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Philadelphia Is New York’s Cool Little Sister You Absolutely Need To Meet

It’s hard to match that New York feeling, but the Philadelphia feeling certainly comes close.

A short, 1.5-hour train ride to the south east of New York, Philadelphia is the city’s cool little sister. Things here are just that little bit slower, that little bit easier, than in New York; but it certainly doesn’t make it any less ‘happening’. From historic architecture, to hip little bars, there’s no shortage of cool things to check out in this buzzing city.

Here’s how to make the most of a weekender in Philadelphia.

Saturday

 

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9am: Explore the historic side of Philadelphia

Take a wander through the United States’ most historic square mile, and learn a thing or two about how America gained its independence. Self-guide yourself through Independence National Historic Park – home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – or jump on a tour with Philly Tour Hub for a more in depth history lesson.

 

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12.30pm: Dine on a cheesesteak

If there’s just one bucket list item you have to check off in Philadelphia, it’s lunching on a Philly cheesesteak. They’re essentially just thinly sliced rib eye steak in a white bun, covered with cheese whiz or provolone cheese (sometimes bell peppers or fried onion too). Nothing fancy, but a Philadelphian institution all the same. Get one from the home of the original Philly cheesesteak, Pat’s King of Steak, or head into Campos.

2pm: Taste test some crazy drinks

Ever heard of a mushroom and blueberry liqueur? Perhaps beaver castoreum (a gland found in the beaver’s rear end) flavoured whiskey? We thought not. These are just two of the many funky flavoured spirits you can taste test at Old City’s Art in the Age. Trust us, they’re delicious.

Part super cool gift store, part hidden tasting room, this space is packed with booze, bits, and bobs, that you won’t find anywhere else. Order yourself a dirty rosemary martini, and spend some time poring over the cocktail compendiums and pretty bar accessories in store.

 

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4PM: Pop into Macy’s

Philadelphia is a shopping mecca. Not just because they have an incredible shopping scene, but because you can shop clothing and shoes tax free. For double the savings, head into Macy’s and pick up one of their special international savings cards, for 10 percent off all purchases. Pack an extra suitcase, because you’ll be wanting to make the most of those savings!

 

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7pm: Catch an NBA game

Watch Australia’s favourite son Ben Simmons tear it up for the Philadelphia 76ers, in front of a home crowd, at the Wells Fargo Center. Pre-game, fuel up on a Chic-Fil-A, some crab fries, or a Four’N Twenty pie (for patriotisms sake). Then, take your seat to cheer on our home-grown hero, Ben Simmons.

Post-game, keep the energy rolling and head to XFINITY! Live for a beer, just across the way. It’s a huge multi-venue complex, with just about any sport you can think of up on the big screens.

10pm: Settle in for the night at Loews 

If you’re looking for somewhere central to stay, Loews Philadelphia Hotel is it. It’s within walking distance of City Hall, Independence Hall, the Reading Terminal Market, and Macy’s. It’s also got an incredible view of the city skyline from the very top level, a perfect spot to catch a sunrise (if you’re that way inclined).

Sunday

 

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8am: Breakfast at Reading Terminal Market

There are no limits on what is and isn’t a breakfast food here. You can pick up pretty much anything to kick start your day, from a classic diner breakfast, to a gravy covered roast pork roll or a steaming bowl of spicy alligator gumbo. Whatever you feel like for breakfast, one of the 80 vendors at the Reading Terminal Market will have you covered.

10am: Tour the Eastern State Penitentiary

The Eastern State Penitentiary is Philadelphia’s answer to Alcatraz. Opened in 1829 and decommissioned in 1971, it is one of the country’s most famous and historic prisons.

Wander the chilly hallways with a guide to see some of the very first cells built, the super creepy hospital wing, and the cell of the prison’s most famed inmate, Al Capone.

12pm: Lunch at White Dog Café

Smack bang in the middle of University City, this dog themed – yes, dog themed – café is a must visit. White Dog Café is a sleek joint (no tacky puppy paraphernalia here) in a fun neighbourhood, serving up fresh, seasonal dishes. Everything on the menu is a winner, but do yourself a favour and order a serve of the deep-fried pickles.

 

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2pm: Hit up the Penn Museum

While the Penn Museum is amazing in its own right, its way more fun on the “Ancient Alcohol: A Taste of Bygone Booze” tour.

Be guided around the grand museum by a PhD student, discovering all the relics and artefacts that relate to the ancient arts of beer and wine making. Along the way, you’ll get to see a sphinx and a real mummy, and at the end of the tour, you’ll get to taste test a modern recreation of an ancient brew.

6pm: Explore Fishtown

Fishtown is possibly one of the coolest areas in all of Philadelphia. There are cute independent retailers, great Aussie-style coffee haunts, local breweries, niche bars, fun music venues, and some bangin’ restaurants. You’re going to need your stretchiest clothing for a night in Fishtown.

Whet your appetite with a few beers at Frankford Hall, a German biergarten with crazy good pretzels, before heading for an American barbecue dinner next door, at Fette Sau. Here, meat is served by the pound, sides are optional, and bourbon and whiskey reign supreme.

(Lead image: f11photo / Shutterstock)

Our writer was a guest of Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.