What should I see/do in Philadelphia?

I spent last Thursday in Philly (I had some Amtrak vouchers). I spent most of my time in the old city, which is great if you’re interested in the history of the Founding generation, which I am. The Liberty Bell is there, of course, and Independence Hall was very interesting (where they approved the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution). It’s flanked by the buildings where the Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress first met as well.

Within walking distance are lots of other interesting things such as the 2d Bank of the U.S. (which has a pretty cool portait gallery of the movers and shakers of that time period) and Franklin Court, where Ben Franklin had a house (now gone) and some townhouses he rented out. One of these houses exhibits of stuff excavated from the trash pits.

Ignore everyone who says you shouldn’t go to Pat’s and Geno’s because it’s for tourists. You are a tourist! It’s rather farther than you want to walk from the old city, but the #47 bus will take you there and back. (As much as I despise the Vento family’s recent political kerfuffle, I’ll be damned if I didn’t like Geno’s better.)

If you’re not going to have car access when you’re there, you can get a $5 all-day transit pass, which gives you unlimited rides on both the busses and the subway. But I found it very difficult to figure out what busses went where, so some pre-planning is in order. (Of course, with the day pass, if the bus you’re on turns in an unexpected direction, you can just get off and wait for the next one.)


Thanks for the transit pass tip, Cliffy! I’ll be staying with my brother, who doesn’t have a car, so that’s very helpful. He wants to see the Eastern State Penitentiary, so we’ll work that in. I’ll see what his advice is re: cheesesteaks.

Love the timing of this thread - I will be spending about 24 hours there this Thursday-Friday (Madonna concert!).

I’m taking the Chinatown bus down there to meet friends. Would anyone recommend wandering about Chinatown? Or recommend NOT wandering about Chinatown? Do you have a favorite lunch spot there? Being that I live in New York, Chinatowns in and of themselves don’t thrill me (they seem the same no matter what big city I’m in, kind of like how the Gap is the same in every metropolis). So if Philly’s Chinatown offers more of the same, I’m more inclined to skip it and try to hunt down the nearest cheese steak. However, if there’s a great Chinatown eatery worth trying, be sure to let me know, since I’ll be in the neighborhood anyway.

I have never had a cheese steak sandwich, ever, so a primary goal is to try the definitive, best-of-the-best Philly cheese steak, even if I have to eat 2 or 3 of them to be sure. So please list names and locations of any and all favorite cheese steak spots. Any pizza place? Really?

Other food/restaurant recommendations are welcome as well. I think we might have a vegetarian in tow.

Many thanks.

Maybe I’m the only one with a fascination for elderly naval ships, but I’m always surprised that these threads on Philly so often miss the USS Olympia and the WWII sub USS Becuna at the Independence Seaport Museum just at the end of Walnut street that runs behind Independence Hall and Carpenter Hall.

The ferry across the Delaware River connects the Independence Seaport Museum with the park at which the USS New Jersey is berthed.

Splurge on food and treat yourself to a dinner at one of the myriad Stephen Starr restaurants - my favorites are Pod and Buddakan…

I just got back from a weekend in Philly this Monday. The Philly Museum of Art is a place where I can always kill easily a few hours.

I second this suggestion. Ben Franklin’s house is much more than a house though. “Franklin Court” is a free underground museum which also shows a movie. It is great for escaping the heat and really interesting. Figure on 30-40 minutes but well worth it.

Rather than enter the Cheesesteak argument, there are more than a few places to check out. Visit HollyEats.com for menus and photos of various Philadelphia eateries.

As far as I can tell, Philly’s chinatown is pretty typical, but if you’re in the area I’d recommend the Rising Tide restaurant. It’s relatively new, and I like it because the food is good and they sell a variety of bubble tea drinks which you can get with your meal or just to-go. If you’re looking for dim sum, I know Ocean Harbor and H.K Golden Phoenix do dim sum daily. Sang Kee Peking Duck House is also a good restaurant, known for its… well, Peking Duck.

Yet another vote for the Old City area for a good time. There are three independent-type movie theaters down there (the Ritz’s) if you want to catch a flick. Also, if you get a chance, check out Franklin Fountain. It’s a small ice cream shop that is styled like an old fashioned soda jerk. The brothers who run the place are real nice guys, and they serve you with slicked back hair and waxed mustaches. Quite a hoot!

Cheesesteak near Chinatown? I’d head for the Reading Terminal Market (on 12th St between Market and Filbert) and Rick’s Steaks, on the 12th street side of the Market. Rick is a progeny of the Pat’s family, so think of it as Pat’s at one or two removes (and without the special trip). Lunch only though; the market closes at 6 and Rick’s tends to close at 3-4 in the afternoon. Your vegetarian friend can come along; there are ALL kinds of food at the Market. On Thursday and Friday the Amish merchants are there; if you have room for dessert, try the pie slices at Bieler’s Bakery.

vaderspal, def. reading terminal for food, or even independence pub (across the street from reading terminal). chinatown is very sim. to nyc. there is a nifty china gate on 10th street. the firehouse i mentioned is just a few blocks away. head east (the numbers get smaller) and you’ll run into the old city stuff, franklin’s house, grave, betsy ross house, elfreth’s alley, the mint, etc.

burundi, e.s.p. is in my 'hood. very easy to get to from mutter’s. you can get either a 48 or 7 bus on 22nd street that will drop you right across the street from e.s.p… or if y’all feel like walking you could just walk north on 22nd, you’ll go across ben franklin parkway. the parkway is home to the art musuem, the rodin (22nd st), academy of natural sciences (19th st) , franklin institute (20th st), moore college of art (20th st), logan’s square (19th st) (that is in the shape of a circle), jfk plaza/love park (15th st), and city hall (broad st [14th]). the parkway runs from the art museum to city hall.

the prison is at 22nd and fairmount. the walk is about 9 blocks from mutter, not counting the parkway. the art museum is at 25th street across fairmount, off pennsylvania, (new wing being reno’d on fairmount), the waterworks and boat house row are behind the art museum. there are tons of places from expensive to cheap to eat at on fairmount. if you want to do the art museum it is donation on sunday, fixed price tues-sat.

Don’t know how long you’ll be in the Philly area, but if you can take an afternoon to go a little ways out of the city, I highly recommend the Wyeth Museum in Chadd’s Ford. The museum is great, with the work of three generations of Wyeths (N.C., Andrew and Jamie), and you can also get a tour to the old Wyeth house, where Andrew (and his siblings) grew up. It’s a terrific tour. The old barn/studio out back is worth the price of the tour. (I think the museum itself is still free.)