Philadelphia ideas?
June 21, 2005 11:12 AM   Subscribe

We're going to Philadelphia over the July 4th weekend. We've never been. What do we need to do/see/hear/eat while we're there?
posted by grabbingsand to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
eat: cheesesteak. doesn't really matter where, just eat one! Pat's and Geno's are the most famous though.

do: if you can, visit the Franklin Institute.
posted by geeky at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2005

More info, please! Are there kids? How highly do you rate yourself on a scale of history geekery? How much do you want to spend on food? Driving? Flying? Where are you staying?

Start here.

There's a lot going on in the city that weekend. Some of it will be overblown hooey, and some of it is fantastic.
posted by desuetude at 11:32 AM on June 21, 2005

You may or may not be beer drinkers. If you are beer drinkers it is worth knowing some Philly highlights:

Monks cafe' - Belgian beers galore, Belgian food (muscles, rabit), Amazing fries.

Ludwigs Garten - German beers and foods.

The Plow and the Stars - two Dublin guys opened this place to how the East Coast of the US how to pour a propper pint of Guinness.

The Nodding head - Brewpub in the heart of the city. Creative beers and food much like Monks in quality but more American (Same owners as Monks)
posted by BeerGrin at 11:38 AM on June 21, 2005

Response by poster: No kids. We are a proud pair of geeks. She has a particularly architectural bent, while I love offbeat places and excuses to use my camera. We don't want to spend too, too much on anything.

We're flying in and staying with friends just up I-476, near Lansdale, while visiting other friends in New Jersey.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:41 AM on June 21, 2005

"We are a proud pair of geeks.... ....I love offbeat places and excuses to use my camera. "

Don't leave out fair city without seeing the Mutter museum of medical oddities.

If a 6 ft long human colon is not worth a photo then nothing is.
posted by BeerGrin at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2005

For Philly food beyond including cheesestraks and local favorites like rosted pork sandwitches I'd recomend Tony Lukes.

For an off beat and attraction take the tour of Eastern State Pen. one of the first prisions in the USA and reported to be as haunted as a place can get. this stop has the added bounus of being on the same street as several good pubs and eateries.

If you stop to eat and grab a quick beer, just ask for "a lagger". In any Philly joint worth its salt you'll be served a Yeungling lagger

As some say localy: "You'll find a better beer. You'll find a cheaper beer. But you will never find a better cheeper beer."

I'm not done yet ;-)
posted by BeerGrin at 12:02 PM on June 21, 2005

You should stop at Arnold's Way Cafe in Lansdale for a banana whip. It's "ice cream" made only with bananas, no other ingredients. Mmmmmmmm. Add coconut and strawberries to it - the best.

I second the Mutter Museum in Philly. Absolutely fascinating. You're not supposed to take photographs, but people do anyway, and no one will stop you. The Franklin Institute is fun, but always so very crowded.
posted by iconomy at 12:14 PM on June 21, 2005

Second the Mutter Museum-- It's, like, the perfect place for geeksters. And you really can't go too far wrong with babies in jars.
posted by dersins at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2005

Whatever you do, don't get stuck on 76 during rush hour. Freaking miserable.

Mutter Museum
Eastern State
Mural Arts tour
City Hall and neighborhood tours
National Constitution Center
Philadelphia Museum of Art (also the Azalea Garden behind it and Kelly Drive for a nice bike ride/walk)
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Speaking of amazing buildings!)

That Philly Guide that I linked to before has a e-mail list where they send you offers for last-minute reduced-rate tickets for performances. Totally worth dance, music, theater, in fantastic spaces for cheap.

We have a great tavern (restopub) scene, and as BeerGrin mentioned, a great beer scene as well. Good Dog, Standard Tap, Royal Tavern, Happy Rooster are have great beer and very good food, more ambitious than you'd expect. The food at Monk's has gone downhill, alas.

Other thing to know is that, due to the bizarre and annoying liquor laws, we have a thriving BYO scene. While this technically just means that you can bring your own wine or beer (no corkage fees here!) it has become shorthand for tiny casual restaurants serving meticulous and lovingly prepared food, often specializing in locally or organically sourced ingredients, for a heck of a lot less than you would pay at a traditional fine dining destination. Standouts are Matyson, Chloe, Django...oh, there are dozens.

FYI, there is no "little Italy." There is South Philly. Roast pork with broccoli rabe (it's not broccoli, it's a bitter green, think spinach) and sharp provolone is the *real* sandwich. Lots of wonderful Italian restaurants in South Philly, though I find the famous Ralph's to be very overrated.
posted by desuetude at 12:34 PM on June 21, 2005

I heartily second desuetude in recomending the Standard Tap.

Bookbinders - tourist trap
Dave and Busters - money pit

No traffic reports call I-475 "476". It's refferd to as the blue route.

Also "The Schyukill Expressway" IS Rt 76.

And even though the signs all say "Columbus Ave" the locals, including newsmen, usually call it Dellaware Ave.
posted by BeerGrin at 12:42 PM on June 21, 2005

I fourth or fifth the Mutter Museum. Best museum ever. You'll be able to gross your friends out for years with facts about the giant colon, the woman who turned into soap, or early lobotomy tools. Plus there's an entire card catalog filled with stuff people have accidentally swallowed.
posted by MsMolly at 12:43 PM on June 21, 2005

...oh and I-676 which runs from Rt 95 to Rt 76 right past allot of the tall center city buildings.....

That is called "The Vine Street expressway" on the radio.

If you follow Vine Street itself it parallels 676 in town but has lights.

I was a transplant to Philly and I learned each one of these traffic tricks the hard way. Usually late at night.
posted by BeerGrin at 12:46 PM on June 21, 2005

All good, but it's gonna be a hellhole on 7/4. Live 8, remember? Dunno if the Franklin Institute will be closed, but the Art Museum and Rodin will be. The no-car zone will be from like Fairmount to what, Market and from 15th to like 26th. Good luck.
posted by fixedgear at 12:48 PM on June 21, 2005

Tony Luke's makes the world's best broccoli rabe, provolone, and roast pork sandwich. I have fond memories of that.
posted by iconomy at 12:49 PM on June 21, 2005

I am Geek Number 2. While we would love to go to Live 8 (Rufus! I love you RUFUS!!), we will be in New Jersey on that day. So, perhaps we will miss the hellishness of traffic.

Rodin. Mmmm. Keep the suggestions coming!
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:51 PM on June 21, 2005

Response by poster: Live 8 is on the 2nd. The Philadelphia Freedom show is on the 4th. Most of our sightseeing and museum-haunting will have to be done on Sunday, the 3rd ... so we should be okay.

I hope.
posted by grabbingsand at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2005

I haven't been in Philly since the late 80's but have heard that a lovely, eccentric jewellery shop that I liked back then and that is very difficult to find is actually still going (or was a couple of years ago, at least). It was on two levels (though you could look down from the top level to the ground level) and had an ornately decorated staircase made out of curved plaster. It was set up like a little museum, with jewellery behind glass, and you would walk from one display to the next.

It would have been walking distance from Drexel University campus, probably toward Rittenhouse Square or South Street, very vaguely that general direction. It was also a wee bit secretive. You could stand right outside it and miss it - no window displays, no big sign.

Do any people from Philly know where this might be, and if it's still alive?
posted by McIntaggart at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2005

Also "The Schyukill Expressway" IS Rt 76.
And it's pronounced Skool-kill.

More architectural wonderfulness, lesser-known category.
6th and Walnut: The Curtis Center. It's a beautiful old office building -- and the front lobby features the incredible Dream Garden mural, a joint project of Tiffany and Maxfield Parish, the back lobby has a spectacular fountain sculpture.

The Rodin Museum
posted by desuetude at 12:59 PM on June 21, 2005

Franklin Court might interest her, no one knows what Ben's house looked like, so the house is represented by a ghost structure. Be sure to check out Ben's privy pit!

Closer to City Hall, there is the Clothespin, but I always thought its official name was "The Kiss".

Me and fixedgear saw The Beach Boys on the Parkway in 80s, that was a zoo. I bet Live 8 will many times more crazy than that.

Oh, there are no liquor stores in PA, we have State Stores. And, no, they are not open on the 4th of July. Really.
posted by Fat Guy at 1:11 PM on June 21, 2005

"I am Geek Number 2...... Medieval Maven"

With a username like that the Main Museum of art is a must just for the Arms and Armour exhibit.

South Street will doubtlessly be mentioned to you by someone, but it is tourist as hell and done to death. Schedule at most half an hour for that and then catch a taxi elsewhere.

The U Penn Museum of Archeology has a surprisingly impressive collection of Greek, Roman, Chinese and Southeast Asian art.

The White Dog cafe is nearby and though not a cheap stop, when I was last there they fit the "specializing in locally or organically sourced ingredients" as desuetude described.

I am a revolutionary history fanboy, but I think most folks who love democratic ideals will get a bit teary-eyed standing in Independence hall. If you only go once it will be enough.

The Constitution Center is a good time if you like history/politics at all. It is no longer on display, but when I was there last they had one of the original copies of the Magna Carta on display. That should give you an idea of the quality of the place. Across the street at the Federal Mint tour you can cry your eyes out as they shred money before your eyes. (Recycling is good, but ....but...ALL THAT MONEY!!)
posted by BeerGrin at 1:13 PM on June 21, 2005

museum-haunting will have to be done on Sunday, the 3rd ... so we should be okay.

Free admission (or 'pay what you will') to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
posted by fixedgear at 1:14 PM on June 21, 2005

The UPenn campus is really nice to just walk around. And outside its borders there are some cool shops and restaurants and coffee shops.
posted by Airhen at 2:01 PM on June 21, 2005

Masonic Temple

I'm happy to hear that you're coming here to our town. July 4th is going to be a nightmare, but you should still have fun. If your wife likes architecture, she will LOVE Philadelphia. We've got buildings from every major period, plenty of incredible achievements (and some very notable blunders). It's also very walkable, and will be PACKED that weekend. Make sure you take some time to walk around Rittenhouse Square and the neighborhoods surrounding it, and, if you're looking at the historic stuff, take a walk around old city and look at Elfeth's Alley, which has some excellent art galleries around it (which may or may not be open). Also try and make it down to the awesome, dirty Italian Market.
posted by deafmute at 3:53 PM on June 21, 2005

Also, if you're taking a look at City Hall, pop into the Wanamaker Building (now a Lord & Taylor's) right across the street and check out the world's largest pipe organ.
posted by deafmute at 4:02 PM on June 21, 2005

Across the street at the Federal Mint tour....

Last I heard, that wasn't open to the public anymore. Now, it's got concrete barriers and they don't even let school tours in.

We had a nice long thread about places to eat in Philly here.

DO see the Mutter Museum. It will completely flip your shit.
posted by Jon-o at 11:55 PM on June 21, 2005

Philly has some serious southern barbeque, great vietnamese food, and I've had some of the best oddball mexican and central american food in little lunch places there as well. check out the special pennsylvania chowhound pages for info - you can post queries there as well.
posted by zaelic at 4:05 AM on June 22, 2005

If you are interested in a dining experience, try Pod (in the U of Penn district). It's pan-asian with a sushi bar. The highlight of the restaurant are three dining "pods" (semi-enclosed booths for probably 5 or more people). You can't reserve a pod --it's first come first served. But I took my whole family there and we got one. The decor is decidedly retro-futuristic 60s.

You can change the look (and the look of your food) with about 9 different colored light combinations. It's great fun to keep changing the lighting.

The food is good too. Tel: 215-387-1803
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:24 AM on June 22, 2005

Tangerine, in Old Town along Market Street, is home to my favorite meal of all time.
posted by seinfeld at 1:12 PM on June 22, 2005

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