It’s mid-January. You no longer have any holiday parties to attend, the novelty of your Christmas gifts have worn off, and you’re facing the daunting task of tackling your New Year’s resolutions. Throw in a Bomb Cyclone for good measure, and you might find yourself in a pretty deep winter funk. While many scurry to warmer temperatures, we think you can embrace all the fun things winter has to offer with a simple change in scenery. And Philadelphia is the perfect getaway for that mid-winter refresh. If you went to Philly and only saw Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross House, then you’re missing out. Here are 7 things to do in Philly that will change the way you think of a snow day.
1. Visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a 3000-square foot indoor and outdoor gallery that features the distinct mosaic work of local artist, Isaiah Zagar. Zagar was born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, but his travels took him as far as Peru and China. He settled back in Philadelphia and dedicated his life to public art. He is largely responsible for the revitalization of the South Street neighborhood where Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is located. His mosaics are reminiscent of those found at Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, and are an artful amalgamation of nontraditional materials such as bicycle wheels, repurposed glass bottles, handmade tiles and mirrors. The grounds themselves are awe-inspiring, but the space also exhibits works by other self-taught and unconventional artists (much like Zagar himself).
Pro Tip: Isaiah Zagar’s work isn’t limited to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. You’ll find his mosaics on many establishments around town. Just keep an eye out for his signature work!
2. Get Cozy At The Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
When we picture the perfect winter, we’re likely to conjure up images of ice skating, hot chocolate and a fireplace. The Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest makes all those winter fantasies–and more–come true. Located on the Delaware River waterfront, Winterfest offers you a chance to truly embrace winter in all its glory. On the night we visited, the temperatures were particularly frigid so the skating rink was closed to the public. But that still left plenty of opportunities for winter fun.
We played pinball and video games at the Kids Lodge, then migrated to the cozy Lodge Restaurant and Bar. After spending some time indoors we headed back out to the Franklin Fountain Confectionery Cabin, where we indulged in some hot chocolate and hot apple cider while we sat by the warmth of a fire pit. Cabin rentals were available, and seemed to offer the perfect solution for small gatherings or parties.
Pro Tip: Winterfest often organizes events and theme nights, which can be explored on their calendar. We were there on Bowie Night–his music and movies were playing, and free face painting meant you could get your own lightning bolt. It was perfect.
3. Visit The Franklin Institute
Museums are perfect hideouts when we need respite from the cold. Philadelphia is home to several outstanding institutions, but The Franklin Institute is one of the best science museums in the country. Experience all the best science and technology have to offer like virtual reality and 3D printing. At the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, we had our first experience with Augmented Reality, where we were able to interact with 3D images of actual exhibit pieces through an app on our phones. It’s a sophisticated yet fun museum for all ages. Another reason to visit: The Franklin Institute is located on Logan’s Square. A quick jaunt around the area promises some stunning sights like the Swann Memorial Fountain and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.
Pro Tip: Certain special exhibitions may require a separate admission fee. If you are interested in a particular exhibit, make sure to specify that when buying tickets. Or better yet, buy your tickets online and skip the line altogether. If you’re visiting multiple museums, check out some of the City Passes available through Visit Philadelphia for an opportunity to save.
4. Take A Self-Guided Street Art Tour Through Mural Arts Philadelphia
Philly has a vibrant street art scene, and it’s likely you’ll stumble upon quite a few gems as you wander around. However, if you’re looking for a bigger payoff, Mural Arts Philadelphia provides a nifty treasure map that helps you seek out and learn more about the street art pieces around the city. Mural Arts Philadelphia has actively participated in restoring and transforming public spaces around the city for 30 years.
5. Take Your Taste Buds Around The World At Reading Terminal Market
When we started planning our itinerary for Philly, it started with one line: “Beiler’s Donuts: Justin must go here.”
Well, it turns out Beiler’s Donuts is just the tip of the iceberg at Reading Terminal Market. Food is the main attraction, but everything in Philadelphia comes with a bit of a history lesson. The building itself dates back to the 19th century and is a National Historic Landmark. The market is situated in what was formerly the Reading Terminal Train Station, occupying the basement and ground floor of the building underneath the old train shed.
There are over 80 merchants, with an entire section dedicated to the Pennsylvania Dutch. Here you can find anything from the aforementioned donuts (and they are most definitely Justin-approved) to Peking Duck. The market is entirely indoors, so this is also the place to have ice cream in the winter (just sayin’). Take your taste buds on a journey it’ll never forget.
Pro Tip: Reading Terminal Market is huge, so pre-game by checking out the list of merchants and pulling up a map. There is also a market tour available through Taste of Philly which delivers fun food history.
6. Eat ALL The Amazing Food
Philly is a city of foodies. While it’s known for its cheesesteak (and you should definitely get one), there are also a number of world-class restaurants serving incredible food all across the city. We can’t write about the Philly food scene without talking about Zahav. Eater listed it as one of the 38 essential restaurants in America. Its chef, Mike Solomonov, was awarded the James Beard Award for Best Chef in 2017. (New Yorkers may recognize the name, it’s the same one behind Dizengoff.) Our Uber driver was instantly impressed that we were able to get reservations, she had been trying to get in for months. (Didn’t we mention Philly is a city of foodies?)
We also paid Hungry Pigeon a visit, the Queen Village eatery by chef-owners Scott Schroeder and Pat O’Malley (O’Malley is Balthazar-trained). We popped into Stephen Starr’s Continental Midtown. The Dutch food at Noord eetcafe on East Passyunk Ave took us right back to our Amsterdam vacation. And we had barely scratched the surface.
How To Get There
If you’re in New York City, Philly is less than a 2-hour drive away. If you don’t want to rent a car, there are a number of bus companies that will take you there for as little as $10 each way. The main bus station is centrally located and easy to travel back and forth from.
Where To Stay
Wrapping up a successful but exhausting evening in @visitphilly and came home to chocolates and other goodies from @SofitelPhilly 😊 So thrilled with Philly hospitality! #travel #Philly pic.twitter.com/hDZNCpgKN4
— Mad Hatters NYC (@MadHattersNYC) January 13, 2018
When you’re making a quick weekend getaway, the first thing you should be thinking about when it comes to accommodations is location, location, location. Sofitel Philadelphia delivered all that and more. Located just steps away from Rittenhouse Square, we had access to a number of amazing eateries (Federal Donuts was a stone’s throw away!) as well as close proximity to public transportation.
So pack that Fair Isle sweater and those fleece-lined boots. Philly is waiting, and it’s the winter destination you’ve been dreaming about.
Thank you to Visit Philadelphia and Sofitel Philadelphia for partnering on this post.
Like it? Pin it!