From the signing of the Declaration to hosting this year’s Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia has played, and continues to play, a pivotal role in U.S. history — visible in its cobblestoned streets and historic architecture. But with a wave of new renovations, Philly is blending its past and present to make the former feel as relevant as ever. Whether you’re viewing contemporary art in the Greek Revival-style Philadelphia Art Museum or eating New American food in a turn-of-the-century warehouse, here are the best places to see how the new and the old intersect.
Stay in style
Designed by architect Philip H. Johnson and built in 1926, the building that now houses the Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and retains its original character. A major renovation in 2014, however, means your room includes music docking stations and WiFi. With its central location next door to City Hall, most historic sights are within easy walking distance.
Another hotel in this vein is the Hyatt at the Bellevue, which was built in 1904 and hosted every American president from Theodore Roosevelt through Ronald Reagan. The “grand dame of Broad Street,” as it was known, is now fresh from a multi-million-dollar renovation that updated all of its guestrooms and public spaces. During your stay, make sure to peek into its breathtaking domed ballrooms and marble grand staircase.
Embrace the arts
Adventurous arts lovers should head straight to Fringe Arts, Philadelphia’s leader in edgy, contemporary performance art. Housed in what was turn-of-the-century pumping station, the organization presents everything from adult-oriented cabaret shows, to experimental theater, to the annual Fringe theater festival.
If you prefer more traditional kinds of performance, head to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra and the opera. Designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly and erected in 2001, the distinctly modern buildings seem to glow under a long glass arch. There are free tours of the complex, including the 2,500-seat Verizon Hall, which is shaped like a cello.
Stop by Penn’s Landing, the spot where city founder William Penn came ashore in 1682. The park runs along the Delaware River and offers riverside events all year long. This summer, jazz concerts are planned for August and multicultural festivals take place weekends throughout summer.
Find your fuel
Fill up for a long day of landmark and museum visits at Reading Terminal Market. Originally a 19th-century farmers’ market, the terminal is now a go-to for everything from old-fashioned Italian cookies and Amish jams, to artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches and coffee roasters. Sit down for a meal at the old-timey Down Home Diner, or grab an assortment and eat in the market’s shared seating area.
Fringe Arts, mentioned above, shares a building with La Peg Brasserie, a New American restaurant. With industrial design, large windows, and 45-foot ceilings, patrons can enjoy a particularly theatrical atmosphere with one of the unique cocktails crafted for whatever show is playing at the moment. Or, enjoy the seasonal beer garden which overlooks the Ben Franklin Bridge.