By day you can explore four centuries of history and architecture, beautiful neighbourhoods, remarkable museum collections and endless shopping. Yet when the sun sets, the city heats up with acclaimed performing arts, candlelight tours of the city’s famous haunts, or delectable dining and vibrant nightlife.
Visitors flock to the shores of the Delaware River in droves every year in search for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – be it sightseeing, shopping or just a quick getaway over a long weekend.
Within minutes of reaching your hotel, you find yourself immersed in culture, culinary delights and artistic and ethnic treasures, all without the typical “big city” atmosphere of New York or Miami.
Most of Philadelphia’s hotels are inner city, which basically means you are within walking distance of every imaginable museum, famous landmark or shopping district.
However if walking is not your thing, Philadelphia has no shortage of public transport with the famous Phlash bus at the top of the list for getting from one point to another for only $1. There are signboards all along the “Phlash route” to mark pick-up/drop-off points.
If you prefer to sit back and given a tour of the city, Philadelphia’s trolley tour is the ticket. This is the best way to see the city and learn more about its historic significance – compliments of local tour guides who “talk” you through each part. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, with the usual jump on/ jump off policy, allowing you to explore more at your leisure. And in many cases these trolley tours stop right outside many of the inner-city hotels. However, there are hardly any signboards, so be sure to ask at the hotel for the nearest pick-up point.
There is no shortage to museums in the city – form palaeontology to art, science and technology, but if you are travelling with children, be sure to visit the “Please touch Museum” also known as the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Children are encouraged to touch, ask questions and learn more about their environment, from astronomy with its very own planetarium, to aeroplanes and the science of flight. One of the most amazing features at the museum is a full-sized steam engine that actually moves. The museum also boasts IMAX theatres, which often show popular animated movies, like “A Bugs’ Life” for children during the day.
For a unique shopping experiences, stop by the Reading Terminal. This is one of America’s oldest operating “farmers markets” and you can find anything from handmade quilts to bottled jams. Of course the market home to the Amish who sell their top-quality products from stalls dotted throughout. If you get a chance, try some Amish jerky and dried sausage. It’s the closest thing to biltong and droewors as you will find outside of South Africa.’
If like me you love photography, be sure to drop by Elfreths Alley in the historic district. It’s hard to believe people still live in these beautiful redbrick homes, which are some of the oldest in the city. With its quaint cobbled stone road, red wooden doors and overflowing flower boxes, it’s a photographers’ dream.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for the South African flag on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
A tip: To get to Philadelphia Zoo you will need to catch a special Phlash Zoo Bus from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That’s the very same Romanesque-style building with 100 stairs that “Rocky” raced up in that famous 1970s movie.