If you’re a resident of any of the surrounding states of Pennsylvania, you have to know about all the great weekend getaways! Philadelphia is easy because you can book at train using the Amtrak App for smartphones, check out HotelTonight for great hotel deals (even if you need a room the same night), pack a bag and go! Although the train is a comfortable and easy option for many of Pennsylvania’s fun spots, you can also drive if you’re looking for a gorgeous road trip! The Poconos are a short drive for a quiet weekend and there are different kinds of hotels to fit everyone’s needs (Ex: Romantic couples retreat, Waterpark fun for the fam, or ski lodges). We chose the city life this time and took our first trip to Philadelphia together.
This was our first time planning a vacation at short notice. We normally like to plan vacations up to 3 months in advance. We found its best to books three months in advance in order to keep the vacation in budget. Flights are at a great price, especially on Tuesdays and apps like Expedia or Hopper always feature great deals! When researching hotels we also use Expedia but also like to look at Booking.com and Cheap Carribean, depending on the destination. I wish I could say we have all the secrets and tell you to look at just one page, but I am always looking at different sites to make sure we have the best deal. For activities, we always look at TripAdvisor. Our second reason for planning vacations early is, I get anxious! I like to have a plan set and ready; hop on and off plane, check in at the hotel, learn the surroundings, enjoy a planned excursion or tour, relax and go home.
Here is the account of what perspired this time; we both had a couple of days off that led into the weekend and we knew we wanted to getaway somewhere in PA. I looked into different options, couples resorts and indoor water parks. The weeknd before I took the train from New York to Harrisburg in order to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Mechanicsburg, PA. This is when I was inspired to visit Philly. We deliberated and contemplated up until Wednesday, the night before we were supposed to leave. We narrowed down our final four to a final two and eventually landed on Philadelphia!
That night I left my boyfriends house went home, and started planning immediately. I already had the research, top three hotels we liked in the area and a plan to take the train. Being that we live on long island, we need to take to Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station and then find our way upstairs to the Amtrak platform. Most often, you exit to the subway platform which is the Penn Station everyone is most familiar with. Look for Amtrak or NJ Transit signs, if you get lost there is always a cop or someone working nearby to help point you in the right direction. Both the LIRR and Amtrak have smartphone apps to download and purchase tickets through in just moments! The LIRR also has an app for phone times but it is seperate from the tickets app. To use the tickets on the MTA Etix app, you must click the ticket and hit “ACTIVATE” before boarding your train. Since train times are specific for Amtrak tickets there is no need to activate the ticket before boarding. Just click the ticket and the train attendant will scan it. If you bought a ticket through Amtrak and need to change the time of your departure, you will need to see an Amtrak associate and there may be a difference in price from one train to the next.
Long story short buying and using the train tickets on your phone is so much easier and faster! When we got to the LIRR station we didn’t need to wait in line to buy a ticket and once checked on the train, we didn’t need to worry about losing the paper ticket for the way back. Just make sure you bring a charger! There are outlets and wifi on most Amtrak trains. It was really enjoyable to watch the cities, suburbs and farmland fly by on the occasion I wasn’t reading. There is even a quiet cabin, if you need peace during your travels.
Picking a hotel was just as easy. Hotel Tonight has great deals and we really enjoyed The Independent Hotel. It was very close to amazing restaurants and some fun attractions. We used Lyft a lot because it was very cold. If you have not used Lyft yet, download the app and google “Promo Code Lyft”. They always have a new code for first time riders, when I downloaded Lyft rides were 40% off!
After the train and hotel were figured out, it was time to check out TripAdvisor! We bought a tour and the Philadelphia City Pass. You purchase the pass for the amount of sites you’d like to visit, for a complete list of sites click here. The pass is good for 30 days so enjoy the trip and don’t rush! Our fun filled itinerary goes as follows;
We toured the Eastern State Penitentiary and it was a shocking learning experience. The empty, worn down cells that were occupied about 40 years before. The testimonies of workers, residents and other recordings were interesting to listen to while making our way around the indoor and outdoor tour. Both of us would highly recommend a visit to the Penitentiary.
We visited the National Museum of American Jewish History. There were intriguing, thoughtful and well put together exhibits. There were multiple floors to visit, we started at the top. There was an entertaining art exhibit to walk through. There was mention of immigration and the holocaust. There were also interactive exhibits for adults and children. The gift shop had so many beautiful items for sale.
We went to the top of One Liberty Observation Deck, which happens to be the 57th floor! We would have stayed longer if we had the time. The views were amazing and you can get a full 360 degree view of the gorgeous city. They have games upstairs and plenty of seating. We definitely recommend a trip to this location.
Finally, we were stuck between the Zoo and the Aquarium and we decided to visit Adventure Aquarium! Right over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, you will find a unique Aquarium with a Scuba Divers show and the only hammerhead shark in North America. This was fun for adults and kids and they have a food court so you can spend a while here!
For our favorite food finds, take a look at;
Zavino, a cozy Italian spot that will leave you dreaming of the dish you ate. Check out their cute tiramisu below!
Moriarty’s Restaurant is an Irish Pub with the most savory dishes. They were nominated as “Best in Philly” for their Reuben sandwich, and I can attest it was juicy and delicious. They won the award for their wings, which smelled so amazing that even after we were stuffed we wanted to try them! Too bad we didn’t.
Aki Nom Nom Sushi and Ramen was the perfect pick for hot soup on a cold day. We also really liked their fried calamari!
We loved our first trip to Philly and can’t wait for a return Trip. Let us know if you have any questions!
We’d love to help plan your trip 🙂