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American Holidays: The Streets of Philadelphia

The Streets of Philadelphia

Philadelphia may not be on the top of your travel bucket list. Being surrounded by more popular east coast destinations such as New York and Boston you can see why Irish tourists may be inclined to overlook the City of Brotherly Love. However, following a 4-night city break recently with my good friend and travel buddy Christine, I am here to change your mind!

We departed Dublin on a cool March morning, flying American Airlines direct to Philadelphia International Airport. Do leave plenty of time at the airport to factor in any possible delays with US preclearance and customs, but happily Christine and myself flew through the whole process leaving us plenty of time for the obligatory airport drink in the lounge by our gate.

American Airlines operate a daily service between Dublin and Philadelphia aboard their Dreamliner & B777 aircraft. We flew economy and were surprised at the comfort of the seats with plenty of legroom. The staff, both at check in and on board, were delightfully friendly, ensuring we wanted for nothing during the 7-hour flight. We were treated to a complimentary meal service including tasty snacks, dinner and drinks. The on-board entertainment is extensive featuring movies and shows yet to be released in Ireland and plenty of old favourites. The time literally flew and we arrived in Philadelphia International rested, relaxed and ready to explore an exciting new city.

The train from Philadelphia Airport directly into the city centre is cheap and easy alternative to getting a taxi (approx. $40). We recommend staying in the City Centre district, home to the city’s most historic neighbourhoods including Old City and Society Hill and many of the main hotels. We stayed in Le Méridien, right opposite the famous Love Park and the stunning Philadelphia City Hall. Our large, modern room impressed with glorious views of the city, extremely comfortable beds and a spacious bathroom with plenty of room for two ladies to apply their makeup at the same time…very important!

There is certainly no shortage of things to do and see in Philly and enough to keep you entertained for a much longer stay. I always enjoy exploring a city by foot and we were delighted to discover that most of the main attractions were within easy walking distance from our hotel. We, being the film nerds we are, made a beeline for The Philadelphia Museum of Art where you will find the famous Rocky steps. Here, many people (including us) could be seen recreating the famous scene, running to the top and jumping up and down, punching the air in true Rocky Balboa style. But don’t forget about the museum itself which is extremely interesting and well worth a visit!

From just outside the museum, you can board the Philadelphia Sightseeing hop-on hop-off tour bus. I would recommend purchasing Go City Passes which are great value if you plan on visiting some of the 30 plus attractions on offer. Bruce, our guide, was overflowing with fascinating historical anecdotes and fun facts. This is a great way to get an overall feel for the city in a short amount of time and finishes just beside The Liberty Bell, the iconic symbol of American independence and a must see for any visitor to Philly.

Although silent now, the Liberty Bell’s message inscribed on its cracked copper face still resonates, “Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof”. The bell was originally housed in the nearby Independence Hall (previously named Pennsylvania State House) where, in 1776, 56 delegates convened and pledged their “lives, their fortune and their sacred honour” in the pursuit of independence. It was here the declaration was signed finalising the colonies break with England. The Liberty Bell is free to visit but try to arrive early in the morning, if possible, to avoid long queues.

A short stroll from Independence Hall will bring you to Market Street, historic in its own right for housing the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. We, however, were here for the Philly Cheesesteaks! There is a plethora of delis serving the legendary sandwich. Nothing fancy here, just order at the counter and wait a few minutes for your tasty hoagie stuffed with thinly sliced beef, melted provolone cheese and fried onions…the perfect lunch for hungry sightseers! The food scene in Philly is deliciously diverse with influences from a melting pot of cultures including Italian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Chinese and Korean cuisines to name but a few!

There is nowhere this diversity is more evident than Reading Terminal Market, an expansive indoor warehouse of eateries catering to your every culinary desire. Whether you fancy some freshly shucked oysters, towering pork sandwiches, homemade chocolates of every description or, like us, a proper American breakfast, Reading Terminal Market has it all and more! There is also no shortage of traditional restaurants to choose from either. Do remember all food bills include tax and you are expected to leave at least a 15-20% tip for satisfactory service.

When it came to an after-dinner drink, we were spoilt for choice but decided to check out some of the cities ‘dive bars’ such as Oscar’s Tavern and Dirty Franks. These are casual and vibrant establishments where you can enjoy music and conversation as well as reasonably priced beers and spirits. We particularly enjoyed our time in Dirty Franks and took full advantage of their jukebox, treating the clientele to some Irish favourites!

Philadelphia is only a couple hours drive from New York making it easy to add on a night or day trip. A quick note on travelling to New York from Philly; most tourists would take the Amtrak fast train which takes about an hour and a half and costs $100 -$120 return. However, after receiving a tip from a kindly bartender, we reserved tickets on the Peter Pan coach which departed from the Greyhound depot minutes away from our hotel. The bus takes a little under 2 hours and cost only $45 return!

After a pleasant journey through New Jersey, we arrived at the New York Port Authority and hailed a cab which took us the 10 minute drive to Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel on Lexington Avenue.

Fitzpatrick’s is an Irish family run hotel group who also own the Fitzpatrick Grand Central and the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel on Killiney Hill! Suffice to say we felt right at home on entering the lobby and perusing the photos of prior guests including Bono, Leo Varadkar and Mary Robinson! Our jaws dropped on entering our palatial suite which featured a separate living area with comfy couches and a giant TV, a bedroom with two double beds and another TV, a kitchenette with mini bar and a luxurious bathroom!

After a quick glass of bubbles at the opulent hotel bar we headed out to take full advantage of our short stay in The Big Apple. Following a short ramble through nearby Central Park we arrived at the Guggenheim Museum. The incredible white cylindrical building designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright is wider at the top then the base, creating a strange but beautiful silhouette against the surrounding skyscrapers. We were here to take in the Wassily Kandinsky exhibition, the Bauhaus artist being a particular favourite. As you ascend the spiral ramp towards the ornate skylight above, Kandinsky's stylistic evolution unfolds in reverse chronological order and includes many of his best-known masterpieces. The exhibition runs until the 5th of September 2022 and we would strongly recommend a visit for any art lover.

The choices in NYC for dining are endless but we opted for a night out in the buzzing East Village for some tasty Japanese food and margaritas in the nearby Beauty Bar where you can still sit under the same chrome-domed hair dryers where the ladies of New York were groomed for decades. The breakfast in Fitzpatrick’s Hotel will certainly cure all the next morning with lots of choice including their Full Irish, which had us feeling restored and ready for some well-deserved retail therapy around Union Square and 5th Avenue.

We got back to Philly just in time to check out the Mütter Museum, part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and a storehouse for the anatomically peculiar. The museum gives one an eerie insight into the studies of a physician with exhibits like slides of Einstein’s brain, Marie Curie’s electrometer and collections of ancient medical devices and biological specimens. We would definitely recommend it for non-squeamish fans of science and medicine. Most attractions and museums close on Tuesdays and some only open on the weekends so do check opening times before you go!

Reluctantly, we packed up our bags and headed back to the airport, wishing we were staying longer. While at check-in, we were thrilled when American Airlines staff informed us, as the flight back was not full, they had upgraded our seats giving us even more legroom to stretch out, relax and reflect on an incredible few days stateside. We had the same lovely air steward who had served us on our way over and had a good giggle with her as she remembered our faces and asked us how our trip to went.

While we managed to cram in so much in the short time we were there, I feel like we only scratched the surface of all that Philly has to offer. Attractions like Adventure Aquarium, Eastern State Penitentiary and Longwood Gardens, to name but a few, will have to wait until our next trip. And with direct and comfortable flights with American Airlines, the ease of getting around the city and the endless variety of things to see, do and eat, this certainly won’t be our last visit to the streets of Philadelphia.


Philly Fact File

Cool places to eat: Campos for Philly Cheesesteaks El Vez for buzzing Mexican dining and margaritas Reading Terminal Market for everything! A must see!

Cool places to drink: Dirty Franks for ‘dive bar’ casual vibes 1 Tippling Place, a true hidden gem for delicious cocktails

Cool places to sleep: Philly – Le Méridien, Arch Street NYC – Fitzpatrick Manhattan, Lexington Ave


Covid Regulations

• At the time of travelling, we needed proof of vaccination and a negative professional antigen no more than one day prior to arrival to enter the US.

• Masks are now optional in most public settings. You may be asked to wear a mask while visiting some indoor attractions/museums.


American Airlines Dreamliner service daily, year-round Dublin to Philadelphia

• Experience American Airlines and the most modern aircraft from Dublin the to USA!

• Fly direct from Dublin to Philadelphia (PHL), Charlotte (CLT), Dallas (DFW)or Chicago (ORD) and connect to over 200 destinations in USA, Canada & Mexico

• Check in with American airline's own staff in Dublin

• Families will be accommodated seated together when possible

• Pre-clear Customs, Immigration in Dublin

• Wide-bodied aircraft with 2 aisles –Dreamliners & B777

• 3 class config with separate cabins for Flagship Business, Premium Economy cabin & Main Cabin

• Full complimentary meal service onboard inc. wine with dinner

• At-seat individual entertainment from DUB all flights inc. Movies, Live games

• Wi-fi available on all aircraft –Domestic flights option download movies for free

• Power outlets at every seat

• Headsets provided are in-ear and complementary


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