Philadelphia Shines in Spring. How to Spend a Fun (and Tasty) Long Weekend There

HE UNDERDOG SPIRIT of Philadelphia runs deep, but touting the city as an “under-the-radar destination” has become as stale as a day-old soft pretzel. If there is a radar, America’s birthplace registers brightly—from its food scene (the most James Beard awards granted a city in 2023) to the outdoors (the largest urban park system in the nation) to sports (the MLB and FIFA chose it for the 2026 All-Star Game and as a World Cup venue respectively).

The city charms most effectively in the spring, when bubble gum redbuds and pastel-pink magnolias splash cobblestones and row houses with exuberant color. The Phillies are on in every bar, and ramps are on every menu. What a time to be in Philadelphia, technically the sixth-largest city in the U.S., but spiritually a small town, filled with character and characters. Block out a long weekend to make their acquaintance.


9:30 a.m. The coffered Champagne-colored ceilings are as orderly as honeycomb. The chandeliers hang like art deco stalactites. Ascending from the grimy bowels of 30th Street Station into the celestial splendor of its grand hall is an arrival befitting one of America’s great cities. Coming by plane instead of train may be quicker, of course, but arrival will deliver none of the architectural chills.

9:50 a.m. A cafe, boutique and 13 design-forward suites fill out the three-story brick corner building that houses the seven-month-old Yowie (from $179 a night) in Queen Village, an ideal home base for exploring the city. Art-directed by owner and fashion veteran Shannon Maldonado, the hotel’s design references McDonald’s Fry Kids, tennis’s Williams sisters and Beetlejuice—all detailed in the in-room lookbook. (Maldonado writes there that the walls in Sherwin Williams Bauhaus Buff remind her “of the color of milk after a bowl of Frosted Flakes.”) Check-in doesn’t start until 4 p.m., so drop your bags off and head back out. Insist on more traditional lodgings? The serene, neutral-on-neutral rooms and knockout indoor infinity pool at the Four Seasons (from $955 a night) offer unmatched views from the Comcast Technology tower in Center City.

10:10 a.m. From Yowie, a half-mile walk south will take you into the Bella Vista neighborhood to visit one of the oldest community arts schools in the country, Fleisher Art Memorial. Take a spin through galleries showcasing work by faculty and students, and end your tour at the complex’s centerpiece, the Sanctuary, a deconsecrated Episcopal church famous for its stunning stained-glass rose window.

11 a.m. In the 1920s, Italians came to Philadelphia en masse, but that’s just one chapter in South Philly’s immigration story, which food writer Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé explores on her Beyond the Italian Market Tour ($95), bookable online. During the three-hour walk through East Passyunk and Bella Vista, you’ll not only snack at Italian legends such as Isgro’s Pastries but also visit Plaza Garibaldi for huitlacoche quesadillas and Ba Le Bakery for pork banh mi, or as they’re known around here, Vietnamese hoagies.

2 p.m. After the tour, pop into some iconic Bella Vista and Queen Village shops. Peruse pizzelle presses and ravioli stamps at the 118-year-old Fante’s Kitchen Shop. Try on limited-edition Air Jordans at Suplex, oracle of Philly’s deep sneakerhead culture. Comb the literary arcana for sale at Brickbat Books, whose crammed floor-to-ceiling shelves are equally likely to reveal a 1970s art manifesto, an illustrated Vonnegut novel or an out-of-print fantasy paperback

5 p.m. When you’ve rested back at Yowie, venture into Philly’s vibrant Chinatown for its art, starting with the elaborate 40-foot Friendship Gate rising over the intersection of North 10th and Arch Streets. Head into the Fabric Workshop and Museum (free, with a suggested donation of $5), where Risa Puno’s sorbet-hued “Group Hug” exhibit ruminates on caregiving. Then walk over to Wonderspaces, a collection of 16 immersive multimedia installations produced with synchronized lighting, giant inflatable sculptures and psychedelic projections.

The BBQ platter from Vietnam Restaurant in Chinatown.

7:45 p.m. After they arrived from Saigon as refugees, the Lai family staked their claim in West Philly in 1982 with Fu-Wah market, a still-operational grocery, but they’re best known for Vietnam, the Chinatown restaurant they opened two years later—your dinnertime destination. The familial service led by Benny Lai and his sons, and dishes like the BBQ platter—a kit of grilled meats, lettuce, herbs and rice paper for DIY wrapping—just earned Vietnam Restaurant a James Beard America’s Classic award.

Day 2 | SUNDAY

10 a.m. Grab coffee at Yowie’s street-level cafe, Wim, and stroll 20 minutes to breakfast at Paffuto, with a can’t-miss-it facade painted the colors of the Italian flag. Danny Griffiths, Sam Kalkut and Jake Loeffler’s sunny luncheonette specializes in panzerotti, pizza-adjacent turnovers fried to an ethereal crisp. The egg-and-cheese version comes accompanied with house-fermented hot sauce.

11:45 a.m. Drive 10 minutes to join the locals at FDR Park, nicknamed “the Lakes” for its river-fed lagoons. In the spring, the air swirls with pollen, birdsong and smoldering lemongrass that wafts in from the Southeast Asian Market (Saturdays and Sundays, starting late April), a collection of food vendors that sets up in the park. For decades, concrete-locked South Philadelphians have retreated to this 348-acre green space designed by Olmsted Brothers to learn to ride a bike, take wedding photos and trade ghost stories by moonlight. It’s the city’s backyard and, temporarily, can be yours too.

1 p.m. Walk across Broad Street to Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies (tickets from $32), who throw out the opening pitch on Sunday afternoons at 1:35 p.m. You don’t need to be a die-hard baseball fan to enjoy the atmosphere at the Fightins’ family-friendly redbrick ballpark.

5 p.m. Follow the stadium crowds 10 minutes north to Celebre’s Pizza, established in 1961 and the cradle of the Pizzaz pie, a strange and delicious union of sliced tomatoes and pickled banana peppers glued onto a layer of molten American cheese. Mike Spina, who’s worked here since he was 13 and bought the business in 2001, hasn’t changed the recipe once.

Irwin’s, a restaurant on the roof of the historic Bok Building; a Negroni Mandorla cocktail from Irwin’s.

6:30 p.m. Walk or cab the mile and a half to catch the sunset from the terrace at Irwin’s, a Sicilian restaurant atop an art deco technical-school-turned-makers-hive in East Passyunk. Sip the almond-scented Negroni alla Mandorla or a Beekeeper Sour, which new head barkeeper Damián Langarica shakes up with rum, honey grappa and preserved lemon, then tops with fennel pollen. It goes perfectly with chef Michael Vincent Ferreri’s punchy poached shrimp with chile and coconut.

8:30 p.m. End the day at Cuzzy’s, a standing-room-only ice cream parlor decorated with ephemera like a framed Esquire cover of John F. Kennedy going to town on a vanilla cone. A tightly curated list of small-batch homemade flavors include chocolate-chocolate cake and caramel-ribboned coffee. The team doles out whipped cream generously, and the walk back to the hotel from here is just long enough to finish a cup.

Day 3 | MONDAY

9 a.m. The sticky, spiced plantain snack cakes gleam, the black-eyed-pea scrapple crunches and the creative spritzes fizz vivaciously at Honeysuckle Provisions in West Philly’s leafy Cedar Park. Black foodways inspire the menu at Omar Tate and Cybille St. Aude-Tate’s cafe, painted in a calming apricot and featuring urban-farmed veggies and wild foragings courtesy of fermentation director Jamaar Julal. Grab a sun-washed table by the window or get a takeout breakfast to enjoy al fresco at your next stop.

9:45 a.m. In the horticulture-mad 18th century, Philly was the nation’s botanical brokerage, with nary an azalea or rhododendron coming ashore without the involvement of explorer and importer John Bartram. Now a National Historic Landmark, Bartram’s Garden—created in 1728—occupies a quiet corner on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Admire the spring lilies opening like paper fortunetellers, spot the scarlet flashes of robins between the trees and rest under the nation’s oldest living ginkgo.

10:50 a.m. You can’t come to this city and not visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Catch a ride in time for the free 11 a.m. “Highlights of the Museum” tour or wander solo through the galleries, which include permanent collections featuring big names like Van Gogh and Cézanne. Special exhibitions through summer include “Mythical Figures: China and the World” and “Transformations: American Photographs from the 1970s.”

2:30 p.m. After lunching at the museum cafe, grab one of the cerulean cycles from the Indego bike-share station at the bottom of the film-famous Rocky Steps for a ride through sprawling Fairmount Park. The cherry blossoms, many of which are gifts from Japan dating back to the 1800s, should be showing off through mid-April. Navigate to the Stone Gazebo and rest between the runways of rustling cotton-candy-pink petals. Drop your bike at a nearby dock and get a car back to the hotel for a break.

5:45 p.m. Follow the Delaware River 10 minutes north of Yowie by car into Fishtown, an old working-class ward transformed over the last decade into a juggernaut of modern townhouses, shopping, dining and Philly’s first urban winery, Mural City Cellars. Nicholas Ducos and Francesca Galarus just opened the doors to the brand-new space on Frankford Avenue, Fishtown’s commercial spine, with a bar pouring natural wines made from grapes sourced within 300 miles.

7:30 p.m. The beer may be bespoke-brewed and the chef (partner Drew DiTomo) may have worked with lauded local chef-restaurateur Marc Vetri, but Meetinghouse has the soul of the blue-collar corner bars that have become an endangered species in Philly. Have dinner in the cozy rear dining room. Order the tower of salad greens, roasted oyster mushrooms, broiled white fish in white wine and a plate of the phenomenal fries. Save space for a bowl of vanilla ice cream drenched tableside with green crème de menthe, made half a mile away at Jacquin’s, a circa-1884 distillery. It’s the city in sundae form: charmingly pugnacious, just sweet enough and dressed for the Eagles, even in spring.

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