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Day trip to Philly

hi everyone,

The wife and I are taking a day out from our NY holiday to visit Philadelphia and were wondering whats best to see, do and of course, eat.

We should arrive in Philly around 9.30-10am and will leave around 4pm but don't know what to do in the time in between. We'll be wanting some lunch, and I'm eager to try a famous Philly cheesesteak. Any recommendations?

Any ideas for activities would be great too. We'll be there in mid Feb.

Russ Collinson

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  1. Russ Congratulations to you and your bride on your impending marriage. It would be helpful to know what day of the week you are coming to Philadelphia and whether you are driving or taking the train.

    There is lot to do in Philadelphia including museums (philadelphia art museum, fine arts.. ) historical buildings (independence hall, liberty bell, betsy ross house, city hall)...

    One wonderful destination for food that is also quintessential philadelphia is the Reading Terminal Market. There you can find a decent cheesesteak, but other wonderful things too.. Amish home cooking, wonderful pretzels, and a better sandwich than the cheesesteak : Roast Pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe or spinach.

    Others can chime in with lots of good suggestions, but letting us know when you are traveling, how you are traveling and your interests would be helpful.

    12 Replies
    1. re: cwdonald

      I'd second cwdonald's suggestion, and add that the place he or she is referring to is DiNic's at Reading Terminal Market. Puts any cheesesteak to shame, I order it "wet" to get an extra juicy sandwich. For dessert consider a cannoli from Termini's, a soft pretzel from Miller's Twist, and/or chocolate peanut butter covered prezels from Mueller's at the market.

      BTW, the Reading Terminal Market http://www.reading terminalmarket.org is just off the Market East subway stop at 12th and Arch Sts.

      As far as activities, there is a lot to do in Philly. I'd add the Constitution Center, the Art Museum (a Picasso exhibit is coming next month) and PAFA, and for the physiologically enthralled, Body Worlds at the Franklin Institute and a stop to the Mutter Museum a few blocks away.

      1. re: bluehensfan

        Hi guys, thanks for the replies.

        CwDonald, we got married 2 years ago but thanks for the congrats anyway! :o)

        We'll be travelling on the train from Penn Station in NYC, and I think it'll be on the Wednesday. Is the Reading Terminal market different to the Italian Market on 9th Street? Which is the better if they are different markets?

        I'm a Rocky fan so want to see the statue and steps at the art gallery, other than that we are open to suggestion.


        1. re: russbeer

          Wednesday is a good day to visit RTM because the Amish merchants are open (including the pretzel vendor). If you can stand a late breakfast on your agenda, I always recommend the pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place at the Market.

          Reading Terminal is a block-sized indoor market (think Chelsea Market on steriods and you get the picture). It is close to public transit (get off at Market East Station if you are taking SEPTA/NJT via Trenton or take the MFL Subway from 30th St to Market East (or a cab of course) if you are taking Amtrak.

          The Italian Market is eerily similar to the Rocky Movie in that it's a bit rough around the edges from an aesthetic standpoint and not all that convenient to public transportation unless you take a bus or walk a few blocks. Pat's and Geno's are there (but neither are all that hot between you and I) but there are some neat vendors there like DiBruno's, Fantes, Claudios, and a hole in the wall BBQ place (Bebe's). Personally, unless you are so enthralled with Rocky, I'd start at Reading Terminal for breakfast/lunch and then walk along the Ben Franklin Parkway (a bit of a walk but very doable) to the Rocky Statue and the Art Museum behind it.

          Reading Terminal Market
          51 N 12th St # 2, Philadelphia, PA

          1. re: bluehensfan

            Agree, for a day trip it probably doesn't make sense to go to the Italian Market, although it is featured in Rocky and is loaded with Philly character whereas RTM has a bit more sheen. You can also get a good cheesesteak at George's. In addition to the stores, it is a large outdoor produce market. You could always take a cab there or back if really wanted to go. It's a pretty nice walk down there on 9th St as you set to see some more of the neighborhoody areas and it really isn't too far.

            1. re: bluehensfan

              If you're up for a serious walking/eating tour of the City, I'd start at the Reading Terminal Market (RTM) for the Dutch Eating Place and other suggestions given, then walk east to hit the Liberty Bell (from the outside, no need to go through security), walk around Independence Mall, etc. Then if you'd like you can do a loop through Old City (galleries, Elfreth's Alley, waterfront), south through Society Hill (great mid-block parks and cut-throughs), a pause on South Street (pick up some stripper heels, maybe grab a beer or a sausage at Brahaus Schmitz). Then head south toward the Italian Market (late lunch BBQ at Bebe's or Italian hoagies at Sarcone's or tacos at Taqueria de Puebla, shopping at Fante's and DiBruno Bros, etc).
              At this point, you could go south and see the spectacle that is pat and geno's. Or, you could head towards Rittenhouse Square (walk or cab), hitting the Capogiro on 20th for gelato or the La Colombe on 19th for coffee, or even the Tria on 18th for wine, beer, and cheese. If you've still got the energy, hit the other DiBruno Bros near 18th and Chestnut for sandwiches for the train ride home and swing by the Comcast Building to watch their fancy video wall. Then, you're just a short cab ride or trolley ride back to 30th Street Station.

              I've given this tour. It's exhausting, but you'll get a good overview of Center City.

              1. re: urbanfabric

                i think this one sounds good. i am a lifelong philadelphian and this definitely hits a few highlights. if i were to omit anything (considering it is winter), i would nix the rittenhouse loop (if it was summer, i would absolutely say go to rittenhouse, the square is beautiful). there is also a tria and capogiro east of broad street if you are interested in checking these places out. also, i wouldn't bother getting sandwiches at the rittenhouse dibruno's since by then, the second branch of paesano's will be open in the italian market. that is where you absolutely have to go to try a sandwich (it will be on 9th and christian). their most famous sammie is the arista (roast suckling pig, rabes, long hots and provie) though every sandwich they make is outstanding. you can always go to sarcone's at 9th and bainbridge if you want a hoagie (but only before 2 or 3 in the afternoon).

                i am going to start a thread on best cheesesteaks from a street vendor in two seconds if you want to check it out for suggestions on where to get a good cheesesteak while you wander too.....

                1. re: mazza3

                  Hi Russ. I'm with you on taking the time to see/photograph the Rocky statue at the edge of the Art Museum. There are many buses that would take you there from center city--the tourist loop among others, but the #32 on Broad Street, the #'7 and 48 routes come close. WE live across the street, and see tourists taking pictures of Rocky all the time.
                  Best shot would be a picture of the tourists taking pictures of the Rocky statue!

                  1. re: Bashful3

                    thanks everyone, excellent suggestions and I'm certain we'll love our day in Philly.

                    1. re: russbeer

                      is the Eastern State Pen worth a visit? Looks spooky!

                      Are there any viewing platform type places there to see the city from upon high?

                      1. re: russbeer

                        You can go to the top of City Hall for a small fee. Not sure about hours.
                        XIX in the Bellevue (19th Fl) and R2L in Liberty Tower 2 (32nd floor, I think) are restaurants/lounges high up in skyscrapers where you can get a nice view and a cocktail.

                        If you are driving, you can check out Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park for a very nice view of the skyline. There are also very good views from the Girard and Spring Garden St bridges, although the bridges themselves are not very scenic. The Spring Garden bridge is right behind the art museum so it may be worth a small detour if you are going there, especially around sundown.

                        1. re: barryg

                          The best somewhat accessible view of the city (from three sides unless there is a conference or meeting) is at the banquet rooms on the 33rd floor of the Lowe's (12th and Market Sts.). You can see from the Delaware Memorial Bridge in New Castle (40 miles away to the south) as well as well past the Art Museum and into New Jersey). It's a block away from Reading Terminal (look up for the PSFS sign).

                          BTW ESP is all concrete and verrry cold, even in April or May. Neat to see but not tops on my list.

                        2. re: russbeer

                          ESP is a wonderful piece of history if you like to understand the philosophy of "corrections" and punishment in the nineteenth century. These days its popular around Halloween, for haunted walks. But unless you are a real history buff, you would probably be better off looking at things in Old City. I have visited it several times, the first over 10 years ago when you had to wear hard hats, and there were ferile cats running around. Now it has been cleaned up quite a bit. But given everything that that city has to offer, and that you only have eight hours in the city before you return on amtrak, I probably would take a pass.