best places in philadelphia?
October 7, 2021 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Headed to philadelphia for the weekend with 2 adult friends. What are some standout activities or places we should check out?

have consulted recent brunch and outdoor dining questions, but all tips appreciated :)
thanks metafilter!
posted by wowenthusiast to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who has spent, like, 24 hours in Philadelphia, I feel I can comment with authority.

1. Isgro Pastries (Their URL is not a lie.)
2. The Mütter Museum (Medical oddities. Not everyone's cup of tea.)
posted by adamrice at 1:38 PM on October 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

It's been 20 years since I've been, but I enjoyed the Reading Terminal Market. I feel like I'd enjoy it even more now that I'm not a cheap ass college student eating McDonalds all the time.

Independence Hall/the Liberty Bell is kind of cliche, but I still enjoyed it. It's pretty conveniently located, too, so if you're in Center City doing other stuff, it's easy to just come across it.

I remember really liking the Rittenhouse Square area, and subsequent conversations with Philly people have confirmed that it's still a nice spot.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:44 PM on October 7, 2021

Lifelong Philly area resident here. Reading Terminal Market definitely worth a visit. It gets CRAZY on weekends, especially in the late morning and afternoon. If you happen to be early birds, getting there to forage for breakfast soon after opening at 8:00 gives you some relative peace and quiet.

If your people are into art, the Rodin Museum is fantastic and also very reasonably sized. The Barnes is spectacular but totally overwhelming - sensory overload, especially the ground floor galleries. I haven't been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art since the renovation concluded, but it's getting good reviews. The collection there is huge, sprawling across the main building plus an annex, and it's quite varied. There's a room of armor, a chunk of a Moorish temple, and a traditional Japanese home compound - all within a few rooms of each other.

The grounds of the main Art Museum also include the Water Works, and from there you can walk up along the Kelly Drive, which continues for ~4 miles to the Falls Bridge. The start of the path brings you along the back of Boathouse Row, which isn't the interesting side of the buildings, but it's good people watching along the path.

Philly Magazine has a good roundup of events this weekend around town.
posted by sockshaveholes at 2:02 PM on October 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

It can't compete with the major art museums, but for a smaller, off-beat experience, check out the Magic Gardens.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:18 PM on October 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Bring your vaxx card, and masks. Philly rules say you need to be masked and show proof of vaxx before you can take the mask off / be let in. Enforcement varies by establishment.

If you like craft/euro beer, Monks cafe is known worldwide for the extensive draft and bottle selections. People love their mussels, I love their duck sandwich & salad the frites are great too. Near Rittenhouse square.

Glory beer bar and kitchen is tied for best beer list, but slants more American craft. The food i like too. It's in old city near the liberty bell and such.

My favorite brewery in the city is Human Robot brewing, pilsners, ipas, and sometimes a fruit splash. Ask for a milktube. It's a little out of the ways but not far by Uber.

Philadelphia distilling, the makers of bluecoat gin and others has an excellent craft cocktail bar.

Love city, triple bottom, Roy pitz barrel house, and yards brewing are all within a couple blocks of each other, if you want a brewery crawl.

Bok bar has a great view of the city, from the roof of an old school in south Philly.

Other notable breweries: crime & punishment, second district.

Brauhaus Schmidt's is a nice German bar / restaurant on south St.

Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions, I live right outside Philly and am there frequently.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:47 PM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Monks Monks Monks!! Federal Donuts.
posted by ferret branca at 3:01 PM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Little known fact: the Philly Art Museum has an online catalog of undisplayed work. You can select from these items and schedule a private viewing. They will set up a viewing room and provide a guide to answer questions and give details on the pieces. For free!
posted by ananci at 3:06 PM on October 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

To add to the good suggestions above
eastern state penitentiary is the most fascinating museum I’ve ever been to and is doing a Halloween beer garden.
Morning Glory, Cafe La Maude, and Sulimay’s are my favorite brunch places. There’s also a restaurant in the middle of the Wissahickon park, along Forbidden Drive, that I’ve heard is good.
The Patriot River cruises are nice and relaxed.
The Italian Market area (which includes Isgro’s) is much more than Italian and has so much good food from all over.
posted by sepviva at 3:26 PM on October 7, 2021

Seconding recommendations for the Philly Museum of Art, followed by a stroll or bike ride along the Schuylkill River Trail. I personally really like the Barnes Museum precisely because it is SO. MUCH. ART., but I can see how it may not be everyone's cup of tea. Get brunch at Sabrina's after.

At Reading Terminal Market: get a roast pork sandwich at DiNic's, and then Beiler's doughnuts or Bassett's ice cream for dessert.

Skip Pat's and definitely skip Geno's; they are touristy and racist ("Press 1 for English, 2 for deportation"). DiNic's are better anyway. But Italian Market in general is a cool place to walk around.

If you are looking to splurge, Zahav is incredible. But my favorite "off-the-beaten path" place when I lived there was Hardena which is randomly in a rowhouse in South Philly, so small, but so good.

Aw, now I miss Philadelphia!
posted by basalganglia at 3:28 PM on October 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Skip Pat's and definitely skip Geno's; they are touristy and racist ("Press 1 for English, 2 for deportation").

I don't think it's fair to paint Pat's with Geno's brush here.

Def go to Mutter Museum.
posted by overhauser at 4:04 PM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's fair to paint Pat's with Geno's brush here.

Agreed, but let's also not paint Pat's with the "is a good cheesesteak" brush.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 4:12 PM on October 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

I lived in Philly for seven years and honestly the thing I miss most is the food. Zahav is wonderful, and so are their smaller, more casual sister restaurants—I dream of the falafel and fries at Goldie. Vedge might be the best vegan restaurant in the world, and consistently wins over even reluctant carnivores. If you must get a cheesesteak, I honestly feel like one from any random truck is going to be at least as good as (ugh) Pat’s or Geno’s, but another meat sandwich option is a roast pork (if you’re already going to Reading Terminal you can hit DiNic’s). It’s always packed, but I do like Sabrina’s for brunchy food. Abyssinia is great Ethiopian food. And although I’m not sure it alone is worth a trip from Center City, but if you happen to find yourself nearby and you’re hungry for something delicious and cheap, you can’t go wrong with a tofu hoagie (ie tofu banh mi) from Fu Wah, a mini-mart at 47th & Baltimore. (I mean, they also have regular banh mi, but the tofu hoagie is truly neighborhood local.)

UGH you’re so lucky, I haven’t been back to Philly since 2019 and now I am starved.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 4:34 PM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have limited experience in Philadelphia but am putting in a good word for Vedge and Zahav. Some of the best meals I’ve had.
posted by reren at 7:43 PM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yes, I should add that Zahav is my favorite restaurant basically ever, but I think you might have a hard time getting a table. Federal Doughnuts and a bunch of other restaurants are by the same group (CookNSolo) and definitely worth checking out.
posted by ferret branca at 8:04 PM on October 7, 2021

I was a tourist in Phil’s for 48 hours in June and my absolute favorite thing was an older tour guide in front of Independence Hall who started chatting with us. While he was clearly trying to get us to buy a walking tour for the next day, he asked if we liked architecture and then gave us about six sights to check out on our walk back to our hotel. The best of these was The Dream Garden, which is in the lobby of a public building, easy to duck into. So my advice is have conversations with friendly people! We also did a walking tour of the Italian Market and visited many of the other sites recommended above. I really want to go back.
posted by Sukey Says at 3:35 AM on October 8, 2021

I really liked the new-ish Museum of the American Revolution.

Don't miss the tent! (They won't let you.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:34 AM on October 8, 2021

The Philadelphia Museum has an incredible Jasper Johns exhibit, in cooperation with NYC's Whitney Museum.There's a very large Duchamp permanent exhibit at PMA, which Johns has always been enthralled with, and he bacame a close friend of Anne D'harnoncourt, PMA's previous director who was a Duchamp scholar. Tickets are timed - not sure if there are walk-ups. Masks required, but I was not asked for a vax card.

The Barnes is in the same neighborhood, but perhaps just a bit far to walk if you are not normally walkers, maybe 8 blocks. If you do walk, the shortest distance is along the Parkway or Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Parkway is definitely more scenic, and probably a little shorter. The very best place for lunch is just across the street from the Barnes, Pizzaria Vetri. It's basically pizza, wonderful pizza, and some interesting salads, all with superb quality ingredients prepared in an open kitchen. Don't bother trying to eat at PMA, a huge disappointment last time I did. Pizzaria Vetri is so, so good, also with both inside and outside seating, no reservations accepted. Serves alcohol if that matters. Many vegan options as well as vegetarian, but plenty of sausage and other meaty toppings, too. Masks needed but no vax proof.

This is the Fine Arts weekend outdoor art show at Rittenhouse Square. Artists set up booths ringing the Square along the sidewalk. Def do Saturday, since rain is expected on Sunday. Eat at Parc, which is along 18th St. overlooking the Square and has marvelous food (I recommend the Moules frites. Yum!) With the art show, I'd guess reservations would be best. They have both indoor and outdoor seating. Have a great weekend!

(There are some restaurants that have begun requiring vax cards to eat inside, and most if not all entertainment venues also. Check with potential venues if this is an issue for your party.)
posted by citygirl at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you enjoy impressionist art, even a little bit, you owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to The Barnes Foundation at least once in your life. Think of it as sort of an Impressionism Hajj.

World’s largest collection of Renoir. We’re talking 181 paintings by Renoir alone! Plus there’s a whole bunch of Cezanne, Matisse, and others.

I’ve gone to Philly before just to visit the Barnes.
posted by panama joe at 5:51 AM on October 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

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