Spring Jaunt: Philly Off the Hook

My hometown, Philadelphia, has turned into a rich cultural hub and Zagat-rated foodie paradise with charming B&Bs. That makes it, as the millennials would put it, “off the hook”—fresh and new, a tempting spring-getaway destination (close enough for a weekend jaunt for people in the Northeast Corridor). Here’s an insider’s guide designed to entice you to keep on  exploring this captivating city after you’ve paid your respects to the iconic buildings on Independence Square.

Feast Your Eyes

PAFA Gallery(1)Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts gallery (Photo:  B. Krist for GPTMC).

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts PAFA) is a gem of a museum specializing in American art of the 19th and 20th centuries, from Winslow Homer to Frank Stella. The museum’s collection is in two buildings: a National Historic Landmark designed by Frank Furness and a contemporary building with a gigantic Pop Art paintbrush rising from the pavement to its second floor. Don’t miss: The Artist in His Museum, by Charles Wilson Peale, and The Gross Clinic, by Thomas Eakins.

Paint Torch sculpture by Claes Oldenburg at PAFA (Photo: J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia).

Half the fun of visiting the Barnes Foundation is trying to figure out what its eccentric founder, Dr. Alfred Barnes, had in mind. After amassing the world’s largest collection of French Impressionist paintings, he stacked them to the ceiling, along with industrial metalwork, African sculpture, Native American silverwork, and medieval religious icons.  If you love Modigliani, Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Soutine, etc., prepare to be dazzled. Don’t miss: Red Haired Woman, by Modigliani. Though walk-in tickets are available, you may want to book online, to make sure you can visit at your preferred date and time.

Tucked away on a charming, tree-lined street near Rittenhouse Square, The Print Center, founded in 1915, exhibits photos, etchings, and lithos.  Its current exhibition, 90th Annual International Competition, May 6 – August 6, 2016, includes the photography of Andrew Fillmore.  Don’t miss: Art Under $50.

Dream Garden, a 15-by-49-foot Tiffany stained glass mural created in 1916 by Maxfield Parrish, is in the marble lobby of the Curtis Publishing Building. Don’t miss: Throw a penny in the pool and make a wish.

Rittenhouse Square by M Edlow for Visit Philadelphia(1)Rittenhouse Square (Photo: M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia).

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Literary Philadelphia

Book lovers will swoon over The Rosenbach, the former home of the Rosenbach brothers (1863–1953), two of the nation’s most influential dealers in rare books, manuscripts, and art. The 1865 townhouse contains impressive holdings, including James Joyce’s manuscript of Ulysses, Bram Stoker’s outline for Dracula, and the papers of poet Marianne Moore. Don’t miss: Bloomsday Festival, June 9-16.

The Edgar Allan Poe House represents the six years Poe lived in Philadelphia, 1843–1849, which are considered to be his happiest and most productive. Not for the faint of heart. They say the house is haunted. Don’t miss: The crow nested inside the beak of the raven sculpture outside Poe’s house. Nevermore!

A visit to the Benjamin Franklin Museum is a must for anyone who loves journalism, wit, or wears bifocals—all of which Ben Franklin had or practically invented. Printer, scientist, diplomat, gourmand, womanizer extraordinaire, and founder of our nation’s first hospital, library, and university, Franklin was a genius who is often compared to Leonardo da Vinci in his scope and brilliance. Don’t miss: Franklin Court Printing Office.


Only in Philadelphia

Chinese Lantern Festival (Photo: Sichuan Tianyu).

The Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square is a nighttime wonderland of more than 25 illuminated displays of dragons, flowers, and animals created using traditional Chinese methods, with thousands of LED lights in brilliant colors. Bring the kids (or the child in you) to marvel at the colorful displays, ride the carousel, play miniature golf, sample Asian cuisine, and browse the craft market. Open after dark every night, now through June 12.

Why would anyone want to tour Eastern State Penitentiary? Because it puts into sharp perspective the current debate on prison reform and the incarceration rate. Opened in 1829, the prison was based on a misguided concept: instituting solitary confinement as a means of rehabilitation. This gruesome, medieval-looking structure housed Al Capone. Visit his cell as part of an audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. Don’t miss: The prison synagogue.

Beloved by Goths and medical professionals alike, the Mutter Museum contains a collection of medical oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment dating from the seventh century B.C. to 2014. Don’t miss: Albert Einstein’s brain.

Fed up with the 2016 Elections?  Visit the National Constitution Center, where you can be sworn in as president in the museum’s interactive exhibit. No need to wait months to see Hamilton on Broadway. You’ll find him and the other Constitution signers in the center’s Founding Fathers Hall. Don’t miss: Freedom Rising, a multi-media theatrical presentation.

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All that Jazz


Whether you like your jazz hot, cool, or avant garde, you’ll find it here. Chris Jazz Cafe specializes in up-tempo Cajun cuisine and hot jazz nightly. South offers a selection of 50 bourbons and whiskeys with gourmet Southern-style cuisine and music six nights a week in its Jazz Lounge. Check the calendar at the Kimmel Center, Philly’s prime cultural venue, for upcoming jazz events.  Don’t miss: $10 Rush Tickets available every evening at 5:30pm at the Kimmel Center.

 Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts by G Widman for Visit PhiladelphiaThe Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (Photo: G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia).


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