Philadelphia hotels By Samantha Chapnick

1. MUST STAY: Four Seasons Philadelphia
In case the ideal location (right next to Museum Row), value-pricing, huge room size, and impeccable pool/whirlpool fail to win you over, here’s one good reason to make this your official Philadelphia hotel: Personality. Thanks to the outstanding custom experience practically every staff member strives to give, this is as close as most guests will come to having a fully staffed home.

A stand-out example: The restaurant host overheard my disappointment at not having time to get a real Philly street pretzel. After our meal was complete, she smiled and quietly handed me a bag of 4 (complete with mustard and napkins). While we were eating she had run to the street vendor a few blocks away. And that’s just one of the many similar interactions we had during our two-night stay.

2. MUST EAT: Aspen Restaurant
As soon as we walked in a loud round of applause and cheering erupted. Our warm welcome actually turned out to be for the Phillies, which everyone in the bar area was watching intently at this little local spot that’s as versatile as it is spirited.

Road warriors, eat in the front room for some serious camaraderie — as long as you support the team on the TV. The back room, while still close enough in proximity and spirit to share joviality, is the upscale eatery at very reasonable prices. Exposed brick, crab cakes, and only 20 or so tables make it a great date spot. The kid’s menu and accommodating staff make it ultra family friendly.

Sure beats room service.

3. MUST DO: Philadelphia Museum of Art
Comparable to some of the world’s best art museums. It’s worth spending a few hours visiting Monets, Picassos, Mondrian and more.

4. MUST BUY: AIA Bookstore
In this economy, something has to be really worth having to warrant a Must-Buy rating. The AIA Bookstore and Design Center (1218 Arch Street) is all that and more. Gadget freaks will want to move in, parents will find the perfect response to "What did you bring me?", bibliophiles can browse obscure titles for hours, and collectors will find more stuff to create clutter.

5. MUST SEE: Plays and Players Theater
Don’t blink or you may pass it. This teeny theater (1714 Delancey Place, 215-735-0630) is doing some of the best work in Philly right now for traditional works done just a bit differently. This season it’s Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare and The Sound of Music.

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Samantha Chapnick is a New York writer who scours international destinations looking for what hasn’t been found.

Tagged: Family time, Foodie vacations, Travel Tips

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