An April 2005 trip
to Philadelphia by zabelle
Quote: One of the fastest and cheapest ways to get around Philly is on the Phlash. These purple buses take you from one end of the historic district to the other for $1 per ride or $4 per day.
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and the Liberty Bell
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. Certainly these are part of the attraction, but if you stop there, you are missing out on a whole lot more. If you arrive on a weekday, I suggest that you try to get to City Hall and take the elevator to the observation deck. This gives you a bird’s eye view of the city and its many attractions.
Independence Visitor Center - this is a must if you want to visit Independence Hall. You must get a timed ticket to visit the hall. When we arrived there in the afternoon on Friday, they were all ready sold out. Sunday morning, we had better luck with Independence Hall, but were not able to get on any of the house tours. Arriving early in the morning is imperative.
The Liberty Bell Pavilion is also the security checkpoint for Independence Hall, so it makes sense to visit the bell on the way to visit the Hall.
After you visit Independence Hall, make a stop at the American Philosophical Society. You may also visit while you are waiting for your turn at Independence Hall since it is adjacent to where you line up for your tour. They have a very eclectic collection of items from all over the world.
Also within Independence Park is the Second Bank, which has a very fine portrait gallery. It is the perfect place to put a face on all the people you have been hearing about.
You can take a stroll through Carpenters Hall, where the First Continental Congress met, and then cross the street. Lunch or dinner at City Tavern makes perfect sense.
Know which museums are free. The Second Bank and Carpenters Hall are free of charge, as is Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Pavilion, and the American Philosophical Society. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is free of charge on Sundays, so plan your trip accordingly.
The Philadelphia City Pass cost and gets you into the Franklin Institute, The Academy of Natural Science, Independence Seaport Museum, National Constitution Center, and the Philadelphia Zoo. It even gets you a trolley tour by Philadelphia Trolley Works. This is a value. You can try to get it cheaper by bidding on Sky Auction.
To find out what is playing in Philadelphia during your visit, try www.theatrealliance.org.
The most helpful site I found for general and also very specific information on visiting Philadelphia is www.gophila.com.
Philadelphia uses the numbered avenue system going from east to west, starting at the river. The avenues go north and south, so 2nd Avenue is much closer to the River than say 15th Avenue. The building numberings will also tell you which block the building is in, so 1520 Locust would be on Locust Street between 15th and 16th Avenues. Once you get this down, it is very easy to find anything.
We were also able to have the hotel call us a cab to both take us to the art museum and the airport. The price to and from the airport is fixed at , plus tip. If you are sharing a cab, it’s a great deal.
There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how much we loved this hotel. We were welcomed with a smile at 11am. People were in the midst of checking out as we were checking in. If our room wasn’t ready, we were told that they would be more than happy to store our luggage. This is where we met Stephan, who we saw everyday thereafter. He is Belgian and always made helping seem like a pleasure. He called a cab for us on several occasions and stored our luggage for us on Sunday. What is most amazing is that every other employee that we met was just as amusing, helpful, and friendly. Everyone seemed to be proud of their hotel and happy to be working there.
We had a double/double room on the 7th floor. I would describe the room size as European. It was compact but very comfortable. There were two upholstered chairs and a table in front of the bay windows. We had an Art Deco dresser
and a very pretty mirror. There was one nightstand between the beds. The closet is open, and it is outside the bathroom door.
The bathroom is also petite. It has a tub and shower combination and a pedestal sink with a mirror. The window is recessed, so it makes a shelf, and there is a glass shelf with amenities on the wall. There is no waste of space. The walls and the floor are tiled with a neutral color. Everything was immaculate.
Breakfast is included in the rate. It is a nice continental breakfast with coffee and tea, cereal, Danish, croissant, English muffins, waffles, fresh bagels, and whole fruit. It is served in the parlor off the lobby. Fruit is available all day if you need a snack.
In the basement, there is a small gym, Internet access, and machines for ice, drinks, and snacks as well, as a big rack of travel brochures.
Architectural touches are evident throughout the building. From the fireplace in the lobby
with stained-glass transoms to the beautiful brick exterior, it is visually pleasing. Every effort was made to preserve the original Art Deco beauty.
This is also a gay-friendly hotel in a gay-friendly neighborhood. Not that everyone here was gay - there were plenty of mature married couples and people from all over the world. One thing I didn’t see was any children.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 21, 2005
SPRUCE AT 12TH STREET
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
City Tavern has everything going for it, location, history, and atmosphere. Everyone at the restaurant makes you feel like a welcomed guest. Best of all, the food is hearty and satisfying. The original city tavern opened in 1773. It played host to all the major American figures in the War of Independence. The present tavern was reconstructed in the same style as the original.
We arrived for lunch on a Sunday and had no trouble getting a seat without a reservation. I would think that reservations would be a good idea if you expect to have dinner here.
The decor is of a typical colonial tavern, pewter goblets on the wooden tables and chairs in the Windsor style. The lights look like candles, and the wait staff wears period costumes. The menu also reflects the colonial period. If you want game, try the braised rabbit or the medallions of venison. Other period-appropriate choices are turkey potpie, beef pie, and slow-roasted prime rib. We were not interested in quite so heavy a meal. I decided to start with soup. It was a hard choice between West Indies pepperpot, cream of mushroom, and the soup of the day, which was lentil. Feeling adventurous, I chose the pepperpot.
Dave, our waiter, warned me that it would be spicy. I laugh in the face of spicy. It is indeed spicy, made from taro root, collard green, and beef broth. What makes it spicy is the addition of Scotch Bonnet peppers. Savor this soup, as any gulping will take your breath away - delicious, and it clears your sinuses, too.
Irene chose the shrimp and crab salad, and I chose the romaine and Roquefort salad. Both were very good choices. Mine had large chunks of blue veined Roquefort sitting on a bed of romaine with bacon bits and creamy Parmesan dressing. Fabulous! Irene had large shrimp and a pile of crab sitting on a bed of greens served with herb remoulade. To accompany this, we had a basket of bread that included anadama, Sally Lunn, and sweet-potato biscuits. According to the menu, the biscuits were Thomas Jefferson’s favorite. We have to agree that they are very special.
They have some unique drink offerings, as well as a full service bar. I had a Philadelphia Pale Ale
that was very smooth and very complex. It was a little steep at $7.25, but worth every sip
We finished by sharing a star-anise crème brulee.
It was divine and a unique choice of flavoring. I highly recommend a stop here, even if it is just for the ambience. It certainly feels right after visiting Independence Park.
138 South 2nd St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
Restaurant | "Monk's Café and Tavern"
Monk’s is an easy walk from the Alexander Inn. We arrived at about 11:45 on a Friday and had no trouble getting a seat. Within minutes, the place was packed, with a line of people snaking out the door. Lesson learned, either arrive early or have reservations.
As I suspected, the menu had a variety of mussels: Brussels, Provence, Flemish, Bruges, and Ghent, to only name a few. One was calling my name; however, it was the Thai curry mussels. Rodenbach red ale, fume, house-made Thai red curry, basil, garlic, and coconut milk. Sounded like heaven to me. Tasted like heaven too--tender mussels steamed to perfection in a broth that made my taste buds sing. How could it get better than this? They added their award-winning French fries served with bourbon mayonnaise--the perfect fry with the most delectable dip. It truly was heavenly.
Irene had a very presentable chicken sandwich on a very superior roll with the same to-die-for fries. We were both in foodie nirvana.
Did I forget to mention they have a Beer Bible? Not only does it present their beer offerings, which are beyond anything you can imagine, but it also gives the history of beer--how it is brewed and a multitude of other facts. It's fascinating reading while you wait for your meal or brew to be delivered. In my case, it was a Chimay. This is a Trappist beer with all the flavor and color of a full-bodied Belgian. My adventures in Flanders came flooding back.
"Use our Beer Bible at Monk's as a guide to assist you in selecting a beer to fit your palate. If you think that you don't like beer, then you have never really tasted quality beer. If you are a Bordeaux drinker, we have beer for you. If you like Port, we have beer for you. If you enjoy scotch whiskey, we have beer for you. And if you already love great beer, you have found beer heaven!" -Monk’s website
Now, after this fabulous meal, who would have thought we would have room for dessert, and what desserts! They are created in historic Philadelphia just for Monk’s. We took one look at the tray and lost of resolve. We split a chocolate tart, and if it is possible, it was the best part of the meal.
264 South 16th St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102
+ 1 215 545 7005
Restaurant | "Kibitz in the City"
After visiting the Atwater Kent Museum, we were starving. We asked one of the employees there for a suggestion. We got two: Jones or Kibitz. It was cold and looking like rain, so we choose Kibitz because it was one street-crossing closer. In this case, being lazy really paid off.
I have to tell you that we haven’t got a clue how to eat in a New York deli. It is like an English pub--if you sit at a table and just wait, that is what you will do, wait. It only took us a minute to ditch our coats and go up to the counter. Our greeting was warm, and we were encouraged to look everything over. There was a lot to look at. Our indecision must have been quite evident. We were encouraged to sit and look over the menu before making our choice. So we sat down and looked it over.
Would we like an overstuffed deli sandwich, and if so, would a half or a whole be right? Did we want to turn it into a wrap? That was okay too. Get a half with a cup of soup, only .49 more, and with seven choices of soup. Would we like a Reuben or a hot open sandwich? Should we choose a salad with or without a salad scoop?
It really was overwhelming, especially since we don’t know what Kreplach or Kasha Varnishkas are. We pulled ourselves together and ordered half a hot pastrami on rye each. Halves are $7.50, and wholes are $10.50, so if you are having the same thing, you could just order one. We did ours separately because we both had different condiments. I had mine with spicy mustard and Swiss cheese with my one side as coleslaw, and Irene had grilled onions with a tossed salad. There is a cooler and coffee right behind where you order, so pick your drink before you pay, then just sit and wait for your feast.
"Gargantuan" is the best description I can come up with for this sandwich. I have never tasted pastrami as delicious and juicy as this one was. It was superb--even the fat, which I don’t like, couldn’t take away from the great taste. I ate every bite. Unless you have the appetite of a linebacker, don’t even consider getting a whole.
Now, they had two cases full of great-looking desserts. I ordered a piece of lemon coconut cake to take with me, and Irene got a Hammentash. I wish I could say the cake was the equal of the sandwich, but it was just okay--I had two bites and brought the rest home.
Kabitz in the City
703 Chestnut Street
You enter into a large room where the floor looks like an ordinance map of the greater Philadelphia area. Everyone who was there spent time trying to locate either their hometown or streets or highways in Philly. It is a very interesting concept; you do feel a little guilty and like a giant as you step on South Philly. Godzilla, look out!
The walls of this room are covered with exhibits about Philadelphia. But this is more about the people and immigration than about the whole independence thing. We see where they came from and the types of jobs they were and are doing. From the Northern Europeans, the Africans, and South and Eastern Europeans to the most recent Russians and Hispanics, Philadelphia has become a melting pot of many nations.
Philadelphia after the Civil War is compared to the British Midlands; it developed as an industrial area. The first oil ever exported from the United States was shipped from Philly to England in 1861. In 1891, 35% of all petroleum exports were from Philadelphia. It is amazing how things have changed in 100 years.
One exhibit that we particularly liked was a Dutch map of the area from the 1600s. It covered as far north as New England. We had a blast trying to identify the towns in Connecticut (Conittekock) with their unique Dutch spelling. The town I work in, Old Saybrook, is Zeebroeek, and New Haven was Nieuhaven.
There is also an exhibit on local government, which covers from the time of William Penn to the current officials. There is a four-portrait picture gallery of people important to Philadelphia. William Penn was obvious, but you will need to come to find out why the other three are Andrew Hamilton, Margaret Mercer, and Joseph Jenkins Roberts.
On the second floor there is a gallery of Norman Rockwell covers. It is quite an eye-opener to read of 1947 cover that asks "Should husbands be babysitters?" No one would dare ask such a question today.
Until September 2005, there is a special exhibit, "Love that Hat." I bet you thought that John B. Stetson was a Texan, or at least produced his famous hats out West. Nope, they were manufactured right here in Philadelphia, which has a long history of hat manufacture. In the 1900 census, 83,000 people, one in every thousand, worked in the hat industry in the United States.
This is a small but very interesting museum, and if you have an hour, a very worthwhile stop.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 21, 2005
Atwater Kent Museum
15 South 7th St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
+1 215 922 3031
it was designed to be the tallest building in the world. Unfortunately the 30 years it took to construct it allowed two building to be built taller, the Eiffel Tower and the Washington Monument. It did remain the tallest occupied building in the world until 1908. From the ground to the top of William Penn’s hat it measures 548 feet. It wasn’t until 1987 that a building in Philadelphia was constructed taller than the Town Hall and all the buildings that are taller are built so that William Penn can’t see them. This statue of William Penn is the tallest statue on any building in the world.
There are over 700 rooms in Town Hall but the one that you need to worry about is 121. This is where you gather to take the tour that is offered everyday at 12:30. It is also where you need to go to get a ticket to one of the tours to the observation deck. These run every 15 minutes. The elevator is very small, we actually fit eight people in but they usually only allow groups of five. We didn’t have tickets, we just took our chances and luckily Burt, our Municipal Guard let us join the official visitors. It never hurts to schmooze. If however you are visiting during the summer months, you need to call at 9am and ask them to reserve tickets for you.
To get to the observation deck take the elevator to the seventh floor. Look for the red line
and follow it to the ticket desk. It is a lengthy walk that involves stairs and an escalator. You then board a very claustrophobic elevator. When you get off walk around the corner and step out onto the enclosed observation deck. The views are outstanding. You can look all the way west up Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum
and on the other side all the way down Market Street. The river is visible as is the bridge to New Jersey. Amazing is hardly enough of an expletive to describe the sensation. Irene doesn’t like heights and it bothered her a bit to be up so high but I got an adrenaline rush. This is well worth the effort.
Take the time to visit in room 121, as there is a lot of information to be had there. I found some brochures and ideas on places to visit that I found nowhere else.
Broad and Market streets
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
+1 215 686 1776
The Hall of Signers features life-size bronze statues of all the signers of the Constitution. We learned something here that neither one of us knew - Thomas Jefferson didn’t sign the Constitution. He is an easily recognizable figure, so we looked for him. We did find Ben Franklin, James Madison (who is tiny), George Washington, and Roger Sherman (our signer). There are computer screens where you can get more information about any of the men in the room. There was a ranger walking around and helping anyone who looked confused. The concept is a very good one, and you really feel like you are one of them.
Get to the theatre before your ticket time, as we found the line of children quite daunting. There are some exhibits on the ground floor surrounding the theater where you listen to different people who were living in Philadelphia at the time the Constitutional Convention was going on, and they are giving their opinion. This was very interesting, as none of them had any idea what the outcome was going to be. We take the Constitution so for granted. There are also displays built into the wall that show off some of the archeological items found during the building of the center.
"Freedom Rising" is an audio-visual production that also has a live narrator. The Theater is impressive. Seating is not only comfortable, but the spacing is such that everyone has totally unobstructed view of the narrator, who is spotlighted in the center of the floor. You will be looking up, down, and around while listening to a very interesting narrative. No photographs are allowed in this part of the building, but their website has some very good ones. This whole production is well done and has enough music and stimulation to keep children well entertained.
After the show, you go up to the exhibits surrounding the theater on the second floor. There are exhibits to listen to, voting booths so that kids can actually try voting, and a whole lot more. One I particularly liked was what political candidates are saying about each other, Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson just to name two, and it was fascinating stuff, nasty too. If you haven’t visited the Hall of Signers, you exit right into it.
National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street on Independence Mall
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
This is one of my very favorite museums in the world. The set up is fascinating to me. We decided after going through the Dali exhibit that we would take one of the tours of the museum. There is a board next to the information desk that will tell you the time and which tour will be offered. You can also pick up a small brochure called Today at the Museum, which will give you a list of all the tours and programs that are happening today. After looking them over, we decided to do a headphone tour. For $5 you have your choice of five tours, we narrowed it down to the Director’s Delights and the Museum Highlights . We allowed ourselves to be lead by the director. The beauty of that choice is you can always stop and do any of the items on the Museum Highlights Tour. Another good thing about Today at the Museum is that it gives you a list of the upcoming exhibits as well as the currently running exhibits.
We began on the second floor with a visit to a 16th century Altar Screen.
Galleries 250-299 cover European art from 1500-1850. That encompasses a variety of art and styles, as well as period rooms. The rooms are my favorites though the Viger LeBrun portrait of Marie Antoinette had me enthralled.
The room that the director takes us to is the Landsdowne Room, which once graced Landsdowne House in London. It has an amazing ceiling and played host to many famous people during its heyday.
As part of our tour, we also visited the early European rooms to see the Van der Weyden Gallery and the Van Eyck painting of St. Francis. It is a difficult painting to find because it is very tiny. Also take time to visit the Hudon bust of Benjamin Franklin; it seems fitting, since this is Philadelphia.
If you get hungry, there is a cafeteria, as well as a more formal restaurant. We stopped only briefly for tea and a cookie, but I have to admit that the salad bar at the cafeteria was very tempting. There are several gift shops, with the main one being in the same area as the restaurants.
We took a taxi to get to the museum; it was $10 with tip from our hotel. We got back down to the Independence Park area on the Phlash for $1. Both ways worked well for us. The Phlash and the taxi pick-up are in the lobby.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street And The Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130