One of my favorite traditions that my mom and I started for Christmas presents a few years ago is that I treat her to an experience rather than getting her a physical gift. This year I was keen to have her present be a mini-getaway, so we decided on a short city break to Philadelphia.
Arriving ready for lunch, our first stop was the Italian Market, a historical outdoor market with cafes, cheese shops, butcheries, grocery shops, and restaurants. The Italian Market is in the South 9th Street area, a predominantly Italian area of the city. After a bit of a wander around, we grabbed a slice of pizza in the market and ogled at the imported Italian products in the stores.
The market was bigger than I imagined, so if you need guidance on where to go, head to the Italian Market Visitors Center, where they have maps of all the stalls. The Italian Market is also dotted with murals – one of my favorite of which was the Di Bruno Bros House of Cheese mural – who doesn’t love a mural of cheese and wine!
Our next stop was at the One Liberty Observation Deck, an indoor observatory deck in the Center City area of Philadelphia. The observation deck is on the 57th floor of a skyscraper building and has 360-degree views of the city.
I would actually recommend buying tickets at the Observation Deck itself rather than online, because the online prices actually are more expensive than what we paid. When we arrived, we were told children under 12 go free, which saved us $14 from the online price.
After checking into our hotel which was directly across from the One Liberty Observation Deck, we headed to dinner at Gran Caffe L’Aquila. Here we feasted on great Italian classics like gnocchi, tiramisu, and gelato – a lot of the servers are actually Italian as well!
Day two was all about Philly food! One of my preferred activities when I travel now is to try to find a food tour – and through the City Food Tour company, which is ranked the #1 tour company in Philly on TripAdvisor, I signed us up for their Flavors of Philly tour.
The tour was organized in a way that we walked through the Center City area of the city, stopping for five different food samples, and along the way learning about the history of Philadelphia and why these foods have their roots in the city.
Our first stop was at the Philly Pretzel Factory where we had pretzel samples with a choice of mustard. The pretzel was great – but the spicy mustard choice is heavy on the horseradish and our entire tour group got a good laugh when Markie put a bit too much of it on his pretzel and made faces after eating it! We also found out when you remove the salt from the top of a pretzel, it is called a “bald” pretzel.
Our second stop, Joe’s Pizza, had my favorite food of all the stops, a tomato pie. A tomato pie is pretty much just a pizza without cheese, but the sauce was amazing. It was rich in flavor and very fresh, as we were told that the owner of the restaurant, who is from Italy, comes in early every morning to specially make the sauce for the pie.
Our next step didn’t include any food, but was instead to poke in and see Del Frisco’s steakhouse. Del Frisco’s has an amazing interior, as the restaurant is in a former restored bank. The upstairs has long columns and an intricate ceiling that were preserved during the restoration. Downstairs is a huge former bank vault that you can eat inside! Next time I’m in Philly I would definitely head back here for a meal.
Next was another food stop at Zio’s Pizza, where we had delicious cheese steak but not-so-delicious cheese fries. The cheese fries were okay, but they used cheese whiz which personally doesn’t do well with my stomach.
At our final location, Reading Terminal Market, were our last two food stops. Reading Terminal Market has been on my Philly bucket list for some time, and it didn’t disappoint. The market is huge and has numerous food stalls, many of which we found out are run by the Pennsylvania Dutch. We also found out it’s the most visited attraction in Philly, even more than the Liberty Bell!
Our first stop within the market was the Famous 4th Street Cookie Company, known for their variety of homemade, fresh baked cookies. We sampled the chocolate chip cookie, which was warm and gooey, just like I like it!
Our second stop in Reading Terminal Market was Beiler’s Bakery, which is so popular that that the line was (long) and around the corner! Thankfully being with our tour group, we were able to cut the line and get our hands on one of Beiler’s popular doughnuts.
After our food tour we were more than sufficiently full, and it was time to head back to my parents house. There’s still a few things on my Philly bucket list remaining, so it just means I’ll have to return again!
Have you been to Philadelphia? What would you want to do in the city?