All Philly in a Day
June 25, 2012 9:13 AM   Subscribe

[PhillyFilter] You have a day to explore the city. What do you do?

I've lived close to Philadelphia all my life, but I'll soon be moving to New England for a grad program. A friend suggested taking a Saturday and checking out the various things I've missed out on.

We're both bibliophiles, unconventional, into cultural attractions and learning new stuff than, say, good beer (so recommending Eulogy or the Belgian Cafe wouldn't go over so well). I know I want to hit Sabrina's for brunch (I've been to Green Eggs and Morning Glory already) and at some point visit the Magic Gardens. Beyond that, our agenda is a blank. Do you have any places to check out? (Center City, University City, South Philly, and the general environs would be best.) A killer dinner spot? And if anyone can recommend good photo ops, so much the better. Tourist-y or off-the-grid, it's all grist for the mill.

Been there, done that:
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Eastern State Penitentiary
Franklin Institute
Academy of Natural Sciences
Rodin Museum
Mütter Museum
Philadelphia AIDS Thrift
Independence Mall/Liberty Bell
National Constitution Center
UPenn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
The Book Trader, Mostly Books, Bookhaven, The Last Word Bookshop, Big Jar Books, Wooden Shoe Books, Garland of Letters

Thanks, hive-mind!
posted by xenization to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Take a good walk along Kelly and/or West River drives, through Fairmount Park. If you're feeling more ambitious, try to get out into Wissahickon Valley Park, which is really stunning. (And even easily SEPTA-accessible at a major entrance!)

If you're going to be in West Philly/University City at all, Bartram's Garden is free and gorgeous too.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:20 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get some Ethiopian food in West Philadelphia - it's much harder to find in New England, and West Philly is actually a hot spot for African food. My favorite is Kaffa Crossing at 4423 Chestnut Street. While you're visiting the Magic Gardens on South Street, stop in at the Eyes Gallery (402 South Street), a shop focusing on Latin / Mexican art - it has mosaic installations by the same person that did the Magic Gardens, Isaiah Zagar.

Looking at your list of bookstores that you've been to, have you been to "A House of Our Own Books"? It's in University City at 3920 Spruce St, located in an old style Victorian house, and it's incredibly home-y and nice. One of my favorite places.
posted by permiechickie at 9:56 AM on June 25, 2012

The Barnes Museum just moved from the 'burbs into the city and expanded their hours. It's a fantastic collection with an eccentric presentation.

Oh man, I miss Chickie's Deli down in South Philly. Such good sandwiches. Snag one for the drive/plane if you're already booked up meal-wise.
posted by Mercaptan at 10:01 AM on June 25, 2012

The Rosenbach Museum and Library, the Historical Society of Philadelphia, and/or the Athenaeum? Check out their calendars and see if there are any interesting talks or exhibits. I haven't been, but the Shofuso House in Fairmont Park sounds like it might hit your criteria for both cultural and photogenic. As for food, would definitely second the Ethiopian recommendation, but do you have any other preferences? Vegetarian, Italian, spicy, seafood, cocktails...or a price range?
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:54 AM on June 25, 2012

I looked over your post to see if it was mentioned at least five times.

Reading Terminal Market. Wait in line for the Broccoli Rabe and pork sandwich.
posted by sandmanwv at 10:56 AM on June 25, 2012

Ooh, also, depending on what you're studying, maybe the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum and Library or the stunning collections, old and new, of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts? It could also be a place to take some photos from a different view of Center City. You could drop by the Curtis Center to see the Dream Garden, a stunning piece of glass artwork and wander around Washington Square at the same time.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:59 AM on June 25, 2012

I heartily second Eyes Gallery. It's a boldly eclectic mix of styles and artists, and the staff is just lovely. While you're on South Street, if you would just wave down 5th toward my beloved Wooden Shoe Books for me, it would mean a lot. I'd live there if I could.

The Barnes isn't the same as back in the day, to my great chagrin, but it's still well worth checking out. When I lived back East, it was about 20-30 minutes' drive outside of town, and you had to go on the right day, and I think we had to get permission (?), but the art was heartrendingly beautiful. It was a collection from one guy who had money and a great eye for paintings.

Also, if you like music a lot, somebody here will know the name of the amazing record store in Center City.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 11:04 AM on June 25, 2012

For a bibliophile, there's nothing better than the Rosenbach. I'd also suggest the Wagner Free Institute of Science, which is a wonderfully weird museum in the Victorian "giant hall of glass cases" model that just doesn't exist enough in America anymore.

For a respite during the day, Race St. Pier Park offers gorgeous vistas of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Delaware, and Penn's Landing. and Camden.

If you're into record stores, S'Tella Fabula is probably referring to Long in the Tooth or AKA Records, and Beautiful World Syndicate in South Philly is also a winner.
posted by The Michael The at 12:11 PM on June 25, 2012

Also, w/r/t The Barnes, I went to the new building for the first time this past weekend (I've been to the Merion campus twice). It was... highly disappointing. And I was a huge proponent of the move.
posted by The Michael The at 12:12 PM on June 25, 2012

For books I'd recommend The Next Page bookstore, which is run by the Friends of the Free Library, so you're donating to a good cause if you buy any of their very affordable used books. For food I'd recommend Pub and Kitchen, which is my favorite restaurant in the city. Great cocktails, consistently good food and fantastic atmosphere. Their summer menu just came out, and it's a little seafood heavy, so I'm not sure if that will work for you. Have fun!
posted by lagreen at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2012

The best dinner I've had in the city was at Amada, but I don't go to many of the high end restaurants. I've also heard good things about Port Richmond Books but haven't been there. You didn't mention but you've probably been to Joseph Fox books. I recently found a little hole in the wall shop in University City that sells all kinds of foreign and art magazines plus coffee and things - I forget the name but it's next to New Deck Tavern. And yes the Rosenbach is great.
posted by sepviva at 6:36 PM on June 25, 2012

I recently found a little hole in the wall shop in University City that sells all kinds of foreign and art magazines plus coffee and things - I forget the name but it's next to New Deck Tavern.

That's Avril 50.
posted by The Michael The at 4:11 AM on June 26, 2012

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