Philadelphia…. phila Delphi…..or city of brotherly love! Also known as, Philly!
Philly was founded by William Penn in 1682 which served as the meeting place during the American Revolution for the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and home to the signing of the Constitution in 1787. Philadelphia also served as the US capital during the Revolutionary War. Famous figures tied to Philly include William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Louisa May Alcott, Grace Kelly, and many more. Today, Philly is known for its famous Philly cheesesteak and numerous outdoor sculptures and murals that outnumber any other American city, contributing to its unique culture.
The great thing about this historical city is that many of it’s historical sites are all situated centrally and within proximity. While the city offers a tram to get you around, we found ourselves walking everywhere with very few cab rides (as a result of a little rain).
We stayed at the Marriot downtown which is located directly in front of city hall. We had a corner room that looked directly at City hall which we thought was a nice surprise. Feel free to request this view when making your reservation! As with most Marriot hotels, it was clean, spacious and updated and was just a 15 minute walk to all the historical sites we wanted to see….and about a 30 minute walk to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. If you have a car, it’s cheaper to park in the lot across the street rather than valet parking with the hotel for $36/day. The hotel also had a sizeable hotel bar and a Starbucks.
Our friends stayed just a block over at the Hilton Garden and just across from China town. This hotel was a little bit closer to the historical sites and also closer to the convention center. The rooms were also clean and spacious as with most Hilton hotels.
So admittedly, I probably did more research on food locations than actual historical sites. Friday night we ate dinner at Talula’s Garden. It’s a farm to table concept that offers traditional American food. They also offer a full menu of various cheese tastings. These tastings aren’t huge but substantial enough so depending on how big a cheese fanatic you are, you should consider sharing with the table. I had the “Not your Granny’s – 6 new takes on Tradition” and my favorite by far was the Purple Haze which was a goat cheese infused with violet (I’m a sucker) and fennel but all the cheeses were rather mild in pungency with exception to the blue cheese (which was also delicious!). Telula’s also offers these delicious buttery croissants that melt in your mouth. This might have been a highlight, seriously. Also worth mentioning, the scallops were DELICIOUS and full of flavor. They also offer organic beers and wines and various cocktails. Talula’s Garden offers a seasonal menu and I can’t imagine anything being bad from this restaurant. Highly recommended! Advanced reservations also highly recommended!
Philly is known for it’s BYOB restaurants as liquor licenses used to cost an arm and a leg. The town has come to be known for them. Because of this, there are many locations to drop in and buy a good bottle of wine to take to dinner if you end up at a BYOB location. Good news: no 300% markup fee! Whoo hoo!
We ended up Saturday night at Pumpkin, also a farm to table concept that is BYOB. Unfortunately, this restaurant didn’t impress us. The menu was very small, not always a bad thing. But we felt our food lacked in the blending of flavors. We had actually met some friends at Talula’s Garden a second time earlier in the day for just drinks and we wished we had actually stayed there to eat our meal instead of moving on to Pumpkin. They also have a seasonal menu. Some positives: friendly service, very small and intimate restaurant (so make reservations), delicious dessert. Although we didn’t love it, it seems as others did…see what they had to say…
Let’s talk Cheesesteaks! We went back and forth on WHERE to get the best cheesesteak and this is what we learned prior to our visit
“…you gotta go real deal and do Pat’s or Geno’s or Jim’s – the P/G rivalry is awesome, and Jim’s is my personal fave. These are by FAR the three top ones in terms of the cheesesteak legend. There are I’m sure “better” ones, but trust me, these are the real deal and the oldest/most legendary. Geno’s is my second fave, Pat’s just ok for me. But philly cheesesteak is so delish, you can’t really lose.” – Friend of mine who worked in Philly for a couple of years and knows the cheesesteak scene
So what we decided was to do Geno’s (1219 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147) for lunch one day, located just across from Pat’s and then try Jim’s for lunch the following day…our stomachs could deal with the aftermath later, right? Geno’s is known for its sliced meat versus chopped. After waiting in a rather long, but fast, line, you walk up to the window and you better be prepared for your order. You have the option of Wiz, American, or Provolone cheese and with or without onions. Apparently Wiz is the way to go which I learned at Jims (think 1980’s cheese wiz you put on Ritz crackers…THAT Wiz!). There is limited seating so be prepared for that as well…
Now Jim’s has a couple of locations…we took a short $8 cab ride to get there. They churn people out in Jim’s so you have to be ready to order! Jim’s offers more options for toppings including peppers, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, etc. I did try to go authentic and get it with Wiz. Jim’s for the 4 of us by far won in the contest of Geno’s vs. Jim’s so if we had to make a recommendation from our limited experience…it would be Jim’s!
Also recommended to us by a local: Sonny’s Famous Steaks
Other restaurant recommendations:
Vernick – seafood
The Farm and Fisherman – BYOB, farm to table concept
Since we had limited time in this city, I’m certain there were many other historical tours we could have checked out but overall, because everything was so close together, we felt very satisfied with visiting the liberty bell. And taking a Benjamin Franklin walking tour.
Visiting the liberty bell is easy, there’s a rather long line that moves fairly quickly. Entry is free and the tour goes through the history of the bell and ends with getting to see the actual bell in all it’s cracked glory.
The Benjamin Franklin walking tour also begins in the same area just across from the bell at the visitor’s center. The tour is 75 mins long (and ran a bit longer) and includes seeing Betsy Ross’s house, Ben Franklin’s burial site, Indepenence Hall, and the country’s oldest street with original homes, etc. I thought it was a fair price of $20pp and gave a good overview of some historical highlights without being inundated with history. Our guide also took us through Benjamin Franklin’s home area where you can see an actual old printing press make a copy of the Declaration of Independence which you can buy for $3.
We also walked (about 30 minutes from our hotel) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and were pleasantly surprised as it’s among the largest art museums in the US which includes European and American paintings, prints and drawings and decorative arts (aka antiques). Some of the notable pieces include: Soft Construction with Boiled Beans by Salvador Dali, At the Moulin Rouge The Dance by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh, Interior by Edgar Degas, The Three Musicians by Picasso, Cézanne’s The Large Bathers, Henri Matisse’s woman in Blue, and a wide collection of Claude Monet. And a bonus: you can take photos! 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
While at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, don’t forget to take a photo next to the Rocky statue while you flex your muscles and might as well give those stairs a run while chanting, “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!”
And last but not least, we really enjoyed walking around, getting lost among the streets of Philly, checking out the beautiful architecture of City Hall and numerous statues and fountains around the city.