One day in Philly
January 15, 2015 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I'll be going to Philadelphia at the end of this month for a very short, 2-day business trip and I'm leaving a day early specifically so I can visit the Barnes Foundation. I have some specific questions about the museum and other general questions about things to do on a short stay in Downtown Philly.

The details:

So the first part of my question has to do specifically with the Barnes museum. I am leaving on Wednesday the 28th and will arrive at PHL at noon (assuming all goes well with my flight). I'll be staying at the Four Points City Center downtown, and will probably want to drop off my bags and grab lunch before I go to the Barnes.

1. How much time will I need at the museum, and how strict are they with your arrival time? What time would you book your ticket for if you had the same itinerary? I figured if I got a ticket for a 2:00-2:30 arrival, that would give me plenty of time to get to the hotel and eat, but I also want to make sure I get the full experience. Any tips for preparing for and enjoying the museum (like, I heard there's a free audio tour app?) also welcome!

Next question has to do with the rest of my short time in Philadelphia. Most of Thursday and Friday will be full of work-related stuff, including a dinner on Thursday evening, so I don't have many recreational hours to spend. I'd like to make the most of my first day there (Wednesday).

2. What is there to do around the Four Points hotel (keeping in mind I am a southerner who is woefully unprepared for the cold and probably won't want to walk far)? Specifically, recommendations for lunch before the Barnes and dinner after, places to grab coffee in the morning, and maybe a quiet bar where I could have a drink and be left undisturbed. Should I visit the free library after the Barnes? Any other cool, low-key things in that area I might enjoy?

I like all kinds of food, dive-y bars, and weird, kitschy, off-the-beaten path kinds of things (forever crying that I won't have time for the Mutter Museum). I also don't want to spend a ton of money, so no fancy Michelin-starred restaurants. Other than that, anything goes.

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by a.steele to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're literally two blocks from Chinatown. It's pretty small, but I really liked the food at Nan Zhou, and there is a tea/coffee place called Tea Do that I would kill to have next door to me.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:48 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You'll also be super close to Reading Terminal Market, for fun snacks/lunch and general wandering fun. If you're willing to walk a little bit (under 10 minutes), there are a lot of cute shops and bars south of City Hall on both sides of Broad Street. Have fun in Philly!!
posted by loolie at 12:57 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Reading Terminal Market. Especially if you like food :) Some Philly/PA speciaities, and a great atmosphere. I'd grab lunch there. It can be crowded.

If you visit the Free Library, maybe see if you can get a Rare Books Dept tour, if you are into books/literature/Dickens.
posted by carter at 12:59 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Rodin Museum is nearby the Barnes but is unfortunately closed until February.
posted by carter at 1:00 PM on January 15, 2015

Best answer: 1.) Depends what kind of museum person you are. The Barnes museum is one of my favorites. You could easily spend hours in a room trying to figure out why all the pieces are there. However - when i went through with my family, we spent about 2-3 hours total for the whole museum. Definitely do the audio tour. Parking is a bit difficult, will you have a car on this trip?

2.) Lunch at Reading Terminal is great. Amazing selection of everything, good vibe, usually live music, lots of people watching, fun souvenir things (like chocolate liberty bells/ben franklin's head, etc etc). (highly recommend bassetts ice cream).

Dinner - my favorite sushi place in the city isn't too far from Barnes - Doma. BYOB, great staff, delicious food, reasonably priced for sushi.

3.) Quiet bars in center city - It may be a bit of a hike for you - but Crow and The Pitcher is pretty decent. It's right off of Rittenhouse Square. Lots of cocktails, amazing cheese selection, fairly low key. I describe it as Rittenhouse Hipster...the Anthropologie of bars.

4.) The Franklin Institute is always neat, although goes for a slightly younger demographic. I don't care, i still love it. The Academy of Natural Sciences has a big exhibit on Chocolate right now, which friends of mine have gone to and liked.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:01 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're dangerously close to Reading Terminal Market. It's the one Philly tourist thing that exceeds expectations. It'll be fairly crowded for lunch but wait in line for a DiNic's roast pork sandwich.

I'll throw a curveball and suggest Jack's Firehouse for dinner. It's about a half mile from the Barnes and worth the walk. The food is fantastic, bartenders are friendly, and chances are it won't be crowded. It's also across the street from my favorite place in Philly. Cabs will be plentiful in this area.

I've been to The Bards a few times on weekday nights and it has never been too nuts.
posted by Diskeater at 1:07 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you haven't been to Serpico, you really should go. Amazing food, cocktails, atmosphere, really a stellar place. I suggest this even though you'd need to take a cab and it's in an area with not a lot else that I am interested in (but you may be!) Vernick Food and Drink is a great place to have a drink and some fantastic small plates (In rittenhouse square)
posted by sarahnicolesays at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, forgot to mention that I'm a woman traveling alone and will not have a car.

Thanks for the answers so far! These are perfect!
posted by a.steele at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2015

Best answer: If you have time during the day and it's not too cold, have a stroll around the still-living "Fabric District." Walk down S. 5th Street to Bainbridge, hang a right, and prowl around. That neighborhood reminds me very much of what South Street used to be.

Also, Giovanni's Room, a landmark GLBTQ bookstore on 12th and Pine, recently reopened under the auspices of Philly AIDS Thrift. New and used books, music, tchotchkes, and clothing. Well worth your time.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2015

The Barnes is awesome and was curated on the basis of personal aesthetic preference and not any sort of technical/thematic/historic approach. If you have never seen a collection like that it will blow your mind (it did mine). I would allow up to two hours for it. We did not do the audio tour and we tried to minimize the amount of time looking at the guide/map located in each gallery, instead just enjoying the art as placed and trying to get into the idiosyncrasy of it.

Food: seconding Vernick Food and Drink. We had a reservation, but they weren't ready to seat us so we had a round at the bar. By the time we moved to our table, the bartender had a good enough idea of our tastes that he sent a digestif at the right point in our meal, and some excellent dealer's choice cocktails after dinner.

Also seconding DiNic's roast pork sandwich (in Reading Terminal Market), and if that's somehow not your thing there's a MeltKraft where we got an absurdly good grilled cheese (we added garlic rub and truffle butter, I think).

Not convenient for you, but if you feel like a good drink is worth a cab ride, go see the friendly folks at Emmanuelle.
posted by fedward at 1:41 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: FYI, the mutter museum is tiny, like 2-3 rooms, you could see the majority of it in 30 minutes, but it does close at 5.
Maybe an hour if you read more of the item descriptions. I'd go if you have any time inbetween lunch & the barnes.

Even though its cold out, go to Capogiro gelato on 13th st & sansom and sample a bunch of their flavors before deciding on your 2 favorite to order.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:32 PM on January 15, 2015

Your hotel is within a couple blocks' walk of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which has a first-rate collection of American art. Thomas Eakins taught there, and the building itself, designed by Frank Furness, is a national treasure. Don't miss it.
posted by Leatherstocking at 2:33 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I'd like to suggest a trip to the Philadelphia City Hall Tower Observation Deck. City Hall is at Broad and Market, 2 blocks west and 2 blocks south of your hotel.
posted by Rob Rockets at 4:19 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, art off the beaten path -- if you possibly can, make it to the Magic Gardens (can't be represented in pictures, but here's its site).
posted by kalapierson at 12:59 AM on January 16, 2015

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