With its mix of art, history, public spaces and beautifully preserved buildings, the City of Brotherly Love offers plenty of reasons to visit other than cheesesteak (but that, too).
stay: The ultra-modern and quirky Hotel Monaco in the heart of Philadelphia's historic district boasts spacious rooms with views of the iconic Liberty Bell and bold interior design (think blue-and-gold wallpaper and a red Chinese-inspired armoire), plus whimsical touches like a copy of Alice in Wonderland for bedtime reading and giraffe-print robes. The stunning lobby livens up during wine hour, nightly, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Insider tip: sign up for the hotel's loyalty program for complimentary Wi-Fi.) Hotel Monaco, 433 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, 215-925-2111, www.monaco-philadelphia.com
see: The steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art may have been immortalized by Rocky, but inside lies a treasure of Renaissance paintings, works by Matisse and Picasso and a must-see roundup of American art. Nearby, the Rodin boasts the first bronze cast of the towering Gates of Hell (inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy) and a copy of Klimt's The Kiss. But there's no need to stay inside to feel Philly's creative side; the city's Mural Arts Program is transforming buildings around town into outdoor canvases, and offers walking, trolley and train tours, too boot. muralarts.org
snack: With cheesesteaks a cultural obsession in Philly, learn to order your sandwich like a native. "One whiz with" will get you grill-cooked beef with Cheez Whiz (just go with it) and onions. Add peppers if you want, but make it snappy, or you'll find the server shouting, "Next!" Just who has the best cheesesteak is up for debate, but you can't go wrong with Jim's Steaks. Nab a seat upstairs and tuck in! Jim's Steaks, 400 South St., Philadelphia, 215-928-1911, www.jimssouthstreet.com
sup: Not only did Fork lead the farm-to-table movement here, it helped rekindle Philadelphia's Old City. Fifteen years later, the restaurant still keeps it fresh: rhubarb consommé with seasonal veg tastes just like a spring day, and house-made pasta includes a hearty-but-delicate fennel pappardelle with country-time pork arista ragu and pollen. Finish with luscious chocolate bark with birch chocolate cream, sarsaparilla meringue, ricotta sorbet and brandied cherries. Fork, 306 Market St. Philadelphia, 215-625-9425, www.forkrestaurant.com
sip: Part history tour, part beer tour, Philly on Tap lets you take a refreshing look, on foot, at some of the city's most eclectic brew pubs--including McGillin's Olde Ale House, the oldest bar in Philly, where the walls boast framed liquor licenses dating back to 1871. www.urbanadventures.com
Brotherly or otherwise, it's fair to say we've fallen in love with Philly. -- Amanda Lee
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