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10 Things to Do in . . . Philadelphia

Wednesday, January 5, 2005; Page C02

Cheese steak subs aren't on your low-carb diet? Already taken the obligatory peek at that cracked bell? Don't fret. There is so much else going on in Philadelphia that W.C. Fields, who made the city of his birth the butt of many jokes, might be tempted to come back for a tour. The U.S. capital from 1790 to 1800 is a place where historical sites pop up at nearly every corner. Italians, African Americans and other locals have created some of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the mid-Atlantic. Fine restaurants are so ubiquitous you'll wish there were four meals in the day. And after dark, across the town that gave us Jill Scott and other funky performers, bars and clubs seem to ooze music. Here are 10 things to get your itinerary started. Info: Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., 215-599-0776, www.gophila.com.

-- Gary Lee

Get your potatoes -- and your prosciutto and salami -- by the pound at the Italian Market. (Barbara L. Johnston For The Washington Post)

1. NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER For those who can squeeze in only one foray into history, this newfangled complex devoted to the U.S. Constitution should be it. A ticket gets you a live performance of a costumed actor setting the 1776 scene and access to all sorts of interactive displays, making for a fun crash course. We particularly like the life-size bronze statues of the original signers of the Constitution and the chance visitors have to vote on their all-time favorite president. So much information is offered that novice history students will be impressed with all they've learned; serious buffs of the past will likely be intrigued, too. 525 Arch St. $7 for adults, $5 children. Open Sunday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. 866-917-1787, www.constitutioncenter.org.

2. LOEW'S HOTEL PHILADELPHIA Originally designed as a bank headquarters in the 1930s, this grand structure was renovated and turned into a hotel in 2000. Excellently situated right across from the convention center and just down the block from City Hall, it's our favorite place in town to bed down. The service is friendly and the building has a mix of period details, including the original bank vault, and up-to-date features, such as a fabulous health club. Doubles officially start at $159 a night, although Quikbook.com offers rates for as low as $129. 1200 Market St., 800-235-6397, www.loewshotels.com. Those who prefer quainter, more personal lodgings should try the Thomas Bond House, a 12-room 18th-century bed-and-breakfast. Doubles, including a wholesome buffet breakfast, start at $95 a night. 129 S. Second St., 800-845-2663, www.winston-salem-inn.com/philadelphia.

3. KIMMEL CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS An appealing red-brick work of modern architecture, the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra is easily worth the hour or so it takes to tour. Highlighted by a cello-shaped performance hall and a 150-foot vaulted glass roof, it's a state-of-the-art facility. The rooftop, with its lovely garden, provides a breathtaking city view you could gaze at for hours. But the biggest draw is the performances, which include the full gamut of theatrical events, ranging from orchestra concerts to tap dancing. Free guided tours are offered at 1 p.m. daily except Mondays. Sign up for tours the day of or book in advance. Corner of Broad and Spruce streets, 215-893-1999 for tickets, 215-670-2327 for the visitor center, www.kimmelcenter.org.

4. JEWELER'S ROW This collection of rock shops -- bounded by Walnut, Chestnut, Seventh and Eighth streets -- includes the second-biggest concentration of diamond sellers in the United States after Manhattan's West 47th Street. It also has watch stores, goldsmiths and other boutiques offering just about every imaginable form of body ornament. If none of the 300-odd jewelry shops glitters for you, browse the stylish, individually owned clothing and antique furniture shops in nearby Old City. The most original are clustered between Second and Third and Arch and Walnut streets.

5. RODIN MUSEUM A bronze of "The Thinker," Auguste Rodin's most memorable work, sits out front. Another of the French sculptor's spectacular pieces, "Gates of Hell," covers the front door. Inside the intimate, stately building are more than 120 other works, the largest collection of Rodin sculpture outside of France. A gift to the city by film magnate Jules Mastbaum, it celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. Free guided tours by well-informed docents are conducted at 1 p.m. every Sunday as well as other days and times. $3 admission suggested. Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street, 215-763-8100, www.rodinmuseum.org. For those who want more visuals, the much larger Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has a celebrated collection of impressionist paintings, is down the street at 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays until 8:45 p.m. Adults $10, children $7. 215-763-8100, www.philamuseum.org.

6. ITALIAN MARKET An open-air shopping bazaar several blocks long, this is where you come to find prosciutto di Parma, Bartolini olive oils, Toscano salami and just about any other culinary treat you wish you'd brought back from Italy. There are dozens of stalls and shops along Ninth Street. For the freshest produce and best glimpse into the colorful market life, come in the early morning. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and until 2 p.m. Sunday, www.phillyitalianmarket.com. The Reading Terminal Market, a busy sweep of stalls and eateries at 12th and Arch streets, is another good place to browse for locally made crafts or to grab a bite. Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 215-922-2317, www.readingterminalmarket.org.

7. CHINATOWN Far smaller and more intimate than its counterparts in New York and San Francisco, this downtown enclave of Chinese and other Asians is bursting with character. One of the most interesting sights is the building at 913 Race St., where the city's first Chinese laundry was opened in the 1860s and the first Chinese restaurant was housed in the 1870s. Another is the elaborate dragon-covered Friendship Gate, at 10th and Arch. For a guided tour of Chinatown or other Philly neighborhoods, including a chance to meet some locals, contact the Neighborhood Tourism Network Series at www.gophila.com/philaneighborhoodtours.htm. For tips on places to eat or shop, visit www.phillychinatown.com.

8. TANGERINE A favorite of hip locals, this Mediterranean restaurant offers the rare combination of funky hangout and first-rate food. The menu has a good mix of exotic fare, such as spiced bronzina, as well as more standard -- but still tasty -- dishes like pan-roasted chicken. The decor, highlighted by Moroccan lamps and patterned fabric, has the feel of an upscale harem. If the dinner prices (most entrees range between $24 and $29) are a bit steep, the chic crowd of twenty- and thirty-somethings still makes it a worthwhile stop for cocktails and appetizers. If you've been looking for the place to wear that outrageous emerald-green velvet skirt, this is it. Open only for dinner, every night at 5. A delightful dinner, with wine, runs about $60 for two. 232 Market St., 215-627-5116.For more low-key dining, try Beau Monde, a creperie with a warm atmosphere, tasty food and occasional cabaret nights upstairs. 624 S. Sixth St., 215-592-0656.

9. THE LEGENDARY BLUE HORIZON Catch a serious fight at this historic gym and boxing club where parts of "Rocky V" were filmed. First opened in the 1920s and closed for years, it was cleaned up and reopened in 2002. On fight nights, you can smell the beer and cigar smoke as soon as you step inside, and you can sit close enough to the ring to be hit by slinging sweat. Philly native Joe Frazier can often be seen hanging about and mingling with dudes in leather coats and chain necklaces. A small museum tells the story of the building and the boxers who have either been laid out or transformed into champs here. Tickets start around $38. 1314 N. Broad St., 215-763-0500, www.legendarybluehorizon.com.

10. WARMDADDY'S With its chill ambiance, elongated wooden bar and stage featuring live blues performances,Warmdaddy's invites you to kick back at the end of the day. The acts range from national bands like Trampled Underfoot to local trios -- but they never fail to entertain. For those who are up for a late-night meal, the menu, including fried chicken, collards and other soul food specialties, is almost guaranteed to satisfy. Open nightly except Mondays. Call ahead to see who's playing and whether there's a cover charge. 4 S. Front St., 215-627-8400, www.warmdaddys.com.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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