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Publication: Weekend GetAways
Philadelphia is a city of superlatives

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       WEEKEND GETAWAYS - Friday, October 5, 2007
    Make The Most Of Your Vacation - From Coast to Coast!

Greetings Getaway Lover,

"On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." W. C. 
Fields may have been joking when he wrote his epitaph, 
but if he were here today, he would eat his words. They 
no longer roll up the sidewalks at night in Philadelphia. 
A construction boom, a restaurant renaissance, and 
cultural revival have helped transform the city. For 
more than a decade, there has been an optimistic mood, 
aggressive civic leadership, and national recognition of 
what the locals have long known: Philadelphia can be a 
very pleasant place to live -- a city with an impressive 
past and a fascinating future. 

Philadelphia is a place of contrasts: Grace Kelly and 
Rocky Balboa; Le Bec-Fin -- one of the nation's finest 
French haute cuisine restaurants -- and the fast-food 
heaven of Jim's Steaks; Independence Hall and the Mario 
Lanza Museum; 18th-century national icons with 21st-
century-style skyscrapers soaring above them. The world-
renowned Philadelphia Orchestra performs in a stunning 
concert hall -- the focal point of efforts to transform 
Broad Street into a multicultural Avenue of the Arts. 
Along the same street, 25,000 Mummers dressed in outra-
geous sequins and feathers historically have plucked 
their banjos and strutted their stuff to the strains of 
"Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" on New Year's Day. City 
residents include descendants of the staid Quaker found-
ing fathers, the self-possessed socialites of the Main 
Line (remember Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in The 
Philadelphia Story?), and the unrestrained sports fans, 
who are as vocal as they are loyal. 

Happy Trails,

Jan

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--DESTINATION: Philadelphia

Historically speaking, Philadelphia is a city of super-
latives: the world's largest municipal park; the best 
collection of public art in the United States; the 
widest variety of urban architecture in America; and 
according to some experts, the greatest concentration 
of institutions of higher learning in the country. 

Philadelphia is known as a city of neighborhoods (109 
by one count). Shoppers haggle over the price of 
tomatoes in South Philly's Italian Market; families 
picnic in the parks of Germantown; street vendors hawk 
soft pretzels in Logan Circle; and all over town kids 
play street games such as stickball, stoopball, 
wireball, and chink. It's a city of neighborhood 
loyalty: ask a native where he's from and he'll tell 
you: Fairmount, Fishtown, or Frankford, rather than 
Philadelphia. The city's population is less transient 
than that of other large cities; people who are born 
here generally remain, and many who leave home to 
study or work eventually return. Although the popula-
tion is nearly 1.5 million, its residents are 
intricately connected; on any given day, a 
Philadelphian is likely to encounter someone with 
whom he grew up. The "it's-a-small-world" syndrome 
makes people feel like they belong. 

------------------------------------------------------------
MURPHY'S LAW STRIKES AGAIN!

Up a creek. In a fix. Backed into a corner. In a pickle. We've all
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--WHAT TO DO AND SEE:

Academy of Music 
Arts/Performance Venue, Avenue of the Arts 
 
The only surviving European-style opera house in America 
is the current home of the Opera Company of Philadelphia 
and the Pennsylvania Ballet; for the past century, it 
was home to the Philadelphia Orchestra. Designed by 
Napoleon Le Brun and Gustav Runge and completed in 1857, 
the building has a modest exterior; the builders ran out 
of money and couldn't put marble facing on the brick, as
they had intended. The brick hides a lavish, neobaroque 
interior modeled after Milan's La Scala opera house, with 
gilt, carvings, murals on the ceiling, and a huge 
Victorian crystal chandelier. www.academyofmusic.org. 

Address: Broad and Locust Sts., Philadelphia, PA, USA
Phone: 215/893-1999 box office
 

American Helicopter Museum & Education Center 
Museum/Gallery, West Chester 
 
Ever since Philadelphian Harold Pitcairn made the first 
rotorcraft flight in 1928, the Southeastern Pennsylvania 
area has been considered the birthplace of the helicopter 
industry. In fact, two of the three major U.S. helicopter 
manufacturers trace their roots to this region. This 
heritage is showcased here, and you can learn about and 
climb aboard nearly three dozen vintage and modern air-
craft that reflect the copter's historic roles in war 
and rescue missions, in agriculture, and in police 
surveillance. www.helicoptermuseum.org. COST: $6. OPEN: 
Wed.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5. 

Address: 1200 American Blvd., West Chester, PA, USA
Phone: 610/436-9600
 

Benjamin Franklin Bridge 
Bridge/Tunnel, Old City 
 
When the bridge opened in 1926, its 1,750-foot main 
span made it the longest suspension bridge in the 
world. Paul Cret, architect of the Rodin Museum, was 
the designer. The bridge has been having some rust 
problems of late, but there's a massive project 
underway through 2006 to restore its glorious blue 
paint job. The bridge is most impressive at night, 
when it's lighted. Start the 1¾-mi walk (one-way) 
from either the Philadelphia side, two blocks north 
of the U.S. Mint, or the Camden, New Jersey, side. 
www.drpa.org. COST: Free. OPEN: Daily 6 AM-around 
6 PM weather permitting. 

Address: 5th and Vine Sts., Philadelphia, PA, USA
Phone: 215/218-3750
  
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Other Places of Interest:

Betsy Ross House 
Museum/Gallery, Old City 
 
It's easy to find this little brick house with the gabled 
roof: just look for the 13-star flag displayed from its 
2nd-floor window. Whether Betsy Ross, also known as 
Elizabeth Griscom Ross Ashbourn Claypoole (1752-1836) -- 
who worked in her family's flag-making and upholstery 
business -- actually lived here and whether she really 
made the first Stars and Stripes is debatable. Nonethe-
less, the house, built about 1760, is a splendid example 
of a Colonial Philadelphia home and is fun to visit. 
Owned and maintained by the city, the eight-room house 
overflows with artifacts such as a family Bible and Betsy 
Ross's chest of drawers and reading glasses. The small 
rooms hold period pieces that reflect the life of this 
hardworking Quaker (who died at the age of 84, outliving 
three husbands). You may have to wait in line here, as 
this is one of the city's most popular attractions. The 
house, with its winding narrow stairs, is not accessible 
to people with disabilities. Alongside the house is brick-
paved Atwater Kent Park, with a fountain, benches, and 
the graves of Betsy Ross and her third husband, John 
Claypoole. www.betsyrosshouse.org. COST: $3. OPEN: Apr.-
Sept., daily 10-5; Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Sun 10-5. 

Address: 239 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA, USA
Phone: 215/686-1252
 

Bryn Athyn Cathedral 
Religious Site, Bryn Athyn 
 
At one of the most beautiful spots in the Philadelphia 
area, atop a hill overlooking the Pennypack Valley, 
stands a spectacular cathedral built in 12th-century 
Romanesque and 14th-century Gothic styles. The cathedral 
is the Episcopal seat of the Church of the New Jerusalem, 
a sect based on the writings of the Swedish scientist 
and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). The main 
patrons of the church are descendants of John Pitcairn, 
an industrialist who made his fortune in paint and plate 
glass. Construction of the cathedral began in 1914 and 
went on for decades. It was built according to the 
medieval guild system: all materials -- wood, metal, 
glass, stone -- were brought to craftspeople at the site, 
and everything was fashioned by hand. The stained glass 
includes two colors, striated ruby and cobalt blue, found 
nowhere else in the Americas. From Center City, go north
on Broad Street to Route 611, right on County Line Road, 
and south on Route 232 to the second traffic light; the 
cathedral will be on your right. 15 mi north of Center 
City. www.brynathyncathedral.org. COST: Free. OPEN: 
Tues.-Sun. 9:30-4; guides offer 30-min tours between 1 
and 4 (sometimes preempted by special events); visitors 
welcome at services Sun. 9:30 (families with children) 
and 11 (adults). 

Address: Rte. 232, Huntingdon Pike at Cathedral Rd., 
Bryn Athyn, PA, USA
Phone: 215/947-0266
 
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--WHERE TO SLEEP:

Alexander Inn 
$90 to $190, Center City 
 
The nicely refurbished rooms at this small hotel have 
an art deco feel. The property is close to the 
Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Avenue of the Arts, 
and most downtown attractions. It has a largely gay 
clientele, and is near some of the city's gay bars. 
www.alexanderinn.com. 48 rooms. In-room: ethernet, 
dial-up. In-hotel: gym, concierge, parking (fee), no-
smoking rooms, Internet. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Continental 
breakfast. 

Address: 12th and Spruce Sts., Philadelphia, PA 19107, 
USA Phone: 215/923-3535 or 877/253-8466
Fax: 215/923-1004
 

Brandywine River Hotel 
$90 to $190, Chadds Ford 
 
Near the Brandywine River Museum and the Chadds Ford 
Inn, this two-story hotel has tasteful Queen Anne-style 
furnishings, classic English chintz, and floral fabrics 
that create a homey bed-and-breakfast feeling. Suites 
have fireplaces and whirlpool baths. Afternoon tea with 
homemade cookies and a plentiful Continental breakfast 
with fresh fruit and homemade muffins are included; 
wine and beer are available in the lobby's cash bar. 
Request a room that overlooks the surrounding pasture. 
www.brandywineriverhotel.com. 29 rooms, 10 suites. In-
room: refrigerator (some). In-hotel: bar, gym, some pets 
allowed. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Continental breakfast. 

Address: U.S. 1 and Rte. 100, Chadds Ford, PA 19317, USA
Phone: 610/388-1200
Fax: 610/388-1200
 

Chamounix Mansion 
Under $90, W. Fairmount Park 
 
This is the cheapest place to stay in Philadelphia -- 
$15 a night if you're an American Youth Hostel member, 
$18 if you're not. The restored 1802 Federal-style 
country estate is loaded with character. Flags line the 
entrance hall; rooms are styled after an 1850 country 
villa and walls are decorated with old maps, sketches, 
and paintings. There's a self-service kitchen. Chamounix 
Mansion is a 15-minute walk from a bus stop; call for 
directions. www.philahostel.org. 10 rooms for 80 people, 
with shared baths. In-room: no phone, no TV. In-hotel: 
bar, bicycles, laundry facilities, Internet. MC, V. 
Closed Dec. 15-Jan. 15. 

Address: 3250 Chamounix Dr., Philadelphia, PA 19131, USA
Phone: 215/878-3676 or 800/379-0017
Fax: 215/871-4313
 
--WHERE TO DINE:

Aden 
Mediterranean, $8 to $20, Northern Liberties 
 
This charming, funky restaurant turns out astonishing 
food from an open kitchen. The owners are a self-taught 
chef, Hadaar Nisimi, and his sister, Nurit, who serves 
as the restaurant's hostess. A grilled vegetable salad 
is a standout, and osso buco with barley risotto is a 
cornerstone of the menu. There's usually a selection of
nicely prepared fish dishes. A pleasant garden is open 
in good weather. AE, D, MC, V. BYOB. No lunch weekends. 

Address: 614 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA, USA
Phone: 215/627-9844

 
Alma de Cuba 
Latin American, $14 to Over $26, Center City 
 
A bit of scrolled ironwork greets diners, who have to 
traipse up one or two flights of stairs to get to the 
action. A bar that pulsates with Cuban music lets 
everyone know this is a happening place. But the decor 
is evocative of -- what? Bare brick walls and a lot of 
black paint don't say much about Cuba. The food contains 
a few genuine dishes, such as lechon asado (crispy 
roasted baby pig) and shrimp ceviche, all prepared by 
chef Douglas Rodriguez. Although oysters are not 
generally considered Cuban, they are a knockout here. 
Bring a flashlight if you want a shot at reading the 
menu. AE, DC, MC, V. No lunch weekends. 

Address: 1623 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA, USA
Phone: 215/988-1799
 

Astral Plane 
Contemporary, $8 to Over $26, Center City 
 
This charming townhouse is filled with mementos from 
more romantic eras. It was a hangout for stage and 
screen folk passing through town, and their favorite 
dishes still pepper the menu. Favorites include 
macadamia-encrusted sea bass and chicken stuffed with
prosciutto and fresh mozzarella. The host's welcome is 
extraordinary and the locals who have adopted the 
restaurant for many years set a casual, funky tone. MC, 
V. No dinner Sun. 

Address: 1708 Lombard St., Philadelphia, PA, USA
Phone: 215/546-6230


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