My waiter Dan at Lacroix said it best, “Philly is like the middle child between New York and DC vying for attention.” And because middle children eventually steal the spotlight, we’re expediting the process and putting Philadelphia on your radar now. Do more than just pop-in over Made in America weekend, most weekends are cool to visit Philly. Go with your guy, girls, family or roll solo, there’s tons to experience at a very comfortable price point.
Spend the morning at The Barnes Foundation then head over to Reading Terminal for lunch. Chic Mediterranean eatery Barbuzzo is a great dinner option and a visit to Ashton Cigar Bar is a must. If your summer itinerary has room, add Philly to the script, if not, pencil in a visit for later this year. When you do go, reserve the Park Suite at the Rittenhouse Hotel, the luxury property is centrally located and steps away from some of the best shopping the city has to offer. International travel is great but domestic destinations create memories that are just as cool.
Food, Soul & Style: A Globetrotting Stiletto’s Philly
SHOP Old City
If you’re looking for Philly bred boutiques and designers, head to Old City. The quirky shopping district has been voted Philadelphia’s most stylish neighborhood, we think cool stores like Sazz Vintage and Philadelphia Independents have something to do with that. Start on 3rd and Market and head north towards Race. While strolling, look out for Vagabond and Third Street Habit, both carry well-made pieces with Boho flair. When you’re done, treat your taste buds to a double scoop of handmade ice cream at The Franklin Fountain, you can’t be in the neighborhood and not indulge.
TOUR The City By Foot
Philadelphia is one of the best walking cities in the country, while you’re in town, walk. The layout is simple, learn it and getting around will be a breeze. Similar to New York and DC, the charm you encounter as you stroll through the cobblestone blocks of Philly makes you want to keep on strolling, with no sense of urgency, often times the final destination unknown. Pay attention to your surroundings, enchanting story-book blocks sneak up on you and call for a photo opt. Look out for massive murals sprinkled throughout the city center, they’re quite fascinating.
SEE Elfreth’s Alley
Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest continuously inhabited residential neighborhood in the U.S. The quaint pocket is located in the Historic District of Philadelphia between Font & 2nd Streets and Arch & Race Streets. Vibrant windows and doors punctuate 32 buildings neatly lined along the shaded stretch, an infrastructure that’s been standing strong for 300 years. A trip to Philly is incomplete without a stop at Elfreth’s Alley, so make sure you pass through before sunset.
SEE Spruce Street Harbor Park & Summer Fest
If you decide to stay at the Rittenhouse, reserve the hotel’s complimentary car service and ride down to Spruce Street Harbor. The pop-up park returned to the Delaware River waterfront for its second year with more food trucks, games and Philly’s only outdoor roller skating rink—oh, additional hammocks for lounging were added throughout the lawn too. Go on Friday for the Visit Philly Beer Garden series from 5-8pm (ends July 10). If you can’t swing that, there’s an Art Star Pop Up Market every Saturday (11am-4pm) and a Punk Rock Flea Market on Sundays (11am-5pm). Entrance to the park is free and open to the public. Jump on it!
EAT Lunch at Cooperage Philly
People come to Philly to eat. The city has a thriving culinary scene thanks to local foodie influencers like Iron Chef, Jose Garces, who’s opened seven successful restaurants in Philadelphia, to-date. Once you satisfy your cheesesteak craving, venture off to popular spots like Cooperage Philly, which offers wines and whiskeys from around the world and rustic Southern gastropub-style grub. Of course I sampled none of the above, it’s bikini body season people, trying to keep this waistline under control. Instead, I opted for the The Coop Salad: mixed greens, cucumbers, sweet peppers, avocado, carrots, apple, hardboiled egg, tomato, black beans and cheddar cheese, topped with grilled salmon and lemon thyme vinegarette dressing—nutritious and delicious!
EAT Dinner at Barbuzzo
This authentic Mediterranean restaurant is nestled in the trendy Midtown Village area. Make sure you’re hungry when you sit down to eat, the food is damn good. Barbuzzo serves small plates, which are intended to be shared, the larger the group you dine with the more get to taste. Keep that in mind when reserving a table. Hand-crafted regional favorites include: grilled octopus with fingerlings, uovo pizza with brussel leaves, parsnip ravioli with duck ragu and roasted pear, and truffle farm egg.
START with Roasted and Raw Beet Salad: Tuscan kale, goat cheese, orange and pistachio pesto. It’s flavorful with a nice crunch and chew.
TRY Steamed Mussels: Wood roasted tomatoes, charred corn, spinach chorizo, shishito onion broth and grilled country bread. Both the broth and mussel meat have a delightful taste. Don’t shy away from sampling the seasoning on the outside of the shell, dip your bread in the broth then dab the bread on the shell and go in.
DESSERT Salted Caramel Budino: Dark chocolate crust, vanilla bean caramel and sea salt. Alicia, my petite waitress, suggested the three courses I sampled based on what I had a taste for and each of her suggestions were appetizing. If you can, grab a table outside and get your people watch on, the restaurant is situated on a well-lit block glittered with chic eateries and speciality boutique, the eclectic mix of passerbyers will keep you entertained.
DO Visit the Barnes Foundation
From the Rittenhouse, walk south on 20th Street for a little less than a mile across Benjamin Franklin Parkway to The Barnes Foundation. Established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of fine arts,” The Barnes holds one of the largest collections of Post-Impressionist and Modern paintings. Over 3,000 pieces are on display at the museum. It’s a privilege to amass this much art in a lifetime! The Barnes came to the parkway in 2012, the well-preserved gallery still smells, looks and feels brand spanking new. There’s a gift shop and Comcast auditorium on the lower level, three large-scale installations on the first-floor exhibition space, while impressive gold framed Renoirs, Monets, Picassos and Matisses flood the higher floors, curated in a way that feels more like a personal gallery than a museum, that’s what makes this place a gem. Here’s a little unknown fact: Barnes was one of the first collectors to display African Art on the same level as white art. Progressive collector.
DO Climb The Rocky Steps
When you’re done at The Barnes, walk up the Parkway to The Philadelphia Museum of Art and climb the infamous Rocky Steps. Jog continuously up all 72 steps, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. Besides, there are throngs of fitness folk getting their work out on in close proximity, just in case you were in need of inspiration. After that, break out into your best muscle pose and snap a pic in front of the Rocky Statue. If you’re not all museumed out, take a tour inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it’s the third-largest art museum in the country.
DO GO TO Ashton Cigar Bar
The last time I smoked a cigar was in Cartagena, Colombia at Casa Del Habano. I’m not shy to admit that I’m a novice when it comes to this cigar puffing thing. Thankfully, my lack of experience in the popular pastime didn’t dissuade me from spending an evening at Ashton Cigar Bar on Walnut Street. For the ladies who don’t mind kicking it with a few fellas, Ashton is a nice alternative to the usual after-work spot. With over 200 cigars and over 300 whiskeys from across the globe, it’s no surprise that athletes and celebs are known to frequent this establishment. When you go, ask for Adrienne, she’s been with Ashton since they opened two years ago and is cigar and whiskey connoisseur with the best random anecdotes. Tell her we sent you, she’ll be delighted. TIP: Ladies, if you are trying a cigar for the first time, pick a smaller sweet option like a cigarillo.
SEE Reading Terminal
From farm-fresh produce, meats, cheeses and herbs, to freshly baked pastries, homemade candy, and mouth-watering dishes from NOLA to the Middle East, since 1892, the historic Reading Terminal has been the go-to place for foodies. Inhale the delightful aromas permeating throughout the public market before settling on what you’re going to sample. Or don’t. There are more than 80 merchants on site selling everything from chocolate organs to live lobsters, we’re certain you’ll find something you like.
More Than 80 Merchants Slinging Edible Goods Inside Reading Terminal Market
EAT Breakfast at Lacroix
The environment may be upscale but the food is not pretentious at all. Lacroix at the Rittenhouse prides themselves in using the highest quality ingredients to create fresh seasonal dishes that taste as good as they look. For breakfast, grab a quaint table in the corner with a gorgeous backdrop of Rittenhouse Square, order a spinach and feta omelette served with a Frisée salad, turkey bacon well-done, wheat toast and a fresh fruit plate. Bon appetite.
EAT Dinner at Rouge
The plan was to catch a cab crosstown for dinner at Bing Bing Dim Sum, where a smartly edited menu of 19 ingenious Asian-inspired items are up for grabs, but instead, I opted to keep things local and eat at Rouge, directly opposite the hotel in Rittenhouse Square. The kitchen is open til 11 and according to Dena, my waitress, the circle bar, bustling in the center of the restaurant is where locals flock after they dine. Welp, I’m a tourist and didn’t get this memo until I was almost done demolishing the basket of truffle fries and pan-seared fish tacos I ordered, which were delicious by the way, as was the Cabernet served in a monogrammed “Rouge” wine glass. Next time I’ll do it the native way. The atmosphere has a sophisticated all-American vibe with dim lighting and tufted sofas for lounging. Single ladies may appreciate the handsome suits hanging around. There were quite a few attractive options. #ImJustSayin.
DO Philly AIDS Thrift
Rumor has it that Brooklyn vintage store owners drive to Philly once a month to buy a grip of merchandise to resell in their Park Slope boutiques for quadruple the price. And you know why? Because this cooler than average charity thrift shop carries gently used everything (seriously, they have everything) for cheap. I snagged an 80’s Two Ply Pinpoint men’s Oxford for $1 and a blue and white printed silk jacket for $7. Give yourself enough time to pursue when you go. There’s a lot to see.
DO VISIT Lost & Found
Fairly priced items to satisfy a wide range of tastes make this quirky boutique worth checking out. Mother daughter duo, Sandy and Jenny Martin have deep roots in fine vintage clothing and a good eye for feminine fare that isn’t too trendy. Sandy told me, “we always carry interesting pieces, whatever looks like it has a lot of style,” and judging from the racks filled with pretty frocks, crop tops and well-preserved 90s designer vintage, Sandy’s right. Once you’re through buying for yourself, browse the men’s section and a grab a cute button up for your guy. He’ll appreciate it (and you).
SEE Badass Art Man, African American Museum of Art
This Deep Desire, 2012, Oil on Canvas, Danny Simmons
Artist and Philanthropist, Danny Simmons, ditched his Bedford Stuyvesant digs for a new life in Philly, and took his impressive collection with him. Badass Art Man: Original Artwork of Danny Simmons, was on display at the African American Museum of Art (701 Arch Street) through May 31st. The ground-breaking installation featured original work by the artist, in addition to eclectic objects, paintings and pieces from across the African Diaspora. Curated by Lesley guy, the opening canvas, First Call, sets the tone for what’s to come: a carefully curated collection of provocative art. Simmons’ installation has left building, but if you’re traveling to Philly this summer, check out, Legendary: Inside The House Ballroom Scene, an exuberant photo series by Philly based photographer, Gerard Gaskin.
EAT Dinner at Vernick Food & Drink
USA Today crowns Vernick, the #1 restaurant in Philly for food lovers, and after dining at the Chefs Table on my final evening in the city, I can see why. Chef Vernick and his team of culinary innovators are brining a fresh flavor to this new-era of fine dining with a straightforward menu of food that you actually want to eat. Start with the Maryland Crab Toast, Tuna Poke and Artic Char, then move on to the Grilled Octopus, prepared with Pickled Fennel and Black Olive Tapenade. For your main course, share the Seafood & Shellfish Roast, the portion is too large to handle alone and try the Olive Oil Cake and Ice Cream for desert.