By ANASTASIA MILLS HEALY
A sky high Four Seasons, Hamilton exhibition, free Pitbull concert, fabulous food hall, and stunning Museum of the American Revolution are new reasons to head south to Philadelphia
Philly’s answer to Boston’s Freedom Trail is Independence National Historical Park (phlvisitorcenter.com) where you can easily connect with America’s early years at historic homes, museums, and buildings including Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were crafted and signed. In view of Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center has an exhibition that anyone who knows the words to “You’ll Be Back” won’t want to miss: “Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes That Shaped a Nation.” You can visit the Betsy Ross House, Benjamin Franklin Museum, and of course there’s the Liberty Bell! When walking around the historic district (Old City) if you see a sign that says “Storytelling Bench,” take a break from sightseeing and listen to a five-minute story about an aspect of the city’s history (free).
You can pick up free maps and other visitor information at the Independence Visitor Center or take a name-your-price walking tour with Free Tours By Foot.
A spectacular addition to the historic district, the Museum of the American Revolution (amrevmuseum.org) has galleries filled with treasures like Washington’s tent and a piece of the “rude bridge that arched the flood” (“Concord Hymn,” Emerson) — the bridge in Concord, MA where the Revolutionary War began.
For an ice cream break in Old City, head to the old-fashioned soda fountain Franklin Fountain (franklinfountain.com) where flavors like mango sorbet and green tea as well as stalwarts such as strawberry and rocky road are made with fresh ingredients and served in Chinese take-out containers (or cones or cups). There aren’t very many places you can find an egg cream anymore, but this is one.
Break out the gray sweat suit and run up the stairs Rocky made famous at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (philamuseum.org) – and, oh yeah, there’s world-class art inside like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2). You don’t need to take a transatlantic flight to visit the Rodin Museum (rodinmuseum.org); the African American Museum (aampmuseum.org) tells the unheralded stories of people of African descent in Philadelphia in America’s earliest years; and if you have kids under 10, head to the wonderfully named Please Touch Museum (pleasetouchmuseum.org).
Exhibitions of note include “Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music” at the National Museum of American Jewish History (nmajh.org); “Game Masters,” a love letter to gaming at the Franklin Institute (fi.edu); and a Barnes Foundation (barnesfoundation.org) exhibition “Renoir: Father and Son / Painting and Cinema,” which explores the relationship between Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his son Jean through their art.
There’s a new penguin exhibition at the fabulous Philadelphia Zoo (philadelphiazoo.org), which also sports an overhead mesh walkway for great views of big cats. A carousel and Philadelphia-themed mini golf course are two fun amusements at Franklin Square (historicphiladelphia.org/franklin-square/what-to-see).
The Declaration of Independence was adopted here on July 4, 1776, so Philly knows how to celebrate Independence Day with parades, concerts and fireworks in a week-long festival called Wawa Welcome America! (welcomeamerica.com). Catch free performances this July 4 by Pitbull, Heather Headley, and the Philly Pops Big Band.
Do your own research then throw your hat in the ring about which cheesesteak is better: Geno’s or Pat’s (or Tony Luke’s or…). Reading Terminal Market is a foodie destination where you can graze from one vendor to another or sit down and have a proper meal.
Steps from Independence Hall, the soon-to-open (before the end of summer; date not available at press time) Philadelphia Bourse is an artisan food hall and retail location like NYC’s Chelsea Market. Here you’ll find food purveyors specializing in Filipino, Korean-Mexican, Hawaiian, chicken soup, noodles, chocolate, and sticky buns. If you’re in town during the July 4 week, check out their pop-up beer garden and Historic District Block Party.
James Beard-award winner for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic 2017, Greg Vernick oversees the popular Vernick Food & Drink, whose menu is divided into sections including: On Toast, Small Plates, Vegetables, and Simply Roasted. His second restaurant (and the first in Philly designed by Adam Tihany) Vernick Fish will be a modern take on an American oyster bar in the sleek new Four Seasons Philadelphia, scheduled to open late 2018 or early 2019. Vernick’s restaurant will be street level and the one on the top floors with stunning views will by his former boss Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Philly is a great restaurant town, so pick a neighborhood and/or cuisine and check a best restaurants list like the recent one in Philadelphia Magazine (phillymag.com/foobooz/50-best-restaurants) to narrow it down.
If you don’t have kids with you, kick back and sample the absinthe, vodka, and gin crafted on the premises of Philadelphia Distilling (philadelphiadistilling.com).
Scheduled to open this winter, the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia (fourseasons.com/Philadelphia) will occupy the top floors of the new Lord Norman Foster-designed Comcast Technology Center, which at 60 stories is the tallest building between New York and Chicago. The gorgeous renderings portend a modern, serene luxury property with jaw-dropping views.
In beautiful Rittenhouse Square, The Rittenhouse (rittenhousehotel.com) has been renovating in stages since 2012 and its final upgrade of guest rooms is scheduled to be completed soon.
The fresh, contemporary design of Le Méridien Philadelphia (lemeridienphiladelphia.com) belies its 1907 Georgian Revival building. A recent renovation brought upgrades to rooms and public spaces.
Right in the middle of the historic district, Kimpton Monaco Hotel (monaco-philadelphia.com) has 268 guest rooms and a lively rooftop lounge.
In a 1908 former bank built to resemble the Pantheon, the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia (ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/Philadelphia) has a spa, Richard Sandoval restaurant, and a kids’ program, and recently completed a $25 million refurbishment.
Forty-seven hotels have signed up to offer the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package (visitphilly.com/overnight), which includes free parking and admission to many of the museums and attractions mentioned here.
Plan your perfect trip at visitphilly.com.