I am a Philly girl. Yes, you can just call me the “Fresh Princess.” I wear it with pride, along with Grace Kelly, Blythe Danner, Billie Holiday, and Kelly Ripa. In fact, I actually held hands with Kevin Bacon in “Hands Across America.” I mean, really, I am only one degree from Kevin Bacon. Top that one, collectistas (or at least feel free to use it in your next game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”). Anywho, Philly holds a special place in my heart, even though I thank G-d daily that I never picked up the twang. It’s a historical and cultural mecca with lots of interesting stuff to see and do.
Obviously, Philadelphians speak English. However, there is both a twang (I just can’t bring myself to call it an accent) and some terms that are unique to the region. It is important to know these tidbits so you can navigate your way like a local.
Italian Water Ice: The frozen, smooth, sorbet-like dessert known everywhere else in the world as simply “Italian ice.” For whatever reason, someone came up with this totally redundant term and it stuck.
Jimmies: The tiny sugary things you sprinkle on ice cream—hence the reason the rest of the world call them “sprinkles.”
Down the Shore: When a local uses this term, he or she is not going “down” anywhere. The person who invented this term clearly did not run it by her copy editor, because the correct grammar for the intended idea is “to the shore.” Anywho, when a Philadelphia collectista says it, she is heading to Ventnor, Margate, or Longport, New Jersey.
Wooder: This word is “water” for the locals who got bitten by the you-know-what.
Catchup: The Philly version of “ketchup.” I have heard many an Ivy League graduate, Philly-born-and-bred collectista use this word. It makes my skin crawl for some reason.
There is only one place and it’s the Rittenhouse Hotel—period, done. Trust me, I have tried the other two obvious candidates and they were like imposters (I won’t name names, but you know who I’m talkin’ about). We love the recently renovated Rittenhouse Hotel first and foremost for its magnificent location on Rittenhouse Square. As provincial as Philadelphia may seem, anything remotely cosmopolitan or sophisticated is within reach from “The Square.” For decades, I believe there was no motivation to renovate this very Eighties boutique hotel because of its primo location, but new management finally took over and not only redesigned the public spaces with a fresh, contemporary look, but they also revamped former office spaces into an exclusive library hall, with “Park Suites” throughout the entire third floor. These apartment-like spaces are upwards of 950 square feet, flooded with sunlight, and have full kitchens with gorgeous views of the park. My favorite amenity during my last stay was the complimentary museum passes. While I did have to commit to a time in advance of my stay, I was thrilled I did. Following a fabulously dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner, I was able to sneak away to the Barnes with my best Philly collectista girlfriend.
210 West Rittenhouse Square
Of course I had to inquire with my younger brother as to what exactly a beer garden is. Apparently, it is a cool, temporary summer situation where one can indulge in a variety of locally brewed craft beers, a fun bar menu, and play old, dependable games like Jenga and Monopoly, all alfresco. Happy happy hour, Philly folk!
Independence Beer Garden: This one is year-round, though it is only open when the weather is cooperative.
100 Independence Mall West
Spruce Street Harbor Park: What makes this beer garden unique is that it apparently has a roller rink. In the winter, they have ice-skating.
301 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society: This organization sponsors pop-up beer gardens every summer. This season, there is one at Ninth and Wharton. It is across the street from Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s Steaks in South Philly. The second is located at 1438 South Street (where it was last summer). There is rumor of a third location at Three Logan Square but it hasn’t happened at the time of writing this feature.
100 North 20th Street #5
Morgan’s Pier: Nick Elmi, chef and owner of top Philly restaurant Laurel, is in charge of the kitchen at this one. Not to date myself, but the location is actually the old Rock Lobster. (G-d rest its soul. I was set up with Eric Lindros there, and actually said no thank you because I had a boyfriend. I mean, helloo….)
221 North Columbus Boulevard
THE BARNES MUSEUM
Highly publicized legal battles aside, the Barnes Museum remains one of my favorite destinations in Philadelphia. The collection of 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, and 59 Matisses, along with works by Manet, Degas, Seurat, Prendergast, Titian, and Picasso belongs exclusively to the estate of Dr. Albert C. Barnes. It recently relocated to its new home on the Parkway from its original Merion residence. While this huge move arguably contradicted the late Dr. Barnes’s will, his impressive collection is now more accessible to the public in a beautiful Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed, 93,000-square-foot, two-story building. Though it is in the heart of the Arts District, the gardens and galleries still provide a lovely sense of warmth and intimacy as one takes in the incredible Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modern art, as well as African and Dutch artifacts. I also had the best herbal chocolate tea at the café!
The Barnes Museum
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE
The Franklin Institute is a beyond-cool interactive science museum. Like, it’s even fabulous for those of us who mistakenly took advanced AP chemistry in high school and then barely pulled off a C after copying a future world-renowned physician’s homework every day. Not that I know that girl, just saying….
The biggest draw was always the human heart tour. It is a huge replica of a heart that one walks through while hearing a real heartbeat and seeing how each part of the heart functions. I recall being in elementary school and standing in a forever-long line to get in. Then, two steps inside that dark, hollow, echoing space, I discovered I was claustrophobic. I maniacally ran upstream against that same forever-long line, and didn’t complete the tour until I returned as a young adult. FYI, it no longer feels claustrophobic. On June 14, 2014, the Franklin Institute opened its new permanent Brain exhibit. It is a “neural network climbing structure,” which is two stories tall. The exhibit teaches kids and adults alike all about the brain using real brain imaging and the latest digital light, sound, and visual technology.
The Franklin Institute
222 North 20th Street
THE KIMMEL CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
This gorgeous Rafael Viñoly–designed modern building houses two main stages and many surrounding performance spaces. It is home to the Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO), the Philly Pops, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and the American Theater Arts for Youth. They even host free concerts in the lobby periodically. There is on-premises dining catered by highly regarded chef Jose Garces. Clearly there is something for everyone at this state-of-the-art venue.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 South Broad Street
Since 1938, this family-owned luxury department store has been a Philadelphia fashion staple. Originally a men’s store, the four-story institution now contains a women’s store as well as accessories, shoes, and sportswear. Though Boyds keeps up with the trends, they continue to maintain the warm, personalized service “those in the know” have become accustomed to. Boyds offers custom European alterations, personal shopping, personal stylists, language interpreters, made-to-measure suits, and complimentary parking. Everyone who is anyone has his or her “person” who takes care of him at Boyds. It is a welcome breath of fresh air in today’s fast-paced, often impersonal “Amazon” world!
1818 Chestnut Street
Ellen Shepp, Joan’s daughter, was my idol in the 1980s. She was always a step ahead of the rest of the fashionable Philly crowd. In fact, I always fondly recall how she had my back when choosing a 20th birthday gift for my extremely discerning college roommate. This roommate arrived freshman year with a collection of Chanel handbags. For better or worse, obtaining the perfect gift was a challenge! Ellen convinced me to purchase Miriam Haskell earrings, promising me the designer was going to become collectible. Need I say more? Joan Shepp continues to sell luxury and avant-garde designers for women and men including Vivienne Westwood, Saint Laurent, Rick Owens, and Comme Des Garçons.
1625 Chestnut Street
Knit Wit is the boutique where all my most gorgeous, stylish girlfriends shopped, and many obtained their first fashion industry jobs. The trend carries on as collectistas continue to frequent Knit Wit and its funkier sister store, Plage Tahiti, for the best designers including Phillip Lim, Haute Hippie, Alexander Wang, and Pedro Garcia. Forty years and going strong, Knit Wit owners Ann Gitter and Donnie Davidow keep up with the latest fashion trends while always offering the best of classic style.
1729 Chestnut Street
128 South 17th Street
This new casual eatery just opened last month in Kensington. For those of you who have been asleep, this neighborhood is one of the hottest rehabilitations (is that the politically correct term?) of my lifetime. They use locally grown ingredients (is there a farm in Kensington?) and it is BYO. Collectistas are raving.
1303 North 5th Street
Founded in 2008, this modern Israeli restaurant has had some twists and turns finding its true identity. However, it has clearly become a Philly mainstay. There is much buzz about young executive chef and co-owner, Michael Solomonov. The small-plate offerings at Zahav are lively and creative. However, this amazing restaurant appeals to conservative and adventurous diners alike. Similarly, while there are many acclaimed carnivorous treats on the menu, there are plenty for vegetarians too. The Israeli and Lebanese wine cellar should not be missed! Philly collectistas light up with excitement when they talk about Solomonov’s lively inventions. I must note, they have trouble discussing Zahav without also mentioning Solomonov’s Federal Donuts. Apparently, people go to a South Philly corner to wait in line for these yummies!
237 St. James Place
AMADA AND VOLVÉR
Chef Jose Garces opened Amada, his first restaurant, in 2005. Known for its Spanish tapas fare, it has become iconic. The restaurant has several dining spaces with sophisticated, rustic interiors. You can enjoy a meal in the main dining space, hang in the lounge, or book the intimate private dining area.
Everyone is also talking about Garces’s Volvér. Now you can have champagne wishes and caviar dreams at this chic champagne and caviar bar in Philadelphia. Though the menu is a little pricey, what else can you expect? At least they offer entry-level options for those hesitant to dive in headfirst. Volvér is a very chic space boasting colorful decor and local art. You should definitely grab a drink just to take in the experience.
217-219 Chestnut Street
300 South Broad Street
CAPOGIRO GELATO ARTISANS
I dream about ice cream unusually often. Truly, it is my summer vice and it just makes me instantly happy. Who needs Prozac when you can have locally and organically produced gelato? Capogiro Gelato Artisans gelato is particularly dreamy! Cofounders Stephanie and John Reitano opened their first artigianale location in December 2002. The Italian artigianale rules dictate that everything must be made in-house. Hence, Stephanie makes gelato the same way she cooks at home for her husband and three children. “If it’s made in Pennsylvania, we purchase it in Pennsylvania,” say the Reitano duo. No ingredient is outsourced. There are no shortcuts and the results are real, Italian gelato: traditional Veneto style with dairy, a bit of cream, sometimes egg yolks, and half the fat and calories of conventional ice cream. Capogiro only produces a maximum of 10 liter batches at a time. At Capogiro, collectistas always get the freshest ice cream possible. In fact, National Geographic named it the number one place in the world to eat ice cream!
Capogiro Midtown Village
119 South 13th Street
(Corner of 13th and Sansom)
Capogiro Rittenhouse Square
117 South 20th Street
(Corner of 20th and Sansom)
Capogiro University City
3925 Walnut Street
Capogiro Passyunk Scoop Shop
1625 East Passyunk Avenue