “Rocky” steps — before moving on to yet another party-arty scene just down the Parkway.

Every Friday evening from 6–10 p.m., the new location of the Barnes Foundation stays open late offering a lively mix of music and programs from around the world. There’s a cash bar, amazing art and a fun, energetic atmosphere. (Note: your Sunday itinerary includes a daytime visit to the Barnes; click on “Sunday” above for more.)

If you’re satisfied with your daytime visit to the Art Museum, you may want to move on downtown to check out a shimmering collaboration between Philadelphia’s original “painter of light” Maxfield Parrish and glass artisan extraordinaire Louis Comfort Tiffany. The Curtis Center’s Dream Garden is a painstaking mosaic crafted of 100,000 pieces of favrile glass in some 260 colors. Sitting on a bench thoughtfully placed before the resulting tableau, awash in Parrish’s signature salmons and sky blues, is a great way to ready yourself for the rest of the evening. From here, it’s easy to check out First Friday — or any Friday — in Old City.

601 Walnut Street
Dream Garden
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Friday 8 p.m.

Just West of the Bell

There are a lot of choices for dinner in Old City. On the outskirts of the vibrant neighborhood is the stunning (and very large) Union Trust. Steak is the order of the day here, but there’s a very good seafood selection too. This old bank building has been transformed into a memorable, cathedral-like setting with a jewel-toned design that’s both sumptuous and soaring. If sushi is more your style, Morimoto, on the same block, offers inspired Japanese cuisine in a stunning contemporary room that is at once intimate and dramatic. Start with the rock shrimp tempura and one of the specialty sake-infused cocktails.

717 Chestnut Street
Union Trust
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Saturday 8:30 a.m.

Go Dutch

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel or get cozy at the crowded counter of the Reading Terminal Market’s Dutch Eating Place, where you can dig into a heaping stack of blueberry pancakes. Make time to explore the rest of the market—around for more than 100 years and still going strong. From bakeries to cheese purveyors, hand-twisted pretzels to produce, you’ll find it all here.

12th and Arch Streets
Reading Terminal Market
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Saturday 10 a.m.

Feel the Love

Next, walk over to LOVE Park, near the Fairmount Park Visitors Center, to embark on a 90-minute ride on the city’s elevated train line — or “the el” as it’s known to locals. It’s all part of the Mural Arts Program’s Love Letter Mural Tour, a unique public art project that features the work of Stephen Powers who has crafted a series of 50 murals — done to resemble old-style billboards — that trace one guy’s courtship of one lucky gal. (Trolley tours highlighting nearly 35 murals in various neighborhoods throughout the city also run on Saturdays. They depart from the Independence Visitor Center.)

15th Street and John F. Kennedy Blvd.
LOVE Park
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Saturday 12 noon

An Artsy Lunch

The Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, an adaptive reuse of a 1929 skyscraper, pays homage to the building’s original architectural tenants by showcasing the work of artists. Original pieces include a triptych of neon-hued Benjamin Franklin busts and a theoretical argument between architects scribbled on a folded glass screen. Square 1682, the hotel’s glamorous restaurant, emphasizes locally sourced and organic ingredients and dishes and is a good choice for lunch.

117 S. 17th Street
Hotel Palomar Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Saturday 2 p.m.

All-American Extravaganza

You’d be hard-pressed to find an American museum located in a more stunning building than the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Frank Furness’ tour-de-force starts outside, where an explosion of mansard roofs, terra cotta and arches coalesce into a magnificent whole and continues inside with an ornamental riot of gilt, carved floral motifs and timework. On the walls of this still-continuing academy: the work of past students and teachers, such as Charles Willson Peale, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins and Maxfield Parrish, plus other American masters like Winslow Homer. Across the street, a new wing spotlights contemporary artists and features a great gift shop.

118-128 N. Broad Street
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Saturday 4 p.m.

Afternoon Break

Between PAFA’s two buildings, take some time to rest at the outdoor Lenfest Plaza, heralded by a 51-foot paintbrush sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, or walk a few blocks to grab a seat at Vintage, where more than 60 wines are available by the glass and wine flights are always an adventure.

129 S. 13th Street
Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Saturday 6 p.m.

Among Friends

Amis-the newest entry from celebrated chef Marc Vetri, a James Beard Award winner and favorite of Food & Wine—is a lively trattoria that features kitchen-side seating and butcher-block tables. The menu emphasizes hearty Italian fare. Or, check out Iron Chef Jose Garces’ part-cafe, part-casual restaurant, part-charcuterie and part-upscale wine store, the all-good Garces Trading Co. The plats du jour change seasonally, but are a great bargain at $28-35 for two.

1111 Locust Street
Garces Trading Company
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Saturday 8 p.m.

Lights Down, Curtain Up

Finish up in time for a very short stroll to the Avenue of the Arts, where you’ve reserved tickets for your choice of live music or theater. Choose from opera or ballet at the Academy of Music; the Philadelphia Orchestra, chamber music, jazz or pop at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts; or theater at the Wilma Theatre or Suzanne Roberts Theatre, home of the Philadelphia Theatre Company.

1420 Locust Street
Academy of Music
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Sunday 11 a.m.

French for the Day

French down to the last detail — the mock-segmented phone number, the copies of Le Monde threaded on wooden poles, the brass rails that encompass the main dining room — Parc is a feast for the eyes that just won’t quit. Brasserie staples like classic onion soup and quiche Lorraine join fluffy pancakes, superb omelets and an ooh-la-la of a yogurt parfait bursting with berries. Start your meal off right by asking for the pastry basket.

227 S. 18th Street
Parc
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Sunday 1 p.m.

Good Thinking

To continue in la mode Francais, head back to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Walk past The Thinker and The Gates of Hell and enter the Rodin Museum, part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art just as the Perelman Building is. Housing the largest public collection of the master’s works outside of Paris, this contemplative space will unveil a fully renovated interior, complete with a stunning marble replica of The Kiss, in spring 2012. Until then, the public can enjoy the recently redesigned outdoor sculpture garden.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 22nd Street
Rodin Museum
Philadelphia, PA 19101

Sunday 3 p.m.

Foundation of Art

You’re next stop will be the Barnes Foundation, the first addition to this major arts and culture corridor in 60 years. After a $150-million relocation from suburban Merion, Pennsylvania to a spectacular new building on the Parkway, the Barnes opened its doors on May 19, 2012. Hundreds of works by Impressionist, post-Impressionist and early modern masters, plus African masks and Pennsylvania Dutch decorative arts, are on view in a structure that combines the vision of their original owner Dr. Albert Barnes with a contemporary and green execution. It’s sensory-overload of the highest fashion, and an experience you’ll never forget. Be sure to order timed tickets in advance.

2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The Barnes Foundation
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Hotels + More

The Basics

Transportation

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.

Driving

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.

Accommodations

You can’t get much closer to the action than the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, which combines modern design, sustainable practices and a sleek restaurant/bar (Square 1682) to make your Philly stay all the more swanky.

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 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.

117 S. 17th Street
Hotel Palomar Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Details

Location

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Avenue of the Arts, Old City in Philadelphia

Transportation

On foot or by taxi, bus, rail or car

Duration

Three days and two nights

Neighborhood

Neighborhood: / / / / / /

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