Too often labeled by globetrotters as the “not New York” of the east, Philadelphia has long been bypassed by élan-seekers for its presumed inferiority.

But make no mistake; Li’l Phil is a big city that involves more than chowing down on a cheesesteak by the Liberty Bell and a jog up the iconic Rocky steps. In fact, Philly is most interesting when it runs on the steam of its proud Pennsylvanians — the bold few that have resisted the pull of neighbouring Empire State and built business by staying put.

So, by all means, enjoy the rich history of the former capital and the apprehending art deco architecture that the city has to offer.

And when you’re all cultured out and ready to consume, here’s my advice: When in the birth place of Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and BHLDN, stick to the spots that are #phillymade.

le-meridien-philadelphia-bar.jpgStay: Le Méridien Philadelphia

A converted YMCA in the heart of Philadelphia’s Center City, this Georgian Revival-style building hauntingly maintains small touches of the hotel’s previous incarnation, while still managing to dazzle its patrons with striking strokes of modernity. Day or night, the long bar in the centre of the high-ceilinged, modernly majestic lobby is abuzz with hobnobbners and business people alike. Guestrooms are sleek, thread count is high, and rates are reasonable. Enough said.

distrito_upper_lounge_bar1_2.jpgEat: Distrito, BARBUZZO

For dinner and drinks and, yes, even a little (secret) Karaoke, head to Distrito. Brought to you by ubiquitous Iron Chef Jose Garces, this funky, bi-level contempo-Mexican joint is rife with amazing kitsch - from its wrestling mask wall to its vintage Volkswagen table for two to its neon palette – spot-on tacos, and margaritas that will knock your socks off (and perhaps your underwear if you drink to many). The dessert is nothing to sneeze at either, but you’re only in Philly for a spell so I suggest heading to local favorite Barbuzzo for owner/chef chef Marcie Turney’s spectacular (and I mean spectacular) salted caramel budino. Buzzing and dark and perfect for late night, this Mediterranean hotspot is the most recent piece of Turney’s section of 13th Street, where her “monopoly” includes a Mexican restaurant (Lolita), an Indian restaurant (Bindi), a gourmet food shop/catering service (Grocery), a home furnishings store (Open House) and a boutique shop (Verde) where she sells jewelry and artisanal chocolates. The woman obviously knows what she’s doing.

Art_In_the_age_Philly_02.jpgDo: Go Shopping!

The city has its fair share of malls and big name department stores but the key is getting to the shops you can’t get anywhere else. With that said, you simply MUST go to Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I agree, the name is a bit of a turn off, but if any store has earned its nominal pretensions, it’s this one. Highly curated and carefully designed, this old city shop purveys in anything from chocolates to cardigans to homemade spirits (which are artisanally delicious!) and is basically a magical playground for any hipster. And while you’re there, oh bearded one, don’t forget to try on a pair of Warby Parker spectacles – a local brand that promises boutique quality, classically crafted frames at a low price point. They deliver.  Speaking of classical, it’s worth taking a trip to Briar Vintage on the basis of the shop’s steward alone – a construction worker turned vintage peddler who looks the part and sells it even better. But, whether you buy his shtick or not, the collection of vintage hats, suits and fine curiosities is astonishingly impressive. One last note, if you haven’t heard that the conglomerate that is URBN also has a home and garden centre, they do. It’s called Terrain and it’s fantastic.  Do note, however, the beautiful, old farmhouse grounds are far from the centre of the city and quite the trek. Still, if you’re an outdoors enthusiast or just looking to take your lady for a beautiful lunch (They have a greenhouse-cum-café) it’s well worth the quiet drive to the country.  No, I don’t work for Avis.

*Lead Photo courtesy of J. Fusco for GPTMC

1 Comments | Add a Comment
Thanks for the article. As a native Philadelphian it can sadden a person to see how my hometown is always getting overlooked. It does my heart good to know that someone does appreciate my city, its people, and all we have to offer.
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