Philadelphia is the birthplace of the nation, and now this historic city is a perfect blend of education with entertainment. A long weekend here is plenty of time to sample both the roots of American independence and a famous Philly cheesesteak.
Where to Stay
The Alexander Inn
This boutique hotel is located in Center City, Philly's downtown business and shopping district. The hotel prides itself on combining the comfort and friendliness of a bed and breakfast with the amenities and service of a four-star hotel. With very reasonable rates, it's one of the best bargains in Philly.
The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia
Old-school luxury in Philadelphia's Center City, The Ritz-Carlton offers beautiful rooms with opulent marble baths. The Vault lounge and Grill Restaurant provide exceptional cocktails, lunches and dinners. Perfect for your getaway is the lavish 40-dessert buffet served in the Rotunda lobby on weekends.
The Sofitel Philadelphia is located in the heart of Philly. While it's a bit pricey, The Sofitel offers unparalleled service within walking distance of Philly's Convention Center, City Hall and Rittenhouse Square, one of the five original open space parks planned by William Penn during the late 17th century.
Where to Eat
John's Roast Pork is a 76-year-old luncheonette that makes cheesesteaks to order. They are some of the best in the city, but make sure to head there for lunch. John's closes at 3 p.m. sharp. Johnny's Hots is a cinderblock shack located along the Delaware. Previously known solely for their hot sausages, this local favorite recently started serving cheesesteaks -- and was immediately named Best Philly Cheesesteak by Philadelphia Magazine.
Locals know ZoT as one of Philly's best beer, meat and mussels spots. With a menu that features over 300 bottled beers and a variety of game meats including kangaroo and ostrich, its reputation is well-earned. Make friends with the bartender, and you might get a shot of ZoT's homemade bacon-flavored vodka on the house.
If ZoT is Philly's beer spot, than Tinto is definitely the wine spot. Located in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, this cozy spot draws inspiration from the culture and cuisines of Spain's Basque country, a region nestled between France and Spain. The menu features tapas selections, cheese plates and fresh seafood that all complement the extensive French and Spanish wine selection.
What to See & Do
While in Philadelphia, there are certain monuments of American history that you should experience in between chowing on cheesesteaks. Start early at Independence Hall and tour the original seat of the U.S. government where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were drafted. Head from here to the Liberty Bell, it will only take you 15 minutes to view this iconic symbol of democracy. Next, stop at the Christ Church burial ground where you can pay respects to Benjamin and Deborah Franklin. Make sure you bring a penny to toss into Ben's grave -- it's Philadelphia's equivalent of making a wish at Trevi Fountain. If you've still got the time and energy, visit the Betsy Ross House, where the nation's most famous seamstress stitched the first flag.
City Trolley Tour
Give your feet a rest, and hop aboard one of Philly's Victorian-style trolleys. It's the quickest and easiest way to experience the sites, and they make regular stops at most hotels and the Independence Visitor Center. Purchase tickets onboard or in advance. The on-off privileges are good for an entire day of sightseeing.
Art Collections & Museums
Philly is also home to some of the best art collections in the world. The Philadelphia Art Museum, The Rodin Museum and the Barnes Foundation (located just outside Philadelphia in Merion) together house some of the most incredible collections on the East Coast. The Franklin Institute's science museum offers quirky and fascinating exhibits, perfect for an afternoon excursion.
The cello-shaped Verizon hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts was built specifically to house the Philadelphia Orchestra. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and the city opera, orchestra and ballet companies all perform here regularly. The Kimmel also presents frequent free performances by jazz artists, DJs, singing groups, folk ensembles and more in its main Commonwealth Plaza, usually in the early evening or afternoon.
For an evening of elegance, retire to one of the plush couches in the Swann Lounge at the Four Seasons. Their menu includes afternoon tea, perfectly mixed martinis and a signature cheesesteak spring roll.
Travel Channel Insider's Tip:
Bring some comfy shoes. Philly is the most compact and walkable major city in the United States. In addition to the historic sites, there are many antique row houses and boutique shopping opportunities. Forgo fashion for comfort -- your feet will thank you.