8 hours in PHL. Yes? No?
August 30, 2007 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I've got an 8-hour layover in Philadelphia (PHL) on October 1st. Would it be worth it to leave the airport and check shit out?

I'm flying internationally out of PHL, so I'd need to be back at least a few hours before takeoff. This gives me roughly 6 hours of free time. Not checking any luggage. Are there enough things to do that are close to the airport and cheap enough to not spend a ton of money (<$20) to warrant leaving the airport? Or should I just stick it out in the terminal...
posted by nitsuj to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The airport is a barren land, in the middle of nowhere; unless a friend could pick you up, you may be better off just hanging out at the terminal.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:10 PM on August 30, 2007

What airline are you flying?

For a reasonable fee I believe (because you're traveling internationally), US Airways will let you into their Lounge. Last time I was there it was a buffet and an open bar and comfy private seats with tables and power outlets.
posted by vacapinta at 1:17 PM on August 30, 2007

I'm going to so completely disagree with Greg Nog and vacapinta.

As long as it's not late at night, it only takes 20 minutes to take the Septa R1 rail line right into center city Philly (get off Market East or Suburban Station) from PHL, and it costs something like $5. If it is late at night, you can take a cab to center city in the same amount of time (albeit for $20 or so). You can definitely have a few hours where all the action is downtown.

There are lots of things to do within walking distance of the Septa stations in downtown Philly. Independence Hall. Ben Franklin's house. Rittenhouse Square. The shops on South Street. Movie theaters. For the alternative crowd, The Mutter Museum. Shopping and great restaurants everywhere. If you're too tired to walk, cabs are everywhere and the typical fare within center city is $4 or less.

Have fun!
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 1:19 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

looks like you can take the train into Philadelphia. Looks cheap - $5.50 one way and at the very least you could hang out in a park.
posted by indigo4963 at 1:21 PM on August 30, 2007

Indeed, I'm flying US Airways. I wonder how much it costs to get in their lounge?
posted by nitsuj at 1:23 PM on August 30, 2007

There's nothing near the airport and PHL boasts some of the longest security lines in the US. Cab fare from the airport to Center City is $26.50 plus tip each way.

Theoretically you could take the R1 into the city ($11.75/$14.00 roundtrip) but you'd want to leave yourself a LOT of leeway, timewise.
posted by desuetude at 1:26 PM on August 30, 2007

6 hours is plenty of time to get the gist of what's going on. October 1 should be good walkin' weather too, and that's important, because Philadelphia is a walkin' city. You can stay in Center City, or go alittle further afoot, but for 6 hours, you can entertain yourself pretty well.

It takes maybe 20-25 minutes to get from PHL to Center City Philadelphia on the R1 Airport SEPTA Regional Rail Line. Print out the schedule beforehand, and keep it with you. You can pay cash on the train without penalty heading out from the Airport. Try to get a round trip fare on board, if such a thing exists.

Here's where your paths can diverge. Are you a boozer? I am. For more family friendly advice, maybe someone else can give specifics.

Let's say your plane lands about noon. Hop on the train, ride it straight to Market East. We'll start off there. You might want to grab lunch at the Reading Terminal Market for the true tourist experience. Hop down to see the historical sights just a few blocks east and south. That should take about an hour and a half.

Score some belgian beer and frijtes at Eulogy at 2nd and Chestnut. From there, you can go to any of the Old City bars, National Mechanics is popular.

Once you've tied a few on, maybe walk down to the Italian Market. Plenty of fun things to see here, pretty self explanatory.

Eventually, make/drink your way west and try to cross the Schuylkill river on the South Street bridge. You can pass through a few different neighborhoods, and find plenty to do. If you can catch the bridge as the sun is setting you'll see some fantastic views of the skyline. After you cross the bridge, if you still have time, feel free to wander around Penn's campus. Otherwise, hop on the R1 Airport-bound, and head back to the airport with plenty of time to catch your plane. The train is usually 5 to 10 minutes late.

I hope other folks can fill in the holes I've missed, and perhaps give a different view of the city from different neighborhoods (Nolibs, Manayunk, West Philly, etc).

Good luck. If you need a drinking buddy, I may be able to accompany you for a pint or two.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 1:27 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

The airport is about 45 minutes via regional rail (Airport, R1) from the city proper (The timetable says 25, but it's not. You say you have no checked luggage: If you have luggage more than a smallish duffel, you might not want to leave. There is no place to stash your stuff, as far as I know; definitely not at the rail stations, and probably not at the airport. Philly is a very walkable city, but only if you don't have luggage. 4-5 hours is plenty in the city, though; we'd often head out for dinner and a museum before hopping back on the R5.

What you might want to do, if you don't have luggage, is head into the city for food or museums, both of which are close to the Airport train line. (The greater Philly area has a decent regional rail system via SEPTA, a lifesaver for the colleges outside the city.) 'University City' stop on the Airport line will bring you close to the UPenn Museum, which I'm quite fond of. They have a nice Mediterranean and Near Eastern collection.

In the city itself, you could go to one of the three 'Center City' stations. These are 30th Street Station, Suburban, or Market East. Suburban is close to Philly's little Chinatown, which is at least a nice place to get food. Other people have given you suggestions there.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:30 PM on August 30, 2007

Thanks for the suggestions so far. Only luggage is a backpack, and I don't mind walking with that.
posted by nitsuj at 1:37 PM on August 30, 2007

thirding TAPAS and geck. philly is a great city - take the train downtown and enjoy!
posted by gnutron at 2:03 PM on August 30, 2007

I pretty much did this last weekend (though I didn't have an other flight to catch, but instead had 4 hours to kill downtown after getting off the flight before I got picked up)

I took the train ( Septa R1 ) right from the terminal downtown. I ended up getting off at 30th street station and walked to rittenhouse park and then further downtown to city hall. got some coffee and breakfast and checked out the sights. I probably should have tried to get closer to downtown on thetrain but was looking to kill time so went for the longer walk.

My flight got in around 9am, I missed the train thats right at 9:15 or so since I was an idiot and wasn't paying close attention.

If you find yourself at 30th without a map, the nice women in the info booth at the train station will give you a copy of the free philly tourist magazine which has a great one it in.
You can pay on the train, < 10$ gets you downtown.br>
Checking out the park and city hall was worth the trip.

I walked from 30th, to rittenhouse, to city hall and all the way back to 30th station by 12:30pm all with a backpack and a duffel bag and felt very satisfied in my walkabout.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:06 PM on August 30, 2007

as somebody who has taken the R1 from 30th st station to the airport pretty frequently, i can tell you tht all of those people above who are saying it's actually 45 minutes are completely wrong. it is a 20 minute trip. it's only one stop after that to get into "center city proper," and that can't take more than 5 minutes. it's fast and efficient (unlike everything else SEPTA does), but no longer costs $5.50 - they've bumped it up to $7 each way.
posted by timory at 2:12 PM on August 30, 2007

As long as it's not late at night, it only takes 20 minutes to take the Septa R1 rail line right into center city Philly (get off Market East or Suburban Station) from PHL, and it costs something like $5.

The Airport Express line take more than 20 minutes if you are waiting for a train that leaves once every half-hour — if you miss it, you'll eat more time.

In reality, the train ride itself takes about half an hour to get into the city and costs $6. Here's a schedule.

While SEPTA eats time, the alternative to getting into the city is a $30 one-way cab ride. If you can manage your timing properly, you could take the train in.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:34 PM on August 30, 2007

Oh, and the Market East station will get you to lots of nice restaurants in the Chinatown area. Off the top of my head, I'd recommend the broken rice at Vietnam. You could then walk over to Old City a few blocks away to look at the Independence Center area.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:40 PM on August 30, 2007

The USAirways clubs are $40 for a day pass.
posted by Lame_username at 10:55 PM on August 30, 2007

Because at least four different fares for the R1 have been posted, let me state for the record that Blazecock Pileon is the only one who has been right about it—it's $6 each way.
posted by oaf at 6:51 PM on September 1, 2007

Because at least four different fares for the R1 have been posted, let me state for the record that Blazecock Pileon is the only one who has been right about it—it's $6 each way.

Round-trip tickets are $11.75 advance and $14.00 on-board, as I stated above. Is it worth it to bother buying in advance to save a quarter? Perhaps not. Am I cranky enough this morning to point out that I was not wrong? Yes, yes I am.
posted by desuetude at 8:23 AM on September 4, 2007

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