You can plan as much as you like for a trip, but you can’t plan the weather. That doesn’t mean you won’t still have lots of fun!
It was raining buckets on my head for most of my trip to Philly, so I quickly scheduled cool indoor things and smart logistics. The city’s food, culture, history and architecture are outstanding. You could actually spend much more time in the City of Brotherly Love during inclement weather than the few days I did without running out of things to see and do.
Martin Short at the Philadelphia Convention Center
Where to stay
During bad weather, your hotel is all about location, location, location, and if some great extra amenities can be thrown in? Bonus, you. The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown is walking distance (across from, depending on which entrance you use) from the convention center, Reading Terminal Market and also a Big Bus stop.
Book one of the upgraded Concierge Level rooms for lounge access. That’s quite the value-added amenity, as they offer continental-style breakfast, high-quality ingredient, make-your-own Caesar salad during happy hour – even bed-time cookies.
Where to eat
For breakfast that makes any day feel like a weekend, head to Marriott’s. As you sit down, you’re offered a USA TODAY or Wall Street Journal. Start off with freshly squeezed grapefruit or orange juice. Then, indulge in the house-made corned beef hash: it’s in a different universe from the canned stuff! The thick, meaty cuts aren’t too salty; I detected sweet spices like cardamom. A poached egg and lemony Hollandaise make it extra decadent.
Outside Reading Terminal Market.
After a hard morning of crossing the street, there’s Reading Terminal Market: not only one of the oldest markets in the country – dating from 1680 – but also one of the best!
Pennsylvania’s bounty in produce and meats has always been astounding and affordable. When Ben Franklin first got off his stagecoach from Boston and bought a penny’s worth of bread, he was more than shocked to see a wheelbarrow being emptied for him. Today, fancy microgreens, locally produced cheeses and wild berries await you. The prepared goodies will make travel home much better, especially Keven Parker’s Soul Food Café. Their fried chicken was named the best by Food Network. Don’t pass up on the mac & cheese or greens, either! Go to the website ahead of time for coupons. If you can’t even wait to get out the door without some sustenance, Pearl’s Oyster Bar (cash only) has both the oyster and bar parts down pat.
At Granite Hill at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the "Chef's Table" lunch is a smart way to go. It's served like traditional buffets: those dainty selections served on an actual well-made buffet table in the finest of homes. Here, you'll find a French/French-fusion menu with seasonal offerings often created to complement the theme of the museum's latest exhibit. Lightly dressed crisp salads, perfectly roasted chicken and beef loin, sushi-quality rare tuna for Tuna Nicoise and gorgeous French cheese trays, tasting portions of delicate desserts turn this into a buffet that makes you feel good – not bloated and sloppy. It's a treat well worth it.
Yes, Morimoto is worth the splurge. The chef-owner of one of the most exquisite Japanese restaurants in the country, Masaharu Morimoto, was one of the original Iron Chefs. His eponymous dining venue is cool, hip and modern. The omakase (chef’s choice) meals come in $120 and $150 price points, with the latter using more precious ingredients. One of the $150 courses was seared scallop carpaccio with uni, garlic, ginger, mitsuba and chives with a yuzu (Japanese tangy fruit) and citrus soy dressing. The corresponding course was the same, except it was seared red snapper carpaccio. Both were delicious, with some heat in the ceviche (horseradish, perhaps?) and the silkiness of the sea urchin uni, but I think the scallop one was a little more elegant. If you have a chance to try their grilled A5 Miyazaki Japanese Wagyu beef, it’s out of this world! The buttery texture and flavor was like pork belly.
The Big Bus in Philly.
What to do
First, whether online at home or right there on your phone, get yourself a CityPass. That will save you nearly half off lots of things you’ll be doing, including riding The Big Bus Tour. It’s a 27-stop circuit, hop on and hop off. Double-decker London buses will take you right by the vast majority of Philly’s cultural attractions with a knowledgeable tour guide onboard. If it’s not too rainy for you, sit on the upper level for fantastic photos of the city!
Whether you’re still in school or a decades-long attorney, as I am, you’ll find the National Constitution Center thought-provoking. With so many constitutional issues arising lately – protests, religious freedom, citizenship, gun rights – you’ll see the challenges of a living document. Don’t miss the Hall of Signers: life-sized metal sculptures of the men who made it all possible.
Holocaust Memorial statue.
Celebrate unprecedented freedom, creativity and the American Way at the National Museum of American Jewish History. The fantastic multimedia exhibits are arranged in chronological order from the earliest Jews in the U.S., starting in the early 17th century.
When I went to the Fabric Workshop and Museum, they had an odd exhibit that appeared to consist of a bunch of coat hangers sticking out of the wall... but they’re open 7 days a week, admission is free and the gift shop is cool.
Many of our Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Philly resident Benjamin Franklin, were Freemasons. You don’t have to be a Mason to go on a guided tour of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge, though. Located right in Center City, they have rare historic treasures, stunning architecture and art. You’ll have the opportunity to ask whatever questions you may have about the mysteries of Freemasonry!
Rocky fans will recognize these steps of Philadelphia's Museum of Art.
The Franklin Institute has a wide variety of things to see, from IMAX movies to science and industrial exhibits. Check out the awesome view from their second floor balcony.
Start your visit to Philadelphia Museum of Art with a selfie: the entrance stairs are what Rocky climbed for his triumphant workout. The museum is one of the largest in the world, with masterpieces from ancient sculptures to modern photography.