You likely know about the cheesesteaks, the cracked bell and the steps Rocky made famous, but Philadelphia’s arrival as a food-forward city that focuses on blending the old, as in the birthplace of the constitution, with the new is the perfect town to explore on foot with a family. With easy access from New York or points south by car or Amtrak, there’s plenty to do in the fifth most populous city in the US. Luckily, with the right plan, a weekend getaway is largely walkable—one that should include fresh donuts, colonial architecture, museums, and a hip dining scene.
Where to Stay:
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia
Located in the middle of the Old City neighborhood, the Hotel Monaco is a smart and comfortable home base for exploring Philadelphia. Housed inside the Lafayette Building, which was designed in 1906 as an office space, the 11-story, 268-room boutique Hotel Monaco is a trendy four-star hotel across the street from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center. That means you can make quick work of seeing educational sites.
As a Spire Elite member, we used IHG Rewards Club Points to book a corner room, which was bright and cheery with large format wallpaper and a bathroom complete with a massive soaking tub, large closets, and a good size workspace. The hotel offers complimentary bike rentals and is pet-friendly—so much so that when the lobby wasn’t the welcomed sight of dogs coming and going, it was filled with guests for the wine happy hour or those streaming into the attached Red Owl Tavern restaurant. In the summer there’s Stratus, a rooftop terrace, with some excellent views of the Independence Mall. If you want a quick shot of colonial charm, take a 1/2 mile stroll to cobblestone paved Elfreth’s Alley. The nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street is lined with more than 30 historic houses and is a designated National Historic Landmark. [From: $227; monaco-philadelphia.com]
Eat + Drink:
Just steps away from the Monaco is the Bourse, a massive former Beaux-Arts stock exchange turned food hall. Opened in the fall of 2018, the main floor is a mix of casual food stalls and general seating with options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, pulling from local Philly spots and beyond. For a sweet start to your morning hit up Barry’s Buns [barrysbuns.com] for sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, or the local specialty butter cake. We had a great cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich from Menagerie Coffee [menageriecoffee.com] and, later in the day, killer Taiwanese fried chicken sliders from Baby Buns.
Reading Terminal Market
This indoor market, packed with 800 vendors each within a six-foot-wide stall, dates back nearly 125 years. While there’s less of the farm-fresh produce coming through here, replaced by grab-and-go items for quick bites, it still sees about 100,000 visitors a week. It’s loud and packed, like a public market should be. Stop for a quick coffee at Old City Coffee or something a little heartier at Dutch Eating Place. [readingterminalmarket.org]
With locations around the city, the staff at Federal Donuts use a machine to fry up their cakey, hot rings all day, usually in three core flavors—Cookies and Cream is the best of them—along with fancier flavors. Unlike stiff, old donuts, these are light and fragile right out of the fryer and small enough that you’ll likely need two. If it’s too packed, you can always try again later in the day: pick up a three-piece of fried chicken ($10) and it comes with a honey donut. [$1.75 each; federaldonuts.com]
What to Do:
The Franklin Institute
From demonstrations that explain how planes fly, electricity flows, and hearts pump, the Franklin Institute is a hands-on day trip that will keep the whole family engaged. There is some fun, next-level science here masquerading as child’s play, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the institute has been awarding laureates in engineering, industry, and science since 1824. A list of past winners is a whos-who of America’s scientific history: Jane Goodall, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates to name a few.
To get there, take the 1 1/2-mile walk from the Monaco through City Hall and along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. As with many museums, there are upgrades you can spring for. We like the IMAX Dome Theater movie—it’s a nice break that involves a movie, a dark room, and a comfy seat. On your way in (or out), stop at the 20-foot tall marble Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, which is free to visit and in the institute’s rotunda. For younger kids, 1-7, there’s the Please Touch Museum [pleasetouchmuseum.org] with two floors of interactive exhibits. [Adults, from: $29; children from: $19; fi.edu]
Blue Cross RiverRink
Sandwiched between the Delaware River and I-95 is an entertainment complex that functions as a roller-skating rink in warmer months (Summerfest) or ice rink around the holidays (Winterfest). Get there by walking on Chestnut Street over the interstate. There are pop up fire pits, drinks for parents and kids, and an indoor arcade in the winter and carnival rides—including a 60-foot tall Ferris wheel—in summer. [delawareriverwaterfront.com]
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