Please tell me about Philadelphia.
April 7, 2013 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Bringing my daughter to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In a wheelchair. Looking for the best/easiest (yet cheapest?) way to get from the airport, where to stay, what to do.

My 14 year-old daughter needs specialist treatment for a pain condition and we have an appointment at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). We're travelling (from Canada) there for one day/night in May, then for an extended period later in the year. She is in a wheelchair, can walk a short distance with difficulty. Can't really manage stairs. She can get out of the chair and into a vehicle, so doesn't need special transport.

We'll be flying in to PHL. What is the best way to get from there to CHOP, or somewhere near by, and back again the next day? The wheelchair we have may not fit in the trunk of a regular car (it's a rental and the wheels don't come off), so would probably need a minivan cab, if they're available. While I don't want to take public transit, I need to keep expenses minimal so probably can't afford a limo.

CHOP has given us a long list of hotels nearby. Where would you suggest for one night before the appointment? When we come back for longer-term treatment later in the year we'll look at Ronald McDonald House or a long-stay apartment.

And while we won't have much, if any, free time, for this first brief visit, please give us things to look forward to for when we'll be back for treatment (which will probably be 2-4 weeks mid-summer). We may not travel home for weekends, so would be looking for galleries, museums and other teenager-friendly activities to do. And whichever parent is with her will probably be free for much of the day while she is in treatment, so suggestions of activities around CHOP or elsewhere in the city would be appreciated. Parks, walking trails, bike rental, yoga studios, good coffee shops to hang out and read / internet. That kind of thing.
posted by valleys to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
CHOP is in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. There is a train that runs from the Airport to Philadelphia's center that also makes a stop in University City. Looking at the map, it looks like the station is about 1 block from the hospital. Both the Airport and University City stations are wheelchair accessible.
You can get schedule details here. Generally speaking the Airport line runs every half-hour except for late-night/early morning.
posted by Eddie Mars at 9:22 AM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: There is a train from the airport directly to University City station, which is about a 5-10 minute walk from CHOP. With the wheelchair, probably 15-25 minutes. The train is by far the easiest option, except you do have to have cash to pay on board - there are no ticket machines at the airport for some inscrutable reason. I moved away last summer, but at that time the train was $7 a person, and should be easily managed in a wheelchair.

Your other option (ONLY other option, really) is a cab. You will be able to find wheel-chair friendly cabs, but it might be a while. From the airport to CHOP, it's about $30 (regular fare).

Hotels in that area tend to be expensive. is your friend.

The Penn campus is beautiful, and right on the river. One can walk on either side of the Schuykill River, although sometimes there's construction. On the side opposite Penn (crossing at Walnut), begins the Fairmount Park bike trail, which is usually beautiful, but especially this time of year (trees blooming!). You can walk north on this path to the Art Museum (definitely a highlight, don't miss it). That whole area is nice for exploring.

There's also a pretty cool Anthropology museum on Penn's campus; it has mummies!

Further afield is the Mutter Museum of medial oddities from the Victorian era. Teenagers might like that, depending on their tastes.

If you can manage to get three miles east to the Old City, there are even more historical sights and beautiful old stuff, as well as art galleries and great restaurants. Comprehending how to get there with a wheelchair is difficult for me. A few other favorite places I used to take out-of-towners: the Magic Gardens and Italian Market in South Philly, and Eastern State Penitentiary. That's all I have right now, let me know if there is any specific followup info you need.
posted by seachange at 9:24 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

CHOP is on the south side of Penn's campus, if that isn't yet clear.
posted by seachange at 9:25 AM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: CHOP is just one block away from a rail station that is one of the first stops along the route from the airport (Airport Line). I cannot vouch for the current condition of the elevator, but I know there is one and that the station says it is wheelchair accessible. There's a number on there you could call, but I'll leave it to current Philly residents MeFites to give you the ground truth.

Right in between CHOP and the station is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. They have a fantastic antiquities collection housed in a gorgeous old building. It is also a working anthropology department, so you have real live professors and grad students wandering around the place. It feels like you could turn the corner and bump into Professor Indiana Jones.

You're also near by the Bartram Garden and the various parks of Center City, like Rittenhouse Square.
posted by Mercaptan at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2013

I would not take the train. There are definitely minivan cabs, and I'm sure you can have them call a fully-accessible one.

Actually, I would call CHOP. I'd be surprised if they didn't have a special shuttle to take people from the airport to the hospital. They could probably also give you advice about lodging, though I would look at the University City Sheraton, on Chestnut. There's also the Inn at Penn on Walnut, which is a Hilton.

Seconding Mutter Museum, and there's also the PMA and the new Barnes. Close by, there's the Penn Museum, as well as the Institute of Contemporary Art, which is near the Sheraton. I would avoid Old City, but that's just me. Very touristy and a lot of walking. In the summer, I find it a little miserable.
posted by supercres at 9:33 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does CHOP have any special transport advice? I'd be surprised if they did not have recommendation for a wheelchair-friendly cab company. The train is... do-able, but there are no securing locations and I'm having a hard time visualizing where a wheelchair would go on any but the newest type of train car (Silverliner V), and to my knowledge there's no idea to know a priori what train type is going to come.

For hotel arrangements for a single night, I would probably immediately recommend The Sheraton (around 35/36th and Chestnut) or The Inn at Penn (36th and Sansom). Both are very walkable to CHOP (a little below 34th and Spruce, so about 4-5 blocks south and 2-3 blocks east), so you can avoid worrying about accessible cabs intra-city
posted by Keter at 9:36 AM on April 7, 2013

If you are near Penn after CHOPS and need a place to sit for a while, this was my favorite coffee shop when I lived in that neighborhood: Metropolitan Bakery. (disclaimer: I haven't been back for about 5 years.)
posted by third rail at 10:02 AM on April 7, 2013

I encourage you to check out CCT Connect, which is a service that exists precisely for your situation. I work with older adults who use the service and are relatively happy with it. I've also talked with their representatives on the phone and they were helpful and friendly.
posted by ancient star at 10:07 AM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: I would contact CHOP directly about the wheelchair options for getting into the city, versus changing the rail to the airport-- it's definitely cheaper and it is quite close to CHOP, but SEPTA is not at all wheelchair friendly in general. It could be expensive, but UBER, a sort of independent car service, has started operating in Philly; I think they tend to have larger vehicles, so you could also try contacting them.

I volunteer/do some educational stuff at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and it's super awesome! There are elevators on all floors and I don't think the wheelchair would be a problem at all, though you would maybe want to go in the group entrance as the others are elevated and have cobblestones/bricks as paving. The Institute of Contemporary Art, also a Penn museum, is a smaller but more cool collection. You're not that far from the more traditional museums, like the PMA and the Barnes, and if you're visiting for the first time it might be cool to do a tour of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. (You can do this by wandering past them, which I would recommend doing earlier in the day, unless you really want to wait in line.) There are other more specialized museums, like the Rosenbach and the Mutter Museum, along with the Independence Seaport Museum along the waterfront. I am not sure about the wheelchair accessibility, but they should have that info on their website. The Academy of Natural Sciences is another crowd-pleaser; lots of cool fossils and other natural dioramas. They also have quite fun family programs throughout the year.

You'll be close to the International House Philadelphia, a sort of dorm/hub of international programming, which does films and art shows. They also have a little cafe, which could be a nice alternative to Starbucks. There is a Starbucks quite close to CHOP (and a Potbelly's) as well as several faster options catering to Penn students. I kind of like Mad Mex which has enormous burritos, plates of tortilla chips, and is rife with college students. It's quite fun. (I woudn't go on a Friday during Penn's senior week, but it's way more low-key when I've been there during the week during the summer.) There is an outdoor patio with seating that I believe is wheelchair accessible.

The Inn at Penn is really plush and lovely but really expensive. CHOP has a pretty good list of hotels, it looks like, that offer cheaper rates. The Homewood Suites by Hilton – University City sound nice, as they're close to restaurants and a grocery store, and there's a free shuttle to CHOP.

I hope your family has a good stay and I wish your daughter all the best in her recovery.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:08 AM on April 7, 2013

Also if you do stay there, you're close to the U-City branch of CAPOGIRO gelato, which is crazy awesome and could be a nice treat, if she can eat gelato. They also have proper espresso and I see students studying there quite frequently.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Uber in PHL is still getting its legs - the availability isn't up to NYC or SF standards - but it's worth having the app. You can request an SUV if you need one, but in my experience adult size folding travel wheelchairs fit in full-size taxis (Crown Vics) without disassembly.

Seconding Barnes Foundation as worth a visit.
posted by zippy at 11:52 AM on April 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the information so far. As mentioned, CHOP has given us a hotel list, but I was looking for specific recommendations, walking distance or a shuttle is good. Is the area around there generally safe? I've no knowledge of the city, but I imagine some areas are better than others?

The international patient centre at CHOP is helpful, and i will ask them about transport options. But for now I'll look at the train and CCT, but $30 for a cab would be ok. It's cheaper than airport cabs here, anyway.

I guess I could also look at switching the rental wheelchair for a lighter/ removable wheel version for the trip.

And yes - food! I forgot to ask about that. We've all had more than our share of hospital food, so vegetarian options around the area would be most welcome.
posted by valleys at 12:10 PM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: The area right around CHOP is perfectly fine; you will see lots of foot patrols and bike patrols by both Drexel and Penn campus cops. If you were ever walking to your hotel at night and did feel unsafe, I think you can request a walking escort through Penn's campus cops. It begins to get a little dicey north of Market St.after 34th or so (your mileage will vary on this and it's a neighbourhood very much in flux) and further out, but that area is safe. You're also close to Penn's little quad and a couple of parks where they practice rugby and soccer, if you want a bit of green. Oh, and World Cafe! Lots of shows at different price points and styles, if you wanted a night out.

You'll be quite close to many food options, including several food trucks. Mad Mex has extremely tasty vegetarian Tex-Mex food; White Dog has upscale American food and decent veg options; New Deck is your standard bar (aka not great vegetarian options); San Kee is very solid; Han Dynasty is crazy good; City Taphouse at 39th has really amazing veg options even if it's a little pricey; Landmark at 34th and Market is not my favorite but they do have a nice veggie burger and outdoor fire pits; Tria (32nd and Walnut?) has amazing cheeses and wines, again if you need a nice night out; Hummus at 38th and Walnut has loads of cheapish falafels and fries and Israeli addition to SweetGreen and numerous other fastish food places. The middle eastern place in the food court at 34th and Walnut has pretty decent falafel and hummus too. You will also only be a mile and a half or so from Trader Joe's, which has many exciting and health-as-you-want snacks and meal options, if you wanted to stock her hospital room or provision your long-term stay. You will basically have many options for food, including warm cookies at 2 a.m. (Thanks, Insomnia Cookies!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:43 PM on April 7, 2013

Oh and to answer your direct question-- yes, the Sheraton nearby is fine. Many of the hotels on their list are farther and traffic across town can be rough (small blocks, lots of lights) which is why I think sticking with the options on the west side of the river would be better for your first visit, at least. If you can swing it, the Inn at Penn is very nice and very close, and the building seemed very wheelchair accessible.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:45 PM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: When you get a cab at PHL, there is a little kiosk staffed by an airport employee who radios to hail the next cab in line in the waiting lot. I'm sure he/she would be able to request a minivan cab for you, and I doubt it would take much longer than it usually does.

Both the Sheraton and the Hilton are nice, as people have said above -- I work at CHOP (doing public health research), and we tend to have our out-of-town colleagues stay at the Sheraton, as it's slightly less pricey. The Holiday Inn Historic District (on the list that jetlagaddict linked you to) is in the cool Old City neighborhood, and is a short walk from the 2nd St. subway station, which is wheelchair accessible and will get you to 34th and Market, which is 3-4 blocks north of CHOP.

For your longer stay, I recommend Old City Coffee, which has locations in the Reading Terminal Market, which you'll want to check out on its own merits, and in the Old City neighborhood. Raja Yoga is a 25-30 minute walk from CHOP, through a nice neighborhood called Graduate Hospital. Graduate Hospital, which is right across the Schuykill from CHOP Main, is home to Grace Tavern, which looks like a dive but serves one of the best burgers in Philly, as well as to Ants Pants Cafe, which has a yummy brunch and decent coffee. It's hopping on the weekends, but I think during the week you could linger and use their WiFi.

The Penn Museum and the Mütter Museum, both mentioned above, are fantastic. If the weather is nice, you could hop on the 9 bus from 30th and Chestnut and head up to Wissahickon Valley Park (get off at the Wissahickon Transfer Center; there's an entrance to the park right there). It's gorgeous and has a number of trails to explore. Capogiro is a must, and has excellent coffee to boot.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions about CHOP or Philly.
posted by coppermoss at 1:13 PM on April 7, 2013

Sorry, just realized that while 2nd St. is accessible, 34th St. is not, so you'd probably have to cab it if you stayed in Old City.
posted by coppermoss at 1:41 PM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: If the Homewood Suites is cheaper I would go for those. It's about a block from a big U Penn student intersection at Walnut + 40th, so there is a big grocery store, CVS, coffee shops, many cheap takeout places, including many with veg options (Indian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) etc., just out of the door. It is a few blocks from CHOP, but you could get cabs for (I would think) about $6-8 each way. Just make sure you get a wheelchair accessible cab.

If you can walk 2 blocks south from Homewood Suites to Spruce Street, then # 42 SEPTA bus goes through the hospital campus past CHOP, and the buses are also wheelchair accessible (a ramp folds out, there are special places at the front with straps for securing wheelchairs). A fare is $2, so with more than two people you could also get a cab.
posted by carter at 4:12 PM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: I have had good luck with Priceline at the Inn at Penn (I bid on a 4 star hotel in University City and wound up with a lastminute room there for < $100). I think it is worth staying in the vicinity of campus/CHOP, especially for this first visit.

I'd say the area around Campus/CHOP is very safe, it is patrolled and a pretty high density area. There is a methadone clinic right at Baltimore and University, across from the VA hospital, so sometimes there are people who are clearly troubled in that area. But unsafe? No.

A quick-but-pricey-by-Philly-standards veggie-friendly lunch spot is Gia Pronto on Spruce - next to the WaWa at 38th - if food trucks aren't your thing. Also: Desi Chaat House on Baltimore (at about 40th) was a favorite lunch spot (Indian street food). Seconding Capogiro, and the thai places on Chestnut weren't bad.

I live in Vancouver now, which is pretty awesome. But sometimes I really miss West Philly.
posted by seachange at 7:12 PM on April 7, 2013

When I was visiting the UPenn campus, I stayed at the Sheraton in University City. It's within walking distance of campus and CHOP, as well as restaurants and other fun stuff to do should you have time.

I love Philadelphia; it's my favorite city in the world. The Penn Museum is nearby the hospital and pretty great, and the food trucks around it are good, cheap, and fast. The Penn bookstore is the biggest college bookstore I've been in aside from the one at Harvard, so if your daughter likes to read you could kill an afternoon there easily.

I may be back with more - I'll consult my Philly friends and see.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:22 PM on April 7, 2013

Best answer: Since I'm feeling nostalgic about Philly: there are some great movies set in and around the city which could be fun for your family to watch as you prepare. They run to all tastes: Rocky, The Philadelphia Story, Witness (only the first part, but you'll never walk through the main station again without thinking about it), the eponymous Philadelphia, the Sixth Sense, and one I just saw, the Silver Linings Playbook.

Especially Rocky, if you haven't seen it. It's great.
posted by seachange at 8:40 PM on April 8, 2013

Best answer: Seconding the Wissahickon for hiking trails. Actually, much of Fairmont Park would work for that - I described it to someone as "imagine if Central Park were five times as long and one-third as developed".

And I kind of dug the Pennsylvania Zoo - it was a little spendy, but they had a fairly cool "hot air balloon ride" feature (you only ascended a certain distance so you could get a view and then came down again), and there was an aviary where you could feed lurikeets.

(Full disclosure: "feeding lurikeets" consisted of "step into an enclosure holding a dixie cup filled with a fruit smoothie, and stand there as a dozen birds all swarm over to you and flap around and perch on you for the ten seconds that one of them manages to drink the smoothie and then they all fly over to the next person".)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on April 9, 2013

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