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Travel Guide: Philadelphia

I want to start today’s blog by wishing my lovely husband a Happy 31st Birthday!

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I like to think of Philadelphia as New York’s friendlier, leafier and artier little sister. It is rich in history and was actually Ian’s favourite stop on our East Coast road trip this summer. We both loved our three days here and managed to pack a lot in! Here are my recommendations for a long weekend in this beautiful city.

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EAT

Chifa Food Truck

Found at the Spruce Street Harbor Park, this Peruvian-Japanese fusion may sound like a strange combination but it works brilliantly! We had ribs, chicken wings and fish tacos (pretty much my three favourite foods!) and they were all delicious.

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Franklin Ice Cream

Something of a Philadelphia institution, the ice cream selection was amazing and scoops are served in these cool cardboard boxes too.

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Reading Terminal Market

One of my favourite places in the city, this huge market houses so many different food shops and restaurants, you can get a great meal here. We stopped off for breakfast where I had a hot, buttery pretzel, followed by a doughnut!

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Campo’s

You cannot go to Philadelphia and not have a Philly cheesesteak and my tour guide assures me Campo’s does one of the best! I cannot claim to be an expert but it was pretty damn good.

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The Foodery

Like beer? If so, then you will love this place. Ian and I worked our way through several craft ales and I know we would be here on a weekly basis if we lived nearer! We ate here too which was tasty but the fridges full of beers are the real stars.

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DO

A Bus Tour

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Yes, you will look like a total tourist but we felt that there was so much history in this city and we wanted to find out as much as possible without having to walk around with our heads in a guidebook. We saw things we probably wouldn’t have seen had we just explored the city by foot and our tour guides were all local so we got some good bar and restaurant recommendations from them!

Swing in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park

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My favourite place in the city! We walked here on our first night and it was amazing to sit by the river as the sun set with cocktails and a selection of food trucks to eat at. You get a fantastic view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and if you’re lucky, you will find a free hammock to relax in.

Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary

If you fancy a slightly alternative museum then you will love this derelict prison. It was quite spooky in places but I loved wandering around with my audio tour, finding out a bit more about this fascinating site.

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Run up the ‘Rocky Steps’

It’s just got to be done!

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STAY

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We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton which I would highly recommend. It was very central, had amazing views from the corner windows and you also get warm chocolate chip cookies when you arrive!

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Travel Diaries – Washington DC

Washington was our fourth and final stop on our East Coast road trip – you can read Part One and Two of our New York trip and all about Atlantic City and Philadelphia by clicking on the links!

Day Eleven – Thursday 6th August

I couldn’t have left Philadelphia without running up and down the ‘Rocky Steps’ so I dragged myself out of bed early, put on my trainers and ran out to the art museum, up those famous steps, posed for a quick pic with Sly then headed back to our hotel room to pack our bags again.

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We caught a bus to Washington which was fine (it had free wifi!) then taxied it to our hotel – you know it’s going to be an interesting ride when you tell the taxi driver your hotel address and he asks you “Where’s that?”

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We stayed in Hyatt Place and we loved the room. It was a pretty new hotel and had a lovely little lounge area to chill and watch TV and a really modern, cool bathroom. We weren’t that impressed with the area our hotel was in. NoMa is apparently very up and coming but I just don’t think it was quite there yet and although it seemed quite vibrant in the daytime, it didn’t feel the best place to be walking about at night.

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We decided to head out and do some exploring that afternoon so walked down to the Capitol Building (which was stunning but covered in scaffolding!), wandered through the parks, saw the Washington Monument and had a great dinner of prawn, crab and lobster rolls – yum!

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Day Twelve – Friday 7th August

After breakfast at the hotel, where I tried my first ever ‘biscuits and gravy’, we spent the morning at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the media. Outside, there is the front page of every main US State’s newspaper as well as some from the UK, Spain, Brazil, China, France and so on.

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This was a fascinating museum and there was such a good variety of exhibits including the Berlin Wall, the history of comic strips in newspaper, a huge archive of the most important headlines over the past two hundred years, a September 11th exhibition, the challenges journalists face in different parts of the world, the dogs of the White House (loved this one!), the Washington Nationals and my favourite which was all about the Vietnam War and the influence the media had on changing public support for it. There was also a section where you could record yourself as a news anchor on screen which was really fun! This was probably my favourite museum of the whole trip (OK, maybe joint favourite with Ellis Island in New York and the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia!)

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We refuelled with some chicken wings and pizza before a wander through the Sculpture Garden on our way to the Museum of American History. On paper this place looked cool but it was very much aimed at a younger audience so we only did a couple of exhibitions…obviously the one including food and a visit to Julia Child’s kitchen!

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That evening we caught the metro over to the Nationals Park to watch a baseball game. This was so much fun especially the firework display at the end of the game.

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Day Thirteen – Saturday 8th August

After a few days in Washington DC, we started to realise how huge and spread out it was so in order to cover it all and not add to our blister count, we bought tickets for another hop-on/ hop-off tour bus. Whilst it wasn’t as good as the Philadelphia one as it was a recording and felt a lot less personal, it did take us everywhere and also to places and memorials we probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise such as Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon which are over the water in Virginia.

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Lunch was my first ever Shake Shack and was as good as I had hoped! That afternoon we visited the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials before heading to Chinatown for happy hour cocktails and an amazing Mexican meal where our waiter made our guacamole at our table…I grilled him for his recipe!

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Day Fourteen – Sunday 9th August

Our last full day in America! It was Liverpool’s first match of the new season and I read about a Liverpool supporters’ bar not too far away from us. We spent the morning there and it was such a good atmosphere and a chance to chat with some locals too. We left a bit tipsy and realised it was still only about midday!

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That afternoon we went to Georgetown, one of the oldest parts of Washington and one I’d heard was a bit less touristy and cool. I loved it here and wish we could have spent longer wandering around the shops and trying out the bakeries and bars. We had a really nice lunch here (ribs!) before hitting Sephora where I got so excited running up the stairs that I tripped and fell! I was so embarrassed and ended up overspending to hide my shame – like in that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie falls over in Dior and ends up buying loads to make up for it!

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We spent our final night packing, eating doughnuts and watching Sons of Anarchy and I also cracked open my new Essie polish to try out!

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Luckily our flights home were a lot less stressful than when we left the UK, although I suffered with horrendous jet lag for the next few days and was a bit zombie-like most afternoons!

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So that is the end of this ‘Travel Diaries’ series. I think you can probably tell we had an absolutely incredible couple of weeks and I feel a bit lost now I don’t have something to spend my spare time planning for…I may have to get our next trip booked soon! x

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Travel Diaries – Philadelphia

Philadelphia was our third stop on our East Coast road trip – you can read Part One and Two of our New York trip and all about Atlantic City by clicking on the links.

Day Nine – Tuesday 4th August

I started our final day in Atlantic City with an early morning run along the Boardwalk. It was so quiet with just a few people wandering around with their morning coffees and papers and the mist rising around the hotels.

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For my 30th birthday, I had decided to treat myself to a designer handbag. I had seen a few the day before but decided to sleep on it and before we left Atlantic City, I nipped back to the shops and ended up buying two!

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Bags packed, we were back in the car and heading to Philadelphia. It was only about an hour away and I got some Bruce Springsteen on when I saw the city in the distance.

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We found our hotel and received the best welcome…warm chocolate chip cookies. I think I ate mine in the lift as I was getting hungry! We stayed at the Hilton Doubletree and it was probably our favourite hotel in terms of location as we were so central. The room was gorgeous too – two double beds and a great view.

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We dropped our car off, grabbed a sandwich and started exploring. My first impressions of Philadelphia were good – very leafy, friendly and lots of sculptures, fountains and open spaces. As we were only here for two nights and Philadelphia is full of history, we decided to jump on a bus tour so we could see as much as possible of the city. We chose one with a real tour guide as opposed to a recording and it was a great way to find out a bit more about the place.

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After a quick change, we headed out for dinner. I had read about this really cool park down by the river so we walked over and it was amazing! Spruce Street Harbour Park is full of hammocks, benches, fairy lights and food trucks…what more could you need?! We got there and watched the sun set behind the Franklin Bridge with cocktails before indulging in fish tacos, ribs and chicken wings. We ended the night with ice cream in one of the hammocks – such a perfect evening!

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Day Ten – Wednesday 5th August

The next morning, we went on to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast. A great little foodie find, this market has everything to buy and some amazing little places to eat too. I had the best pretzel ever and an ‘Elvis’ doughnut which contained peanut butter icing, banana icing and bacon (and I wonder why my jeans now don’t fit!)

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After my healthy start to the day, we went to the Eastern State Penitentiary. You may not think an abandoned prison would be top of the to-do list for most people but this was such an interesting place to visit. After being left abandoned for years, it has been half-renovated so the public can visit yet see how it has decayed over time. It was quite creepy in places and the audio guide was so interesting covering the beginning of the prison, daily life for inmates, religion, death row, famous inmates (including Al Capone’s luxurious cell) attempted escapes, solitary confinement right up to present day issues such as gang violence and the death penalty.

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There were also cells dotted around the place that had been dedicated to various art installations which added to the experience – I would highly recommend this slightly alternative museum.

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It was lunchtime so we had to sample one of Philadelphia’s most famous exports…a Philly Cheesesteak. There are so many opinions on which is the best but we opted for Campo’s and oh my they were amazing!!!

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We spent our final afternoon having a final wander around the city, cooling off in fountains before indulging in some craft beers, more chicken wings and fish tacos for dinner. We went to The Foodery which has hundreds of different beers…Ian was in heaven! x

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Our Next Adventure…

Today I wanted to share some very exciting news. Nope, not pregnant…we’ve just booked our summer holiday!

Ian and I are off to the States again in July and August for a few weeks to explore a bit of the East Coast. We love America and despite a few visits there, there is still so much we haven’t seen.

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So far, our itinerary involves flying to New York (where we’ll be for my 30th birthday), driving down the coast to Atlantic City for a few days by the sea (and our 2nd wedding anniversary), driving to Philadelphia and then ending up in Washington DC.

We have been to New York before but the other three places have been on my ‘to-do’ list for a long time and I think all four stops offer something completely different from the fast-paced city life of New York, to the boardwalks and casinos of Atlantic City to the historical cities of Philly and DC.

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Obviously the countdown has already begun for me (186 days!) and it is acting as great motivation to keep up with eating healthy and exercising more as well as having something to look forward to in these cold and wet months.

My planning instincts have already kicked in and I am busy researching places to eat and drink at, where to visit and what to add to my shopping list (so far it looks like there will be a huge Sephora haul for some new make-up and beauty brands!) I am open to any recommendations for shops, restaurants and must-see places in all 4 locations but I also very much enjoy this stage of shopping around and reading reviews to find the perfect place for brunch or a burger.

I’ll try not to bang on about this trip too much on the blog although I’m sure my excitement will overspill from time to time!

Finally, I have to mention our amazing travel agent Natalie! I email her with all sorts of crazy travel ideas and she always manages to piece everything together, find amazing hotels and take a large amount of stress away from someone as indecisive as me. I highly recommend dropping her an email next time you are planning a getaway.