Philly travel suggestions?
July 5, 2016 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Any suggestions for things to do and places to eat in Philadelphia in October?

We will be in Philly for a couple of days in October.

We know we want to go to the Eastern State Penitentiary haunted house, and we know we want to hit the Mutter Museum. (These are actually part of the reasons we're going!) Other than that, we're open - we'll have about two and a half days.

Any suggestions? We love good food (fancy restaurant or food truck, doesn't matter) although are not fans of Indian or spicy food. Anything else we should hit?

We do plan on seeing some historical sights, but I haven't started planning which ones yet. :) We won't have a car, but will likely use uber/lyft if available, and will be staying at the Alexander Inn.

posted by needlegrrl to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
We know we want to go to the Eastern State Penitentiary haunted house, and we know we want to hit the Mutter Museum.

Well, you've already named my two favorite places in Philadelphia, so I don't have much more to say. But I can tell you that right across the street from Eastern State Penitentiary is a really nice little used and antique bookstore (with cats!), so you might want to make some time for that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:05 PM on July 5, 2016

If you're going to Eastern State Penitentiary, you can't go wrong booking dinner across the street at Fare.
posted by hanov3r at 2:07 PM on July 5, 2016

Magic Garden!

And, that will land you by South street, great for an afternoon or early evening.
posted by kellyblah at 2:08 PM on July 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Philadelphia Museum Of Art is fantastic if you like art to even a slight degree. The touristy thing to do is to run up the steps, a la the famous scene in Rocky, but seriously GO INSIDE.

I really enjoyed the hokey Official Bestest Cheesesteak tourism thing, with the two lil neighborhood dives that are across the street from each other with rival claims to be the First. Though I'm also aware that locals don't think either is really all that.

I didn't think I would care much about all the Revolutionary War/Patriot stuff (Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Ben Franklin Thing, etc), but it was actually pretty cool.

Philadelphia public transit is convenient and easy to use.
posted by Sara C. at 2:08 PM on July 5, 2016

If you love museums, PMA is great, as is Barnes Foundation. (I did the Mutter and the Barnes on the same day which was kinda trippy.) I ate at the Reading Terminal Market, which was a lot of fun.
posted by PussKillian at 2:10 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Reading Terminal Market is pretty cool.

I also really like the Locust Walk on the Penn campus, but that might not be a priority for other people.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:11 PM on July 5, 2016

I had just gotten back from Spain the last time I was in Philly and we couldn't believe how great the tapas were at Amada. Very reminiscent of the real thing.
posted by something something at 2:16 PM on July 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you like vegetable-based high dining, or if you're an adventurous omnivore, the couple who ran the high-end Horizons moved from South Street to Vedge, probably one of the best vegan places in the country. It's about a block or two from where you are staying, if I remember my streets correctly.

If you like fish, there is Little Fish with a localvore BYOB bent, and Genji for excellent sushi. If you like sushi and karaoke, check out the fourth floor of Fuji Mountain.

Reading Terminal Market is fun, as is the Italian Market. If you like good food and cooking, there is Fante's for all kinds of cooking gear, DiBruno's and Claudio's mozzarella shop for exotic cheese, and Anthony's for coffee and cannoli.

South of the Italian Market are Pat's and Gino's, who make really bad cheesesteaks. They make money off of their name and ill-deserved reputation. If I wanted a true Philadelphia steak, I would pass on them and go to a better joint, like John's.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:28 PM on July 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Good choices so far! Some of these outdoor eating and drinking options will be available in October. And right near your hotel, Kannella Grill, Mercato (BYOB) and Tria (wine/beer/small plates) are good options.

And we have Uber/X/Pool here--I haven't used Lyft here though. But Philly is very walkable! You can stroll from your home base through Washington Square over to Independence Mall in not much time.

Feel free to message me if you have questions about getting around!
posted by trixie119 at 2:31 PM on July 5, 2016

Vetri is very good Italian, though I've not been there since they went prix fixe, which was a little while ago.
posted by Candleman at 3:06 PM on July 5, 2016

Capogiro for gelato and Franklin Fountain in Old City for ice cream, also Bassett's inside Reading Terminal Market. Also in Old City is the Khyber Pass Pub which has a bacon grease popcorn.
Unrelated to the ice cream place, The Franklin downstairs for fancypants drinks- they also will make you non alcoholic fancypants drinks. No reservations, tough to get in during peak hours.
Paesano's for ridiculous sandwiches if you end up in south philly or on Girard Ave.
DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market for also great sandwiches. Try not to go at prime time like Saturday 11-1 pm, line will be ridiculous, or maybe get a donut from Beiler's and then get in line. Note that RTM closes at 6pm. Green Eggs Cafe and Sabrina's Cafe for breakfast/brunch. Barbuzzo for the caramel budino.

Higher end you would probably want to make a reservation- Zahav for that smoky pomegranate lamb thing (you might have to order this ahead of time), Vetri prix fixe, Laurel, Sbraga (foie gras soup)

Nthing the Barnes- I think the tickets are timed, reserve ahead of time. I also like the Rodin museum.
posted by tangaroo at 3:14 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks to an odd service experience, we were disappointed by the Franklin Bar … but the bar we liked best closed last year, so I can't recommend anything better. The menu seemed good, so I guess you can hope for better service than we got? Our best dining experiences were totally on opposite ends of the highbrow/lowbrow scale. In addition to the roast pork at DiNic's, we had the best grilled cheese sandwiches of our lives at the Valley Shepherd Creamery/Meltkraft stall in Reading Terminal Market. On the other end we highly recommend Vernick Food & Drink (OMG the whole fish).

For sights, I loved the Barnes, and I love Rodin so I loved the Rodin Museum.
posted by fedward at 3:54 PM on July 5, 2016

Make sure you have plenty of cash with you. Curiously, a lot of restaurants there don't take credit cards.
posted by DrGail at 3:59 PM on July 5, 2016

This is close enough to my past recommendations, which still mostly hold up: one, two, three, four. (Horizons is now Vedge and really brilliant vegan food.)

Now that I'm a certified South Philadelphian, I would encourage you to get out of Center City, if only to go to a restaurant on East Passyunk, where it's really hard to go wrong. Triangle Tavern for a dive (with vegan!), Stargazy for authentic English pie & mash, Laurel for the best restaurant in the city (if you can snag a reservation far enough out or at the last minute). Or across Broad, my favorite Mexican place in the city right now, conveniently about a block from my house.
posted by supercres at 5:01 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Midtown Village Fall Festival, Old City Festival and OutFest are all in October, depending when exactly you come. I'm sure I remember an Oktoberfest thing, too. If you come on the first Friday of the month, the Art Museum does stuff (music and wine and stuff) and the galleries in Old City do First Friday, too. It's usually still quite reasonable walking around weather for the latter.

I love Barbuzzo, which is near where you are staying.
posted by Pax at 5:44 PM on July 5, 2016

Also, look closer to then whether there will be a Night Market.
posted by Pax at 5:53 PM on July 5, 2016

Little Fish is my favorite restaurant in the entire city. (Laurel is a close second, but as it's impossible to get reservations, Little Fish wins). However - do not get dessert there. LF does everything amazing except dessert. Walk two blocks over to Bistrot La Minette and get dessert there. Plus they have a full bar for desserty cocktails.

Absolutely check out the Barnes Museum and reading terminal market.

For tapas I really like Tinto next to Village Whiskey. Village Whiskey is also an awesome bar with great bar food - although tiny with limited space for tables.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:06 PM on July 5, 2016

Everyone I know works at Terror Behind The Walls! You guys will have a great time. Hit me up when you go and I might be able to get a behind the scenes tour or some daytime passes (definitely take the daytime tour).

ESP offers dinner packages that include tickets and Quick Passes. The new site isn't up yet but here's a link for last year to give you an idea. Most of the restaurants around the prison are solid. I have an affinity towards Jack's Firehouse.
posted by Diskeater at 8:48 PM on July 5, 2016

If you like weird things, which it sounds like you might, there's Pizza Brain and Little Baby's Ice Cream next to each other in fishtown, which is trendy but otherwise out of the way a bit (easy to get to on the el, though. ) South Street has some interesting browsing, including a magician supply shop and a voodoo shop, the Magic Gardens, and is near fabric row on 4th Street. I have heard good things about the Wagner Free Institute of Science but haven't been there yet. Kelly Drive is beautiful, and Laurel Hill Cemetery is nearby and cool. Weekdays there are gourmet lunch trucks at Love Park by city hall. Oh, a lot of restaurants are BYO.
posted by sepviva at 8:51 PM on July 5, 2016

I always enjoyed visits to the Franklin Institute Science Museum, but I haven't been there in almost 3 decades, so I don't know if it's still worth the visit.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:30 PM on July 5, 2016

For a yummy bowl of noodle soup try Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House in Chinatown.

If you find yourself over in West Philly, you could stop by Kabobeesh - really delicious kabob plates.
posted by BeHereNow at 11:34 AM on July 6, 2016

Primo makes the best hoagies in the world, bar none. Primo is a chain now, but it was born in Philadelphia and is still very localized to Pennsylvania/New Jersey. The location I linked is very close to the Mutter Museum.

Also, I'd like to second the Franklin Institute. My wife used to work there in the exhibit design department and I can vouch for her work!
posted by 256 at 12:06 PM on July 6, 2016

Oh man, reading through these responses makes it clear that you are getting very good tips. Tinto and Horizons/Vedge are both absolutely incredible. Khyber Pass is a lovely place for a drink. I'd also suggest stopping by the Belgian Cafe on Green Street (very close to the penitentiary) for a pint.

The Constitution Centre and the Liberty Bell are sort of a waste of time, IMO, but if you walk past the Liberty Bell building, they have really thoughtfully placed it so that you can peer in the window and get a good view of it from outside without waiting in line or anything. The Benjamin Franklin House is pretty neat if you want to add another museum to your itinerary, but I'm not sure I would do it if I only had a couple of days in the city. The Art Museum is obviously amazing if that's your kind of thing.

Now I miss Philly. :(
posted by 256 at 12:12 PM on July 6, 2016

An excellent gem in the vein of ESP and Mutter: The Masonic Temple. It's directly across the street, north, of City Hall. Amazing architectural interior, with a very good tour and museum (displaying the Masonic aprons of George Washington AND Tom Thumb).
posted by sixpack at 2:34 PM on July 6, 2016

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