“We are Family” pulsated out of the speakers on the be-dazzled float as it cruised past us on Market Street on a hot and sunny (always!) day in Philadelphia. During our weekend in Philly, we were lucky to catch the tail end of the joyful annual Pride Parade. It also just so happened to be the morning after the horrific gun attack in an Orlando gay nightclub, which killed nearly 50 people. 50 people.
I really have no words for that anymore so I’m just going to let it sit here for a second.
Philly = Love
As I flew back to Chicago from Philly and started to collect my thoughts and think back on my short, but packed weekend in Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, that song drifted through my brain again. And I realized it wasn’t just the theme for the parade, it was a great representation of the city itself. I thought of all the people I met and how they instantly felt like an aunt or cousin; like family.
Of course, Philadelphians already know this:
There is a ton to see, do and eat in Philly. You can never do it all. But if you are spending about 48 hours in Philly, here are some highlights to check out.
Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours
“Are you the Blawghouse group? This is so fantastic!” said Lisa Bass, from Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours, with her wonderfully thick as molasses Philly accent. She was such a fireball and instantly greeted us with pure enthusiasm and joy. It was infectious. We took a very abbreviated tour on one of their bright red, double decker buses through the city to charming, cobblestoned Old City for a happy hour party at 2nd Story Brewing Company. Throughout the night I noticed as Lisa hugged and greeted colleagues and acquaintances. And by the end of the evening, she unhesitatingly hugged me goodbye like a dear old friend. I loved that warmth with which Philly was already embracing me.
Where to Stay in Philly — Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square
Then there was Kelly. Sure, she was the sales rep I was working with at the Sonesta Philadelphia Hotel for our annual Bloghouse event (an intimate travel bloggers conference with a lot of transparency and one-on-one attention and mentoring), but she and her staff were so kind, so helpful, again, she felt like an old friend.
Not to mention that staying at the Sonesta was a real treat. The hotel was just completely renovated with fresh, modern design and décor, plus they’ve put a large focus on art including the stunning 220-foot high mural painted on the side of the building in conjunction with Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, the nation’s largest public arts program.
Philly is the City of Brotherly Love
All around us, the city welcomed us with open arms and a warm hospitality. You know Philly for its history – the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, even its famous cheesesteak sandwiches. But there is SO much more here to experience. Philly is a diverse city made up of dozens of neighborhoods each with its own flavor. For a great walking tour that gets beneath the surface and really gives you a local feel and lots of info (and context!), Context Travel offers several tours not only in Philly, but in dozens of cities worldwide. Think of it more like a walking seminar rather than a tour as you get to engage with local experts who shed light on the real life of the people, history, and culture of a city. And, since getting local when I travel is my main goal, Context hits the nail on the head.
In summer, the city comes alive with festivals, bike paths, and wonderful beer gardens all around. And let’s not forget about the food. Way more than cheesesteaks and pretzels, Philly has some of the country’s best restaurants and is really making a huge name for itself.
Last time I was here, I had the pleasure of dining at Vedge. Next time, I must try Zahav. But even getting down to Di Bruno Bros. for a classic Italian hoagie (such fresh bread!) was extremely satisfying.
Need more Philly food recs? Check out this comprehensive list of all the top Philadelphia Restaurants from my friends over at 2FoodTrippers.
On our final night, we had a cocktail reception at the chic and classy Sofitel Philadelphia. Angela Bauer, the general manager, took time to greet us on a Saturday night. She was a local so proud of the hotel, not just for its wonderful chic design and delicious food from Executive Chef Luke Rogers (who, at 24-years old oversees the Sofitel’s menus and dining at Liberté Lounge plus a rooftop garden and honey bee hives with more than 100,000 honey bees!), but the social programs the hotel provides like partnering with the Broad Street Ministry’s breaking bread meal program, which provides over 1000 meals per week to Philadelphia’s vulnerable community. Sofitel employees from each department volunteer on a quarterly basis, by setting up for meal service, serving meals to those in need as well as assisting in the clothing closet, and raising their own funds and making contributions.
Angela, is also a home time girl. No airs here. She was authentic, genuine and had that Philly ‘realness’ I am growing to adore. I also instantly felt like I knew her and am sure we will meet again.
My last day, I finally had some ‘me’ time and was able to head over to the waterfront of the Delaware River (hello home state of New Jersey just across the way!) to Penn’s Landing. Looking to chill on a summer day? This is the spot.
The Spruce Street Harbor Park, a summer pop-up here, has a hammock garden, boardwalk, urban beach, beer garden, fountains and a series of floating barges with lily pad water gardens. It’s pretty fantastic and a short walk from Old City.
As cliché as it is, I felt love here in Philly. If you haven’t been, come for a visit and be sure to meet and chat with some locals so you too can feel the love.
Disclosure: During my time in Philadelphia, I was a guest of Visit Philly and the Sonesta Hotel. As always, all opinions are my own.