Sunday 23 September 2018

Forget New York and DC - Here's another tasty US city break just a direct flight away

US City Breaks

Ben Franklin bridge and Philadelphia skyline
Ben Franklin bridge and Philadelphia skyline
Philadelphia Museum of Art
American Revolution Musuem

Eimear Rabbitt

A new direct flight has opened up one of the East Coast's oft-overlooked top city breaks - Philadelphia.

Set the mood

When people think of cities on the US East Coast, New York and Boston spring to mind. Just a one-hour train ride from NYC, however, Philadelphia sits ready and waiting for history boffins, foodies or those who want a US city break that's easy to get around but has plenty to see.

With tree-lined streets full of red brick buildings and shuttered homes, Philly boasts an old-school charm you'd be hard-pressed to find in most cosmopolitan cities, and is full of history and art.

But another, perhaps lesser known gem of this city, is its vibrant food culture. Restaurants bustle every night of the week - if you're a fan of French and don't mind paying, the uber fancy Parc (parc-restaurant.com) is a great option or, for a quirky, chilled vibe, Mission Taqueria (missiontaqueria.com) on Samson Street serves up delicious Mexican fare.

Oh, and the cocktails are pretty amazing too!

Top tip

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American Revolution Musuem

Don't leave without visiting the Museum of the American Revolution (amrevmuseum.org; $19/€15). Allow several hours to take it all in, including a multi-media display with voiceover by Liam Neeson. Watch out for the original tent used by George Washington during the War of Independence.

Insider Intel

Hearty breakfasts are (almost) guilt-free in Philly as you are bound to walk them off that day. I devoured the blueberry pancakes in Bank and Bourbon at the Loews Hotel in Center City, and just a short walk away is the 125-year-old Reading Terminal, offering all kinds of fresh Philly fare. Check out the labyrinth of mosaics at Philadelphia Magic Gardens, too - Isaiah Zagar's work spans 3,000 square feet.

Guilty Pleasure

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Philly's cheesesteak

You can't go to Philadelphia and not try a Philly cheese steak. Of the many joints serving up the cult cuisine, I went to Campo's (camposdeli.com) and the cheese-covered steak roll certainly didn't disappoint - particularly after cocktails the night before.

Another way to burn off the calories from all of the delicious food you are bound to consume in Philadelphia is running up the 'Rocky Steps' - made famous of course by the movie franchise starring Sylvester Stallone.

Seventy-two steps will whisk you from the bottom of the plaza to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (philamuseum.org; $20/€16; also worth a visit) and just yards to the right of the museum you can get a pic with himself - the Rocky statue.

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Philadelphia Museum of Art

Cheap Kick

One of my favourite things to do in a new city is to find my way around on foot, and that's very doable in Philadelphia. There's plenty to look at, including mesmerising street murals which pepper the city. A mural arts programme was set up in 1984 in an effort to curb rogue graffiti, and Philadelphia now boasts 4,000 murals. A stroll through the city's historic district where you can see the Liberty Bell on display is highly recommended, as is a walk through Elfreth's Alley - the oldest inhabited street in the US.

Glitches

If you're a fan of nightlife, make sure you head out early to take advantage - I found it a little challenging to find a late night tipple early to midweek downtown. To fully explore Philly's eats, drinks and sights, spend more than three days!

Get me there

Eimear travelled as a guest of Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), which now flies direct from Dublin to Philadelphia four times weekly, increasing to a daily service in May. Fares start from €159 each-way including taxes and charges as we publish.

Eimear stayed at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel (loewshotels.com/philadelphia-hotel), where deluxe rooms start at €145 per night. For more information about Philadelphia, visit discoverphl.com.

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