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How to spend 48 hours in Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love's 8 essential experiences

Mirror logo Mirror 20/01/2017 Nigel Thompson

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc If you’ve only got 48 hours in the city with famous links to Monopoly, the first thing you should do is go directly to jail.

Philadelphia was where legend says businessman Charles Darrow dreamed up the iconic board game in 1933 (he didn’t, he patented it – it was invented in 1903 by Elizabeth Magie of Washington DC, but that’s another story).

However, on a short visit to the splendid City of Brotherly Love, I cannot recommend highly enough a trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Here are eight unmissable things to see and do on a short break to Philly – much of which is walkable – starting of course with...

1. Go directly to the Eastern State Penitentiary

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc It is possibly one of the most compelling and memorable tourist ‘attractions’ I’ve ever seen.

The jail, with its innovative wheel-spoke design, was operational from 1829 to 1971 and saw the implementation of attempts to reform rather than punish inmates – it even had plumbing and central heating before the White House.

On completion, it was the world’s most expensive public building and more than 300 prisons around the world were built on the same spoked design, including Strangeways in Manchester.

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc With an excellent audio commentary from Hollywood star Steve Buscemi, you see an escape tunnel, Al Capone’s ‘luxury’ cell and get a heap of spooky photo opps.

It is of course supposedly haunted and you wouldn’t find me in there at night for sure, although they do have events after dark.

Absolutely outstanding, do not miss this if you’re in Philly ( easternstate.org from $14).

2. Be sure to tuck in to a Cheesesteak

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Apologies if you’re a vegetarian, but this Philly favourite is a meat-eater’s must. It’s a long crusty roll filled with thinly sliced, juicy, sauteed beef and melted cheese, plus onions if you wish... and it’s heavenly.

There’s a technique to ordering though. You ask for the number you want (ie ‘one’), the type of cheese you want (eg ‘whiz’ for the traditional gloopy processed Cheez Whiz sauce) and ‘with’ or ‘without’ to indicate if you want fried onions.

So “two provolone without” would get you a pair of cheesesteaks made with provolone cheese, minus onions. Got it?

Don’t foul up, as the servers are very busy and patience is not a strong suit. Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks in South Philly are legendary cheesesteak venues.

I headed to Sonny’s on Market Street in the city centre for my yummy $9 ‘‘one provolone with’’ fix.

3. Explore Independence National Historic Park

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Strolling on cobbled streets, you are at the birth of a nation here and it attracts 3.5million visitors a year.

Philadelphia was the USA’s first capital from 1790-1800 and you can stand in the very room in Independence Hall – the former Pennsylvania State House – where the founding fathers debated and signed the Declaration of Independence on July 2 (not the 4th, which was when it was ratified).

If you like your history, this is really special, and the guides are excellent. Also, it’s free! You just need a timed ticket for a tour from the adjacent visitor centre.

Across the road you’ll find the Liberty Bell Center, which is also free with no timed ticketing, and

which explains the myths and truths of the famously cracked object which was originally made in London in 1752 ( nps.gov/inde ).

On the other side of the square there’s the National Constitution Center, which offers a multimedia, interactive presentation on America’s sacred document.

If time is pressing, it’s the one to skip as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are musts ( constitutioncenter.org $14.50).

4. Grab a fill of culture at the Museum of Art

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty In a huge, impressive building, this is a stellar collection of more than 225,000 works by the likes of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Dali and Canaletto, as well as collections of textiles, armour and ancient artefacts.

You could spend an entire day here. People do. ( philamuseum.org $20)

5. Get the obligatory picture at the 'Rocky' steps

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc One of the most celebrated photo opportunities in the US is right in front of the Museum of Art.

It was immortalised in the first triple-Oscar-winning Rocky movie in 1976, when Sly Stallone’s underdog boxer Rocky Balboa ran up the flight of 72 steps to the entrance as part of his training regime, before punching the air.

Form a queue for your pic, copying the scene with a great view of downtown Philly in the background.

And there’s a statue of Rocky by the bottom of the steps for another great souvenir shot.

A rite of passage for any Philly first-timer.

6. Head to the popular Reading Terminal Market

Beat the heat with a cold beer 🍺 or cocktail 🍸 at @mollymalloys beer garden now!!

A photo posted by Reading Terminal Market (@rdgterminalmkt) on

America’s oldest farmers’ market, and the city’s most visited site, with more than six million people a year popping in to the 1892 covered area for all sorts of food, a beer garden, Amish products, plants, and housewares.

It’s excellent. ( readingterminalmarket.org )

7. View the mosaics at the Magic Gardens

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Something completely different. The Magic Gardens is a non-profit art and gallery space created by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar on the city’s famous South Street.

The most celebrated aspect is a highly unusual, multi-level outdoor labyrinth of mosaics made from objects ranging from bottles, tiles and mirrors to bike wheels, plates and who-knows-what.

You’ll never have seen anything like it ( phillymagicgardens.org $10).

8. Stay at the Philadelphia Hotel Monaco

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc This is a belter – a perfect combo of a historic boutique hotel in a fine location. It’s a 268-room (and very comfortable rooms they are) conversion of the 1907 Lafayette Building and overlooks Independence National Historical Park.

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc The main bar is the popular Red Owl Tavern and there’s a hip rooftop lounge too. It’s all very friendly and thoroughly well-run.

And the bath robes are very cool – note the leopard pattern one! ( monaco-philadelphia.com )

Travelling around Philadelphia

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc It makes sense to get one of the two Philly visitor cards.

The CityPASS costs $59 adult/$39 child and is valid for nine days for free entry to the Franklin Institute, Big Bus Company and Philadelphia Trolley Works City Tour, One Liberty Observation Deck, Adventure Aquarium or the Zoo. citypass.com/philadelphia

The Philadelphia Pass is available from 1-5 days and costs $59 adult/$39 child 1 day and $129/$119 5 days with free access to more than 40 city-wide attractions, including the Penitentiary, the Constitution Center, the Museum of Art and the Big Bus Company. philadelphiapass.com

Where to book

Rooms at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia start at £127pn. monaco-philadelphia.com

British Airways flies twice daily to Philadelphia from Heathrow with return fares from £434. ba.com 0844 493 0787.

Tourist info:discoverPHL.com - visittheusa.com

Time zone: UK -5hrs

Currency: £1 = US$ 1.40

Best time to go: Get the Philly-good factor this spring


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