Take flight to the city of brotherly love

Philadelphia’s sunset gets an assist from the city’s sparkling skyline and programmable lights that enliven the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Built in 1926, the bridge traverses the Delaware River connecting Philadelphia and New Jersey.

Philadelphia’s sunset gets an assist from the city’s sparkling skyline and programmable lights that enliven the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Built in 1926, the bridge traverses the Delaware River connecting Philadelphia and New Jersey.

Philadelphia combines history, art and great food

PERHAPS ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S best-kept secrets, Philadelphia is a unique combination of history, natural beauty, home to some of the world’s most famous and eclectic art collections and a spectacular restaurant scene. While many large and well-known companies reside here, it is, first and foremost, a collection of residential neighborhoods, each with its own ethnic roots and modern-day charms. Nestled between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, the city is also a vibrant college town, with the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University, and Philadelphia University, just to name a few, enrolling many thousands of students, each contributing to the town’s youthful energy. Old and new find a unique symmetry with the resulting mix sure to delight tastes and attitudes of all sorts.


Upon arrival, stroll through Rittenhouse Square, the grand dame of the city’s four squares, all part of William Penn’s original plan for the city. Explore the collection of outdoor sculpture, including Paul Manship’s Duck Girl of 1911, a whimsical bronze of a young girl carrying a duck under one arm. Find a park bench and take in the city’s artists, musicians, businessmen and women, children and pets, all enjoying this carefully manicured patch of grass and trees, surrounded by elegant hotels and cafes. Head East on Walnut Street and gaze at the wares proudly displayed in the windows of the trendy shops while being certain not to miss the parade of sophisticates and their carefully manicured dogs hustling to and fro. Circle back to The Dandelion Pub, 124 South 18th St., for afternoon tea in a cozy English setting that features a variety of traditional pub fare. Those looking for something stronger to drink should try the Scotch honeysuckle, a mouth-watering combination of Dewar’s scotch, dry vermouth, honey, lemon and rose water.



Head toward Independence Hall and its Society Hill environs, a spectacular marriage of cobblestone streets and traditional colonial townhouses. Philadelphia is the cradle of American democracy, both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed here, and the city was the home of the nation’s first capital. This area includes the Independence National Historic Park and its many museums and exhibits. One of the city’s most overlooked museums chronicles the life of Benjamin Franklin and stands on the location where he lived and worked. He remains Philadelphia’s iconic founding father and one of the most fascinating personalities of that (or any) time. Learn of his peripatetic wanderings and accompanying estrangement from his long-suffering wife. Visit the Constitution Center on the north end of Independence Mall and be sure to pose for pictures among the bronze statutes of the framers of the Constitution in Signers Hall. From Independence Mall, walk south down Sixth Street into Society Hill, one of the city’s oldest and most elegant neighborhoods and enjoy the tree-lined streets complemented by the colorfully painted window shutters and doors.

www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/benjamin franklinmuseum.htm


According to London’s Guardian newspaper, “[t]he cradle of America is being reborn as a food destination” because “[a]cclaimed New York chefs are relocating to Philadelphia.” Talula’s Garden on Washington Square typifies the new chefs and attitude that have put Philadelphia firmly on the culinary map. Forget the cheesesteak (if you can’t, try www.patskingofsteaks.com), and head over to 210 West Washington Square to enjoy the cozy-chic décor and vibrant outdoor planter boxes along with the elaborate pink-granite cheese bar. Go for a honey brined boneless pork chop or spice things up with the muscovy duck breast and crisp confit. And be sure not to miss the honey-soaked ricotta donuts for dessert. Make certain to pay a quick visit to the eternal flame that commemorates the many unknown revolutionary soldiers entombed below Washington Square.



Catch a cab to University City to the World Café Live, the home of the University of Pennsylvania’s public radio station WXPN and a restaurant/night club that is host to enormously varied list of musicians including The Coors, Noah Gunderson and The Tribal Seeds.


Stay at the Rittenhouse 1715 off the Square, a lovely boutique hotel a stone’s throw from all of the best that the city has to offer. If you choose to have breakfast here, be sure to select from the varied offerings of freshly squeezed juices at the juice bar — the first of its kind in any hotel in Philadelphia.


Alternatively, head to Federal Donuts, 1632 Sansom St., for a hot strawberry-lavender donut, a small, fried, beacon of sugary delight. Make sure to down a cup of coffee as well in this hipster haven, a full day exploring Philadelphia’s rich assortment of art museums awaits.

Head for the Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Before ducking inside, gaze down the parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the northwest. The broad, diagonal street connects City Hall with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lined with flowers, sculptures, and flags from around the world, its design was inspired by Paris’ Champs-Elysées. Philadelphia’s City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States, and William Penn keeps a watchful eye on things from his perch at 548 feet. Just to the north you can see the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the home of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a stunning example of Roman-Corinthian architecture.

The brand new Barnes museum houses what might be the finest collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings in the world, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast. Consider buying tickets in advance on the foundation’s website so that you’ll be sure to see the collections, the museum has defied all expectations in terms of attendance.



Leave the Barnes and head a couple of blocks north to the Kite & Key, a quaint bistro in the Fairmount neighborhood that serves a mouth-watering variety of sandwiches and burgers washed down with a enormous assortment of craft beers and ales. Try the Kite & Key Burger, one half pound of ground angus beef, smothered with cheddar cheese and bacon on a toasted brioche. Churchill’s Pale India Pale Ale, a pale and hoppy draft IPA, is brewed with a high proportion of wheat and rye for a smooth, well-rounded flavor and mouth feel, pairs well with the angus beef.


No trip to Philadelphia is complete without a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, not the least of which reason is the relocation of the Rocky statute to the base of the front steps made famous by the Sylvester Stallone film. Because a visit to all of the museum’s galleries could take two or three days (the museum is one of the largest in the United States), consider visiting the website before coming to town to narrow one’s list of “must-see” art. Some of the unheralded but no less enjoyable galleries include the Asian collection, Dutch ceramics, the costumes and textiles, armor and the mind-numbing post-World War One “Dada.”
Time permitting, head over to the Museum’s Rodin collection on the north of the Parkway on the way back toward the Barnes. Yet another slice of Paris in Philadelphia, the tranquil galleries and gardens are the perfect backdrop to the French master’s works.


Before dinner, make your way to The Rittenhouse, the modern hotel on the west side of the square. Get up to the second floor to Bar 210 inside Lacroix. The bar features a lovely view of the Square and the afternoon sun typically turns the treetops a glowing yellow-red. Try the Lemongrass Sparkler, a delightful combination of Grey Goose Poire Vodka, Saint-Germain Lemongrass and candied lemon.


Run, don’t walk, to the phone and call for a reservation, now. The winner of season 11 of “Top Chef,” Nick Elmi, has opened a restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood blessed with an avalanche of hip new eateries. Locals agree that Mr. Elmi’s albacore starter may be the best raw tuna in the city and the fresh ricotta gnocchi will be remembered for months thereafter. By the way, the restaurant is BYOB, so have the taxi pause at the liquor store at 1237 South 11th St.



Head to the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom to see an uproariously funny lineup of stand up comedians. Regular visitors include Rosie O’Donnell, Gilbert Gottfried, Jon Lovitz and John Oliver.



The Reading Terminal Market is an enclosed public market found at 12th and Arch streets where more than 100 merchants offer fresh produce, meats, fish, groceries, ice cream, flowers, baked goods, crafts, books, clothing and specialty and ethnic foods. The market sits on the ground floor of the old Reading Railroad (of Monopoly fame) train shed, which now serves as part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The venue is a cornucopia of gastronomical and visual delights, including Amish merchants who ride wagons into the city from nearby Lancaster County to peddle their wares. Get a croissant and coffee from one of the merchants surrounding the communal eating area, or head into the Down Home Diner and try the French toast and scrapple (a Pennsylvania Dutch staple breakfast meat).



Head up to Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue to find ample reason to stay on the straight and narrow. The prison design is based on what was known as the Pennsylvania System, which held that keeping prisoners completely isolated from each other was the most efficient means to rehabilitation. To that end, seven cellblocks radiate from a central surveillance rotunda. Each prisoner had his or her own private cell, centrally heated, with running water, a flush toilet, and a skylight. Adjacent to the cell was a private outdoor exercise yard contained by a 10-foot wall. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.


Beginning in May, U.S. Airways will offer nonstop jet service to Philadelphia from Watertown International Airport, Dexter. Visit www.usairways.com for reservations. Philadelphia is roughly a five-hour drive by auto from Watertown via Interstate 81 south to Scranton, where you will pick up the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension, or Interstate 476 south. Continue on I-476 south until it intersects with Interstate 76, or the Schuylkill Expressway. Keep on I-76 into the city.

BRIAN T. ORTELERE, is a partner in the Philadelphia law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, where he practices labor and employment law. He earned his law degree from the College of William & Mary. He is also the author of the legal thriller “American Jihadist,” which is available on Amazon.com. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Gretchen Santamour, also an attorney.