please touch museum

We just came back from a weekend in Philadelphia, where we discovered some pretty cool things to do. First of all, who knew that Philly was such a food paradise? Local, sustainable are givens in many of the restaurants, and the restaurant prices are significantly lower than in New York. Of course there’s great history here, and some of the best children’s museums in the country. And all of this in the dead of winter. We’ll report back next summer on the city’s outdoor must-dos.

The Lowdown

To Stay:

We stayed at the Rittenhouse, since it had an indoor pool and was centrally located. The room had two double beds and nice light, and the rate was a reasonable $215, for a Sunday and Monday night. Weekends, however, can be twice that. We met trustworthy locals who highly recommended the Sofitel. The Marriott Courtyard looked good when we drove by it, and when I checked it out online after our trip, I was sorry we hadn’t booked a room there. It so happens that the Marriott is on the National Register of Historic Places and is right around the corner from the Reading Terminal Market. Plus, it has a big beautiful indoor pool, and it’s cheaper than most other hotel options. We also walked by the AKA, right on Rittenhouse Square, which has smartly done short-term rentals (note: there’s a 2-night minimum stay). Since they have kitchens, you can actually take advantage of shopping at the Reading Terminal Market. While the Rittenhouse was perfectly nice–staff were really helpful, fast, and thoughtful–I was a little irritated that they didn’t have a free coffee setup in the morning. When we asked about it, they said they only have it from 5-7am! After that, you have to order it from room service ($15 for a pot of coffee with the delivery and service charges), or go downstairs and buy it from the restaurant. Since they were charging $8 for a beer, I didn’t bother seeing how much a cup of coffee was.

You have to go to the Franklin Fountain, the caught-in-time ice cream fountain from 1904.

To Eat:

Definitely have dinner at The Dandelion, right near Rittenhouse Square. It’s a Stephen Starr restaurant (the guy best known for opening Morimoto and Buddakan), and it’s an English pub vibe. But not too much so–it isn’t schticky at all. Menu standouts were duck bolognese, slow roasted pork belly (only $14), and the deviled egg bar snacks!

We tried Noble for dinner on Sunday night, which has a 4 course prix fixe menu for $38 per person. It was superb, not too fussy, and fantastic value. I bet it’s great on other nights too.

I think lunch at the Reading Terminal Market–a huge indoor market with over 80 vendors that originally opened in 1892–is a must. We ate at the Down Home Diner, primarily because Matt wanted to try scrapple. We didn’t get to try the Pearl’s Oyster Bar because we ran out of time. Sear it into your brain that it’s closed on Sunday, so you won’t be disappointed if you are here over a weekend.

On our way out of town, we stopped for breakfast at Cafe Lift, which is in the more industrial part of town, but also about 5 minutes from the Franklin Institute. We ate french toast, huevos rancheros, and a breakfast burrito, and were impressed with all of them–great ingredients, clever preparations, and a cool vibe.

Depending on where you stay, I’d grab breakfast at the Metropolitan Bakery in Rittenhouse Square–great coffee, pastries (many of them whole grains), and organic local yogurts. Or pick from any number of vendors at the Reading Market (remember, La Colombe d’Or coffee comes from Philadelphia).

One afternoon, you have to go to the Franklin Fountain, the caught-in-time ice cream fountain from 1904. The staff are dressed in period uniforms and the ice cream is insane. Next time I’m springing for the sundae.

To Do:

The Please Touch Museum is greatfor the 3-7 set, though a 2 year old would be very happy there splashing around in the water/duck exhibit and an 8 year old would probably dig the Alice in Wonderland and the hospital and grocery store sections. Don’t plan on having lunch or snacks here–the cafeteria is bleak.

The Franklin Institute is worth the trip in itself. We could have spent a whole day there–from the walk-up-the-aorta anatomy of  heart exhibit to making our own paper to the electricity exhibit–there was so much to do and learn. It was truly fun for the grownups as well as our kid. The cafeteria here actually had some nice looking food, so in a pinch, you could eat lunch here.

We checked out the Betsy Ross Museum and loved it–it’s small, so you can make quick work of it. It’s also near the Franklin Fountain, so you could park the car and walk to both places. It’s also just off of N. 3rd Street, where there are several cute stores. Our favorite was Sugarcube, which has a mix of new and vintage, for men and women, and carries brands like Steven Alan, Ulla Johnson, and Dunderdon. Some stores that were closed, but looked good, were Mode Moderne and Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

We did a Liberty Bell drive-by. It was closing, but we rushed through the exhibit (good thing it was free!), got to the bell, took a picture, and got out.

Our favorite store of the weekend was Morihata, a Japanese lifestyle store, right up the street from Cafe Lift. We would buy almost everything in the store for our gift closet–all of them perfect for the person who has everything. The best Japanese towels, bottle openers, bicycle bells, toothbrushes. Fantastic.

From Travels With Clara


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Comments (4)


  1. Posted by: Susan

    Great recap of your visit! We recently moved outside of Philly, and LOVE it. It is a great foodie city, and for history lovers…one of the best!

  2. Posted by: Nicelle

    Love all the info… Im adding it to my list of weekend trips!

  3. Posted by: Darcey


    Reading Terminal Market is open:
    Mon – Sat: 8-6
    SUNDAY: 9-5
    The Amish vendors are there Wed – Sat

  4. Posted by: Ana

    Moved to Philly from NYC and my family could not love it more here…great food, so much to do and amazing community….haven’t missed NYC for a second.

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