Philadelphia skyline at sunset with pink and red hues via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

48 Hours in Philly: 7 Things To Do For The Perfect Winter Getaway

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

Mosaic exterior walls of Philadelphia's Magic Gardens via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Justin peeking through the mosaic walls at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Mosaic path and walls at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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).

Philadelphia Bicycle Parking Logo with colorful mosaic wall by Isaiah Zagar in the background via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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

Cozy interior of the Lodge at the Blue Cross River Rink Winterfest in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Outdoor seating around firepits at the Blue Cross River Rink Winterfest in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Lynn and Justin in front of an outdoor firepit at the Blue Cross River Rink Winterfest via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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

Franklin Institute Philadelphia illuminated rotunda via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Augmented Reality mobile app screen at Franklin Institute's Terracotta Warrior Exhibit in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Life-sized display at the Franklin Institute Terracotta Warriors Exhibit in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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

Lynn in front of tiger street art mural in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Mural by artist Rubicon1 (Instagram: @ru8icon1)
Colorful street art of a black girl reaching up through Mural Arts Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Reach High And You Will Go Far by Josh Sarantitis
Summer Rendezvous by David Guinn through Mural Arts Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Summer Rendezvous by David Guinn

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

Interior of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Fox & Son Fancy Corn Dog at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Fox & Son Fancy Corn Dog
Fresh tray of glazed Beiler's Donuts at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Beiler’s Donuts

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

48 Hours Philly Winter Getaway Travel Blog - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Hummus at Zahav
A selection of mezze at Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A selection of mezze at Zahav

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?)

Colorful interior of Continental Midtown restaurant in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The quirky interior at Continental Midtown
A selection of baked goods at Hungry Pigeon in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A selection of baked goods at Hungry Pigeon
Kip Kerrie Suriname Chicken Curry at Noord eetcafe in Philadelphia via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Kip Kerrie (Suriname Chicken Curry) at Noord eetcafe

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

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!

– L. & J.

10 thoughts on “48 Hours in Philly: 7 Things To Do For The Perfect Winter Getaway”

  1. Love your photos of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. That coupled with your food photos and all the good things I hear about the food in Philly, I need to go back there.
    The last time I was there, I didn’t really do things the best way, or the way I’ve learned to travel now! 🙁
    It’s been on our list. Maybe sometime this year. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by, Tara! Magic Gardens was one of our favorite experiences while we were in Philly. It’s amazing, as his other work sprinkled throughout the city. The food is definitely to notch, and we’re keen to revisit in the near future. You definitely should go back yourself: new eyes, new experience.

  2. Wow, this looks like an amazing weekend getaway! Philadelphia looks like so much fun…perfect medley of all the things one can ask for in a quick city getaway! I really need to plan my long overdue trip to the east coast. Love all the pictures! I feel so hungry as I type this, looking at all the food pictures.

    Parul |

    1. Hi Parul! You’re very sweet. Without a doubt, we had a blast on this trip. But I’ll tell you, we feel like we barely scratched the surface of things to do, see, and eat. Sign of a legit city, for sure.

  3. Good write! We were in Philly many years ago and now we want to go again. It is really impressive how much you know about the chef world in all these cities! That’s impressive.

    1. Thanks so much, Tip. We realized rather quickly that we, too, would need a return visit to continue exploring. And it’s less impressive when you realize we are as informed as we are mostly because we just really, really like to eat.

  4. These are great tips, thank you so much for sharing – love your photos! Next time I’m in Philly I definitely have to see the Magic Gardens and the Reading Terminal Market. Last year I’ve visited the Franklin Institute and loved it!

    1. Thank you, Isa. Incredibly kind coming from you. We really enjoyed Franklin Institute. As for Magic Gardens and Reading Terminal Market, they’re not to miss. Even now (especially now, on the cusp of the weekend), I’m dreaming of Beiler’s Donuts.

  5. I’m so hungry now looking at all those food photos! You’ve shown me a different side to Philly, it makes me want to return and retrace your steps!

    1. Hi Audrey! Thanks so much. And we do hope our little adventure inspires others to check the city out. Or, better yet, revisit it with a new mindset. In all honesty, we always expect to enjoy a trip when we plan it, but we were really surprised with just how much we found to love about Philly. Thanks again for dropping us a line.

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