You feel smarter after a trip to Philadelphia. Prouder too. The tree-lined avenues, the family-friendly green space, the towering statues and delicate Colonial architecture all work to create a city that feels more livable than many. In its cluster of neighborhoods, you’ll find lessons in civil rights, introductions to Constitutional forefathers, iconic movie stars and the best way to order a Cheesesteak (hint: You can drop the “Philly”; they know where it’s from).
In Pennsylvania in the northeastern U.S., Philly is a port city known for its arts and culture, situated along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. There is no us (locals) and them (visitors) in Philadelphia. Everyone mixes on the streets of the boulevard and the only way to know for sure if that other family playing in the fountain is visiting, too, is to ask them. Go for it. Local or not, you’ll find this city of American firsts (U.S. Mint, zoo, hospital, public park…) more than lives up to its reputations as the “City of Brotherly Love.”
• Location: Based at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, you’re in the best spot to see it all. You can hop a local bus, go for the double-decker tour bus or use your feet to make the most of the city.
• Founded by William Penn, this is the place to understand American history.
• The Liberty Bell.
• Award-winning restaurants: AAA Five- and Four-Diamond restos that turn out incredible, mouth-watering dishes and memorable local delicacies.
• Hotel staff that’s professional without being stuffy.
• The view: Book a room that looks out across the mall and plot out the museums, galleries and repeat of “Rocky’s” memorable stair climb you’ll take on throughout the day.
• More outdoor sculptures than any other U.S. city. No trip is complete without a snapshot in front of the famous Love sculpture, but the giant clothespin and “Your Move” oversized game pieces will get the kids laughing, too.
• Museums that encourage engagement: The Franklin Institute’s hands-on exhibits are meant to spark the inventor in all of us; the Academy of Natural Sciences, the nation’s oldest natural history museum, gets you up close to everything from insects to shark teeth. The smallest visitors will love the Please Touch Museum.
• A trip to Franklin Square to let off some steam amid manicured lawns, a carousel, a mini golf course and free playgrounds. You’ll learn a thing or two from the historic costumed storytellers as you wander.
• The hotel’s 45 x 18-ft swimming pool. Kids only have to go as far as the deck for lunch (in-room dining delivers here, too).
• Watching the kids learning as they chat with Ben (Franklin) and Betsey (Ross)—or at least their costumed versions—in the historic part of the city.
• The mix of outdoor strolling and indoor learning around the Independence Visitor Centre: The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, The National Constitution Centre…
• Evening strolls with or without the kids (thanks to in-room babysitting) along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the tree-lined boulevard just outside your door.
• Drinks of your choice: Tea in the hotel’s landscaped courtyard or a pre-dinner cocktail in the gorgeous Swann Lounge.
• The fully equipped health spa where you can exercise or be pampered after a full day out. Access to the complimentary town car and driver for a quick trip into the city center.
* The Rocky statue: It’s just off to the right of the Art Gallery Steps. Hum the theme music, raise your fists in triumph and snap the picture your friends are expecting.
Dine in—You’ve got the best of Philadelphia dining in-house. Fountain Restaurant boasts AAA Five-Diamond cuisine that is as tasty as it is beautifully presented. And Swann Lounge’s AAA Four-Diamond offerings, including a killer Sunday Morning Family Friendly brunch, will have you swooning. A Children’s All-Day Menu hits their favourites (also plenty of healthy options parents will be happy with). Or order the same via in-room dining.
Dine out—Philly food is all about family. Pick from any of these establishments for fun, family-friendly outings that entertain beyond their tasty menus.
Jones Restaurant: funky décor and down-home fare. City Tavern: a restored Colonial tavern with costumed staff. On the waterfront, Moshulu is a historic four-masted ship with a fantastic seafood restaurant and decks to wander after dinner. Franklin Fountain is an old fashioned ice cream shop where scoops are piled as high as you can handle; also ice cream sodas and sundaes waiting to be shared.
1. Get the lay of the land: Board a Philadelphia Trolley Works car or the Big Bus Company’s double-decker tour buses to get your bearings once you arrive. The bus has great tour guides and the hop on-hop off option means you can make the most of your day.
2. Bring History to Life: Boring history lessons in class? No, thanks. Kids will learn without prompting when American History landmarks are around every corner. Visits to the National Constitution Centre and Independence Hall are musts.
3. Family time at the hotel: Take a day to relax. Sleep in late, head to the heated indoor pool for a swim and order in-room dining. Need board games, books or DVDs? Just call down to the front desk.
4. Eat Philadelphia: The city is known for its unique noshing options. Ask the concierge to help you make a checklist of must-trys and work through your list. Philly Cheesesteak, Rita’s Italian Ice and “Scrapple” should top the roster.
*Babies: Philadelphia is strollable. Carry your baby in a sling or pop him into the stroller and explore the outdoors. Cribs, playpens and so on are complimentary. And if you’d like an adults night out, in-room babysitting can be arranged.
*Toddlers: Ask for a child-proofed room and you’ll rest easier. Take a trip out to Sesame Place or the Please Touch Museum, or call down to the concierge for books, stuffed animals and toys to play with in-room. For a quick trip before nap time, request the town car. It’s complimentary for outings around the city.
Kids 5-12: Sign the kids up for the “Heart of the House” tour and they’ll get a back-stage view of how the hotel is run. The huge, heated indoor pool is a great way to have fun and burn off steam. You’re in the heart of the museum and art gallery district where you’ll find plenty of activities for everyone.
*Tweens & teens: Visit the concierge for teen-savvy advice on “what’s hot” in the city. iPod docking stations in-room and DVD/CD players (movies can be requested from the concierge) will help to pass downtime. A visit and tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary (the inmates are long gone) is sure to get them talking.
Read more on Philadelphia in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our Concierge Recommendations for Philadelphia in Four Seasons Magazine.
Based near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance writer whose articles appear in publications such as The Toronto Star, Canadian Family, UrbanMoms.ca and more. She recently returned from a one-year, round-the-world adventure with her husband and two sons, eight and 10. You can read about their journey and the adventures before and since at globetrottingmama.com.
View all posts from Heather
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