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A weekend spent in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania comes with no shortage of creative arts & culture, historical centerpieces, regional culinary experiences, and nightlife. Visiting Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the United States, is a great chance to step back into pivotal moments in the nation’s history, while also embracing its current flare for modernity. With just one weekend to tap into the feel of the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia easily shows its true colors of vibrancy on each face and personality that makes the city tick.
Philadelphia’s mix of modern streets and old world charm of cobblestone walkways paves the way for an easily approachable and walkable city. Taking a stroll around the famed Independence National Historical Park is a must when visiting for the first time. Whether a history buff or a visitor wanting a taste of the city’s rich historical past, this one square mile of Philadelphia showcases nationally important aspects of the country’s foundation.
Located within the area is the Liberty Bell Center, where people can read their way through an informative museum of its importance as an icon of American independence. This eventually leads visitors to the Liberty Bell itself; the bell is surely one of the most well known and visited attractions in the city.
Just across the street from the Liberty Bell Center is Independence Hall. Widely important in American history, Independence Hall is the spot where American forefathers created both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. A tour of this area allows visitors to get a sense of how the country began to take shape in the very room where these important documents were created. While tickets are required to visit Independence Hall, admission to both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center is free.
After walking around the historical section, a stop for lunch at one of Stephan Starr’s many restaurants can give a visitor a local sense of current Philadelphia food trends. As one of the leaders in Philadelphia’s thriving culinary industry, Stephen Starr has created a host of modern restaurants, each with a distinct atmosphere and equally impressive menu.
For a taste into this restaurateur’s vision, head over to Continental Midtown where Starr has taken an approach with the retro décor of America’s past, along with a menu that fuses America’s favorite dishes with international flavors. The swanky, stylish approach of the restaurant’s space matches the menu. Located just steps away from Rittenhouse Square, Continental Midtown is an ideal spot to enjoy a lunch of lobster mac and cheese, a Muffaletta sandwich, or Asian chicken salad. More of Starr’s famed restaurants dotting the city are Buddakan, Alma de Cuba, Morimoto, and El Rey.
With a delicious meal under your belt, it could be time to walk it off, or in this case, run it off, on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These famous steps, made widely known from a scene in Rocky, brings in visitors and locals alike to not only enjoy the backdrop of the popular movie, but also the large collection of art within the museum’s walls.
With artwork spanning over 2,000 years in history, the Philadelphia Museum of Art stands as one of the largest and most important art collections in the United States. Over 200,000 objects are held in the museum in collections coming from all reaches of the world, including Medieval Europe, Asia, and the United States. The museum showcases galleries of modern and contemporary art, costumes & textiles, and arms & armor as well. With adult admission at $14, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a huge masterpiece of work that simply should not be overlooked.
Reading Terminal Market is a hub of local Philadelphian food and flavors, and a perfect place to have a more casual dinner. With over one hundred food stands and merchants in the famed market, it is an excellent way to sample the region’s popular dishes. Opened in 1893, Reading Terminal Market offers a wide range of meat, seafood, poultry, baked goods, and Amish specialties. Taking a walk through the market’s bustling aisles is an exploration of Philadelphia’s diverse culinary selections from Asian to Middle Eastern, Indian to Italian.
One spot which is almost impossible to miss from its wrap around line is DiNic’s. Centrally located within Reading Terminal Market, DiNic’s recently won the title of best sandwich in America. Crowned this special award by Travel Channel’s Adam Richman, people eagerly wait in the lengthy line to taste DiNic’s famed roast pork sandwich. Juicy cuts of the meat are stuffed in a hoagie and served with a choice of cheese, peppers, and greens. For sweet treats after devouring DiNic’s, head over to Sweet as Fudge Candy Shoppe or Flying Monkey Patisserie for a sugar lover’s dream.
After a night out in Old City, a neighborhood in Philadelphia known for its nightlife and bars, spending a relaxing morning walking around Philadelphia is a great way to start the day. A unique art exhibit that can literally be seen all around the streets of Philadelphia is the Mural Arts Program. Started in 1984, this program set out to create and design large murals on the sides of buildings across the whole city. Through this creative program, Philadelphia has become the number one city of mural art in the world, with over 3,500 murals in the area. Donned the “City of Murals,” a walk around Philadelphia will surely lead any local or visitor to spot some of these large paintings, and is considered a free and fun way of exploring the city’s creative side.
For a family friendly approach to Philadelphia, a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo is a must. Running until November 25, 2012, the Philadelphia Zoo is showcasing the Trail of the Lorax, in partnership with Dr. Seuss. Using 3D glasses, children are able to follow a trail around the zoo and ultimately find a 3,000 square foot learning center and play environment.
In conjunction with the zoo spending 2012 focusing on the “Year of the Orangutan,” the Trail of the Lorax incorporates educational opportunities for children to learn about the future of this animal. The Philadelphia Zoo is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon spotting out monkeys, zebras, and giraffes, among dozens of other animals. Children can hop on a camel or pony for a ride, while the whole family can enjoy a swan boat ride. Admission for adults is $18 and tickets for children over age two are $15.
But let’s face it, a trip to Philadelphia wouldn’t quite be complete without a taste of possibly its most famous culinary claim to fame: the cheesesteak. The two legendary big players in the world of cheesesteaks are Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, conveniently located just across the street from each other. Since 1930, Pat’s King of Steaks has been serving up their mouthwatering cheesesteaks and holds the title of the first cheesesteak in town. A main difference between the two popular cheesesteak spots is the way each establishment prepares the meat.
While Pat’s King of Steaks chops its meat, Geno’s Steaks slices its meat. With choices of cheese, including provolone or whiz, and the option of having it topped with onions, there are some variations to how the cheesesteak can be ordered. The sandwich undeniably stands as one of the most favored local eats. Philadelphians often claim allegiance to either Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks, but with such close proximity, it is easy for a visitor to taste both at the same time and decide for themselves which is truly their favorite.
The city of brotherly love combines a flavor of local cuisine, historical importance, and arts & culture to make a diversely rich cosmopolitan city. Located in close proximity to both New York City and Washington D.C., Philadelphia is a world class destination that is easily accessible and welcoming. Whether staying for a week or just a weekend in this city, it is easy to see its unique character in the people and kind of thriving energy they bring together make up the city as a whole.