Philadelphia is often overshadowed by its bigger and flashier sibling to the north (looking at you, NYC), but the city has so much to offer, that it has become a favorite for a quick weekend or overnight getaway from D.C. This itinerary is jam packed, but pick your favorites and plan that escape to Philadelphia!
Day 1 - Evening
Whether you choose to road trip, take the Amtrak, or a bus to Philadelphia, the two-hour ride is short enough to keep you feeling refreshed and ready to go once you are there. Drop your bags off and check in at the centrally located Windsor Suites before heading out for the evening.
Start your trip at the new Skygarten beer garden, which opened last summer. It’s in a nondescript office building, but the bar on the 51st floor is well worth a stop to take in some phenomenal views of Philly, snap an Instagram and enjoy a beer or two. There’s also a hot chocolate bar in the winter!
One of the BEST things about Philly is the number of BYOB restaurants in the city. Before dinner, pick up a bottle of wine or other beverage of choice and head to the hip Sate Kampar in the East Passyunk for some fantastic Malaysian street style food. Famous for their coconut charcoal dishes, it’s a cute spot to enjoy a variety of grilled skewers (satay), nasi lemak rice and a delicious beef rendang. It’s also reasonably priced, and that BYOB really helps, as they do not have a bar.
Day 2 – Morning
Forget about any hotel breakfast, and head to Reading Terminal Market to get your morning fuel. Best sellers are the blueberry pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place, hearty diner fare at the Down Home Diner, bacon and banana French toast at Pearl’s oyster bar, donuts (from over 35 varieties!) and coffee at Beiler’s Bakery, grilled cheese from Meltkraft, pastrami at Hershels and the list goes on and on. Trust me when I say there are plenty of options here!
If it’s your first time in Philly, you should definitely spend some time learning about our nation’s history and founding fathers. But if you’ve been there, done that, there are plenty of more offbeat and fun ways to explore the city.
Magic Gardens: This indoor-outdoor space is constructed by local artist Isaiah Zagar, and is a walkable structure made with cement, bicycle spokes, bottles, ceramic mosaics, and all sorts of other knick-knacks. It’s a bit mad, but it’s colorful, engaging, whimsical and overall pretty amazing!
Eastern State Penitentiary: This former prison operated from 1829 to 1971, and is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary, known for its revolutionary system of incarceration. The building itself is spooky, intense and made to have the feel of a church. Al Capone was even an inmate here for a while!
Japanese house and garden: Go here for a nice walk through the beautiful gardens, feed the koi fish and check out a weeping cherry tree.
Mural mile: If you are into street art, Philadelphia has plenty of it! Walk the mural mile at your own pace with this guide, and see some fantastic murals.
Day 2 - Evening
If you plan in advance, make a reservation at the uber popular Zahav for modern Israeli, or the trendy Vernick Food and Drink for modern American. Another favorite is Serpico for an Asian twist on American food. For something more casual, Bing Bing Dim Sum offers modern dim sum along with a nice selection of noodle and rice dishes -- and a fantastic happy hour! Vegetarian or not, a meal at Vedge is absolutely incredible – look past the “vegan and vegetarian” stereotypes and give this a shot. Another of my favorites is Brigantessa, for house made pasta, Neopolitan pizza, and house cured meat. Last but not least, Chinatown in Philadelphia is serious – so head there for old school Cantonese, dim sum, hand drawn noodles and more!
Wander around the entertaining South Street at night for some bar hopping and people watching before calling it a night.
Day 3 - Brunch and head back to DC!
For a leisurely brunch, try one of the three locations of the popular Green Eggs Café, which is well worth the wait for an indulgent and delicious meal. The red velvet pancakes are a signature dish, but if you prefer savory, the kitchen sink (a perfect hangover cure), which is a skillet with buttery flaky biscuit, scrambled eggs and topped with a thick white gravy with sausages, is what you need.
For something a bit different, try Noord -- their menu of northern European food is a perfect showcase of why Philadelphia is so bloody cool.
Finally, you can’t leave Philly without a cheese steak, so hit up Pat's or Geno's and grab one for the ride home, but decide if you are a "wit" or "wit-out" ahead of time!