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Mort’s Guide to Philadelphia for NAPAHE

Philadelphia is a uniquely welcoming city. Pleasant and walkable, it offers visitors with limited time memorable insights into its distinctive features. Virtually no other city blends history and contemporary culture so effectively. Close to your hotel, the Independence Hall area should be on your must-see list. Start at Sixth and Market Streets with visits to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, then proceed to Second and Market to explore the Museum of the American Revolution. While you know from history books what occurred there, walking the same ground as the colonial fathers breathes life into those events. You may even refresh yourself at the original Second Street Tavern, where our forefathers occasionally gathered at break time.

Since you’ll be close, stroll the Society Hill neighborhood, stretching from Sixth and Pine to the Delaware River. Composed of meticulously restored colonial dwellings, its charm is replicated nowhere else. By the way, George Washington actually did sleep in some of those homes.

As a native Philadelphian, I have favorite sites in center city, many unmentioned in conventional guide books. The city showcases captivating giant murals, which can be encountered unexpectedly on random walks. Guided tours are available if you prefer an organized approach to them. Related to this special kind of urban art is Zagar’s Magic Garden, an installation of found-object mosaics at Tenth and South. It’s one of my favorite attractions.

In the opposite direction from your hotel is another signature locale, more expansive but worth the walk. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway represents Philadelphia’s improvement on Paris’s Champs Elysees. Clustered along the broad, tree-lined thoroughfare are world-class museums like the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Barnes Foundation (one of the world’s greatest collection of Impressionism), and the Rodin Museum, as well as the science-based Franklin Institute. The Parkway offers lots of benches for relaxed contemplation of what you’ve seen and done, especially if you’ve replicated Sylvester Stallone’s route in Rocky up the seventy-two Art Museum’s steps. The bucolic expansiveness of the Parkway complements the compactness of Society Hill.

For those experiencing university deprivation, the University of Pennsylvania, one of a number of world-class institutions in the city, invites a visit. In the area of 33rd St and Chestnut, its pleasant campus is quickly accessible by public transportation.

Of course, maintaining energy requires sustenance. Philadelphia has every kind of restaurant and food vendor a civilized palate could lust after. Footsteps from your hotel is Reading Terminal Market, where you can find an incredible array of inviting choices. Don’t miss Deiler’s doughnuts, a local Pennsylvania Dutch treat.

My favorite restaurant, somewhat off the beaten track but easily taxi-able, is the Victor Café at 1303 Dickinson in South Philly (please, not “South Philadelphia”). Classic Italian food is enhanced by a pleasing background of opera music. The wait staff often features a number of
aspiring opera singers. In the Second/Third and Market/Chestnut area are some good possibilities, like the Han Dynasty (Szechuan Chinese), the Continental (an up-scale diner), and Buddakan (trendy Asian fusion).

You don’t have to exhaust yourself to savor the charm of this vibrant yet unhassled city where the concept of the U.S.A. took root and began to grow and where culture, in its infinite variety, continues to flourish. Long after your visit, you’ll remember Philadelphia with affection.

Mort Maimon, presidential spouse at Governors State University, was born and grew up in Philadelphia. He and his wife raised their children there and return as often as possible. He is happy to share his favorite city with NAPAHE.