(from WE Magazine)
To history buffs, Philadelphia is special because of its place in the American saga as the nation’s original capital. Others prefer a funkier and younger Philly, the hometown of more than 50 colleges, the NHL Flyers and NBA Sixers and Bill Cosby. It’s been the movie set for Rocky, The Sixth Sense, Witness, Trading Places and, naturally, Philadelphia. Tour guides, leaning toward the past, point out there are over 50 Philadelphia “firsts” which include the first library in America (founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731), the first zoo in America (opened in 1874) and the first Thanksgiving Day parade (1919).
The two names that frequently crop up in the City of Brotherly Love are Billy and Ben, but they’re not brothers. Billy refers to William Penn, founder of both Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. His 37-foot tall statue sits atop City Hall at Broad and Market Streets. For years there was an unwritten law stating that no building could be taller than Billy Penn’s hat. Ben refers to Benjamin Franklin, printer, scientist, writer, statesman, inventor, playboy and all-round genius. He founded the Philadelphia Academy, which became the University of Pennsylvania and opened in 1779, one year before Harvard.
For those of us who are wheelchair users, visiting historic sites can often be a nightmare. Fortunately, that is not the case in Philadelphia. The wheelchair-accessible shuttle, called the Phlash, runs on a loop from the historic district—Ben’s haunts-through the center city all the way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For $4, a person with a physical disability can travel hassle-free. Whether you’re there for Betsy Ross’s house, the Liberty Bell, the original U. S. Mint or to trace the world’s largest collection of outdoor art with over 1,000 works, you still have to eat at some point and in this all agree: Philadelphia’s restaurants are on the rise. Once infamous for onion-drenched cheesesteaks, this is a city that’s now blessed with a variety of cuisines.
100 Old Gulph Road
Gulph Mills, PA
(610) 520 1200
One of the best examples of Riviera fusion cuisine can be found in this three-year-old, highly acclaimed, soon-tobe-classic restaurant. Town & Country’s been there, loved it. Two of the owners, Dominique and Sabine Filoni, are in the kitchen and a third, Evan Lambert, is the wine director. If you like fresh seafood and tender vegetables, order the Dover sole with trio of spring vegetables or the Nova Scotia scallops with shredded wood-ear mushrooms. For a splurge, try the red snapper capriccio with a zigzag of caviar. And the chocolate soufflé is well worth the 15-minute drive along the Main Line, in to Katharine Hepburn country. The restaurant occupies all three floors of the Aaron Burr mansion, and no expense has been spared to make the presentation stylish, from the Frette linens and Bernadaud china to the Christofle silver and serving carts and Riedel crystal. If you’re indecisive, a seven-course tasting menu allows Chef Filoni to show his stuff. Reservations are strongly recommended.
10 Avenue of the Arts Philadelphia, PA
(215) 523 8273
Elegance and Philadelphia have been associated since Colonial times, and this is the locale that epitomizes the connection. Famous for its lavish Sunday brunch, which includes everything from made-to-order omelets to chilled seafood, the Ritz is just the place to get perfect French-pressed coffee or espresso at an elegant table instead of shoved across a Starbucks counter in cardboard container. The Italian chef offers a menu boasting a variety of entrées from Ahi tuna and trofie pasta to roasted rack of lamb served over Italian peperonata. For dessert try the warm pistachio and apricot cake with Jivara fondant and apricot compote. As in so many other cities around the world, tea at the Ritz has a certain ring to it. For a civilized hour or so while the rest of Philadelphia hums along doing its business, the tea-takers revisit the genteel Philadelphia of Mary Cassatt, when white-gloves and silver service were de rigeur.
706 Chestnut Street
(215) 925 6889
This restaurant is as famed for its decor as it is for its cuisine. The building’s original leaded-glass canopy has been restored, and the combination of the zinc bar made in Paris and leaded mirrors makes this a visual treat. The bistro basics, like duck cassoulet and onion soup, compete with innovative dishes like porcini-dusted sea scallops. If you’re looking for great food and the feel of a French Art Nouveau bistro, this is the spot.
211 South 15th Street
(215) 875 9895
This relatively young, ambitious restaurant has earned a fiercely loyal clientele for its pan-Latin cuisine. The Argentine chef has created a fiveceviche first course offering shrimp empanadas with huitlacoche vinaigrette as well as the world-renowned traditional Argentine grilled beef.
The Philadelphia Visitors Bureau has an official visitors guide which can be obtained by calling (800) 537 7676. Independence Hall, Congress Hall and Old City Hall are accessible on the first floor by portable ramps, and the rest can be viewed by albums showing photos of the second floors. The Liberty Bell Pavilion is accessible and if you begin your visit at the Independence Hall Visitors Center (3rd and Chestnut Streets) you can collect free maps and brochures and watch the 28-minute film Independence.
PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 636 3300
16th Street and JFK Boulevard Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 366 1666
GREATER PHILADELPHIA TOURISM MARKETING CORPORATION
(888) GO PHILA
Philadelphia International Airport is served by major airlines including USAir, TWA, United and AirTran, and is totally accessible. Phone: (215) 937 6800. For accessible transport to the city, call the Super Shuttle at (800) 246 0770. For Getting Around Philadelphia Airport: A Guide for Travelers with Disabilities, call the Philadelphia International Airport Public Affairs Department at (215) 937 6800, TTY (215) 937 6755 for a free copy.
AMTRAK and New Jersey Transit lines stop at the landmark 30th Street Station right in the heart of the business district.
The city’s bus system, SEPTA, is 56% accessible, with plans to have the whole fleet converted by 2004. For details and schedules, contact the Customized Community Transportation Hotline at (215) 580 7145 or (215) 580 7145 (TDD).
A wheelchair-accessible shuttle called “Phlash” runs from the Old City where Ben lived through what is now called Center City and up the Ben Franklin Parkway to the wonderful Philadelphia Museum of Art. The purple bus makes a continuous loop from Logan Circle on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway throughout Center City to the waterfront and South Street, $4 for an allday pass, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., wheelchair-accessible. Call (215) 4 PHLASH.
10 Avenue of the Arts Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 523 8273
Newly re-opened last year, The Ritz-Carlton occupies two historic landmark buildings. The $88 million renovation includes a rotunda and tower dating back to the early 1900s.
With 331 rooms, two restaurants, two lounges and 20,000 square feet of meeting space, this is the latest upscale addition to Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. The Rotunda building, for history buffs, is a replica of the Pantheon in Rome. Two things that set the Ritz-Carlton apart are its butler service (have your choice of the technology butler designed to calm the jitters of technophobes or the bath butler, including a menu for a personally drawn bubbly bath or the gentleman’s bath) and specially priced weekends for artistic and musical events.
PENN’S VIEW HOTEL
14 North Front Street at Market
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(800) 331 7634
Right on the edge of old Philadelphia, this red brick inn was built in 1828 as a dry goods warehouse. Renovated as a 38-room inn in 1989, it combines comfort with history. The downstairs restaurant and wine bar have a Mediterranean atmosphere (check out the hand-painted wall murals of Tuscany), but the rooms are definitely early American. The inn claims to have the largest wine bar in the world, where 120 different vintages are served by the glass. Located just a few blocks away from where Betsy Ross lived, this is a reasonably priced place to call home away from home.
THE WYNDHAM FRANKLIN PLAZA
17th Race Street
2 Franklin Plaza
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 448 2000
If you’re looking for a hotel within strolling distance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Independence Hall and the Franklin Institute, this is the place for you. Considered by locals to be the “giant cheese grater” for its distinctive architecture, the plaza contains basketball, racquetball and tennis courts as well as a pool and two restaurants.
PENNSYLVANIA ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS
Broad and Cherry Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19019
(215) 972 7600
Founded in 1805, this is the nation’s first art museum and school of fine arts. The building’s Victorian Gothic architecture houses a renowned collection and compelling exhibitions. For the hearing impaired, the Academy has a TDD line (215) 972 6198 and will arrange for sign language interpreters with one to two weeks advance notice. Listening enhancement systems are available upon request. A touch tour for the visually impaired is offered, but a two-week advance reservation is required. Call (215) 972 2071 to make arrangements.
THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART
North 26111 Street and
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 763 8100
Founded in 1876, this museum boasts more than 300,000 objects, with particular strengh in American and European painting, interior design. Touch tours, listening enhancement devices and sign language interpreters are available. Braille and large print materials available. For info: (215) 674 7601, TTY (215) 674 7600.
20 North American Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 922 1695
Organized in 1695 on the present site, the current building was completed in 1754. Still an active Episcopal parish, the church is open to visitors from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 on Sunday. Group reservations available. Brass plaques mark the pews used by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross and other notables. Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration are buried at the Christ Church Burial Ground at Fifth and Arch Streets.
AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM
701 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 574 0380
Founded in 1976, and the first museum of its kind in America, the African American Museum is home to one of the country’s finest collections of priceless African art, artifacts and culture. Exhibits about politics, religion, family life, the civil rights movement, arts and entertainment, sports, medicine, architecture and law.
PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM
210 North 21st Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 963 0667
The vast collection of artifacts reflects the daily life of children in and around Philadelphia in the post 1945 era. Everything in this museum is meant to be handled, from the fully equipped miniature supermarket, to the TV studio with props and a video camera. Interactive holiday exhibits and theater performances are presented during various holiday seasons.
9th Street between Wharton
and Christian Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 922 5557
Called “the world’s largest outdoor market” it dates back to the mid 1800s. If you’re in the mood for a cannoli, traditional cheesesteak or a real Italian meal and an ice, this is the place to go.
from Broad to 20th
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 735 4899
Rittenhouse Square is surrounded by some of the city’s most stately manors and doubles as a student hangout and upscale shopping experience. From big-name shops like Nicole Miller, and Jones New York, the area’s great cafes and bookstores make this a comfortable place to stop for a latte and relive your college days