I went to Philadelphia and it was...
February 19, 2012 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Quickie trip to Philly Museum of Art: how safe is public transit?

How safe is Philadelphia around the Museum of Art and nearby SEPTA bus/rail stops for an intrepid solo woman traveller? Bonus points for foodie recommendations for a quick lunch or light dinner in town.

I am planning a trip to PA in April, flying into Philly, staying one night at the airport, and renting a car from the airport for the last leg of my trip. Normally I fly in and rent the car the same day, but I'm giving myself an extra day to make it to the Philly Museum of Art for the Van Gogh exhibit. I'm familiar with the drive from the airport so I'd prefer to stay the night at the airport Marriott and pick up the car from there.

I've looked at the SEPTA Web site. A trip to the Museum from the airport looks doable, but I'll need to take both rail and bus, and walk a bit. I'll check into the airport hotel first, then try to get on the train from the airport no later than say 12 noon. I'd love to get some good eats near the Museum or near one of the bus/rail stops I'll be using. I don't want to get back to the airport later than, say, 7 or 8 p.m.

I am a fairly savvy traveller and don't normally get harassed - I move quickly, travel very lightly, and look like I know where I'm going. But if I'd be better off taking a taxi to and from the train stations that connect me with the airport, I'd rather know that now. If you're familiar with Philly and you think that this is just a plain crazy idea, I'd really rather know that now too.
posted by Currer Belfry to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The area around the Museum is very safe. I am a small lady and have no need whatsoever to take a taxi over there. You can take the Airport line (formerly know as R1) to Suburban Station then walk up the Ben Franklin Parkway. I think there's a bus that goes up the Ben Franklin as well but a walk is nice and doable.

If you have a chance, I recommend Reading Terminal Market, located at the Market East stop (one stop beyond Suburban on the Airport train). You can get any kind of food there. Mugshots on Fairmount near the museum is a lovely coffeeshop as well (conveniently located next to wonderful bookstore Book Haven).
posted by mlle valentine at 7:57 PM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I live equidistant to NYC and Philadelphia, though most all of my work is in NYC. From my experience, you'll be fine. SEPTA between PHL and the Museum of Art is well traveled. That being said, it might just be easier to take the train from the airport to 30th St. Station and hop a cab up to the museum and back. Faster and simpler; more time at the exhibits for you that way. There are lots of taxis in Philly.

Enjoy the exhibit. My neighbor went yesterday, was over the moon about it and now demands that I attend as well!
posted by pianoboy at 7:59 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


[ +1 on mile valentine's comment - definitely allow time to hit Reading Terminal for lunch. ]
posted by pianoboy at 8:01 PM on February 19, 2012


The Art Museum, and the rest of the museum area on and around the Parkway are very safe and family friendly.

I'd highly recommend going through the 19th and 20th century European wing while you're there, it is directly opposite the special exhibit space. When you go in from the Rocky steps it's on your right on the first floor. They have a great Alma-Tadema painting, as well as one of my favorite paintings ever, The Moorish Chief, by Charlemont. Keep an eye out for a sculpture of a little buy fighting to keep hold of a rooster, it's hilarious.
posted by amcm at 8:05 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to live in Philadelphia and worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). The only thing unsafe in the area is crossing either the Benjamin Franklin Parkway or Kelly Drive to get to the museum, but if you go to a crosswalk and wait for the lights, you'll be fine. If it's a nice day you could even walk from 30th street Station or Suburban Station as suggested above. It's about a mile either way.

It's been 10 years since I worked at the PMA, but the museum restaurant and cafe were really mediocre so I'd skip eating there other than a coffee or snack to tide you over. The PMA's location is dramatic but it is somewhat isolated from the rest of the city and when I lived there, there weren't many restaurants in the adjoining neighborhood, although I'm sure that may have changed. However Center City has tons of great restaurants. I'll leave it to someone with more recent knowledge of the city to make recommendations.
posted by kaybdc at 8:21 PM on February 19, 2012


The neighborhood around the Art Museum is pretty much a yuppie haven at this point. There are a number of good bars and restaurants.

A personal favorite of mine is Mugshots Coffee, on Fairmount Ave and 19th St, right across from the old eastern State Penitentery, the oldest prison in the U.S. and itself a museum worth visiting in its own right (they have audio tours). The old prison and coffee shop are about a 10-minute walk from the Art Museum; the coffee shop also has a good lunch menu with lots of nice sandwiches and wraps. (also very vegetarian and vegan friendly).
posted by bearette at 8:57 PM on February 19, 2012


Around the art Museum, you can't get much better food than at Sabrina's. Downtown, I'd hit up Chinatown for some Peking Duck at Sang Kee, and maybe some gelato at Capogiro (two locations-- 13th st and 20th st). There are plenty of options at Reading Terminal, but IMO it's overpriced and underflavored (exception: Metropolitan Bakery's millet muffins or plum tomato and pesto focaccia). Los Gallos is my current favorite for Mexican, and if you're into Middle Eastern food, there's a great cart that operates around lunchtime at 16th and JFK-- better than most of the sit-down places I've been to. Oh-- almost forgot: disregard EVERYTHING that I just wrote and get your ass to Han Dynasty.

Oh, and see if you can't check out the Shaker furniture exhibit while you're at PMA-- not enough people do.
posted by The White Hat at 9:01 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're totally fine taking the train into town and the buses to get back and forth to the museum. When you get to the city, do yourself a favor and buy a couple of tokens at the machine in the rail station, cheaper and easier than cash for buses.

I am planning a trip to PA in April, flying into Philly, staying one night at the airport, and renting a car from the airport for the last leg of my trip. Normally I fly in and rent the car the same day, but I'm giving myself an extra day to make it to the Philly Museum of Art for the Van Gogh exhibit. I'm familiar with the drive from the airport so I'd prefer to stay the night at the airport Marriott and pick up the car from there.

Alternately, you could stay somewhere in town for not much more money, and then just hop back on the R1 to pick up your rental car at the airport.
posted by desuetude at 9:03 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That being said, it might just be easier to take the train from the airport to 30th St. Station and hop a cab up to the museum and back. Faster and simpler; more time at the exhibits for you that way. There are lots of taxis in Philly.

Agreed. There will be a bank of taxis at the train station, and there is another stand behind the Art Museum and more cruising in front of the Museum. It absolutely should not run you more than $7-10 each way, and it will save you the traffic planning faily mcfailerson that is Parkway and Logan Square traffic circle. You also won't need to pay for parking/drive around trying to find a legal place to stash the car.

Around the art Museum, you can't get much better food than at Sabrina's.

Not a big fan of the Sabrina's up near the Art Museum. It's a fair hike from the museum itself, and on the occasions I've been there, it's meh-ish gussied-up versions of brunch/diner food and a pale, pale, pale shadow of the one down in Italian Market.

The food in the Art Museum is now operated by Stephen Starr, a big name in restaurants in Philadelphia. The food won't be super-exciting because that's just not what Starr does, but it's usually competently executed, so if you're trying to spend as much time at the museum/exhibit as possible, check out the menu here.

If you're going to leave the Art Museum for eats, you may want to catch a cab to Reading Terminal, where you can get a truly excellent roast pork, Real Philly Sandwich from either DiNic or Spataro's, or a world-class, melt-in-your-mouth Reuben from Hershel's. I'd avoid Chinatown if you come from an area with any Chinese population at all, because you can just get it (and probably better) at home.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:47 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe no one has recommended Brigid's! I have had many a cozy, delicious lunch there. It's a pleasant walk's distance away. You will need to cross Kelly Drive, but it's not too bad. Don't miss wandering around in Fairmount Park (lovely in the springtime) while you're at the Museum. Also, I am emphatically seconding Capogiro--I still fantasize about that place, years later, and no other gelato shop has ever quite measured up for me.

Enjoy your trip, and eat EVERYTHING!
posted by anonnymoose at 10:04 PM on February 19, 2012


By the way, SEPTA is usually pretty safe, but I would avoid it at night. I have definitely been harassed on the El (Blue Line), especially after dark.
posted by anonnymoose at 10:08 PM on February 19, 2012


You'll be totally fine on SEPTA. I'm a smallish woman and I've ridden it at night by myself in my pjs while totally distracted by my cell phone...and no one hassled me (maybe they thought I was crazy?) Anyway, like others have mentioned, you should do your research as to whether it's actually more efficient/direct depending on where you want to go. Philly has tons of great food but mostly it's not super close to the art museum, so take that into consideration.

If you won't have a car, DEFINITELY take the train from the airport though, into the city. It's $7 vs something like $26 for a cab which is totally silly.
posted by mokudekiru at 12:07 AM on February 20, 2012


If you do end up going to Reading Market (WHICH YOU SHOULD), allow yourself about an extra 30 to 45 minutes for lunch, as you will spend that wandering around gawking at all the choices...
posted by kuanes at 4:30 AM on February 20, 2012


People above generally have this covered, but yes, you're completely safe on the Airport line and then bus to the PMA. Alternatively, you could also get off the Regional Rail train at 30th St Station and catch a taxi to the PMA. I live a few blocks from the museum, and I usually do this when coming back to the city via Amtrak. Not at all because of safety, but because it's a really short (5-10 minutes), inexpensive ($7.00 or so) ride and a lot faster than taking a bus (there are several) from one of the Regional Rail stations—SEPTA buses at mid-day/afternoon come a lot less frequently than you'd expect, so it would suck to waste so much time waiting around when you could be at the museum.

Should you find the time, Eastern State Penitentiary is totally worth a visit, and is my favorite historical/tourist attraction in the city, hands down. It's straight down Fairmount Ave from the PMA, maybe a 10-minute walk if you're slow.

Dining options in the neighborhood skew from okay to less good, but there are some gems. I recommend avoiding Mugshots. The coffee is bad, the service is uniformly terrible, and the food mediocre. Reading Terminal Market is awesome, but not particularly close, and would take up a bunch of time gawking and choosing and waiting in line forever at the best food stands. Instead RyBread is a terrific little sandwich shop on the 2300 block of Fairmount Ave run by some fantastic people and with great sandwiches (their meatball sandwich is from the owner's mother's recipe, and she works the register on Sundays!) and house-made baked goods (their scones are to die for). That would, for sure, be my lunch pick (and probably will be today, for that matter...).

For a foodie dinner in Fairmount, Lemon Hill (menu) is a great place at 25th and Aspen that opened recently; it's run by the guys who run The Franklin Mortgage Investment Company, which is actually a cocktail bar consistently in the running for best nationwide, and Supper, one of the better restaurants in town. Food is classic American (patty melts, brisket, beer can chicken, stuff like that) and delicious, and the cocktails are awesome as would be expected. Slightly further away, but equally enticing, is McCrossen's Tavern. In the last year and a half or so, a former chef from The Fountain (probably the best fine dining in Philly) took over, renovated the space and menu, and has started doing something magical, putting out bar staples next to classical French technique in a warm unpretentious space. It's practically the definition of gastropub: there's an amazing burger on the menu, but it's really hard to get because you always want to get the choucroute garnie, or duck confit, or veal chop special, or bouillabaisse, or... First world problems, I know. Some of the other places in the neighborhood (Brigid's, London Grill) are fine, but not at all of the caliber of these two. If you decide to go elsewhere in the city, well, there are too many awesome choices to list.

Have fun, and enjoy my neighborhood!
posted by The Michael The at 6:35 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fantastic suggestions, everyone. I can't pick a best answer - there are too many great ones!

Thanks also for recommendations on more to see at the Museum. Maybe I should catch a really early flight into Philly and consider staying in town.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:15 AM on February 20, 2012


Maybe I should catch a really early flight into Philly and consider staying in town.

Given how easy it is to get to the airport using Regional Rail, definitely!
posted by The Michael The at 8:01 AM on February 20, 2012


Like everyone else said, that stretch of SEPTA is not even remotely questionable safety-wise. The Art Museum is sort of annoyingly detached from public transit, I hate waiting for buses so usually end up walking along the Parkway or up from one of the underground trolley stops. If you walk from 30th Street Station, I'd suggest crossing the river and taking the stairs on the other side down to the Schuylkill River Trail. If you walk north it takes you right to the back of the Art Museum, and is scenic.
posted by sepviva at 2:46 PM on February 20, 2012


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