Guest post and photos by Jamie Rhein
This past summer, a friend and I headed to Philadelphia for a quick two-day getaway with the aim to spend quality time with each other while playing tourists. Because of Philadelphia’s walk ability, we were able to cover a lot of ground on foot, traveling from the trendy to the historic and back again. Philadelphia is patriotic, affordable and fun.
Our first night’s stay at the Independent Hotel, a 24-guest room boutique style beauty in the Midtown Village section of the city, put us in a perfect location for exploring while our car stayed parked in the hotel’s lot during our one day of sight-seeing.
First stop: Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch Streets. First opened February 23, 1892, Reading Terminal Market is a sprawling, bustling food lovers paradise. Think of a specialty food, and you’ll probably find one of the food stalls that sells it. The Sweet As Fudge Candy Shoppe caught my attention. Name a candy and you’ll find it. The specialty is homemade fudge and chocolate, although the other offerings are extensive. Chocolate by Mueller, however, has national fame thanks to Guilty Pleasures on the Food Network. Known for its novelties like chocolate ears and more, this is a fun shop to browse. (Free–unless you buy. I spent about $12)
Second stop: Franklin’s Footsteps Walking Tour, from Independence Hall Visitor’s Center. Led by a tour guide decked out in Ben Franklin era attire, this 75-minute walking tour was a splendid way to learn about Philadelphia’s history and be entertained. The tour guide took us by iconic sites including: Betsy Ross’s house, Christ Church, Ben Franklin’s grave and the site of his home. Along the way, the guide filled us in on the city of Brotherly Love’s early beginnings and influences in American history. I highly recommend this tour. And, I found it as a deal on Groupon. The tour for two was $24.
Third Stop: Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell: Because going through the line to see the Liberty Bell was way too long, we opted to look at it through the large windows and spend most of our time at the Seizing Freedom Exhibit part of the Independence National Historical Park (that includes Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell).
The Seizing Freedom Exhibit highlights the history of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia and how blacks and whites helped enslaved African Americans fight for their freedom.
The park also has extensive signage about the how the history of the U.S. government, in particular, how it formed. Free.
Fourth Stop: United States Mint The Philadelphia mint is one of six where coins are made. The self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes depending upon how much one reads the signage that covers the history and the process of coin making in the United States and watches coins being made.
The exhibit about how coins are designed is particularly fascinating. One can buy a newly minted coin in the latest design as a souvenir. Free.
Fifth Stop: Fork. 306 Market St. Touted as one of the best restaurants in Pennsylvania, Fork was a dining treat. We ended up here by happenstance. Because the restaurant looked interesting when we were looking for a place to eat, we wandered in.
Unbeknownst to us, we wandered into a wonderfully creative gastronomical experience of a four-course meal. For $78 per person, we each picked a starter, pasta, a main course and a desert. Along with food that tasted as delicious as it was pretty, the service was remarkable. I counted at least eight people waiting on us over the course of the hour and a half we were there.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel feeling satisfied and fortunate to have had a most remarkable day in a city that honors its history, as well as its art. No matter where you are in the older section of Philadelphia, you can’t miss a mural. The Mural Arts program is the world’s largest public art gallery. The murals are large enough they take up entire sides of buildings. The one shown here is a tribute to the Chinese that settled in Philadelphia and is located in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.
Next time you visit Pennsylvania, consider a trip to Philadelphia. Perhaps you’ll agree that Philadelphia is patriotic, affordable and fun.