The end of August. The dog days of summer. Your last chance to escape D.C. before school is back in session and the weather is more tolerable. Throughout the week we’ll be encouraging you to leave. Get out of town. Take a plane, train or automobile and go on a mini vacation. Even if it’s just for a day, it’s good to leave D.C.
Yesterday we recommended four spots under a two hours drive. Today we’re continuing with Philadelphia, a city close enough to visit but far enough to feel like you won’t run into anyone from work. There’s always a good reason to head north (this summer it’s the Phillies, sorry Nats fans) but the reason why we’re thinking of Philly this month is their art.
Philadelphia has an impressive amount of murals. And they don’t suck. For 30 years, Mural Arts Philadelphia has facilitated nearly 4,000 murals, between 50 and 100 annually. According to MAP, “more than 1,500 young people are enrolled in Mural Arts’ Art Education program and approximately 1,000 vulnerable adults in programs led through collaborations with SCI-Graterford prison, the Philadelphia Prison System, Philadelphia’s Youth Violence Reduction Partnership, and the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.” All of that is great but, once again, the art does not suck.
You can take a walking, biking or trolley tour through MAP or you can, you know, just walk around and look up since the Philadelphia is the “City of Murals.” The mural that every city deserves is their own version of Steve Powers’ Old City mural. Of the dozens of murals I’ve seen in the city, I easily spent the most time at this one, trying to figure out each reference.
When I couldn’t figure out any more, I consulted this Philadelphia Magazine piece about the art.
If you’d rather stay inside a museum, the Barnes Foundation is justifies its $30 admission. The collection and presentation is unique, unlike anything you’ll see in D.C. We may have the best collection of free museums, but nothing like the Barnes. Regardless on your thoughts on the collection, made infamous in the 2009 documentary, The Art of the Steal, the actual art is more important than the backstory.
Philadelphia is easy to navigate so staying in Old City isn’t a bad idea. Similar to staying in downtown D.C., you’ll be able to walk near all of the historic stuff you should at least see once. The Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel is across the street from historic Philadelphia landmarks and down the street from the most history Philadelphia landmark, the Liberty Bell. You get the best of both worlds, the history and at least a block away from the crowd always at the Liberty Bell. It’s also only three blocks from the nearest SEPTA train. The train system isn’t as thorough as WMATA but still worth riding.
The main reason we’re going with The Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel for this piece is the art. The bottom of the pool was recently painted by Philadelphia artist Alloyius Mcilwaine. His art is also displayed in the lobby but the pool (which you can swim in, it’s not just a piece of wet art) is the stand out.
The final reason the Renaissance is our pick is their 24 hour gym. Every hotel that has the gym in the basement should offer it 24 hours a day.
It’s difficult to not be jealous of Philadelphia’s food scene. D.C. is great and Union Market is great but Reading Terminal Market is better. It’s one of the oldest American public markets and you should go at least once.
You may not want to find your meals in a crowded atmosphere. You may want to have a cheesesteak since you’re in the place where they’re great. We’ve enjoyed Pat’s King of Steaks over Geno’s Steaks (they’re across the street from each other and both open 24/7). If you’re not staying the night, get Pat’s for the drive home. Campo’s in Old City is a nicer, calmer option. But the best sandwich I’ve eaten in 2018 comes from Paesano’s in Northern Liberties. They offer a Philly cheesesteak but the Daddy Wad, an Italian hoagie, and the Arista, slow roasted suckling pig, are the must orders. I prepared to run the Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon by eating these sandwiches. The next day, after the Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon, I are more of these sandwiches, entirely negating all of the calories I burned in sandwich form.
We understand you may want to enjoy food not in sandwich form. You may want a proper seated meal. If you’re not afraid of spice, go to Han Dynasty. Their menu has spice levels listed from 1 to 10. Get the Dan Dan Noodles. They come in hot at they’re only a 6.
There are nice cocktail bars throughout the city but there are nice cocktail bars throughout D.C. so drink what you can’t find in D.C. in an atmosphere that’s also hard to find. Tattooed Mom looks like a John Waters dream (compliment) and they serve Yards’ Brawler, a beer you can’t find in Washington.