Awards and Accolades
Top publications regard Philadelphia as a must-visit destination in 2021
Following National Geographic’s 2020 accolade listing Philadelphia as one of the publication’s top 25 destinations for 2020 (the only U.S. city to make the list), Condé Nast Traveler has added the city to its 2021 Gold List, joining only seven other destinations around the world. Condé Nast editor Betsy Blumenthal remarks that “There’s really something special about Philadelphia,” while citing the sprawling Fairmount Park and the city’s “Italian Market and its small world of vendors, about the mosaics glinting in the sun, the digestible chaos of Chinatown,” as a few of the characteristics that elevate Philadelphia to a destination worthy of the world’s attention. Philadelphia also lands on TIME’s World’s Greatest Places list for 2021, which spotlights the new experiences on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a diverse culinary scene that is “vibrant as ever.”
Additional Philadelphia praise comes from travel guide Frommer’s, which includes Independence Hall as one of their top places to visit in 2021, remarking on the tales shared by national park rangers that reveal mistakes, goals, and debates of the Framers and their ability to compromise for the sake of the founding of the nation. Fodor’s Travel likens Philadelphia’s history, culture, and food (and the city’s many pubs) to experiences found in London, perfect for U.S. travelers seeking a global experience in 2021 without leaving the country. Travel + Leisure’s December 2020 print issue featured a nine-page spread that highlighted Philadelphia’s many diverse neighborhoods and the cultural experiences that they offer, with perspectives from some of the city’s chefs, restaurateurs, and small business owners. As voted on by USA Today 10Best readers, the Schuylkill River Trail was named one of the top riverwalks in the nation and the historic Reading Terminal Market was named the best public market in the United States.
Philadelphia’s food scene also continues to receive high honors, with South Philadelphia Thai restaurant Kalaya being named as Esquire’s Best New Restaurant of 2020. Local chef, poet, and historian Omar Tate and his pop-up, Honeysuckle, received the publication’s Chef of the Year and Pop-Up of the Year honors, respectively. Chef Tate was also recognized on Time Magazine’s Time100 Next List for 2021. Condé Nast Traveler has included Laser Wolf — an Israeli grill from the team behind the acclaimed Zahav — on their 2021 Hot List, naming the Fishtown eatery as one of the best new restaurants in the world.
New hotels are slated to open in Philadelphia throughout 2021, with other properties undergoing renovations
In 2020, Philadelphia welcomed several new hotels including the Hyatt Centric and Canopy by Hilton, while several existing properties received high honors – the Four Seasons (and its spa program) received Forbes’ prestigious Five-Star ranking and The Rittenhouse was named the top hotel in the mid-Atlantic by Condé Nast Traveler. Other hotels underwent renovations to deliver guests an updated experience, including the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown, Windsor Suites Philadelphia, and Courtyard Philadelphia South at Navy Yard, with renovations currently underway at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.
Travelers can also enjoy new hotel options that have debuted in 2021, including the Live! Casino & Hotel in the South Philadelphia sports complex. In Center City, the new Element Philadelphia and luxurious W Philadelphia are now open, sharing a building and 45,000-square-feet of meeting and event space along Chestnut Street, just steps from popular downtown attractions. For more updates on Philadelphia’s hotel community, click here.
New restaurants are set to open throughout 2021, including a brewery and taproom along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia’s celebrated restaurant scene is poised to welcome several new dining and drinking experiences to its portfolio in 2021, including the return of local favorite Bridget Foy’s to South Street following a fire that forced the temporary closure of the restaurant in 2017. Doylestown-based Victory Brewing Company will open its first location within Philadelphia city limits with the debut of a new brewery and taproom along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway later in 2021. Other openings to look forward to include Grace and Proper – a corner bar and kitchen in the Italian Market from the team the popular Hawthorne’s Beer Café – as well as four restaurants from Glu Hospitality (the team behind Germantown Garden, SET NoLibs, Añejo and other concepts) set to open throughout the year in Northern Liberties. A new Mexican restaurant in Fishtown from restaurateur Stephen Starr and new homes for Rex 1516 and Warmdaddy’s are also on tap for 2021. For a list of new restaurants now open in Philadelphia, click here.
Museums & Attractions
The Philadelphia Museum of Art opens 90,000 square feet of new space and prepares to host a groundbreaking Jasper Johns retrospective
After two decades of planning, design and construction, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has unveiled 90,000 square feet of new and reimagined public and exhibition space as part of the Frank Gehry-led Core Project. Included in the project are a reimagined West Entrance and Lenfest Hall, as well as a new multilevel Forum space which rests in the center of the museum, beneath the iconic Grand Stair Hall. A Vaulted Walkway has also been restored and runs the length of the building, north to south. 20,000 square feet of new gallery space is also now on view, including new early American art and modern and contemporary galleries — marking the largest installation of new exhibition space since the building opened in 1928.
In the fall of 2021, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is slated to join with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York for an artistic partnership celebrating the work of Jasper Johns. The museums will simultaneously stage exhibits that feature 600 pieces spanning 70 years of Johns’ career, including his most celebrated paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, along with lesser-known and recent works. Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror is currently scheduled to be on view September 29, 2021 through February 13, 2022.
A new Visitor Center kiosk is now open in LOVE Park
The Independence Visitor Center has opened a new location in one of Philadelphia’s most popular parks, the iconic LOVE Park in Center City. Open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., this stand-alone kiosk in the southwest corner of the park serves as a convenient resource for visitor information, tickets for local attractions and museums, and Philadelphia-themed gifts in the heart of downtown and just steps from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and other nearby attractions. To learn more about the new LOVE Park Visitor Center kiosk, click here.
A new museum dedicated to neon is now open to the public
Adding to Philadelphia’s vast collection of art museums and innovative public art, the Neon Museum of Philadelphia offers permanent exhibits of historical and cultural information as told through this eclectic artform. The museum is currently open for tours on select days and times, with tickets available to reserve online. Inside, visitors will be able to admire over 120 vintage neon signs and artwork from some of Philadelphia’s most iconic businesses, including McGillin’s Olde Ale House and Pat’s King of Steaks, while learning more about the city’s history. The museum is also home to a small library filled with neon-themed literature, games, a gift shop, and rotating exhibitions featuring work by local artists.
The Faith and Liberty Discovery Center is now open along Independence Mall
A new museum dedicated to examining how faith helped foster some of the nation’s core values is now open just steps from where the Declaration of Independence was signed in America’s most historic square mile. The American Bible Society’s Faith and Liberty Discovery Center invites visitors from all backgrounds to explore its six immersive galleries on a personalized, self-guided tour where they will use a handheld lamp will interact with exhibits and collect inspirational content along the way. Tickets for the museum are available to purchase online. The Faith and Liberty Discovery Center has also introduced a new Faith & Liberty Trail App, which features 13 themed trails that guide visitors to over 80 historic and religious sites throughout Philadelphia.
Longwood Gardens begins a massive conservatory expansion project and prepares to host sprawling Light exhibition in 2022
One of Philadelphia’s most treasured countryside destinations, Longwood Gardens has announced plans for a major, $250 million expansion project which will break ground in the Spring of 2021. The expansion will transform 17 acres of the current conservatory grounds and will introduce new public spaces, such as an outdoor Bonsai Courtyard and a new home for the popular Cascade Garden, as well as a new private event space, new restaurant, and new education center. The centerpiece of the project is a completely reimagined 32,000-square-foot West Conservatory space, which will be encased in a stunning glass crystalline structure that will appear to “float” over water and will house Mediterranean-inspired gardens. Longwood Gardens hopes to debut the completed project in the fall of 2024. To learn more about Longwood Reimagined, and to watch a video detailing all of the upcoming enhancements, click here.
In 2022, from June 30 through October 30, Longwood Gardens will host Light: Installations by Bruce Munro — a garden-wide exhibition featuring eight installations both indoors and outdoors. Among the installations are Field of Light, which consists of 18,000 illuminated stemmed orbs along Longwood’s Large Lake, as well as an installation inside the East Conservatory where 1,820 recyclable bottles form a massive geodesic sphere that radiates light. Tickets for Light are available beginning March 7, 2022.
An all-new Halloween attraction opens at America’s most historic prison
In fall of 2021, Eastern State Penitentiary, the world’s first true penitentiary and one of Philadelphia’s most popular attractions, will debut an all-new Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary experience from the creators of the acclaimed Terror Behind the Walls. Open on select evenings from September 24 through November 13, the festival-style event features 15 attractions spread throughout the cellblocks, including two haunted houses, four immersive walk-through environments, two live performances, four themed bars and lounges, and a new Steve Buscemi-narrated audio tour recorded especially for Halloween Nights.
Recreational updates continue along the Delaware River waterfront
Currently under construction and projected to be completed by the fall of 2021, the central section of the Delaware River Trail will offer a protected lane for biking, walking, jogging, and running along the eastern side of Columbus Boulevard. Stretching from Spring Garden Street to the north all the way to Washington Avenue to the south, this section of the trail will connect and add to the accessibility of top waterfront destinations including Race Street Pier, Cherry Street Pier, Spruce Street Harbor Park, and Penn’s Landing. The trail is just one part of a larger project being undertaken by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, which will eventually include a new park spanning interstate 95 at Penn’s Landing as well as the transformation of “Graffiti Pier” in Port Richmond into a recreational park.
Venues & Sporting Facilities
A new home for US Squash in University City
The Arlen Specter US Squash Center, set to open in the spring of 2021, will serve as the new headquarters for US Squash, founded in Philadelphia in 1904 and based in the city from 1978 until 2006. The nation’s premier squash facility will also house the US Squash Hall of Fame and occupy the 33rd Street Armory building on Drexel University’s campus. The 65,000-square-foot space will add 20 courts to existing Drexel courts and those available at the University of Pennsylvania, bringing the total number of courts within a 3-block radius in University City to 37. A Learning & Innovation Center will be part of the project, focusing on engaging and educating the local community via its award-winning SquashSmarts program.
A new event space from the team behind the acclaimed Zahav opens in the spring of 2022
Restaurateurs Steven Cook and James Beard Award-winner Michael Solomonov, whose CookNSolo restaurant group includes acclaimed Philadelphia restaurants such as Zahav, K’Far and Laser Wolf, have announced plans to open a new private event space in the heart of Philadelphia’s popular Fishtown neighborhood. Named Lilah — Hebrew for “Night” — the event space will occupy a former industrial warehouse totaling 7,000 square feet and will be able to accommodate up to 250 guests. The venue will feature on-site catering by CookNSolo, with customizable tasting menus featuring salatim, fresh pita, hummus, skewers and kabobs, Chef Solomonov’s borekas, and other dishes showcasing CookNSolo’s take on Jewish cooking. Lilah is slated to open in the spring of 2022 and will also include the fourth location of CookNSolo’s fast-casual restaurant concept Goldie, specializing in falafel sandwiches, salads, and Tehina shakes.