What to Do and Eat in Philadelphia + Top 5 Travel Tips

Last weekend, Ben and I headed east to the Philadelphia to attend the wedding of two of our dearest friends, Lindsey and Nick. In between the festivities (eating, dancing, drinking, and more eating), we took time to explore the city (ahem, eat and drink more). I didn’t know much about Philly prior to our visit and was struck by the history, art, and foodie culture that permeates the city of Brotherly Love.

Philly Love

My trip Philadelphia marked the second point in what will be a seven-weekend travel spree this fall. I began last weekend in Portland, and between more weddings, a trip to meet my brand new niece in Kansas City (my sister had her baby on Friday: beautiful Genevieve Rose), and a Notre Dame football game, I will be on the move right through mid-October. I absolutely adore traveling (hence the entire travel section of this blog), but when many trips happen in rapid succession like this, it wears upon even some as wanderlust-riddled as myself.

What to See, Eat, and do in Philadelphia. A perfect Philadelphia restaurant and travel guide!

This isn’t my first tango with a travel-heavy schedule, and over years of racking up the frequent flyer miles, I’ve learned a few critical tips to keep myself healthy and sane. Whether you are a total travel junkie or just want a few suggestions for a more pleasant travel experience, try these Top 5 Travel Tips.

Top 5 Travel Tips

1) It’s in the bag.

Finding the right travel bag to carry my essentials—laptop, charger, current read, and everything from item #3 below—onto the plane has been a multi-year process. I know that might sound ridiculous, but after hauling numerous bags across moving walkways, shoving them into overhead bins, and furtively digging through them in search of my boarding pass while the rest of the plane stares with impatient distain, I’ve come to value the importance of finding just the right bag to stay organized and protect my belongings. I love my three-compartment shoulder bag from Baggalini, which sadly as far as I can tell has been discontinued, though this one looks like a decent substitute.

Best Travel Bag

I place my laptop in the center, my chargers and snacks on one side, then actually put my smaller purse inside of the third compartment, so that I can easily grab it and hit the city when I arrive.

2) Spend your time wisely.

There’s a reason I never travel without my Kindle, tiny but mighty emergency portable cell phone charger (this thing is amazing!), and fully juiced laptop. As long as you aren’t the one behind the wheel, travel time is prime time for both work and leisure. At 39,000 feet, you are away from your desk, your cell phone, and other pesky interruptions. For me, aboard a plane is the time when I conduct some of my most productive work, and for those who prefer not to (or can’t) work when they travel, it’s an excellent time to catch up on your latest novel or favorite podcasts. Whatever you love to do, be sure you bring the right equipment to make the most of your time, be it a book or your earbuds.

3) Snack smart.

Ben jokes that I never travel without a three-course meal, and in some respects he is right. I’m a grouch when I’m hungry, and I loathe being stuck in an airport or unknown city without easy access to affordable, healthy snacks. At the airport, I always make sure I have more snacks than I need so that I can stay full and happy in the event of any travel delays, and when I’m out exploring at my destination, I keep a few extra snacks in my purse too.

If time allows, I’ll often make a batch of healthy snacks like these oatmeal breakfast bars to bring with me, but more often than not, 10 minutes after I should have left for the airport, I’m still rushing around like a mad woman looking for her left sock. For this reason, I also rely on my store-bought snack favorites, which as of late include these addictive Dark Chocolate Pistachio Popcorn Bites from Fisher Nut Exactly. I’m smitten with these poppable, salty-sweet treats. They’re made without artificial ingredients, sturdy enough to avoid being smushed in my bag (a serious concern with travel eats), and also satisfy my chocolate fix, which for whatever inexplicable reason goes into overdrive when I travel.

Pistachio Popcorn Snack Bites

These munchies are newly available at Costco, and you can find additional flavors at other retailers (for more details see where to buy, and don’t miss the *giveaway* at the bottom of this post). Since the value-size bag itself is a little large for traveling, I put the bites into smaller snack baggies to carry with me in Philly.

Pistachio Popcorn Bites

4) Sleep well.

When your laptop battery dies (or your internal battery is running low on energy), take advantage of travel time to squeeze in a few extra zzzzzzs.

Travel Sleeping Mask

Laughing at the idea of falling asleep on a plane or car ride? You’d be amazed by how much a sleep mask (yes, I wear mine on public airplanes), set of earplugs, and travel-friendly inflatable neck pillow can do.

5) Make a “Go” bag.

At a certain point in a slew of travel, packing and unpacking your toiletries becomes acutely annoying. Keep an extra set of travel-sized essentials in a bag that you always have packed and ready. Mine includes everything from toothpaste, to an extra razor, to deodorant, to a spare hairbrush.

OK, now that we’ve covered the basics of travel survival, all of which I employed on our recent trip, let’s talk Philly! Much of the weekend was filled with wedding festivities, but we did manage to squeeze in a few of the city highlights.

 

Philadelphia Activities

Philly Fountain

My dear friend Lisa and I decided to fly in early to take advantage of the city before the wedding began, then Ben joined us a day later. Our favorite stops were:

Independence Hall

Independence Hall Building

A stop through Independence Hall at the Constitution Center is a must when in Philadelphia. Tours are free and engaging, and it is truly something special to stand in the very room where some of the greatest minds in our country’s history debated and signed the Constitution, a document that has shaped our nation.

Independence Hall. Constitution signing room

For faster entry, reserve your ticket in advance. It’s only $1.50/ticket and will guarantee your spot.

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Across from Independence Hall, you’ll find the Liberty Bell, which is also free to view. Prior to our visit, I knew little about it beyond the crack. This free visit gave me a new level of respect for the bell’s significance to many groups who have struggled for their rights, from slaves seeking freedom to women fighting for suffrage.

Magic Gardens

Magic Gardens Philadelphia

Truly one of the most unique places I’ve experienced. Hidden within the city, this maze of mosaic art is a beautiful, intriguing place to explore and reflect. The entire space is the work of a single artist, Isaiah Zagar, a man whose pieces can be found all over the city and include a mosaic fireplace installed in the bride’s backyard!

Barnes Collection

Barnes Collection Philadelphia

If you love Impressionism, decorative arts, or prefer museums that you can satisfactorily tour in two hours instead of two months, the Barnes Collection is an ideal stop. This impressive array of works that range from Renoir, to Picasso, to Pennsylvania Dutch furniture was amassed by a single man, Albert C. Barnes. The works are displayed as he had them originally arranged in his home, so you can truly gain a sense of Barnes’ aesthetic and deep appreciation for art in many forms.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Although we didn’t tour the Philadelphia Museum of Art (lack of time/museum stamina) a climb to the top of the steps, a la Rocky, is a must in Philly, if for no other reason that to take in the skyline view.

Philadelphia Art Museum View

Ben Franklin Museum

A fast, simple stop where you can learn more about one of the greatest minds in history. If you have 45 extra minutes, a fascination with Franklin, or just need to escape into some AC, the $5 admission to the Ben Franklin Museum is worth the stop.

 

Philadelphia Eats

Since our wedding hosts graciously covered almost all of our dinners, we didn’t have *quite* as many food stops as I might in a typical travel post. That said, we certainly did not leave hungry.

Reading Terminal Market + Termini Bros

Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia

You can find just about anything you’d want to eat, along with about 200 items you didn’t even know you were craving at Reading Terminal Market, an enormous collection of indoor foodstalls. From cheesesteaks, to fried chicken, to fresh juices, to mac ‘n’ cheese balls, to a killer burrito bowl, Reading Terminal has it all. Let your stomach be your guide.

Termini Bros Cannoli in Philadelphia

I do, however, insist that you stop at Termini Bros for a homemade cannoli, which a friendly staff member will fill for you right on the spot. Choose the original chocolate chip ricotta filling—this is very important.

The staff will also offer you a to-go box. Don’t even pretend. The proper thing to do is to step out of the way of the eager line, open wide, and enjoy what will surely be one of the greatest dessert experiences of your life. I don’t typically even like cannoli, and I inhaled mine on the spot. At this point, you can get back into the line to order another to go (or not to go).

Nomad Roman Pizza

Nomad Roman Pizza Philadelphia

Ben and I stopped at Nomad Roman Pizza at the recommendation of a friend before our red-eye home, and oh my. Our wood-oven pies were competition for the best pizza I’ve eaten outside of Italy itself. We plowed through two full-sized pizzas, and honestly they were so good, we would have tried for a third if we didn’t have to get ourselves to the airport in a semi-coherent state.

Capogiro Gelato

After pizza, we rolled down the street to Capogiro for scratch-made gelato. HEAVEN. My cup was a combo of the deepest, darkest chocolate gelato I’ve ever tasted (their description of it as “rich, black, and serious” did not lie), with a scoop of hazelnut snuggled in beside it.

Le Bok Fin

Le Bok Fin Philadelphia

Enjoy your brew with a view at Le Bok Fin, a pop-up restaurant and bar on top of a reclaimed school building. It’s delightfully urban and hipster, and the shot of downtown Philly is worth signing the waiver (seriously) and riding the service elevator to the eighth floor.

Paesano’s Philly Style

Paesano's Deli Philadelphia

I first heard about this cash-only, no-frills Italian deli located in the heart of the south Philly 9th Street Italian Market via Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, and it came highly recommended by just about everyone I consulted for food recommendations in Philadelphia. The sandwiches are satisfying, enormous, stuffed with authentic Italian goodness, and in my mind, a far wiser pick over a cheesesteak (though if you must have a cheesesteak, head down the street to Pat’s).

And speaking of cheesesteaks….

I didn’t eat one! I know, I know, maybe it’s a crime to leave Philadelphia without having eaten a cheesesteak, but the baguette stuffed with sundried tomato chicken, salami, creamy herbed cheddar, and aged provolone from Paesano’s I ate instead was much more appealing to me than diced steak whizzed with canned cheese. Perhaps I missed out (and I am still somewhat cheesesteak curious), but I’m taking it as a good reason to return to Philadelphia.

GIVEAWAY TIME!

To help you stock up for your next travel adventure, I’m teaming up with Fisher Nuts to offer one lucky reader:

  • 1, 15-ounce bag of Pistachio Popcorn Dipped in Dark Chocolate
  • $50 Costco Gift Card (Can be used online or in store without membership)

To enter the giveaway, use the widget below. Please be patient as it may take a few moments to load.

Don’t miss the rest of my “Fives” post collection, and other travel recaps too!

I’m sharing this post in partnership with Fisher Nuts. I was also provided with sample product and a Costco gift card. Fisher Nut Exactly will be providing the winner with the giveaway prize. As always, all opinions are my own.

About Erin Clarke

I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, lover of bourbon, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN...

84 comments

  1. Janice Pittenger Reply

    Fisher nuts are the best.

  2. I suddenly have the urge to hop on a plane! What a great recap post – you guys fit so much into such a short time! The snacks from Fisher look so good – anything that has the word “popcorn” in it has my attention!

    PS: Love that your sleep mask made an appearance – although I think you should have modeled it! ;) 

  3. On our last road trip, I made sure to have a huge bag of trail mix for my husband and I to munch on.  Healthy, satisfying and no need to refrigerate!

  4. Love fisher nuts..hope to make it back east someday..

  5. Looks like a great trip!  Also would love the prize as a Costco is opening in my neighborhood soon!

  6. I love both trail mix and a sturdy granola bar, basically anything that won’t get smoothed if it falls to the bottom of the bag!

  7. I just got back from a vacation to Colorado, and having Luna bars in my bag saved me. I can’t go more than a few hours without eating/being crabby, so I too carry a ton of food with me while on the road!

  8. i love baked apple crisps or candied nuts.  the less messy, the better!

  9. I lived in Center City for five years before I had to move to the Midwest, I got married at City Hall and ate at Paesano’s as often as possible. That city is FULL of good food, thanks for the trip down memory lane. xx

  10. I always bring fruit and nuts/seeds with me when I travel!

  11. I loved nuts and portable fruits, like apples and bananas, as healthy travel snacks!

  12. I always pack some crackers and trail mix! You never know when hunger will strike :)

  13. My favorite travel snack is trail mix! It doesn’t melt in high temps and doesn’t need refrigeration! Looks like you had an awesome trip!

  14. I always make sure to bring some type of granola bar with me while traveling!

  15. Love this post! Thanks for sharing all your travel tips. I’m definitely the same way when I travel, I have to pack tons of snacks! You never know if there will be delays or what you can get at the airport! 

  16. I really love making a big bag of granola for when I’m on the go!

  17. That first pic of you guys is too cute!  And congratulations on becoming an auntie!!!  It’s a fun role!  We’ll be expecting lots of pics, tho! :)  Will look for those Fisher nuts next Costco run, thx for the heads up!

  18. I now want to go to Philadelphia, I was there many years ago but would appreciate it more now.  I make up a snack mix for travel which includes nuts and dried fruit.

  19. Hummus and pita chips!

  20. I usually pack some sort of fresh fruit, popcorn, nuts/nut butter, a larabar, some individual packets of oatmeal and tea (starbucks will give you a cup of hot water), and a reusable water bottle.  Oh and the wasabi peas at Trader Joe’s are delicious :)

  21. You were in my city!! You made some top notch foodie choices, and  totally agree, Philly is so much more than cheesesteaks!! The food scene is off the chain and you def won’t go home hungry. I could live off of Nomad and Capogiro alone. 

    That popcorn sounds amazing can’t wait to try!

  22. Granola is my favorite travel snack.

  23. That snack sounds so tasty. My favorite travel snacks are Luna Bars and cereal.

  24. I love popcorn or anything chocolate-y!

  25. I usually take a home made trail mix; but those popcorn bites from Fisher look so good, bet they would work mixed into trail mix too!

  26. We love mixed nuts and cheese cubes!

  27. Catherine Jackson Reply

    I love anything with nuts really. My favorite road trip snacks are usually some sort of “energy” bite with dried fruit, nuts, oats, ect.!

  28. I like popcorn on the go or a travel mix

  29. Would love to try the nuts. Two of my favorite things, dark chocolate and nuts.

  30. I love dried fruit when I travel.

  31. Nuts or pretzels or apple slices!

  32. Thanks for sharing, love all of your travel tips!  Any wedding pictures to share?

  33. I like a good trail mix with different dried fruits and lots of varieties of nuts.

  34. My favorite travel snack is trail mix.

  35. Awesome post! Love seeing food bloggers share their lifestyles. Love the tip on snacking smart. It’s easy to grab unhealthy snacks during trips.

  36. Oddly, my fav travel snack depends on the method of travel (and if I’m personally doing the driving). Love trail mix for biking/hiking. Enjoy a small-ish muffin for snacks while I’m driving. If I’m a passenger, I’d prefer fruit (can’t peel bananas or oranges if I’m driving). On the train, though, I like pretzels.

  37. I have been following your blog for awhile and I was so happy to see you were in Philadelphia!  I am from the ‘burbs of Philly but whenever I am in the city I must stop at Reading Terminal!  My favorite stop is Dinic’s but there is just so much to choose from!  Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  38. Great recap! We’ve never been, but continue to hear/read/see great things about Philadelphia and need to add it to our “must visit” list. For us, cold-brew iced coffee, dried fruit and oven-toasted nuts + seeds are a must for traveling!

  39. My favorite travel snack is almonds and dried cherries. Yum!

  40. My favorite travel snack is chocolate covered nuts and pumpkin seeds.

  41. I love apples and PB as travel snack! 

  42. I bring peeled mandarins- easy and tasty!

  43. Stephanie Coldwell Reply

    My favorite travel snack is trail mix. If I’m driving I have to have sunflower seeds to keep me awake

  44. My favorite snack is almonds

  45. Homemade Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are my favorite travel snack. They keep well, don’t need refrigeration, and eating them always makes me happy!

  46. Our family loves to snack on nut mixes and granola bars.

  47. Thank you for sharing your travel tips!  I carry nuts and unsweetened shredded wheat cereal. I will bring a banana with me or hunt the terminal for one of perfect ripeness. 

  48. I am so glad I stumbled upon your page a few weeks ago. Your recipes are easy to follow, are delicious, and healthy! My favorite snacks are cashews and almonds, Lara bars, and Shakeology. 

  49. I love homemade granola bars, hard boiled eggs, or fresh fruit as travel snacks!

  50. Patricia Shepard Reply

    I’m all about Larabars, but when I fly, it’s always Peanut M&Ms!

  51. Favorite travel snack ~ beef jerky & cocoa almonds

  52. Usually a fruit bar or some nuts

  53. My favorite travel snack is Trader Joe’s Buffalo Jerky!  Delicious, nutritious and easy!

  54. I love granola bars for a quick, portable snack.

  55. Roasted almonds or protein bars.   And of course water!

  56. Favorite travel snacks are pretzels and cheese sticks

  57. Favorite snack is walnuts and pecans with a fresh apple.

  58. Love this post! Now I want to go to PA

  59. First of all, as a PA native, this post makes me want to revisit Philly! I also left Philly without an official cheesesteak, but enjoyed many of the other options you mentioned. 

    As for snacks go, lately, I cannot get enough of any-flavored cashews (salted, black-peppered, honey-roasted, dark chocolate-covered…the list goes on and on…). Thanks for sharing this post!

  60. I loved the recap of the Philly trip.  Even though I live so close, it is interesting seeing the city through the eyes of someone not as familiar with it….makes me appreciate the things I take for granted!

    Typical snack-a-longs: granola and nut bars since they are filling and easy to shove in a tote or handbag or a piece of string cheese and some crackers to ward off the afternoon munchies.  

  61. i like to take granola bars

  62. my favorite is grapes.

  63. I love Fisher Mixed Nuts in Party Mix – a tradition started by my Norwegian grandmother. My sister is now the queen of Party Mix! Grandma introduced us to topping vanilla ice cream with party mix (the kind with no garlic or seasoned salt)! Thanks for your fun post, Erin! 

  64. I love mixed nuts and granola. Thanks for the giveaway. 

  65. My favorite travel snacks are from Nature Box. The asiago cheddar snacks and the strawberry lemonade fruit stars are awesome.

  66. I absolutely love to take PopCorners on trips with me! Perfect for munching in the car or on the plane – just remember to bring water!!

  67. My favorites are Zone Perfect Bars or homemade protein bars, popcorn and granola or crackers.

  68. We like nuts and chocolate (what a coincidence!)

  69. I love nuts.  And I am nuts.  Perfect travel combo!  Love your ideas and implementations, Erin!

  70. I love Walnuts.

  71. i like grapes and chips.

  72. I have that same Baggalini. It’s perfect for a plane. The only downside is it’s so old, the cell phone case doesn’t fit any cell phone still in existence. Also love Philly. I only live an hour away. You’d think I’d find time to go more often.

  73. My favorite travel snack is chips.

  74. The Reading market is my favorite!
    We ate sushi at Moriomoto’s when we were out there and it was AMAZING!

  75. I went to Pats’s today. You’re not missing anything. :)

  76. I love seeing how others view Philly! Looks like you touched on some of the best places to go!

    I lived in Philly for several years and am now happily in the ‘burbs. Don’t worry, as others have said, not grabbing a Pat’s or Gino’s steak doesn’t really deter from the authenticity of Philly. BUT, if you ever come back and want a great cheesesteak, try Tony Luke’s (and no, it definitely does not need “wiz”. They have a great cheesesteak with broccoli raab and provolone which is awesome!). I can second Dinic’s as well. If you’re itching for an authentic sit-down Italian meal, make sure you have cash on you for Villa Di Roma, and don’t forget to order the house wine. Otherwise, Philly has a terrific food (and bar, and coffee…) scene with everything from duck fat fries (at Village Whiskey) to corned beef sandwiches piled high (Famous 4th Street Delicatessen) to the best Old Fashioned I’ve had in my life (Vedge), Philly has something for “all you’s guys”. 

  77. I’ve never been to Philadelphia, but I hope that soon I’ll be going to New York.
    I know it can be annoying, but I’d like to ask you if you could look at my travel campaign on FundMyTravel. Few months ago, I was on exchange in France. Since I came back, I’ve been trying to find my place in this world, but there is nowhere I could go. I think I’m a wanderer. I feel like my heart knows where it should be and I’m trying to fulfill its biggest dream – that’s why I created https://www.fundmytravel.com/campaign/iWjkZ7aSy2. If you could check it out, I’d be really, really grateful. Thank you so much.

  78. I live in Philly but probably only eat about 1 cheesesteak a year.  You didn’t miss much except feeling bloated!

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