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Philadelphia

A great long weekend: For a little change of pace, try this freedom trail

Robert Indiana's 'Love' sculpture. Robert Indiana's "Love" sculpture.
By Ron Driscoll
September 12, 2010

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Two distinctions that Bostonians proudly tout are their city’s place in American history and its walkability. For a weekend that provides charms to rival our “Athens of America” in a similarly compact area, Philadelphia is a quick getaway that works very well without a car.

Getting there: Both Southwest and US Airways offer several nonstop flights daily, with 21-day advance-purchase round-trip fares as low as $130. The flight takes about 90 minutes, and it is a 25-minute ride on the SEPTA rail line (http://www.septa.org, $5.50 one-way fare) from the airport to the Suburban Station at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard in Center City, close to several hotels. A cab ride from the airport to Center City is a $25 flat rate for up to four people (http://www.phl.org/taxis_trains.html).

Friday: We scored an Internet rate of $115 a night ($265.42 for two nights, including taxes) at The Windsor Suites (215-981-5678; http://www.thewindsorsuites.com) in the heart of the Parkway Museums District, putting major historic sites and museums within a good stretch of the legs. For dinner, the Marathon Grill (215-569-3278; http://www.marathongrill.com) on 16th Street, with its varied and affordable menu, reinforced the chain’s status as a multiple “Best of Philly” honoree from Philadelphia Magazine.

Saturday: Get an early start on touring by picking up breakfast at Capriccio at Cafe Cret (215-735-9797; http://www.capricciocafe.com). If you are headed for Independence National Historical Park (http://www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm), a 45-acre parcel of buildings and sites that reflect our Revolutionary roots, you may want to catch a Philly Phlash (http://www.visitphilly.com/tours/philadelphia/phlash, $2 per ride, $5 all-day pass, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through October 31). These trolleys serve two dozen Center City locations, swinging by each stop every 12 minutes. You can reserve tickets ahead of time to visit historic Independence Hall, avoiding the long lines that form at the Independence Visitor Center (800-537-7676; http://www.independencevisitorcenter.com), by contacting the National Park Reservation system (877-444-6777; http://www.recreation.gov, $1.50 fee per ticket applies). The Park Service ranger guiding our tour struck a nice balance between lighthearted banter and reverence for the building that hosted the adoption of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, 11 years apart. The Liberty Bell Center is just a few hundred feet away (http://www.nps.gov/inde/liberty-bell-center.htm), and no ticket or fee is required to view the flawed yet enduring symbol of freedom. The National Constitution Center (215-409-6600; http://www.constitutioncenter.org), across a wide lawn from Independence Hall, completes this trio of historic musts. Hop the Phlash for the Franklin Institute, a science and technology museum (215-448-1200; http://www.fi.edu), where “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt” is on through January 2, or the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art (215-763-8100; http://www.philamuseum.org), where eight exhibits are open until November 21 and where you can climb the 72 steps a la Rocky Balboa, whose statue is nearby. We started our evening at one of the several fun, ambience-drenched Stephen Starr restaurants in town, El Vez (215-928-9800; http://www.elvezrestaurant.com), and ended it with a nightcap at ultra-cool Alma de Cuba (215-988-1799; http://www.almadecubarestaurant.com).

Sunday: Go for breakfast at Little Pete’s (215-545-5508; 219 South 17th Street), then take a final walkabout, noting the public art that the City of Brotherly Love seems to be awash in. The best known is probably Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture in JFK Plaza near City Hall.

For more great long weekend travel ideas, please visit boston.com/magazine

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