Known as The City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia is a world-class city worth visiting. Home of the first American flag, stomping grounds of greats such as Benjamin Franklin, Louisa May Alcott, Solomon Guggenheim, and Mr. Footloose himself, Kevin Bacon, and the distinguished first capital of the United States (1790-1800), Philadelphia is a city deeply seeped in history and tradition. So, how do you squeeze all of that into a day? You can’t. However, if you find yourself in Philly for the weekend, or are stopping by on your way to another North Eastern great, the below itinerary will scratch the surface without denting your wallet.
10:00 am – Brunch at Carman’s Country Kitchen
Imagine walking into a random restaurant in a foreign city. The moment you walk through the doors, the waiter, swoops towards you, welcomes you warmly, asks for your name, introduces you to the other waiters, and then takes you to your seat. For the next hour, you are having a great conversation with the staff, and the matron/chef/owner herself Carman.
Carman’s is a one of a kind experience. The tiny restaurant has three, yes three tables and one bar, giving the feeling that you are sitting in the kitchen with family. The interior is as kitschy and eccentric as the aprons worn by the wait staff.
Carman’s is the creation of Carman Luntzel, chef and owner. There are only ever four items on the menu that rotates seasonally and weekly.
I enjoyed an omelet with roasted turkey, chopped chicken liver, sweet onions, smoked gouda and apple wood smoked bacon.
Despite my tasty meal, my greatest takeaway, was the wonderful atmosphere and warmth of the staff. At Carman’s, they do customer service very well.
(Carman’s Country Kitchen . 1301 S. 11th Street)
11:30 am – Stroll through the Italian Market
Right around the corner from Carman’s is a series of outdoor markets and vendors known as the Italian Market.
The market takes up a few blocks down 9th street and a stroll through the market is a great way to get a sense of the neighborhood and mingle with the locals.
An assortment of goods from fresh produce, fish, meats and handmade pine Christmas decorations and trimmings are available.
(The Italian Market . 9th street)
12:30 pm – Tour of the Old City Hall
Philadelphia is home to the first City Hall in America.
This impressive building was once Philadelphia’s city hub and was the original home of the Supreme Court (1791-1800).
The building and its rooms, which are perfectly preserved and marked, are free and open to the public.
(Old City Hall . Chestnut St and South 5th Street)
1:00 pm – Liberty Bell
“Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” – reads the inscription on the Liberty Bell as taken from Leviticus XXV.
The line to get into the Liberty Bell visitor center is long. If you are visiting in the winter, bring your mittens. All visitors are subject to an airport-like security screening, which is truly annoying, but a sign of the times that we must learn to endure. Luckily, after the hoops that you must jump through to get inside, the center, which is free of charge, is truly inspiring.
The center is laid out like a mini-museum, where you can learn about the history of the bell through pictures, artifacts and films.
Before you exit, you get to meet the bell up close and personally. It was a lot smaller than I had imagined, but that didn’t stop me from wiggling my way to the front for a photo with the most famous lady in town.
(Liberty Bell . 600 Chestnut Street . Philadelphia – Old City Neighborhood)
2:15 pm – Philadelphia Museum of Art
Constructed in 1919, this impressive building hosts one of the largest museum collections in the United States.
The building itself is truly an architectural wonder with its columns and detailing.
Within the Philadelphia Museum reside more than 225,000 objects, which are broken down into about 200 galleries.
Among these pieces, you will find famous works such as Van Gogh’s Vase With Twelve Sunflowers and Monet’s Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies.
(Philadelphia Museum of Art . 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy)
3:30 pm – Visit with Rocky
On my way out of the museum, after running down the stairs like a champion ( there was no way I was going to attempt the ascent), I paid homage to the famous Rocky Balboa statue.
The line was long. In the end, I didn’t have the patience to take a photo myself. I did however catch this guy’s moment.
(Rocky Statue . Base of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art)
4:00 pm – City Hall
The current City Hall building is an architectural beauty. Resplendent in white, silver and blue and adorned with gargoyles and statues, the building is the largest and most elaborate city hall in the country.
Just outside the city hall during the holiday season, you will find a Christmas market, with vendors and crafts. The city hall boasts an old fashioned carousel for the kids and sits adjacent to the famous LOVE statue, reminding us that Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love.
Make sure you have your camera for this one.
(City Hall . Market Street and South Broad Street)
6:30 pm – Dinner and a show at Relish
Relish grabbed my attention, the moment I walked in, with its earth tones and beautiful sepia portraits of jazz greats.
There are two dining areas and a bar. The first dining room is a more formal room that plays host to concerts (Relish boasts live music Wednesday through Sunday). The second dining area is less formal and very quiet.
The servers are friendly and the service is quick. The dinner here, your typical soul food fare with a modern edgy flare, was excellent.
The night I was there, I got to see Kathy Sledge (of Sister Sledge) perform The Brighter Side of Day, an uplifting tribute concert in honor of the late great Billie Holiday.
(RELISH . 7152 Ogtontz Avenue . Philadelphia, PA 19130 . 215 276 0170)
11 pm – Cheesesteak at Pat’s
After rounds of drinks at Relish, I was in the mood for something to munch on. It seemed like the perfect time to sample my first cheesesteak. I had to work for this one. Despite the time, there was a line.
Pat’s King of Steaks is credited as being the home of the Philadelphia Cheesesteak, which if you ask any local, is nothing to take lightly.
Invented at Pats in the 1930’s, a classic cheesesteak consists of thinly sliced steak seasoned with onions and provolone cheese on a hoagie roll. There are about as many varieties of the cheesesteak as there are opinions about who makes the best one. I decided to stick with the original steak at its home of origin.
My sandwich was delicious. The meat was well seasoned and piping hot. It was however very greasy and way too big for me to finish. A complete meal (not a snack), I returned to my hotel in a food coma. Perhaps the best way to end your stay in Philly, after sampling all of the local food, is with a run up the steps of the museum of art after all.