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Philly, More Than a Cheesesteak

philly micro guide more than history microguide
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Day trips used to Philly used to be fairly simple. Climb the Art Museum like Rocky, pretend you’re all colonial at Independence Hall, wait in line to see the Liberty Bell, stuff your face at Reading Terminal Market, then with a steaksandwich at Genos, maybe see the Mutter Museum and then you were done. And it was fine, but over the past few years the City of Brotherly Love has really grown up. It’s no longer the place you go only for a quick lesson in American History and some sloppy food—a slew of new awards, museums and places to eat have landed it a role on the world stage. Philly’s good to go anytime of year, but especially come fall when the city’s back from the Jersey Shore, the leaves on its tree-lined streets are changing color and crispy fireplace air makes the city feel as cozy as home. Below are 6 things to do in Philly this fall, other than, or in addition to, eating a cheesesteak of history.

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Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park
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Frommer’s named Philly one of the ten best cities for parks in the world in 2012 and it’s mainly because of this behemoth. Fairmount Park, which you at least know from this Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff song, is the largest city-owned park system in the world and takes up over 10% of Philly’s real estate. It’s a place worthy of a few days itself, filled with art, colonial history, sports fields, trails for hiking and biking, a zoo, botanical gardens and Philly’s famed Boathouse Row. Feeling intrepid? You can ride your bike from its beginnings at the Philadelphia Art Museum, clear though to Valley Forge about 12 miles away along the Schuykill trail.

Barnes Foundation

One of the most impressive collections of modernist and impressionist art, for a long time it was located in a privately owned house in the suburbs and nearly inaccessible to anyone without a car. In May of 2012, it relocated to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway alongside the city’s other world-class institutions like the Art Museum. Even if you’re not an art aficionado, its layout will still inspire.

Eastern State Penitentiary

The mad cap science experiments on display at the Mutter museum have long been one of the worst kept secrets about unusual things to see in Philly, and while it will always be worth the trip, there’s another quirky stop vying for your attention. Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most expensive and renown prisons in the world—where you once could find Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton, but today its open for tours and runs one of the best haunted houses in the country. Okay, so not necessarily a new thing to see or do, but one that’s been vastly overlooked by visitors.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

In a few words, it’s a house that a local hippy slowly turned into a walk-though kaleidoscope. But really, it’s a mind blowing house-turned-art-instillation by acclaimed artist Isaiah Zagar of smashed mirrors, discarded children’s toys, handmade tiles, toilet bowls, broken bottles and other such found objects, constructed between the years of 1994 and 2008. His work is freckled all over town, but here is the epicenter and where you can learn more about one of the most inspiring stories of local art in the country.

Related: The Braveheard Bloody Mary

SHOP

Art in the Age

art in the age
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We are all about this shop with their barware, menswear and Warby Parker showroom all in one, it’s like our website in 3D.

Mueller Chocolates

For seriously good local chocolates, you can’t go wrong with Mueller. Also, they are known for their chocolate covered onions. Yes sir! Well known for their humor, the body parts chocolate are perfect gifts for your doctor or just straight up gothy friends.

EAT & DRINK

Esquire and Frommer’s have both named Philly one of the best beer towns in the world. WORLD. Indeed—it’s not unusual to wander into a nondescript restaurant to find that there’s more beer on taps than there are days in the month (Bainbridge Barrel House is one). There’s even a magazine dedicated to Philly’s beer scene—see PhillyBeerScene.com to check what’s happening. The classic spot is Monks Cafe, with one of the best selections of Belgian Beer in the country. More recently, 2nd street between Girard Ave and Spring Garden has become a craft beer destination in and of itself with local spots like The Standard Tap, Max’s Brew Bar, Druid’s Keep and 700 Club. Not on 2nd, but also not far off the path are Jonny Brendas, which also has live music upstairs and popular German beer hall, Frankfort Hall. Philly Beer week is in June, but honestly, every week is beer week in this town.

Stateside
Stateside Image used with permission by copyright holder

Yes, you should try a steak sandwich. Preferably at Genos. But there’s a lot more going on here than greasy sammys. On the gourmet end, there’s everything from luxury restauranteur Stephen Starr, whose latest, Serpico, is in collaboration with NYC’s Momofuku Ko’s James Beard award winning Peter Serpico. Then you have young up and comers like Stateside, an indoor-outdoor nouveau tapas bar in South Philly that Philadelphia Magazine recently called the #1 restaurant in town. And then you have italian food—National Geographic called Capogiro in Philly’s Italian Market, the best gelato in the world back in 2011; try the salted caramel or basil. And if you’re broke, know that Philly specializes in really good cheap eats like the Jewish home cooking at Honey’s Sit ‘n’ Eat, Mexican outdoors with margaritas or beer at Los Caballitos and Pizza Brain, which is actually a pizza museum and shop.

Related: Best Airport Bars for Craft Beer Snobs
SLEEP

Palomar

palomar
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We are big fans of Kimpton Hotel’s and the Palomar doesn’t disappoint. Located right off Rittenhouse Square in a converted Art-Deco building, the vibe is fun but not wild and cozy while not being sleepy. We also enjoyed meals at their restaurant, Square 1682 where the chef grows some of her ingredients on the 25th floor.

Matt Bell
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Bell is a travel and grooming writer. He's endured Thai face slapping massages, swam in a cage with crocodiles and…
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