When it comes to American history, Philadelphia is mostly identified for its colonial past through such famous landmarks as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. While those historical attractions and others are popular draws, the City of Brotherly Love has its own rich tradition in art, science and food. The best part about Philly is its proximity to New York-it’s only a two-hour bus ride each way. So if you start your trip to Philly in the morning, you can actually pack in as much sightseeing in one day and still be able to make it back to the Big Apple by evening. Here’s a sample of things to see and do as an alternative to the usual major tourist traps.
The Barnes Foundation
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
A longtime art institution, the Barnes Foundation has been in the downtown part of Philadelphia for over a year now after a much-publicized move from its original location in Merion. Smaller than your major art museum but definitely more intimate, the Barnes houses an amazing and exquisite collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings by such artists as Renoir, Matisse and Van Gogh. In addition to these European works, the collection features African sculpture and vintage artifacts such as pitchers and candlesticks.
1632 Sansom St.
This eatery, one of two locations in Philadelphia, has a very simple if unorthodox menu: donuts, coffee and Korean-style fried chicken. A half chicken meal ($9) consists of four pieces decked out in glazes or seasonings of your choosing accompanied with a honey donut and Japanese cucumber pickles. The fancy donuts ($2 each) come in several tantalizing flavors, including pumpkin spice latte and cookies & cream.
The Mütter Museum
19 S. 22nd St.
It may not be advisable to visit the Mütter Museum if you are a bit squeamish; otherwise, it definitely is something for the wide-eyed and curious. This medical history institution, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, contains an array of skeletons, skulls, body parts in solution-filled jars, and vintage medical instruments. Among its many medical oddities include a mummy known as the "Soap Lady"; a piece of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s thorax; and a death cast of famous conjoined twins Chang and Eng.
2043 Chestnut St.
One of Philadelphia’s distinct foods is the hoagie (or what we would call a hero or submarine sandwich), whose origins go back to the early 20th century. PrimoHoagies, which has several locations throughout the city, specializes in a variety of cold and hot sandwiches. Recommended is the Italian, whose ingredients include genoa salami, prosciutto, capicola and provolone.
The Fabric Workshop and Museum
1214 Arch St.
In contrast to the Barnes Foundation, the art works at the Fabric Workshop and Museum is more contemporary: It showcases screen-printed and multimedia works and offers educational programs and apprenticeships.
AIA Bookstore and Design Center
1218 Arch St.
On the same street as the museum is the AIA Bookstore and Design Center, which specializes in architecture books and also offers toys and gifts that will make great souvenirs.
Sonny’s Famous Steaks
228 Market St.
Finally, finish off your visit with probably the most Philadelphian of foods: the cheesesteak. Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks are the most well known places for it, but try Sonny’s Famous Steaks, which is in the vicinity of Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center. While it also serves burgers and chicken fingers, this establishment offers the traditional cheesesteak sandwich: sliced ribeye beef with Cheez Whiz and onions on a long roll.
Other attractions to consider:
The African American Museum in Philadelphia, http://www.aampmuseum.org/
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, http://www.nps.gov/edal/index.htm
Eastern State Penitentiary, http://www.easternstate.org/