Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >
Dec 15, 2009 07:26 AM

Impact of Conventions on Philly dining?

Given my inexperience with Philly, I wonder if someone can suggest how much difference it makes for diners in the area of the convention center when a convention is in town. (I'm thinking everything from Rittenhouse square and a bit West to Chinatown and Old Town).

The convention in question is for academics in college language study (Dec. 27-30), and generally there are about 8,000-10,000 participants. Spread over a dozen or more hotels. It's not as wealthy a crowd as chemists or doctors, so the pressure on the high-end places will be more moderate than in those cases.

So, do local chowhounds find it to be a PITA when conventions are underway, requiring extra efforts at reservations, or instance? Or is it not so noticeable?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Although that one sounds like a big one, there are always conventions in town, sometimes a few going on simultaneously.

    The only effects I've experienced are that the hotels can get completely booked (though a new one off of Rittenhouse just opened up and a couple more are on the way) and the Reading Terminal Market will be absolutely mobbed at lunch time.

    It may affect waits at the chain places near the Convention Center, but I don't know about that.

    2 Replies
    1. re: barryg

      The Auto Show and Flower Show make Reading Terminal a living h@!! those weeks unless you get there when the market opens at 8:00 AM!

      1. re: barryg

        I agree, it's a pretty constant flow of nametagged-people around there. It doesn't seem like most people do their homework before arriving as far as clogging up the reservations of popular restaurants, so it doesn't tend to affect anything in the area more than usual (although, I suspect the chain restaurants nearby).

        For those days in particular, I'm guessing it's a pretty quiet time in the City during the day (with fewer people at work), so the Terminal Market may have less of a worker lunch crowd.

      2. Other than the RTM lunch issue, I don't think conventions make that much difference to the non-chain restaurants, since so many conventioneers seem to head to the chains. Most of Chinatown is ok for a walk-in or a short wait at most. Most of the small BYOs, the Garces restaurants, the Starr places, and other higher-end spots all need reservations regardless of the convention traffic.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          I just wish they'd put up signs at the market like "don't block the box" for when tourists crowd the aisles (and stand there for a minute), particularly where the aisles intersect!

        2. I'd agree with the other commenters so far - the impact of conventions is mostly felt at RTM for lunch and the chains around there in the evenings (Hard Rock, Maggianos, etc). With a little spill-over into Chinatown, perhaps as well. If you're looking to dine elsewhere in the city, I wouldn't expect it to be a big deal though for any hot spot you'd do well, especially on the weekends, to make reservations in advance.

          1. I've both lived in Philly and been to Philly for MLA. During MLA I've found Reading Terminal Market marginally more crowded at lunchtimes, but otherwise I see little difference.

            1. It amazes me to hear that the chain restaurants would be crowded at dinnertime by those attending conventions or conferences. I remember one conference in Salt Lake City where there was an Olive Garden across the street from the convention center. All the people I knew said, "I didn't fly all this way to eat at an Olive Garden." I can understand Maggiano's and Hard Rock in Philly being busy at lunch as they are close and often attendees have time constraints. But at dinner -- where is the sense of adventure? I would rather have an ordinary but decent meal at a local restaurant (sense of adventure kicking in) than a reasonably good but predictable meal at a chain restaurant.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jfr

                The reality is that it depends on the type of convention. MLA which is more academic, I would not expect that it would be that extra crowded at higher end restaurants. Medical conferences on the otherhand are occasions where physicians are taken out by pharmaceutical companies, med device companies etc. I ate at Butcher and Singer on a Sunday night during ACR (american college of rheumatology) and I would say half of the room at least, judging by the people still wearing name tags from the convention, were associated with the convention.