Philadelphia. A city close to my heart. My family grew up in and around the city, and we still return every year for Thanksgiving. But this year, Patrick and I decided to spend a couple extra days on our own in center city.
You see, Patrick had never really spent much time in the city, and I made it my mission to correct that. I had just about 48 hours to show him everything I could. All my favorite spots. Where to start? How do we fit everything into 48 hours? Well, I love a good challenge, so I started planning our perfect Philadelphia weekend.
8pm: Check into The Sonesta
We got into the city around 8pm and checked into The Sonesta Hotel. The location is what initially drew me in, because nearly everything we wanted to do was in walking distance. The gorgeous room and the skyline view didn’t hurt either. We were very happy with our choice.
9pm: Monk’s Belgium Beer Bar
Once we checked in and dropped our bags off, we walked to one of our favorite Philadelphia spots just down the street. Monk’s is a Belgium beer bar that somehow always has Piny the Elder on tap, and home to some of the hottest wings I have ever had. We stop at Monk’s nearly every time we’re in the city, and it was only a five-minute walk from our hotel.
After a couple hours and a few beers, we were exhausted, and it was time to call it a night. We knew we had a busy weekend ahead of us, and we wanted to at least try to be well-rested. Back to the hotel room it was.
11:30am: Philadelphia Skydeck
After sleeping in a little on Saturday, we made our way over to the One Liberty Observation Deck, less than two blocks from our hotel. Heights are not my favorite, but I sucked it up and took that painfully long elevator ride up to the 57th story to see the most beautiful 365° view of the city. And I’m glad I did. Even if my legs felt like jell-o the whole time.
12:30pm: Coffee Stop
From the Skydeck, we starting walking toward Rittenhouse Square. But I still hadn’t had my morning coffee, so we stopped at the first interesting looking coffee shop we saw. While there were plenty to choose from, we ended up at Konditori Swedish Espresso Bar – the tiniest little spot that was advertising Gingerbread Lattes on the sandwich sign out front. Once I had my caffeine fix, we were off.
12:45pm: Rittenhouse Square
If we were more rushed for time, I may have skipped Rittenhouse. But it was just SO close to our hotel, and it was a beautiful fall day. Rittenhouse is like a pocket-sized central park, complete with autumn foliage, benches, buskers, and even the occasional farmers market. It was a great spot to stop and finish our coffees. From here, we started making our way toward Reading Terminal Market.
1:30pm: Beer Stop
On our walk to Reading Terminal, we found a little bar that looked interesting, so we decided to check it out. Hey, it was past noon and we were on vacation! The Pearl Tavern’s halls were already decked for the holidays, with an 8 ft. Christmas tree as the centerpiece. This place was nowhere special, but it was a nice place to soak in some Christmas cheer and beer.
2pm: Reading Terminal Market
By two, we made it to Reading Terminal, one of my absolute favorite spots in the city. Local markets are my weakness. We were originally going to go on Sunday, but my aunt reminded us that the Amish vendors are only in on Saturdays. And how can you willingly pass up homemade Amish apple butter?
We bought desserts and candles and jams, along with some snacks for the hotel room.
4pm: Stop Back at the Hotel
We stopped back at our room to drop off our goodies from Reading Terminal, and rest our feet for a moment. Every stop we have made so far had been by foot, which is great…but our feet were starting to ache. It was nice to take a little break.
5:45pm: Deck the Hall Light Show at City Hall (seasonal)
Dilworth Park created a little winter wonderland, with the main attraction being the light show on City Hall. So once it started getting dark, we made our way down. Right on schedule, the show began. It was truly a masterpiece. One of the most detailed and impressive light displays I’d ever seen.
6:15pm: Christmas Market (seasonal)
As SOON as the light show finished, the crowd thinned out substantially. That’s when we could really soak in the spectacle they created. There was a carousel, an ice rink, hot chocolate, and dozens of booths selling everything from hats and scarves to boutique dog treats. As much as I wanted to ice skate, after a few hours of walking, my feet could not handle it.
6:45pm: The OTHER Christmas Market (seasonal)
I had read about another Christma market I wanted to go to, but it wasn’t a priority for us since we went to one already. But as we were leaving Dilworth Park, we cross the street, and there it was…Literally RIGHT across the way was the Christmas Village at Love Park. A different vibe than Dilworth Park’s winter wonderland for sure. Much more European inspired, there was live music, wooden booths of vendors selling almost exclusively Christmas items.
7:30pm: Pats Vs. Genos
We had just been snacking all day, so we were getting pretty hungry. Patrick had never had Pat’s OR Geno’s, and it had been YEARS since I had. So we got a car and made our way to one of the most competitive intersections in the food business. Patrick got Pat’s (because of course) and I got the Geno’s. To keep it fair we ordered the exact same thing – cheesesteak with whiz and onions. We went back to our hotel room, cut them each in half, and partook in one of the biggest culinary debates of all time. While they were both insanely mouthwatering, we both preferred Geno’s.
Once we were back in our room, we were too tired to leave again. I mean, we had fit a LOT into the day already. So we ate our cheesesteaks and desserts we got from Reading Terminal and watched Tim Allen’s Santa Clause on the hotel TV.
11am: Check Out of Sonesta
After waking up, getting ready, and packing all our stuff, we were ready to check out around 11am. Our flight was not until the evening, and we didn’t have a car, so we left our bags at the Sonesta for now while we hit a final few spots…
11:30am: Magic Garden’s
The Magic Garden’s are just that, magical. If we only had time to do ONE thing in Philly, I would have wanted it to be The Magic Garden’s. I tried explaining it to Patrick, but words truly cannot do it justice.
12:30pm: Tattooed Mom
While it would have been easy to stay at the Magic Garden’s all day, it was cold and raining, and we just wanted to be dry with a beer in our hands. A few locals had recommended a spot called Tattooed Mom, just a few blocks from the Magic Garden’s. The downstairs was quirky, just my style. It felt like a tattoo shop with artwork on every wall, and funky mismatched furniture thoughtfully placed throughout. Sundays were free arts and crafts day, so there was a craft table set up where you could decorate your own stockings and ornaments, along with coloring books and crayons. Love.
At 2m their upstairs bar opens, which is what I really wanted to see. It was punk heaven. Literally every surface was covered with graffiti, stickers, or concert posters. A pool table in the front room, and roller coaster cars throughout. It was a piece of art.
Everyone knows Pats vs. Genos as the big names in the cheesesteak game, but locals recommend Jim’s. Just a few hundred FEET from Tattooed Mom was Jim’s Cheesesteaks, a place praised by everyone from John Denver to Jimmy Fallon to Tina Fey.
A cheesesteak seemed like an appropriate way to end our trip to Philadelphia.
3:40pm: Head back to Sonesta
After our final cheesesteak, we made our way back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head to the airport…
4pm: Reluctantly Head to Airport
It was time to leave. Our feet hurt, which is how I know it was a good trip. We saw a great representation of Philly this weekend. While I was looking forward to being home, I was sad to leave this city I love.