There’s plenty to love about Central NJ: Our great public schools, picturesque natural surroundings, and charming historic communities draw residents from all over the world. And our enviable location at the center of the state means that New York City and Philadelphia, two bustling cities, are just a short distance away—making each perfect for a weekend getaway.
To help our friends take advantage of those not-too-distant urban cousins, we’ve put together a two-part, A-List feature on quick weekend trip ideas for both places. Last time, we explored New York City, and for this week, we’ve assembled a guide to The City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.
How to get there: Getting from central NJ to Philadelphia couldn’t be easier. NJ Transit trains run from Princeton Junction and the Hamilton Transit Center to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. You can also take SEPTA regional rail to 30th Street from the Trenton Transit Center. All trains arrive in Philadelphia in approximately one hour’s time. You can also drive—Philadelphia is conveniently located just 45 miles from Princeton.
What to do: Philadelphia is very manageable, and you can easily see many of the city’s most iconic attractions in a weekend. Here are a few to get you started:
Philadelphia Museum of Art: One of Philadephia’s most impressive structures, this magnificent building houses artwork spanning millennia, from the ancient to the modern. The PMA is less crowded than The Louvre or The Met, making it the perfect place to get up close and personal with masterpieces like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
Shop till you drop: It’s easy to see why Conde Nast Traveler ranked Philadelphia as the Number 2 shopping city in the world. Those with a taste for luxury can find all they crave around Rittenhouse Square, which boasts shops from the world’s finest brands, including Barney’s, along with several high-end jewelers. Just across town is Old City, which is home to dozens of tiny boutiques perfect for finding that unique outfit or accessory.
The Barnes Foundation: A recent addition to the Ben Franklin Parkway, this museum has quickly become one of Philadelphia’s hottest attractions. Its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces from Van Gogh, Renoir, Manet, Monet, and others is the largest ever assembled. Visitors looking to visit this priceless collection should book tickets in advance.
Take a trip back through history: The U.S. was founded in Philadelphia, and visitors can take a trip back in time with stops at the city’s meticulously preserved icons of colonial history. There’s Independence Hall, where The Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was ratified, The Liberty Bell, and the impressive Constitution Center, which offers a deep exploration of our founding document.
Where to eat: Philadelphia’s vast assortment of culinary delights ranges from quick street food to high-end dining experiences. It’s impossible to try all the great food here, but we recommend:
Cheesesteaks: The legendary sandwich is a Philadelphia staple. While Geno’s and Pat’s are perhaps the best-known, other options abound. Jim’s on South is a perennial contender for best in the city, while Sonny’s in Old City serves up a slightly more refined version—using fresh sliced rib-eye instead of the traditional frozen meat.
Reading Terminal Market: A must-see for any serious foodie, Reading Terminal is an indoor collection of dozens of food vendors offering fare from around the globe. Whatever you fancy—gyros, burritos, sandwiches, or seafood—it can be found at Reading Terminal Market. This vibrant marketplace puts the farthest reaches of global cuisine at your fingertips under one roof.
Passyunk Square: It has been said that Philadelphia is a collection of neighborhoods, and this is especially evident at Passyunk Square—home to many of Philadelphia’s most exciting, acclaimed eateries. A quick stroll around Passyunk will take you to gourmet favorites like Stateside, Izumi, Noord, and Laurel. And these are just the tip of the iceberg; don’t be afraid to explore!
Vetri: In a city with as many restaurants as Philadelphia (and new ones opening up weekly), it’s impossible to pick a favorite. But for an unforgettable night out, there’s no better option than the four-course Mediterranean tasting menu, served in an intimate, romantic setting at celebrity chef Marc Vetri’s namesake restaurant, which also features a 2,500-bottle wine cellar.
Morimoto: Dine with the Iron Chef at Masaharu Morimoto’s flagship restaurant. Opened in 2001 after Morimoto left his position as head chef at New York’s Nobu, Morimoto delights diners with masterfully prepared sushi and other Japanese fare such as Black Cod Miso and the famous Duck Duck Duck.
Talula’s Garden: Diners who savor organic dining and al fresco seating can find their bliss at this joint venture between Philadelphia restaurant titan Steven Starr and Aimee Olexy. Serving seasonal New American cuisine, fine wines and cheese in a whimsical, stylish setting, Talula’s Garden is sure to make for a memorable evening.
For the kids: Walkable and not overly crowded, Philadelphia offers plenty of attractions to keep your little ones busy. The Franklin Institute, named after Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, features interactive, educational exhibits about science and nature. As its name suggests, The Please Touch Museum encourages learning through play with exhibits, theatre performances, and instructional art programs. For animal lovers, the Philadelphia Zoo houses more than 1,300 animals, many of which are endangered, along with scenic balloon rides, paddleboat tours, and a rainforest carousel. And the Academy of Natural Sciences gives visitors of all ages a look at nature and biology across the eons with dinosaur fossils, live butterflies, stunning dioramas, and rotating interactive exhibits.
The New York Times ranked Philadelphia as the Number 3 city to visit in 2015, and the city continues to attract visitors from around the world to enjoy its unique mix of art, history, and culture. If a weekend isn’t enough time to take in all of the city’s charm, don’t fret. Since it’s only 45 minutes away, you can visit anytime you’d like!