Why You Should Visit Philadelphia This Summer

Philly shakes off the pandemic blues this summer with a lively mix of American history, music, art, and new flavors.

Why You Should Visit Philadelphia This Summer

Just north of City Hall, South Restaurant and Jazz Club dishes up Lowcountry fare (think chicken-fried oysters, shrimp and grits, hush puppies).

Photo by A. Ricketts/Visit Philadelphia

Nothing like a fresh coat of paint—or an entirely new look—to help you forget the last year. In May, the encyclopedic Philadelphia Museum of Art unveiled its Frank Gehry redesign, showcasing lighter, airier interior spaces, new galleries, and gift shops featuring local crafts. The Early American Galleries embrace Latin American art and the contributions of enslaved Africans. New Grit: Art and Philly Now, through August 22, exhibits artists with strong links to the city, such as Judith Schaechter and Alex Da Corte.

In the Independence Mall area, the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center connects American history and Biblical inspiration. Look for other takes on America’s founding ideals at the Liberty Bell Center, National Constitution Center, National Liberty Museum, Museum of the American Revolution, President’s House, and National Museum of American Jewish History.

The 59 ½ annual Philadelphia Folk Festival goes pocket-sized and hybrid August 21–22, with live events at the Spring Mountain Ski Area outside Philadelphia. Take a break at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, on the city’s southwestern edge, which preserves freshwater marshlands and offers prime bird watching.

Philadelphia’s renowned restaurant scene extends well beyond Center City. In South Philadelphia, the Bok Building, an evolving adaptive reuse of an elementary school, houses galleries, other small businesses, nonprofits, and restaurants such as Irwin’s, with skyline views and a new focus on modern Sicilian specialties. Also at Bok, Kampar Kitchen, another pandemic launch, has rotating pop-up takeout of Malaysian, Sri Lankan, Haitian, West African, and other global cuisines. In the Spring Garden neighborhood, South Restaurant and Jazz Club merges upscale Southern dining with jazz concerts. Casa Mexico and Blue Corn serve fresh, affordable Mexican food in the Italian Market.

Cristina Martínez of South Philly Barbacoa fame brought her star-making Mexican food to the Italian Market at Casa México.

Cristina Martínez of South Philly Barbacoa fame brought her star-making Mexican food to the Italian Market at Casa México.

Photo by Stephanie Ramones/Visit Philadelphia

Where to stay

Try Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City. An adaptive reuse of the 19th-century Stephen Girard Building, this new luxury hotel near the Reading Terminal Market has an American brasserie, the Wayward, and offers free bikes—and helmets— for city exploration. Another option is the Hyatt Centric Center City Philadelphia, a modern hotel steps from the city’s bustling Rittenhouse Square area.

Stay at the Canopy: from $219/night, expedia.com; stay at the Hyatt Centric: from $179/night, expedia.com

Go deeper

Sample take-out-only pizza and wings at Down North Pizza, staffed by the formerly incarcerated, or comfort food and craft beers at Triple Bottom Brewing, powered by renewable energy and employing the ex-incarcerated and homeless. Through September 4, Triple Bottom operates the Fair Chance Beer Garden at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, which offers day and night tours. Visit the Monkey and the Elephant, a nonprofit café employing former foster youth, or Frieda, a café whose staff and workshops reflect its multi-generational, multi-ethnic mission.

>>Next: The Best Cities in the U.S. in 2021

Julia M. Klein is a Philadelphia-based cultural reporter and critic who writes about museums, theater, books, film, television and the media.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR