With the Democratic National Convention in Philly fast approaching, out-of-towners are planning their trips to get right in the middle of the action. But before heading there, it’s important for any politician (and supporter) to map out the iconic places to eat, sleep, and spend downtime. From the birthplace of the Philly cheesesteak to the home of the Liberty Bell, there’s no shortage of historic sites to explore throughout the three-day convention.
Pat’s King of Steaks
What started as a small hot-dog stand has grown into a famous cheesesteak joint, thanks to original owner Pat Oliver, who invented the beef, onion, and cheese creation in 1930. Since then, well-known personalities—including politicians such as Senator John Kerry and President Barrack Obama—have stopped by the old-time hot spot to take a bite of the filled Italian roll, with a menu serving everything from a classic Philly cheesesteak to a mushroom-pepper pizza steak.
Reading Terminal Market
Although this large food hub officially opened its doors in 1892, several markets existed in the same spot as early as 1680. Over the centuries, the public market went from operating out of city-owned sheds to a four-terminal space where it’s still located today. Every day, crowds of tourists and locals flood into the market, where some 75 individual small businesses run a daily operation—from a flock of Pennsylvania Dutch vendors to a creamery specializing in grilled cheese. And beyond shopping on your own, there are weekly tours that give you the rundown of the entire market to make sure you don’t miss out.
The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia
Housed inside a 1908 reproduction of the Pantheon (yes, the one in Rome) that once served as a bank building, this iconic hotel just emerged from a huge renovation that contemporized the interior while preserving its historic elements—from the French walnut original woodwork to a vault used to transport money for bank tellers. In addition to new guest rooms and communal spaces, celebrity chef Richard Sandoval recently introduced his latest dining concept, Aquimero, which cooks up Latin American cuisine for Philly visitors and locals alike. And with surrounding attractions like the Fabric Workshop and Museum and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, you’re never far from the city’s past.
Thomas Bond House B&B
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 18th-century building is the only hotel located inside Philly’s Independence National Historic Park, home to the Liberty Bell. The inn got its name from Dr. Thomas Bond, who built the four-story house that served as a private residence until 1810. In 1988, the building was restored as a B&B showcasing its original details—from the modillion cornice roofline to its Rumford fireplace and grand staircase—that history buffs can admire.
Things to Do
Mask and Wig Clubhouse
Formerly a church, stable, and carriage house, this clubhouse turned into the official home of the nation’s oldest all-male musical comedy troupe in 1894. Started by a small group of Penn State students, the Mask and Wig Club designated the building—built by Italian architect Wilson Eyre and decorated with early art by Philly-born Maxfield Parrish—as their theater. The Clubhouse continues to accommodate the musical group today, performing free shows and annual productions that still bring in a crowd. Other than housing its singing members (and audience), the Clubhouse is available for social events, business meetings, and, of course, theatrical productions.
Since the late 1960s, local mural artist Isaiah Zagar has decked out Philly’s South Street area with his vibrant mosaic art. What began as a blank fence in 1994 slowly turned into multi-layered walls made entirely with found objects; the neighborhood fought to protect the walls against being dismantled. Zagar continued to excavate grottoes and tunnels, covering them in his mosaics along the way, and eventually the space officially opened to the public as Philadelphia’s Magic Garden in 2008. Today, visitors can book art workshops and other activities and hold events in this artistic space made up of hundreds of masterpieces.
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