Travel Guide – Philadelphia, USA

Author: | Last Updated: 14 Jun 2018

Philadelphia, what an incredible city! She has been instrumental in the shaping of the United States of America. Politically this city has been home to the First and Second Continental Congress, Independence Hall and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and for a very short time…the Capital of The United States. Philadelphia is also a true melting pot of so many cultures and peoples. Today, Philadelphia is a cornucopia of options for every type of passion. The food and beverage scene is huge and innovative, the theater and performing arts venues are endless and the whole city is so easy navigate. I had the privilege of spending some time in Philadelphia with my cousin who has lived there over 10 years and meeting many of his friends who settled there decades ago and have watched the city evolve and grow. My family has always enjoyed gathering around the table for comforting nostalgic foods and just talking and spending time together, so when I arrived to Philadelphia to meet up with my cousin, it was natural that much of our time spent would be around a table. He is well respected in the food and beverage industry in Philadelphia so my ‘City of Brotherly Love’ experience included meeting some of the most prominent chefs and restaurant managers and owners in the city.

I prepared for my Philadelphia adventure as I do for any city. Digging into blog posts by my peers, visiting the usual local city tourism websites and seeking out those familiar kiosks as you exit airports and train stations with every map and tourist excursion paraphernalia available. But as I find consistent in my travels, passionate and established locals are the best way to see a city. Stepping into a small local bar and talking with the bartender or getting to know your server at a local restaurant is one of the best ways to get tips for where to start to take you off the preprinted maps of a city, or lucky for me…spending a week with my cousin and really seeing the true Philadelphia…

Since Philadelphia holds so much importance into the history of The United States, I do recommend experiencing those classic locations: Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell, touring the location of Benjamin Franklin’s home and businesses (you can even see where his privy pit was over the decades!) But as with any city…the true heart beat of the city is with her people. The men and women whose lives create the pulse by which the city lives. It’s found in the places they work, live and play. It’s found in the neighborhoods you are about to give up on, thinking ‘there’s nothing else down this street’…. Then you experience the best cuisine possible ever… So welcome to my insider tour of Philadelphia, here are my top 5 (unique) spots to check out while in Philadelphia.

1) Reading Terminal Market

Have you ever enjoyed true Pennsylvania Dutch cooking? Delicious, stick to your ribs….and thighs…cuisine. The Reading Terminal Market is a market with local produce, meats, cheeses and spices along with small kitchens that offer hot prepared foods many of which use classic PA Dutch recipes. I highly recommend starting your visit here. Pick up a few prepared meats, cheeses and fresh breads to keep in your hotel as a snack or pack a picnic to enjoy in several squares throughout the city. Many locals hit Reading Terminal Market early in the day and enjoy breakfast from one of the kitchens before shopping and heading home with their groceries. Reading Terminal Market also has a few vendors with truly lovely gift items. Local hand-crafted gifts or local photographers with iconic locations captured on post cards and framed art. This is a great place to talk with locals. The owners of each booth has a passion for the city. They offer their tips of the best restaurants, bars or spots to check out while in their beloved city.

2) Will BYOB

This was one of the most incredible dining experiences I have ever had. On our way my cousin and I stopped at a local liquor and wine store and each picked up our own bottle, then we continued on our way to Will BYOB and enjoyed our choice libations over an incredible and seasonably fresh menu. The location was small and intimate, and guests were not rushed. It was obvious people were there celebrating special occasions and others were there to celebrate the enjoyment of great cuisine. Set deep in the heart of South Philly, you have definitely left the posh swanky appeal of downtown Philadelphia and ventured along one of those streets you swear everyone pronounces differently: Passyunk Ave. But just as I begun to question “are we there yet…” we step into a modest location, with a cozy but casual elegant interior, and menus printed with our names on them… every detail well thought out. You definitely need a reservation to enjoy Will BYOB. My sincere advice, as soon as you solidify your Philadelphia travel agenda book your experience for a truly memorable dinner before heading out on the town, and don’t forget to BYOB (bring your own bottle)!

3) Fishtown

We take the subway out of the city and deep into the suburbs to an area called Fishtown. I was so glad we did!! What started with a suggestion from my cousin that we get there and back during daylight hours (since we were taking the subway) had me only slightly on edge…then the walk from the station passing several Dollar Stores that required that you ‘check all bags upon entering’…I wondered truly where my cousin had brought me…. Then as I mentioned earlier…you go far enough up that questionable street and the creative genius of local talent and investment begins to take over. Unique restaurants and bars, local shops and spots with live music featuring talented local artist flourish as far as the eye can see. Homes being refurbished with prime real-estate on what will soon be one of the hottest streets in Philly to be seen. We enjoyed dodging raindrops and stepping in and out of local boutiques and shops and settled in at a truly enjoyable restaurant, Suraya. Lebanese cuisine in a beautiful location, I had one of the best plates of labna I’ve ever tasted! I would’ve liked to enjoy Fishtown into the evening to continue in and out the venues as the live music started and just taken Lyft or a cab back to the city.

4) Anastacia’s Antiques

I have really come to enjoy antique stores. Some of the most unique and personal gifts and souvenirs have been found at antique stores on my journeys. Anastacia’s nestled in the Queen Village neighborhood has a large variety of eclectic findings. Time flew while enjoying the shop. What is also fun about antique shops in any city, is usually there is historic details from the cities past…old maps, photographs and other paraphernalia from the cities expired tenants … My cousin found a statue that reminded him of one of his favorite films, “The Maltese Falcon” and I found a few items that will enhance my yearly Halloween bash. There was impressive art, beautiful furniture and fun oddities to enjoy while perusing the isles of the shop.

5) Double Knot

This location took me total surprise. What started out as just a light cocktail and appetizer to tide us over until later turned into quite an adventure. When we fist stepped into Double Knot, we were greeted with a cozy, industrial meets swanky location with great cocktails and delicious appetizers…then we found out they had a whole restaurant downstairs. Pioneered by visionary Chef Schulson, it was clear that he understood how elegance and creativity blended so perfectly together…The basement was dark and beautiful, the place was lit by candles and filled with mysterious charm. The food was so delicious. There was a second bar downstairs that I vowed to return to on my next visit. Living in Florida, I am in awe of subterranean hideaways (we don’t have basements in the south). The place filled up quickly so Double Knot is definitely a place to set a reservation for when wanting dinner. It was obvious Double Knot was also a local/industry hang out. The drinks were so well crafted, that even the pickiest of hard to please bartenders could enjoy a cocktail. Double Knot is a must see while in Philadelphia!

6) Halloween

This shop was a pure delight and total surprise. There are no markings outside the building. You have to know where it is located, and they must ‘buzz you in’. Halloween is a true ‘off the grid experience’, and the chance to find some truly memorable souvenirs or gifts. First and foremost, this is a jewelry store. But they have so much…its almost sensory overload! Each section is themed. If you have someone into skulls, they have jewelry for that…if you have someone into pearls…they have an abundance of that! The jewelry is all so beautiful and creatively displayed. If you are traversing the absolutely charming streets through the Washington Square neighborhood, look out of the unmarked door at 1329 Pine Street, stop in for a truly memorable experience, and if your journeys take you Philadelphia near the holiday of Halloween, Henri David hosts Halloween Balls and parties around town!

Recap…

I truly enjoyed my time in Philadelphia. There was so much to see and do and taste during my stay in this incredible city. Check out Sippin Gypsy Quick Tips: Philadelphia for what to do and see while in the city and other tips and suggestions for other great spots for cocktails and cuisine. Please let me know if there are other unique and off the map spots that you recommend and discover on your travels. One week was not enough time with my cousin and to explore the city…I will be back!

Article Author

Kristin started Sippin Gypsy as a catalog of her travels, finding that blend of culture, history, cocktails and cuisine. She is passionate about uncovering unique places within each city that celebrate the local talents of its people. Sippin Gypsy is growing into a collective group of travelers who all have a passion for experiencing the world Sip by Sip. You can find more Sippin Gypsy adventures and cocktail recipes inspired by travels at www.sippingypsy.com and on Facebook at @SippinGypsy and Instagram @thesippingypsy


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