Your visit starts here:
Reserve tickets before your visit to the new home of the Barnes Foundation, renowned for its inventive displays of Impressionistic and Modernist paintings. For dinner, try the museum’s Garden Restaurant, which offers a Friday martini menu until 8:30 p.m.
According to U.S. News, Philadelphia has one of the top ten Best Nightlife Scenes in the United States. In Rittenhouse Square, head for an after-dinner drink at Parc Restaurant, a spot-on recreation of a Parisian bistro. Then travel to Cuba Libre in Old City to dance to Salsa and Merengue beats until 2 a.m.
Start your exploration of the city’s Historic Mile and Historic District at the Independence Visitor Center. Pick up free timed tickets for the Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers hammered out the beginnings of the United States. While here, be sure to visit the nearby iconic Liberty Bell or President’s House, which commemorates the enslaved Africans who lived and worked at the site of the nation’s first White House under President George Washington.
Move on to the National Constitution Center for special exhibits as well as an action-packed look at the history and ongoing impact of the Constitution.
Break for lunch at City Tavern, which replicates Colonial dining, right down to hearty 18th-century entrees like turkey pot pie and chicken breast madeira. Kids will get a kick out of the costumed servers. Or walk 10 minutes to Chinatown and Reading Terminal Market, both filled with many diverse food options.
Detour through Washington Square, one of five public spaces planned by city founder William Penn. Exit to the west and meander through the narrow hidden streets (look for Jessup, Camac, Irving, Sartain and Quince) of Washington Square West. With its red-brick, Belgianblock and, in one case, wood block paving, the architecture of this neighborhood is quintessential Philadelphia. Or, head west along Walnut or Chestnut streets and explore the many neat boutiques and department stores (and remember, clothing and shoes are tax-free in Philly).
Insiders know that it takes a special elevator ride to reach XIX at the Hyatt at the Bellevue. Nab a fireside seat and enjoy the skyline views. Down the block, the lounge at the Ritz-Carlton offers late-night bites in a Pantheon-like setting. Looking for something louder? Belt out a few tunes at Japas Karaoke Lounge at Yakitori Boy.
In addition to being the nation’s first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo also keeps current. Over the last few years, the Zoo has changed the way its animals and visitors interact with new overhead trail systems for its fierce felines and playful primates. In 2015, the zoo’s Big Cat Crossing exhibit won USA Today’s Best Zoo Exhibit award. When you go, be sure not to miss the recently added aviary, which immerses visitors in the flapping and singing of more than 100 exotic birds, or the newly expanded kids’ zone, KidZooU.
Before leaving town, go “inside the walls” of the picturesquely crumbling but endlessly fascinating Eastern State Penitentiary. In the century after it opened in 1829, more than 300 prisons worldwide copied its revolutionary radial design. Gangster Al Capone’s cell was lavishly decorated, but bank robber Willie Sutton’s wasn’t as comfortable — so he notoriously busted out through a tunnel in 1945.