Some people dream of Paris in the springtime; I’d always dreamt of Pennsylvania in the fall. So when Philadelphia based Anthropologie asked me to lead their first ever efforts its social media and community back in 2009, I didn’t know what made me more excited – working with them or the fact they were in Pennsylvania!
Spending a year in Philadelphia was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I really took the time to get to know not just the city, but anything within an hour of it. I completely fell in-love with one of America’s first and grandest cities. And dare I say it – best kept travel secret.
Here are a few things I learned whilst living there:
- It’s very, very clean. The highways, the towns, the cities, the yards, the people. You hardly see litter and hardly see really rundown towns. There’s a lot of pride, which is so nice to see.
- The people are amazing; sincere, friendly, smart, personable, do their jobs with knowledge and service. So many people, even in the small of small towns, seem to have travelled or have knowledge of places.
- Scenery. I love stone homes and country landscapes. The seasons, particularly fall, are incredible. Rivers are clean and beautiful. Philadelphia has amazing and historic architecture.
- History. It all begins here. Everywhere you turn there’s a historic building, monument, moment.
- Lots of great things to do and most of them are affordable. There is a great art and music scene. Lots of pubs, local restaurants (gluten free eating everywhere), outdoor activities and shopping. It’s all here.
- Cost of living. Amazing coming from Santa Monica/Los Angeles or New York as a lot of my friends have.
- Access to great places – an hour by train to New York, a few more to Boston and cheap, quick flights to Europe. Heaven!
1. Drive out along the Schuylkill River/76 or take the train from City Center to Chestnut Hill ( on any day but a Sunday). Germantown Avenue is the main street and has really charming shops, cafe’s and historic cobblestone streets. Take a walk down the side streets and around the train station to see historical Mansions from the 1800’s using Chestnut Hill Stone. My favourite florist is there and it runs the restaurant “Cake” which is a really pretty and great experience.
2. Drive/bike/hike along Lincoln Drive and Wissahickon Park. I have done this so often and always think of Walt Whitman poems when I do. Historic Rittenhouse Town (created in the 1600’s) has original buildings you can go in, stables as well as the oldest restaurant, The Valley Green Inn.
3. Drive along Kelly Drive which connects Lincoln Drive to the city center and goes along the river, past the row clubs and comes up behind The Art Museum. This is a beautiful area, rich in history, views, and things to do including an incredible above ground cemetery, Laurel Hill.
4. The Philadelphia Art Museum is worth seeing as is walking down Benjamin Franklin Parkway into city center. So many museums around here including the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Rodin Museum, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Moore College of Art, and the Please Touch Museum for Children. Plus, it’s just really pretty and reminds me of a cross between London and Paris.
5. Love nature? Bartram’s Garden, the first botanical garden in the US and is beautiful, historical, and well worth a visit. During the warmer months, you can take a boat trip up the river to learn about its conservation.
6. Rittenhouse Square Park in the city center is great for dining, sightseeing, resting and the Farmers Market every Saturday Morning is not to be missed. Lots of fantastic shopping down Walnut with all your favourite boutique shops.
7. From Rittenhouse Square Park, walk down Spruce street to view beautiful, historic brownstones and churches. You can walk straight down to the river and the beginning of the beautiful Fairmont Park.
8. Never thought you’d want to go to jail? Me either until I heard about Eastern State Penitentiary. With it’s incredible and brutal history, it’s an experience to visit. There’s definitely a creep factor to some of the rooms though Al Capone’s cell looked mighty cosy…
9. It’s worth renting a car to drive out of the city 40 minutes to Terrain at Styers in Glen Mills- my all-time favourite place in the world. Part nursery, part store, part incredible restaurant with farm to table food, it’s a wonderful place to spend a morning or afternoon.
10. I would be remiss to not mention a visit to Anthropologie should be in order if you are a fan of the store. The original one is in Wayne, PA but the one downtown Philadelphia is a must-see. Once a private home, its stately ceilings, fireplaces and tall windows are a site to see unto themselves. And then there are the clothes…!
Eat & Drink
- Talula’s Garden in Washington Square is one of those special places that you just need to experience. From the architecture, to the cosy, intimate design and lighting to the incredible farm to table fare, it’s worth making the time for.
- In 1889 the Reading Railroad built a beautiful terminal that is now the Reading Terminal Market that has amazing and inexpensive eats.
- Parc is right on Rittenhouse Square and I love it because their French food is incredible, the atmosphere always bustling and the service superb. It’s good to even just stop for a glass of wine in the afternoon and watch people in the square just across the street.
- Cafe Luticia is a family run cafe on 23rd and Lombard Street that has the best coffee, amazing brunch and lunch. You can sit outside when weather is good and it’s a nice, easy, 20min walk from Rittenhouse.
- Sweet tooth? Gluten or Diary Free? Then run – don’t walk – to Sweet Freedom Bakery. Their cupcakes, cookies and other baked goods that are free of a lot of allergy-inducing ingredients, will be a welcomed afternoon treat. Or breakfast!
- I spent hours drinking great wine and eating cheese at Tria. It’s a wonderful after-work hang out with great energy, service and food.
- Rouge has a great tasting menu and wines. Very relaxing, comfortable.
- Want to picnic or cook for yourself? DiBrunos is your local grocer. With organic meets, local specialties, an foods-to-go, it’s a great and inexpensive way to eat, plus you’ll totally feel like a local!
- Kimpton Hotel Palomar: I’ve stayed here several times and have had mixed feelings but it all averages out to a recommend. The larger rooms with the massive tubs are definitely worth it – otherwise rooms can feel cramped. All the services, style and amenities are just what you’d expect from a Kimpton and its location in Rittenhouse Square is fantastic. I feel it can be over-priced for what it is – often competing with the Four Seasons Philadelphia on rates but without the great service the Four Season offers. If you want something hip, stylish and in the midst of it all, this is a good option.
- The Warwick Hotel just completed a multi-million dollar renovation and you can absolutely see – and feel – the difference. Having stayed here originally in 2009 I would never have included this hotel had I not just stayed in Oct. 2013. The entire interior has been updated with a modern yet warm look and the rooms have been completely changed from decor to beds. Comfortable, hip without hipsters and elegant without the price tag, this is a great hotel in Rittenhouse Square that won’t break the bank.
- Four Seasons Philadelphia: Anyone that knows me knows that the Four Seasons is my favourite hotel chain, period. They are unparalleled in genuinely good and caring service, the rooms are always top notch in amenities and comfort and for someone like me with a food allergy, they’re always fantastic to eat at in terms of restaurant or room service. However, I have mixed feelings about this location. The hotel is incredibly elegant and beautiful – in terms of style it feels like the epitome of the Four Seasons. But dining here and also having had spa treatments, I have been disappointed. Those services were always off. But in terms of room comfort, it’s fantastic with a nice downtown location, although it’s not great in terms of walking to things at night (restaurants).