The Streets of Philadelphia
July 12, 2017 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Travelling to Philly for two days late July for college tours for my girlfriend's son. Staying two blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
  • What else do you recommend we see?
  • Where should we get cheesesteaks from?
Bonus points for tips about visiting Hershey Park (we're visiting for one day) and what is best to do there. Saw older posts, but most are 7+ years old. Thanks in advance for your tips/help!
posted by Draccy to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the Masonic temple. It is awesome, but you need to make reservations in advance, if I recall. Reading Terminal Market has great food, and both are right there next to city hall.

I would also check the Walnut Street Theater, which is the longest continuously running theater in the English speaking world.

As for cheese steaks, I am mostly agnostic, and my favorites aren't really near center city anyway, so I will leave that for someone else.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:15 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh and definitely do the city hall tour too, if possible. It is amazing and when I did it I had the most passionate your guide ever, fantastic experience.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:17 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to Reading Terminal Market! I humbly recommend Dinic's for roast pork over any cheesesteak.
posted by ferret branca at 5:18 PM on July 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Cheesesteaks -

I like Pats of the touristy steaks. Tony Luke's is pretty delicious. Dalessandros in Roxborough is one of the secret cheesesteak places that "only locals know about" - although it is a hike from where you are staying.

Hershey Park tip - if you take the tour ride about how they make the chocolate, they give you free chocolate at the end. When I was 10, it was a big anniversary year and they gave out full sized bars. I easily went on that ride 10 times in a row.

Enjoy the city!
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 5:21 PM on July 12, 2017

Hersheypark is offering a special ticket sale if you act quickly. Just recognize that a day at the park will cost a small fortune. (I have reservations about the Hersheypark experience, and I won't derail with them here. MeMail me if you want details/alternatives.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:24 PM on July 12, 2017

If you're at all interested in vegan cheesesteaks (my favorite), I like the one at Royal Tavern on Passyunk, in what is I guess South Philly.

By far the coolest thing in Philly is the Mütter Museum, well, at any rate, the coolest if that's your speed (it's a museum full of dead stuff).
posted by dis_integration at 5:48 PM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Magic Gardens!!
posted by Fig at 6:01 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

What colleges are you seeing, because it might be good for us to recommend things close to those colleges as well - you know, get a feel for the area!
posted by kellygrape at 6:01 PM on July 12, 2017

Just around the corner of Independence Hall, you should go into a door that you don't think you're allowed to go in, because it's the Old City Hall, where the Supreme Court met in the early days of the republic, and there will be a NPS staffer who will tell you really great stories. It was by far the definite highlight of our last trip.
posted by General Malaise at 6:02 PM on July 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: We're going to Drexel and to University of Philadelphia.

Thank you for the great suggestions so far, keep them coming!
posted by Draccy at 6:05 PM on July 12, 2017

Also: Pat's for cheesesteaks. But, whatever you do, steer clear of Geno's. Not only is it an abomination, but the owner is awful.
posted by General Malaise at 6:06 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ditto Dinic's. But if you want a legit cheesesteak experience and have a car and want to support a small business, go to Rocco's, a pop up style cash only cheesesteakeria in the parking lot of the Home Depot on Columbus Blvd.
Reading Terminal Market is also a great place to get food, particularly the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants (assuming you aren't there on Sunday).

By Philadelphia University, you mean the one in East Falls, right? If so, check out Wissahickon Park/Forbidden Drive.

Penn's Landing, a few blocks from where you are staying, has a great outdoor park running the length of the Delaware River. Get ice cream from Franklin Fountain on Market St and wander along to Spruce St Harbor Park, where you can lounge in hammocks and Adirondack chairs.
posted by basalganglia at 6:27 PM on July 12, 2017

Best answer: Neither Pat's nor Geno's for cheesesteaks, for the love of God. They're deeply mediocre, and not worth the hike or the line or being blinded by 1,000,000 watt lights and/or the drunkards. If you really really really want to check off a cheesesteak, though, Sonny's cheesesteaks at 2nd and Market is within easy walking distance of where you are and better.

Alternatively, you can hit Reading Terminal where, under one roof, Carmen's has long lines for (decent) cheesesteak, and DiNic's has long lines for (decent) roast pork, the actual sandwich of actual Philadelphians.

For the record, the two best sandwiches in town are:

- The banh mi at QT in Chinatown at 48 N 10th Street, five blocks west and one block north of Independence Hall. Philadelphia has a huge Vietnamese community, and the banh mi at QT's are really, really, really good and a great intro to the them.

- John's Roast Pork, which is far, far better than any other roast pork sandwich in town. It's in deep deep South Philly, having opened to originally serve factory and dock workers. Protip: call in your order, and hop in a cab (they're all over the touristy bits of Philly down there). Then, when you're done eating and getting a slice of old-school Philly, call an Uber/Lyft/taxi (Philly cabs use an Uber-like app called Curb), and head back to Center City or where ever else.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:32 PM on July 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Hi! I recently visited Philly for the first time. I really liked it. Of the touristy things I did (i.e., things with general appeal), here's what I thought:

The Philadelphia Museum of Art was really excellent. If you like art, you should definitely try to go there.

The Mütter Museum was also awesome. If you like human cadavers (and who doesn't?), you should definitely try to go there.

I was disappointed in the oft-recommended Magic Gardens. It's neat, sure – but I wished I hadn't gone out of my way for it. It's pretty standard-issue outsider art, and was thronged with other tourists, so I couldn't even really explore it.

The zoo was just okay.

If you're looking for leisurely food and drink, try South Street.

(Disclaimer: I don't know how close this stuff is to where you're staying. Most things were within 10-minute ride from downtown on SEPTA, though.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:58 PM on July 12, 2017

Once you're done looking at Drexel's campus (often voted ugliest campus in America by its students) you should walk through the beautiful tree-lined ways of U Penn, right next door.
posted by runcibleshaw at 6:59 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

On post: Mutter Museum is a good call.
posted by runcibleshaw at 7:00 PM on July 12, 2017

Best answer: Federal donuts in the am for donuts (multiple locations)

Federal donuts at lunch for the fried chicken

The Barnes for half a day of slackjawed gawking at an amazing collection of art in a unique thematic presentation.

Paesano's on S 9th for the best sandwich you will ever have. Forget cheese steaks, go here. Order anything. You're welcome.

A "gelati" at John's water ice.
posted by zippy at 7:11 PM on July 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Skip Pat's and Geno's (definitely Geno's for racism) and head to Jims on South Street.

Get a burger while you're there. Philly is a secret burger town. Royal Tavern or otherwise.
posted by OrangeVelour at 7:30 PM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I second everything joyceanmachine says. Also most of the lunch carts make good cheap cheesesteaks. Don't get wiz. Yes so many good burgers, and brunch. The veggie burger at National Mechanics (a bar in an 1820s bank building) is excellent, for something near where you're staying .

The Philosophical Society usually has good exhibits but is small enough it doesn't take much time. It's right near Independence Hall. Eastern State Penitentiary is amazing. Magic Garden is cool if you're already over there but not worth a special trip in my opinion. Over by UPenn there's a bunch of good food from all over the world - Ethiopian, Indian, Vietnamese, and more.
posted by sepviva at 7:42 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're at the University of Pennsylvania campus don't miss a photo-op with Ben on the Bench!

Also, since you'll be there this summer and it's very likely you'll be walking near this, be sure to check out Dilworth Park on the west side of City Hall. The fountains are really great and it's wonderful people watching. You can cool off a little too - just walk along the path between the water jets. You can do this just before/after a visit to Reading Terminal Market.
posted by belau at 8:10 PM on July 12, 2017

Rita's Water Ice! They're a chain now, but they weren't when I was a kid. My personal favorite is the bright red cherry water ice with a gelato swirl in the middle.
posted by aniola at 8:22 PM on July 12, 2017

I went to Hershey Park when I was young enough to appreciate it, and I totally didn't. Look but don't nomph? Meh. It's a company town + factory. I'd take Rita's over Hershey's any day of the week.
posted by aniola at 8:24 PM on July 12, 2017

Best answer: > Also: Pat's for cheesesteaks. But, whatever you do, steer clear of Geno's. Not only is it an abomination, but the owner is awful.

He was awful. He's now dead. His son took down the hateful and utterly unnecessary "This is America, when ordering, speak English" signs and doesn't sneer at the neighbors. That said, neither Pat's nor Geno's is a particularly great cheesesteak unless it's 3:30 am and you're tanked. Honestly, you can get a very good cheesesteak at Sonny's, which is just a few blocks from your hotel at 2nd and Market. Heartily nthing that roast pork Italian is our REAL sandwich.

Right in the neighborhood immediately around Independence Mall, within a handful of blocks from your hotel, among the many many other famous things to do, I can recommend: the National Constitution Center, the (brand new) Museum of the American Revolution, the African American Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History (free some days), the (free) exhibits at the Chemical Heritage Foundation that are typically very interesting science + art explorations, step inside the Curtis Building during business hours to see the hidden luminous gem of public art that is the Dream Garden by Maxfield Parrish/Louis Comfort Tiffany (walk through the building to the back to relax for a moment in the atrium with its enormous indoor fountain), ride the carousel at Franklin Square Park, walk down to the river and stroll to Spruce Street Harbor Park to chill in a hammock at the city's favorite pop-up summertime oasis...
posted by desuetude at 8:29 PM on July 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

General Malaise Also: Pat's for cheesesteaks. But, whatever you do, steer clear of Geno's. Not only is it an abomination, but the owner is awful.

Good advice. The owner/founder is dead, but it's still dreadful. Pat's is excellent, but try Jim's at 4th & South. And since you're on South St, take a look around. Also, the Italian Market is just a couple of block for Pat's

And just FYI, no cheese steak vendor(that I know of) takes plastic. It's cash or nothing.
posted by james33 at 8:08 AM on July 13, 2017

When at Hershey Park, if you decide to ride the SooperDooperLooper, be aware that, as the first vertical loop rollercoaster of the modern era on the East Coast, It's a bit of a different experience than most. When it was built 40 years ago, designers hadn't yet perfected the best angles to use on the inverted teardrop shape of the loop. Because of this, the fatter loop of the SooperDooperLooper is a bit rougher on the g-forces that you feel.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:58 AM on July 13, 2017

If you are visiting U of Philadelphia you'll be very close to the excellent Dalessandro's recommended above for cheesesteaks. Be aware that they have almost no indoor seating, and there's always a line. Across the street is another place called Chubby's, which is also pretty good.
Also be aware that U of Philadelphia is merging with Thomas Jefferson U, so there may be a name change in its future.
posted by Eddie Mars at 12:59 PM on July 13, 2017

Best answer: Yeah, if you're at Philadelphia University, go to Dalessandro's, which is the only cheesesteak I have ever eaten or will ever eat. If you're at Penn, go to Jim's or the Dinic's in the Reading Terminal Market.

You can get on the #9 bus at 4th and Walnut and take it out to the Wissahickon Transfer Center and walk in the Wissahickon park. It has miles and miles of trails, and is absolutely wonderful. If you'd like a guide, send me a MeMail, as I live nearby!
posted by coppermoss at 4:54 PM on July 13, 2017

> And just FYI, no cheese steak vendor(that I know of) takes plastic. It's cash or nothing.

Oh, good point and worth restating. Not only do food trucks not take credit cards, but a lot of restaurants and bars are also cash-only, especially if it's more of a neighborhood joint. Do yourself a favor and bring some cash.
posted by desuetude at 11:13 AM on July 17, 2017

« Older Looking for old Mitsubishi radio ads with gravelly...   |   Does faint blood pressure read high on machines? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.