Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Philadelphia
Tell us a little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel.
Growing up in Philadelphia, I lived in a standard rowhouse and never dreamed that I would travel to more than forty countries solo and have amazing adventures around the world. Due to loyalty points, I’ve been fortunate to stay in luxury, upgrade my adventures to hire private guides and get a taste of the good life (fine wines and luxury chocolates included). At work, I created Global Business Travel Programs for premium travelers which also included event planning so I was instantly exposed to the finer side of life – life on an expense account! Now, I’m trained as a Virtuoso luxury travel advisor with my own travel agency, Arden Road Travel, to help others plan their luxury adventures.
What makes Philadelphia a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Philadelphia is the under the radar gem of a destination for those seeking a new experience in food, drink, art and history.
With neighborhood festivals such as South Street, a July 4th Welcome America celebration and the renowned Philly Beer Week you can join Philly locals enjoying the city. For art, there is the not to be missed Barnes Collection, Mural Arts and Magic Gardens.
Often overlooked in the New York to D.C. road trip, the city offers a lot that will surprise you. Just remember to bring stretchy pants to cheat on your diet because temptations abound!
What 5 star hotel is the best in Philadelphia?
Philly is a great town but right now, I’d say the city has a great line up of 4 star hotels (until the Four Seasons returns in 2018 occupying the top floors of the new Comcast Center).
What about boutique hotels in Philadelphia, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?
I stay in Philly when I want a night out with friends and I usually stay at the Hotel Palomar or the Sofitel Philadelphia in Rittenhouse Square. Two new boutique hotels both with rooftop bars are Hotel Monaco, in the Historic Old City and The Logan Hotel on the Parkway.
Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler?
The Mural Arts Tour is a favorite way to see the city – pick a walking tour, trolley tour or the Love Letter tour via the El(evated Train).
You can bike, hike or run the many trails from the city all the way out to Valley Forge National Park and beyond.
Where are the best hang outs during the day in Philadelphia?
Summer welcomes Spruce Harbor Park, the waterfront pop up park as well as a few beer gardens and Center City Sips, a Wednesday night summer happy hour with drink specials, music and outdoor fun.
We have bike trails, running trails, parks for people and parks for dogs. The nearest beach is an hour away at Atlantic City and the South Jersey shore with towns such as Ocean City, Avalon and Cape May – these are the beaches that many locals go to every weekend in the summer.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Philly and what are their best dishes?
This one is tough as there are so many awesome restaurants in the city. With the crazy Pennsylvania liquor laws, you will find a large number of BYOBs in Philly – small restaurants producing amazing tastes that you can bring your own bottle of wine (or tequila) to celebrate with.
We have famous chefs Marc Vetri (Vetri Ristorante), Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Dizengoff and Federal Donuts to name just a few of his restaurants). We have restaurant collections from Stephen Starr (Parc, Barclay Prime, Buddakan, El Vez, the Dandelion, Talula’s Garden are a few favorites in his collection of nineteen restaurants), Chef Jose Garces (Amada, Village Whiskey and Tinto in his collection) and Chef Marci Turney (Barbuzzo, Little Nonna’s and Bud & Marilyn’s to name just a few of her restaurants).
Two Restaurants on Passyunk Avenue in South Philly, each with one name, Laurel and Will, are serving tasting menus to satisfy your inner foodie. In the city, Vernick is another foodie paradise.
I could go on and on if your date night wants to be food trucks, food festivals or diners – Philly has it all to make any date memorable, tasty and glamourous. This being Philly, we also do cheesesteaks and soft pretzels very well and those paired with a craft beer or whiskey can also be quite romantic.
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?
The desserts in Philadelphia are the reason I have a gym membership in the hopes to negate the (way too many) indulgent calories that the local pastry chefs tempt me with. I love the research to find the best dessert, these are my favorites so far (many ship in the U.S.!)
Metropolitan Bakery – the Sour Cherry Sea Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie
Barbuzzo – the Salted Caramel Budino
Capogiro – Small batch artisanal gelatos and sorbets
Hope’s Cookies at the PA General Store in Reading Terminal
John & Kira’s handcrafted chocolates and artisan candies
Asher’s Chocolate Covered Pretzels
The dessert cart at Davio’s, the secret macarons at Parc and the seasonal desserts at White Dog Café are a few restaurant favorites.
Tell us all the hot shopping spots in Philadelphia; who’s carrying the trendy local designers?
With tax free shopping on clothes, we are a fashionistas happy place!
Classic Philadelphia boutiques for the best dressed and access to a variety of designers is Boyd’s, Knit Wit, Sophy Curson, Joan Shepp and Nicole Miller.
Other boutiques on the scene are Skirt, Adresse, Commonwealth Proper (for men), Per Lei, Arcadia Boutique, Third Street Habit, Vagabond, Barney’s Co-Op and Charlie’s Jeans.
For Shoes, Bus Stop in Manayunk is the go to on trend for shoes.
For Jewelry, Lagos is locally made and has many statement pieces (I have a necklace from the Philadelphia collection which has architectural details from the city)
What are a couple of the best salons and spas in Philadelphia?
Rescue Rittenhouse is a great day spa with everything you need to decompress and/or prepare for a night out. When you step off the elevator, your stress instantly melts away at this spa.
Time for a great sunset view in Philadelphia… where would you go?
High above the city on the 57th floor is the newly opened One Liberty Observation Deck
From street level, go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art entrance facing Boathouse Row or find a spot along Kelly Drive and the Schuylkill River.
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
Hidden on a side street is Vesper Club for cocktails and if you have the secret word, you can dial the phone to gain entrance to the basement bar which is private with no cell phone signal to allow you to enjoy the conversations and the drinks without worry.
As a sports crazed city, the pre-game or game time spot is Chickie’s & Pete’s sports bar for crab fries with your beer. For international games like soccer, Fado Irish Bar is the go to spot.
If you end the night at a fancy club, which one do you head towards?
This is Philly, we don’t need fancy clubs, we enjoy live music at Chris’ Jazz Café, Johnny Brenda’s or the newly opened Fillmore.
Suzanne is a native Philadelphian who loves to show you her hometown and where to find the best desserts. By day, she works in Finance, by night she is a travel blogger at PhilaTravelGirl – Flying by the Seat of My Points and a luxury travel advisor at Arden Road Travel. Over the years, she has played tour guide to film festival VIPs, international colleagues/clients and other travel writers. Knowing that Philadelphia is more than cheesesteaks, the Liberty Bell and the Rocky steps, she wants you to explore the amazing culinary scene, enjoy the pop-up beer gardens and immerse yourself in the art of the city. This only scratches the surface during your visit. She prefers to craft custom itineraries for readers/clients based on their interests. With travels to over forty countries solo, she is an expert at points travel and is always on the lookout for that next great destination to explore. You can connect on Instagram and Facebook as well.