Philly for the holiday weekend
January 12, 2011 5:28 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are in Philly Sunday/Monday. What shouldn't we miss?

Sorry so long, already did a lot of research. My girlfriend and I are planning a little one-year anniversary retreat to Philadelphia this weekend. Driving in early Sunday, staying at the Hyatt Regency (which we got via Priceline for $70) and leaving whenever Monday afternoon.

What should we not miss? What are the most interesting, fun (cheap!) things to do in Philly this Sunday/Monday? For reference, we spend a lot of time in Coney Island throughout the year, we love cemeteries and historical sites, anything mysterious, not-so-well-known, etc. We also need cheap. I looked through previous threads and came up with the following.

- Mutter Museum ($14) is a must - is it worth trying to hit a second museum maybe on Monday (which is a holiday, so museums open)?
- Philadelphia Museum: Main Building $16 / Perelman Building: $8 - What's the difference between these two in terms of interesting things to see? Is it even worth going to either? What about the Park Houses and the Rodin Museum?
- Magic Gardens: ($5) In our price range. Is it worth a visit?
- Eastern State Penitentiary:($12) I'm assuming this is awesome?

Late night fun (lgbt-friendly!):
- Spend $20 at the SugarHouse Casino? (I'm so conservative on my betting that I can make $20 last two hours at the slots. ha.)
- Bowling? From previous threads, Lucky Strike and North Bowl look kinda fun. Are they worth the price?
- Any other fun spots to play air hockey/pool/skee ball while drinking a beer?

- GOOD cheesesteaks recommendations (I ate at the two famous ones across the street from each other years ago, and wasn't impressed. Was it simply my unrefined palate??)
- Dinner for two for a $100, including tip. (We tend to eat spicy food, mexican, modern fair, fish)
- Breakfast options for Monday - We love cheap diners, breakfast burritos, etc. Nuthin' fancy.
(Still making my way through this thread.)

Parking/Getting around the city:
We're driving a car into the city. Is it worth parking the car somewhere for the duration and then taking mass transit? Or is parking easy enough on a sunday? Are meters in effect on Sundays/Holidays? Would love to not pay for parking - any tricks? I have used in the past here in NYC for cheapish paid parking.
posted by anthropoid to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely SKIP SUGARHOUSE. If you can make it out without vein mugged, you will at least be depressed.

I like North Bowl much more than lucky strike- sort of similar to the difference between a pub and a nightclub, respectively.

Highly recommend Sabrina's or Honey's for breakfast, though there are many options. If there's one thing that Philly does well under the radar, it's brunch.

Jim's on South Street is my favorite cheesesteak.
posted by supercres at 5:44 PM on January 12, 2011

("vein mugged" should be "being mugged". It's a sad place.)
posted by supercres at 5:45 PM on January 12, 2011

Reading Market! Lots of good, cheap food options and friendly people.
posted by anildash at 5:51 PM on January 12, 2011

Go to Reading Terminal Market and eat all the things. The food is delicious, varied and affordable -- I make sure to go here every time I'm in town.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:51 PM on January 12, 2011

If you like beer, then you should go to Monk's. No, really... you should go to Monk's.

It has the best Belgian beer selection in the country, plus very tasty food, and you shouldn't have trouble coming in under $100 for two there.
posted by pts at 5:52 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Eastern State is awesome, so go.
posted by The Whelk at 5:54 PM on January 12, 2011

Oh and yes the Magic Garden is so worth it. I came upon it by accident and was totally, utterly charmed.
posted by The Whelk at 5:56 PM on January 12, 2011

Well, I'm an art geek so I'd say it's worth going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art if you like art. They have the best collection of works by Duchamp (including the installation Etant donnes and the Large Glass) among other great works of art from the medieval period right through to contemporary. I used to live near the Mutter and work at the PMA, and walk to work every day so it's doable to do both in one day. The Mutter is awesome (if you're into that kind of thing) but it's relatively small. However if you're not a big art fan, and you have a lot of funky places that you want to visit, the PMA will eat up a good chunk of a day and it is closed on Mondays, even Monday holidays.

I've been away from Philadelphia too long to give advice on restaurants, but always felt that the cheesesteaks, particularly at the two famous ones, were highly overrated, but I'd agree with those who suggest that you should check out Reading Terminal Market.
posted by kaybdc at 6:24 PM on January 12, 2011

also the Philadelphia Museum Of Art has some really lovely re-created rooms and seems pretty keen on placing art objects in context, which I love.
posted by The Whelk at 6:26 PM on January 12, 2011

On a long weekend Sunday and Monday unfortunately you can't actually eat all the things at Reading Terminal bc the Amish ppls won't be there. I suggest that you eat specifically all the meaty sandwiches at DiNic's in RTM (roast pork, Italian pork, brisket, etc) if you are carnivorous. And also a cannoli from Termini Bros.

If you decide to go to Sabrina's, CALL first and get yourself put on the wait list esp if you expect to get there after 11am. There are 2 locations, 1 is closeish to the Art museum.

The penitentiary is cool, but it will also be actually cold bc it's not heated, so it may be less fun to listen to the audio tour while trying to keep warm (or just dress so that you're prepared to be outside for a while).

I like the Art museum (it's not overwhelmingly large) and the Rodin museum (small and easy to do in a short time), but I think it sort of depends on maybe where you're coming from-- if you're used to the Met or all the free stuff in DC, it might not be that impressive. There is also the Univ. of Penn's Anthropology museum-- Egyptian mummies!

Spicy-- Han Dynasty is a Szechuan restaurant in Old City, ppl think it's pretty spicy and delicious and I agree, although I don't really like the jangly nerves reaction that I get from the peppercorns.

modern-- Adsum, Barbuzzo, Amis (actually Italian trattoria, not exactly modern and you would want a reservation), Fond
posted by tangaroo at 6:28 PM on January 12, 2011

Love North Bowl, and I don't like bowling that much. Do not go right when they open, though. None of the staff at North Bowl are morning or really even 'daytime' people, and there is a reason for that. We had a good time anyway.

Standard Tap (pub/grill) is right there as well, and I like me some ST.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 6:46 PM on January 12, 2011

Eastern State is pretty awesome… but it's all outdoors, and the hour long tour can be be freezing.
posted by mhz at 6:51 PM on January 12, 2011

Oh and I meant to add, if you do go to the PMA definitely spring for the main museum. I'd already left Philadelphia before it was refurbished but it was mainly meant to house curatorial offices, the library, archives, and provide additional storage. As far as I can tell it does have some gallery space but appears to be mainly used for temporary installations from the permanent collection and focuses on departments that don't have permanent space in the main museum such as fabrics and textiles and design. Not to say it isn't worth a visit if those are you're areas of interest, but it's a far cry from what is available in the main museum.
posted by kaybdc at 6:52 PM on January 12, 2011

ugghhh and on preview by "it" I mean the Perleman building.
posted by kaybdc at 6:57 PM on January 12, 2011

I'm so excited for our trip now!

Is this insane:

Sunday: Arrive in Philly around 9/9:30; Mutter Museum; cheap lunch; Eastern State Penitentiary; check into hotel; dinner and drinks at Monk's; hotel for the remainder of the evening.

Monday: Cheap/light breakfast; Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology; Philly Cheesesteak (Jim's on South Street is the only suggestion I have so far...); head on home.

Also, what about parking? I really need some guidance as to what it's like for parking in Philly besides what I've seen on Parking Wars.

Thanks everyone!
posted by anthropoid at 8:13 PM on January 12, 2011

- Magic Gardens: Totally worth it

- Eastern State Penitentiary: Totally awesome

- Spend $20 at the SugarHouse Casino? Absofuckinglutely not, it's a sad, joyless big box. Also likely not so lbgt-friendly.

- Bowling? From previous threads, Lucky Strike and North Bowl look kinda fun. Lucky Strike is more like a club with a nominal bowling activity. North Bowl is great, even for non-serious bowlers.

- GOOD cheesesteaks recommendations (I ate at the two famous ones across the street from each other years ago, and wasn't impressed. Was it simply my unrefined palate??)

No, they're cultural institutions and probably seem great when you're fucked up at 4 am, but they're not actually good. If you're in Old City, Sonny's on 2nd and Market is good. If you want to drive way down to Front and Oregon, Tony Luke's is very good.

But cheesesteaks aren't transcendent, they're comfortable. Transcendent is Roast Pork Italian. Roast pork in its juices with garlicky broccoli rabe and very sharp provolone. Get it at DiNics at Reading Terminal Market or the aforementioned Tony Lukes.
posted by desuetude at 9:26 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) why are cheesesteak and cheap lunch different? you really shouldn't pay more than about $5 for one.

2) Sonny's Cheesesteak on 3rd and Market is the best I've had. But then again, I've never been there sober.

3) If you're going to be around Penn campus when you want a cheesesteak, you probably don't want to schlep all the way to 3rd and market or 4th and south. There's a food truck on the corner of 33rd and Walnut called "Frida's." It's delicious -- better than anything else, really (except for drunken sonny's). You shouldn't have to sit down at a restaurant for a cheesesteak, it's not exactly fancy food. Also, really, don't pay more than $5. It's a total rip off if you do (and also, everywhere else west of the Schuylkill kind of sucks).

4) Spicy food for ~$100? You like Mexican? There's a place called Xochitl on 2nd and Pine. Fish? There's a place named "Fish" on 17th and Lombard. Both are wonderful. I like the Motown that is always (quietly) playing on the radio at Fish. I like the tequilla cocktails at Xochitl.

5) Parking is a nightmare. If you park in the city, move your car every 2 hours. Or else. Also, a word to the wise: police don't have jurisdiction on your car south of Washington. This is both good and bad. I'd move my car every 2 hours if I had to choose.

6) Ms. chicago2penn asked this question when I moved out here: here it is.

7) If you have a car, one of the most important art collections in the states is in a philly suburb: the Barnes collection

8) The muetter museum is pretty sweet. They have an unidentified piece of John Wilkes Booth.
posted by chicago2penn at 9:58 PM on January 12, 2011

9) like desuetude said, good cheesesteaks don't exist.

Delicious cheesesteaks on the other hand...
posted by chicago2penn at 9:59 PM on January 12, 2011

Please go to Sabrina's or Morning Glory or Honey's for breakfast/brunch on one of your two days. They are not expensive, and they are oh so so so good. Better than cheesesteaks, if that doesn't get me thrown out of Philadelphia.

While Morning Glory is my favorite, it'd most likely be easiest for you to go to the unwieldily named "Sabrina's Cafe and Spencer's Too" at 18th & Callowhill after the Mütter Museum.
posted by polexa at 10:28 PM on January 12, 2011

If you love cemeteries, Laurel Hill is absolutely amazing. It's huge, gorgeous, and the tours are filled with completely fascinating stories. Probably a bit cold for this time of year, but they do have a tour on Sunday. I went on one a few years ago and haven't stopped raving about it since.
posted by troublewithwolves at 10:58 PM on January 12, 2011

it looks like the Penn museum is "closed on Mondays and holidays including Sundays on Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekend" so your schedule might not work out. Personally, if you get into Philly early on Sunday, I would go to breakfast first at either honey's or sabrina's and then go to the Mutter bc that's the perfect time to beat the (brunch >10:30AM crowds = loooong hungry waits). And then you probably won't have to eat until 3 or 4pm which would be also a perfect time to go to Monk's bc they also get mobbed and can have long wait times during peak hours like dinnertime. One other note for Sabrina's-- you can order a half order of the giant french toast.

The fairmount art museum area Sabrina's has very very easy parking. I don't have an opinion on parking around the other places. Also, I don't have a car and have never used these but this is a link to Philly church parking placards, ymmv.

I agree that the roast pork sandwich is the new cheesesteak- I'll suggest Paesano's and Jake's Sandwich board which has my vote for best consistently awesome fries in Philly for delicious roast porky items.
posted by tangaroo at 6:56 AM on January 14, 2011

Seconding the Phila. Museum of Art - I think it's still free/donation if you go early on Sunday. And the Rodin Museum is fun, you can breeze through that in no time.

There's the Edgar Allan Poe house, not that overwhelming but still kinda creepy, and brings you to Northern Liberties, so you could couple it with bowling, drinking, etc. Check on hours though.

If you want an authentic Philly drinking experience, I recommend Dirty Frank's at 13th and Pine. It is every bit as fancy as it sounds.

Magic Gardens, I dunno, I think you get the gist just looking at it from the outside, but it's only $5.

I don't know if the Mummers Museum is open then, but it does what it says on the tin.

I'm glad you chose to come here, Philly is a really fun, friendly city. The scale of it is just right IMO, not too big, but big enough to keep you busy whatever your wont. Have fun and happy anniversary!
posted by Mister_A at 11:47 AM on January 15, 2011

Mister_A, I checked on the PMA "pay whatever you want Sundays" before I recommended the museum. Unfortunately it is only the first Sunday of the month so it won't do anthropoid any good.
posted by kaybdc at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2011

I really want to mark all as best answers. Thanks so much! My GF is feeling a little under the weather so I think we're doing Mutter, Monk's, hotel on Sunday then Sabrina's or one of the other breakfast suggestions Monday and the Edgar Allen Poe house. Then Target on the way home.

Here's a public google map I'm updating:
posted by anthropoid at 3:24 PM on January 15, 2011

Magic Gardens, I dunno, I think you get the gist just looking at it from the outside, but it's only $5.

Yeah, I thought that too. Until I paid my $5 and went inside. Holy shit, it's like a three-tier grotto of lurve.
posted by desuetude at 7:43 PM on January 15, 2011

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