Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is city of contrasts. The most historic square mile in the U.S. is found in Philly, containing the “oldest” of just about everything imaginable from ice cream shops to taverns. Philadelphia is also a progressive arts center with an inspired music scene and more outdoor sculptures and murals than any other American city. The best 48 hours in Philadelphia combine all of these elements, with a little Rocky Balboa thrown in for good measure.
On Friday night, kick off the weekend with Art After 5 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. From 5 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., The Great Stair Hall is transformed into an intimate performance space featuring both recognized and emerging jazz artists. Cocktails, wine, beer, and heavy appetizers complete the cabaret vibe. Guided gallery tours are offered throughout the evening. Stay at one of the hotels on or near Rittenhouse Square, a scenic neighborhood park located in Philly’s iconic Old City.
Saturday morning, grab an outdoor table at Parc Brasserie, a chic Parisian-style bistro on the east side of the park with the best croissants and people watching in Philadelphia. Then head out to explore the Old City on foot. Philadelphia’s “hipstoric” heart has more than 100 restaurants, and more than 100 shops, as well as the oldest establishments in the U.S. including the oldest street (Elfreth’s Alley), the oldest continually running tavern (City Tavern) and the oldest ice cream shop (The Franklin Fountain).
Saturday Afternoon and Evening
As daylight starts to wane, take a romantic stroll along Penn’s Landing, just a short walk from Old City on the Delaware River waterfront, where a handful of historic ships are moored. For dinner, hit any one of Jose Garces’ eight Philly restaurants. An Iron Chef winner, the Ecuadorian American chef specializes in world cuisine, from Latin-Asian to European to classic American, and is known around the city as a generous, gracious employer whose restaurants never disappoint.
Spend Sunday exploring Philly’s famous South Street. The eight-block stretch is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and a must-see for anyone looking for the best things to do in Philadelphia. Choose from a myriad of eateries and bistros, frequented by the city’s trendsetter sect, as well as retailers and shops catering to the hip-hop and urban culture. One hidden gem on South Street is the Magic Gardens, a massive outdoor mosaic sculpture garden spanning half a block, but undetectable from the front side of the building. It’s well worth the $5 admission to explore the fully-mosaicked gallery spaces and labyrinth sculpture garden. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is open Monday through Sunday starting at 11 a.m.
After lunch, meet at Sister Cities Park at 2:00 p.m. to find out why Philadelphia is recognized internationally as the world’s largest outdoor museum. The two-hour walking tour conducted by the city’s Mural Arts Program takes visitors to the Philadelphia’s most famous outdoor sculptures and murals, like Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. The tour encompasses the Avenue of the Arts, City Hall, LOVE Park and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Cap off 48 hours in Philadelphia with a 20-minute jaunt along the Schuylkill River Trail, from University Center to the art museum. The combination of trees, water and cityscape is unforgettable, a literal ribbon of green in the middle of downtown. Wear running shoes in order to race up the 72 stairs leading to the museum, just like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. Visitors are tempted to hum “Eye of the Tiger,” while doing so, but the song played during the scene in the triple-Oscar-wining film was actually “Gonna Fly Now.” Be sure to snap a picture next to the Rocky statue at the bottom of the steps before calling it a day. And save your boxing skills for your gym.