The Philadelphia Museum of Art has just opened an exhibit that explores the roots of Impressionist painting. Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting features the work of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet, and Pissarro. The exhibit is on display until September 13, and this is your only chance to see it in the States. Since it’s worth a dedicated trip, here’s how to make the most of your day there.
As the third largest art museum in the country, PMA’s permanent collection includes 225,000 objects in more than 200 galleries. Inside the grand building resides collections of Renaissance, American, Impressionist, East Asian and Modern art, including work by Cassat, Cezanne, Gehry, Matisse, Monet, O’Keefe, Picasso, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rivera, Rubens and Warhol.
Gerald Drummond, executive chef at the musuem’s Granite Hill restaurant, marvels at the attention to detail in Marc Chagall's A Wheatfield on a Summer's Afternoon (west entrance corridor, ground floor) every time he passes it. “I still look at it like it's my first time seeing it,” he says.
Drummond’s daughter Isabela likes the family-oriented, summertime Art Splash activities and the Armor and Arms collection (Gallery 247, second floor). “It's like bringing the fairy tale to life for her,” Drummond says. Tip: Museum admission for kids 12 and under is always free. Chef Drummond is also looking forward to Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life this fall, which will feature 130 pieces from the 1800's through the Pop Arts era of the 1960's.
The museum is located at the end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway—Philadelphia’s Champs-Élysées. Walking it from Center City takes less than 30 minutes. Several bus routes (7, 32, 38, 43, and 48) will get you there, too, and there’s a parking garage on site.
After your visit, make time to explore the area—one of Philadelphia’s best neighborhoods.
Where to eat
Stroll a few blocks from the Art Museum’s campus for lunch or dinner and drinks. Sample some of the city’s best pizza at Pizzeria Vetri, the most casual of local celebrity chef Marc Vetri’s growing empire of restaurants. Neighborhood favorite Sabrina’s Cafe serves breakfast all day, alongside sandwiches and traditional diner fare. Mussels with fresh-cut frites and an impressive beer list are highlights at The Belgian Cafe, and its al fresco seating makes the scene.
Things to do
Just north of the Art Museum sits Boathouse Row, one of Philadelphia’s most photogenic attractions. This collection of 10 rowing clubhouses that line the river are as lovely during the day as at night, when they’re framed by colorful string lights.
In the shadow of the art museum is a colorful new pop-up park, The Oval, that provides family fun in the form of movie nights and life-size board games, plus a beer garden for the adults.
Before you go
A day of quiet art appreciation earns you a few minutes of silliness. Jog to the top of the museum’s steps, made famous by Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. Make sure to throw your fists in the air and jump when you reach the top—it’s a Philadelphia tradition.
Sarah Maiellano is on the Philadelphia beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter at @SarahMaiellano.