Tour Philadelphia Like a Local

October 28, 2015

Yo, the next time youse come to Philly, you’ve gotta do more than see the Liberty Bell and buy a cheese steak.

Excuse the stank Philly addytude as well as the vernacular but the City of Brotherly Love has a whole lot more going on than what you see in a Rocky movie. So, while it may be fun to make like Rocky Balboa and run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, that’s only the beginning of what all there is to do here.

Begin a leisurely fall weekend with a trip to one of Philly’s newest and best attractions, the Barnes Foundation. Originally located in a Philadelphia suburb, the impressive art collection opened in downtown Philadelphia in 2012 – which was an exciting thing for fans of the eclectic collection of paintings by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso that once belonged to the late Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Tickets are required. You could easily spend a whole day taking it all in. But why? A whole city awaits.
Grab a late lunch on the run at the Reading Terminal Market, Philly’s famed historic farmers’ market. You’ll be dazzled by the sights and smells and have so many food choices you won’t know whether to get a freshly baked pretzel or one of the city’s famed hoagies. (The turkey hoagies with provolone cheese at Salumeria are a personal favorite.) For some Pennsylvania Dutch flavor, slide onto a counter stool at the Dutch Eating Place. Their open-faced turkey sandwich is a classic choice. You can’t go wrong with that. Same thing with the apple dumplings.

When it is time to walk off all that food, head east on Market Street in the direction of Independence Park. Skip the line for the Liberty Bell and head over to Independence Hall, the birthplace of the U.S. Constitution. You’ll need a free ticket to tour it. Afterwards, the President’s House is a short walk away and well worth it. This open-air exhibit plays tribute to Presidents George Washington and John Adams and the nine slaves who served at that house under Washington. You don’t need a ticket to walk around and imagine what it would have been like to have been owned by a man who fought the British to ensure freedom for Americans.

Since you’re already steeped in history, walk past the Betsy Ross House at Second and Arch streets. The house is open March through Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Cost: $5 per adult.

For dinner, the historic City Tavern, 138 S 2nd St., is a classic pick. It’s a replica of a former spot where many of the founding fathers once dined. In keeping with that historical heritage, the servers wear period clothing and you can order 18th century-esque dishes such as mallard duck sausage and colonial turkey pot pie. But this is Philly and good food is everywhere. Whether you’re talking an authentic Philly cheese steak from Jim’s Steaks on South Street (this is where I would go if I still ate cheese steaks) or one of Stephen Starr’s popular restaurants. My favorite? Continental because of the lobster mashed potatoes with red wine reduction sauce and fried calamari salad. There’s a Continental in Old City as well as Center City.

Day two in Philadelphia could start with a brisk walk around picturesque Rittenhouse Square, Philly’s most fashionable address. Think high-end stores, stately homes and condos and a peaceful, in-city park setting. Afterwards, rewards yourself with a hot cup of coffee. But skip Starbucks in favor of Philly’s own La Colombe at 130 S. 19th St. You won’t find a lot of extras there like soy milk and sandwiches, but the coffee is soul satisfying. Enjoy it there or take it with you as you stroll along Walnut Street, Philly’s ritziest retail strip. Shopping in Philadelphia is changing as big-name, major retailers such as H&M, Zara, Theory and Apple have replaced home-town stores which had been long-time staples on Walnut Street.

Since Philadelphia is known as the city of neighborhoods, make sure you take time to explore at least one.

Northern Liberties is the buzziest thanks to new development that includes a European-style piazza surrounded by cool restaurants and funky boutiques. It’s a popular space for concerts, festivals, and screenings. This past summer, Brooklyn’s famed flea market began opening at the Piazza on Saturdays. You can’t go wrong with going where the locals dine. We hang out at P.Y.T. for burgers or Darling’s Diner for an old-fashioned diner feel that’s open 24 hours.

The doors to Philadelphia’s first casino opened in 2010 and since then, SugarHouse Casino, 1001 N. Delaware Avenue, has become a fun hangout for gaming fans.
But if you’re looking for something more seasonal, catch a night-time Terror Behind the Walls Tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary. Formerly the most famous prison in the country, this time of year, it’s the top Halloween attraction in Philly. The final date for the haunted house is Nov. 9. Purchase tickets online at for the best deal.

End your getaway with a Sunday brunch at Green Eggs Café (there are three locations) with an order of red velvet pancakes and layered with strawberry mascarpone cheese. Yes, that’s a calorie-laden dish, but with all the walking you’ve done around Philly, you’ll have more than earned the treat [gallery ids="101515,150878" nav="thumbs"]