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highbay Jul 25th, 2004 05:24 PM

Any MUST do suggestions for 1st time visit to Philadelphia?
My husband and I are going to Philadelphia for the first time Aug. 5 thru 9th. Can anyone please give us some suggestions for dining and historic sites. We both enjoy a relaxed, casual, dining experience. Both enjoy walking around as opposed to taking cabs, subways, etc. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. We are staying at the Crowne Plaza- downtown.
Thanks in advance.

PaulRabe Jul 25th, 2004 07:09 PM

Recommended historic sites:

1) Independence Hall (absolute MUST SEE, unless you think the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are of no importance to American history)
2) Franklin Court
3) Carpenters Hall
4) Constitution Center
5) Liberty Museum
6) Christ Church, and its cemetery
7) Art Museum (not historic, but a great collection)
8) Academy of Fine Arts (several paintings of historic interest)
9) Mummer Museum
10) American Philosophical Society

I always recommend that people skip the Betsy Ross House because (1) the story that she was involved in the first American flag is an obvious hoax and (2) she never lived at that house.

If you enjoy food, check out the Reading Terminal Market; the dining is like at a mall but the food is MUCH better.

elle Jul 25th, 2004 07:14 PM

Well, you're in luck then, because Philadelphia is a great walking town.

In addition to the "must-sees" in the historic district (Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, new National Constitution Center), you might enjoy a tour of City Hall or the Masonic building across the street (you have to schedule the Masonic temple in advance).

A visit to the Reading Terminal Market at 11th and Filbert (just off Market) is fun, too--great place to eat a Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast or try all sorts of food--Lebanese, Italian, Chinese, Soul, Thai--for lunch.

Another slightly off-the-beaten track place to visit is Eastern State Penitentiary. You could walk there from Center City, although it's a bit of a hike. The tour trolleys that you see around town can also drop you off there. I'd check with your hotel's concierge. Eastern State, which has been closed since the 1970s, is an architectural marvel and once housed such criminals as Al Capone and Willy Sutton. Capone's cell is still fairly intact, with Persian rugs and all.

Restaurant-wise, if you like Mexican, check out El Vez or Lolita (BYOB) on 13th Street. Another very good BYOB is La Boheme, on 11th. Beau Monde at 6th and Bainbridge is a very beautiful creperie. Tell us a bit more about what you like to eat and maybe we can be more specific.

For shopping, the area west of Broad Street on Walnut is pretty good. For a younger, funkier shopping experience, check out South Street. If you absolutely have to try a Philly Cheese Steak while you're here, you can get one at Jim's, 4th and South.

If you like architecture, check out the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. For art, check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum.

Hope this helps.

erinj1977 Jul 25th, 2004 07:28 PM

Hi highbay,

I third the Reading Terminal Market. A couple of things to remember: it is closed on Sundays and is only open until 6:00 the other 6 days. Try to go in the early morning and not around lunch time during the week as all of the professionals eat lunch there and it gets crowded. It has a fantastic atmosphere.

Shopping on Walnut St. from Broad (14th) to Rittenhouse Square (20th) is nice but very high-end. South St. can get a little crazy at night and lots of young people go there, but the shops are funky and fun. Another great area for shopping is Antique Row on Pine St. between 12th and 9th sts.

There is an excellent restaurant--low key, not too expensive, but delicious and not so well-known, called "Mixto" on the corner of 12th and Pine. Cuban food and theya re open for brunch on the weekends--delicious. Another favorite of mine is "Effie's"--it's very quaint, BYO, Greek, down the street from Mixto on Pine towards 11th St.

What cuisine's do you like? I can suggest more (lots more) if you give me ideas.

Try going to the Italian Market in South Philly. There are no historic "sites" but the Market is impressive as the oldest and largest working outdoor market in the U.S.

I'll stop here but I could go on....

yk Jul 26th, 2004 07:16 AM

Hi highbay-

I agree with all the above posters. Just a reminder if you are heading to Independence hall. You have to obtain a FREE timed ticket for your visit. They can be obtained at the Visitors' Center (just a few blocks from Independence Hall), or you can book it ahead of time on line. Just make sure you get your tickets early in the day. Since they have a limited # of tickets per day, if you show up late to get a ticket, they may all be gone by then. For more info:

Since you are staying at the Crowne Plaza, you should be able to walk to most sites. Another option is to ride the "Phlash" bus, which makes a loop around the city with stops at all the tourist sites. It is a great deal, $1 per ride or $4 all day (considering the bus fare in Philadelphia is $2)!

For dining options, please tell us what you like (American, Italian, Seafood, Mexican, Chinese etc). One place that I really like (and also close to your hotel) is Matyson on 19th street (btw Market & Chestnut Sts). If you want to go, make sure you call ASAP for a reservation, or head there for lunch.

sissynj Jul 26th, 2004 10:21 AM

You've gotten great info! I wanted to add that there is also the US Mint on 5th street. It's a free and interesting tour.
I also agree that Reading Terminal market is a must do for the food!!

highbay Jul 26th, 2004 10:28 AM

Hi Guys!!!!
Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions. There isn's a particular cuisine that we dislike! We do like to try some of the "local" cuisine when visiting a different city. We will definitely have to have a Philly Steak & Cheese!!!
We just aren't into the "fine" dining atmosphere that requires suit & tie. So, if you have any more dining ideas, we are open to your suggestions.
Thanks so much!

yk Jul 26th, 2004 10:36 AM


All the restaurants mentioned here so far do not require suit & tie. A few other places that I like:

Dmitir's (2 locations, Mediterranean and great seafood)

Twenty Manning St btw Locust & Spruce)

D'jango - very very popular. Call to see if you can get a reservation, if not, try walking-in. Make sure you save some room for their cheese plate!

wendyandcary Jul 26th, 2004 10:40 AM

Husband went to college in Philly, great city, we miss it so much!
Best Cheesesteak: Hands down is PAT'S Take a cab, it is worth it!!!-1237 E. Passyunk Ave.
Great trendy restaurant w/great food/people watching: Buddakan-325 Chestnut St.
Local Italian joint: Ralph's Italian-760 S. Ninth St.
Check out for dining info
Have fun in the city of brotherly love.

schmerl Jul 26th, 2004 11:07 AM

You have received some great recommendations.
The Constitution Center is wonderful. Leave at least a half if not a full day to fully explore it.

vacationdreamer Jul 26th, 2004 11:12 AM

Get a real Philly Hoagie - I suggest Primo's on Walnut between 20-21. Unless it has changed, it is lunch only, and they run out of bread so get there early!

highbay Jul 27th, 2004 05:23 PM

Hey Guys!!!!
Thanks for all of the wonderful replies....I knew I could count on my Fodor friends for great suggestions!!!!
I promise to provide a trip report when we get back!

njs Aug 4th, 2004 05:18 AM

We are planning to drive to Philadelphia from Princeton, NJ to visit the recommended historic sites in post2(by Paulrabe)

I wanted to know just 1 thing:
To visit all 10 places in the list in a single day, which would be the best place to park our car and how much would it cost to park?

We would be driving to Philadelphia on a saturday or a sunday this summer reaching there around 10 am.


yk Aug 4th, 2004 05:54 AM


It would be impossible to visit all 10 places that PaulRabe listed in 1 single day. Anyhow, your best location for parking would be around Independence Hall. There are plenty of parking lots around which should have weekend rates. I would say maybe $10-$15 for the entire day. If you come on Sunday and if you are lucky, you may be able to find free street parking (no need to feed the meter). After you tour all the sites around Independence Hall, if you still have time, you can take a cab to visit the other sites that are not in the immediate neighborhood.

Again, don't forget to pick up the FREE timed ticket for Independence Hall as soon as you arrive in Philadelphia, or better yet, reserve it online ahead of time.

elle Aug 4th, 2004 06:27 AM


To visit sites 1, (Independence Hall);
2 (Franklin Court); 3 (Carpenters Hall);
4 (Constitution Center);5 (Liberty Museum);6 (Christ Church, and its cemetery); and 10 American Philosophical Society--you can park in one place. There's a lot beneath the Independence Visitors Center at 6th and Market (very near the Constitution Center), another near the Bourse (entrance on 4th between Market and Chestnut), and another at the Holiday Inn on 4th Street at Race. Expect to pay between $11 and $20, depending on how long you stay.

The other sites mentioned--the Art Museum, Academy of Fine Arts, and Mummer Museum--are not in the historic district. If you get lucky, you may find free parking around the Art Museum; otherwise, there's an inexpensive lot out front (I think it's $5). There's a lot on Broad Street near the Pa. Academy of Fine Arts (Broad & Race, I think). If you go to the Mummers Museum, which is in South Philly around 2nd and Washington, you will probably be able to find street parking.

hope this helps.

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