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In a new seriesTravel + Leisure explores the country's best cities, towns, and neighborhoods—one long weekend at a time.

August 26, 2016

Conveniently positioned between New York City and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia is an easy-to-reach destination perfect for a quick vacation. And first-time visitors will find that the City of Brotherly Love is about so much more than cheesesteaks and the Liberty Bell. Philadelphia offers something for everyone, mixing history (after all, it's the birthplace of the constitution) with hip new coffee roasters. Philly is home to world-class art museums, sprawling parks, and a buzzy restaurant scene that embraces everything from Israeli to specialties to funky vegan-meets-Mexican mash-ups. Want to make the most of your long weekend away? This step-by-step itinerary highlights all the best Philadelphia attractions. 

Day One

If you fly into Philadelphia International Airport, take the SEPTA train to Jefferson Station, which is an easy 15-minute walk to the long-loved Hotel Monaco. It's centrally located, and the rooftop bar offers views of Liberty Bell Center from far above the crowds. After you've checked in (and checked out the property) head to Elfreth's Alley—the oldest residential street in the country and one of Philly's more underrated attractions.

Time your trip right and visit Philly on the first Friday of the month, and you will find the streets lined with artists selling paintings and hand-crafted jewelry on the street. If it's not too late in the day, check out Rittenhouse Square. It's not uncommon to see bike messengers waiting to be dispatched from the northeast corner of the park, street artists performing in the center, and businessmen enjoying fresh air on their lunch break.

We know you're itching for a cheesesteak, but pop into The Khyber Pass Pub—just down the street from your hotel—for a craft microbrew and the best barbeque in the city (get the brisket with a biscuit and collards). 

Unwind after a busy day of traveling and exploring by taking a cab or an Uber to the new Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk (pronounce it like a local, skoo-kill). From this overwater path, you'll get unbeatable views of the city skyline lit up at night. 

Day Two

Wake up early and catch a cab to Fairmount Bicycles, in edgy Callowhill, for a rental bike. Before leaving the neighborhood, stop into the Prohibition Tap Room for a hearty, sweet-meets-savory brunch of bratwurst-stuffed French toast and rhubarb pancakes. Pedal out toward the art museum and west along the Schuylkill River Trail. Cross over Falls Bridge to the other side of the river and head back along West River Drive, which is open only to cyclists during weekend days. If you're feeling especially ambitious, take a ride through Fairmount Park—one of the largest inner-city park systems in the country. Belmont Plateau, a hill overlooking the Philadelphia skyline, is a great place to stop for a picnic.

Keep the bike for the rest of the weekend, as this is one of the more convenient modes of transportation around Philadelphia. If you can't feel your legs at this point, return the bike and catch a cab to the Northern Liberties neighborhood. Walk along 2nd and 3rd Streets and explore the independently owned shops like Architectural Antiques Exchange (vintage mirrors, etched glass signs) or Ritual Ritual (the jewelry here is made by global and in-house designers). Take a break with a margarita from El Camino.

For dinner, walk (or ride) a few blocks northeast into the Fishtown neighborhood. This alternative neighborhood is one of the fastest growing in the city, and is full of new restaurants and bars. Sancho Pistola's and Cedar Point are two great options.

Day Three

For the best coffee in the city, head back into Fishtown for a pour-over cup at Reanimator Coffee Roasters. If coffee isn't really your thing, take a cab to Mercer Café, located in the Port Richmond neighborhood. Here, you'll get your cheesesteak fix with the hoagie-style sandwich topped with onion, lettuce, and tomato. 

Any day is a good day to check out the Philadelphia Art Museum, but Sundays are best, as the entry is by donation only. The Mütter Museum (a museum of medical history complete with limbs and organs floating in apothecary jars) is another option for the non-squeamish. Traveling with children? The Franklin Institute (a nod to hometown hero Ben) is a great family-friendly option. Those who haven't tired of bike riding can take the Skybike across a wire suspended 28-feet in the air. For one last bite before you go, don't miss Dizengoff. Chefs Steve Cook and Michael Solomonov have opened a hummusiya straight out of Israel, which exclusively serves hummus plates, save for Sundays when shakshuka hits the menu. Definitely try the homemade hot sauce. 

For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.

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