Philadelphia is many things. Among them: The City of Brotherly Love, the birthplace of America, a great restaurant town and home to Ryan Phillippe’s favorite football team, the Eagles. And in West Philadelphia, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was born and raised. Yeah, Will Smith is from here. Not to mention Grace Kelly, Bradley Cooper, Dax Sheppard and Jill Scott.
It’s also my hometown – the place I’ve lived since I was born at Pennsylvania Hospital, which is located in the Gayborhood. And here, I’m going to highlight just a few of the awesome places to stay, eat, shop and be entertained, should you ever find yourself in Edgar Allen Poe’s old haunt.
Located in the heart of Center City, Le Meridien Philadelphia is also home to Amuse Brasserie and Bar. Complete with French bistro-style grub, it offers easy access to the city’s award-winning public transit system. After it was built in 1912 by architect Horace Trumbauer, this 10-story Georgian revival-style building housed a YMCA. From $143 a night. 1421 Arch St., (215) 422-8200, lemeridienphiladelphia.com
If you don’t mind a commute into the city in return for a cheaper hotel bill, check out the Roosevelt Inn, a pleasant place located in the Northeast section of the city. From $77.58 a night. 7600 Roosevelt Blvd, (215) 338-7600, www.roosinn.com
Philadelphians aren’t exactly healthy, and how could they be with fried chicken and donuts on the menu? Get to Federal Donuts early if you want to compete with locals for the limited supply of crispy-skinned, moist-flesh chicken and fried rings of dough in flavors like vanilla-lavender. 1219 S. Second St., (267) 687-8258, federaldonuts.com
If you find yourself dying for some good gastropub fare, head to The Abbaye, a 2 room restaurant and bar with a revolving art collection. Check out their steak frites, a robust cut of meat that is perfectly charred with crispy, thin-cut fries served with a tangy aioli dip. 637 N. 3rd Street, (215) 627-6711, www.theabbaye.net
GALLERIES + MUSEUMS:
You can’t visit Philly and not go to Independence Hall, the all-important site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence that spurred the birth of a nation. Sure, it’s a tourist trap, but the Nicholas Cage film “National Treasure” doesn’t really do it justice. And while you’re in the area, check out the Liberty Bell, which is housed across the street. Free, but ticket is required. 520 Chestnut Street, (215) 965-2305, www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm
Then there’s the National Constitution Center, which features a hall of bronze true-to-life statues of the signers of the Declaration as well as other larger exhibits that change. Adult: $17.50+. With student ID: $16.00. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600, http://constitutioncenter.org
If you’re more into the indie art scene than some old history, check out Space 1026. This 2 floor space is home to a vibrant, collaborative arts community, and although there aren’t many regular events at the Space, you should definitely check it out if you’re in town on the first Friday of any month, when galleries throughout the city host viewings and soirees. Second floor of 1026 Arch St., (215) 574-7630, space1026.com
There are some great vintage shopping destinations in the City of Brotherly Love, but one you should most definitely check out is Wilbur Vintage, a skinny slice-of-heaven purveyor of all things 80s and sparkly. Stocked by owner Daniel Wilbur, here you can find Comme des Garçons and Jean Paul Gaultier. 716 S. 4th St., (215) 413-5809, wilburvintage.blogspot.com
For some awesome, newer finds, head to Smak Parlour and all its pink glory. After besties Abbie Kessler and Katie Loftus started their clothing line SMAK by Abby and Katie in the early 2000s and eventually opened up their store, maxing out all their credit cards to do so. Now, it’s where you can find their original designs as well as clothing, jewelry and accessories from other designers. 219 Market St., (215) 625-4551, smakparlour.com