Philadelphia, just a short flight or a tolerable car or train ride from Boston, plans a festive 2005 with special events and good deals, along with the historical attractions that made it famous in the first place. Look at some of what's coming:
The city will become surreal in honor of the Salvador Dal exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Feb. 16-May 15. Hotels, shops, and restaurants are contributing to the theme of ''Surreal Philadelphia: The Dal Experience," with special lighting projects, Dal-related restaurant menus, and retail window displays. Still, can anything be as surreal as the artist's mustache?
The museum has created Dal hotel packages that include overnight accommodations for two and two untimed tickets to the exhibition. Sample prices: $149 weekdays or weekends at the Best Western Center City Hotel, including free parking; $179 weekends and $209 weekdays at the Embassy Suites Hotel Center City, including a buffet breakfast and evening reception; $325 a night, weekends only, at the Four Seasons, including overnight valet parking and a full American breakfast for two. In addition, some hotels will have their own Dal packages. Visit www.philamuseum.org.
Amtrak, meanwhile, is taking half off the best available rail fare for one traveling-companion ticket with each paid adult ticket on trips to Philadelphia on Northeast Corridor routes. Visit www.amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL and refer to code V755. (Reservations must be made at least three days in advance of travel. There may be blackout dates and other restrictions.)
There is a lot more to eat in Philly than cheese steaks. The Book and the Cook is a food, restaurant, and cookbook celebration throughout the region March 11-20. Nationally known cookbook authors and restaurateurs will create nearly 100 culinary events, and there will be cooking demonstrations and food tours. The culminating event is the Culinary Market & Kitchen Showcase March 18-20, offering demonstrations and cookbook signings. There will also be more than 125 exhibitors of food-related goods. The host, Loews Philadelphia Hotel, will have packages.
Visit www.thebookandthecook.com. For hotel information, call 215-627-1200.
You'll have to wait till the end of 2005, but the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Ben Franklin's birth should be well worth it. His walking stick, his signed copy of the Treaty of Paris, the odometer he invented, and pages from Poor Richard's Almanac will be among items in the international traveling exhibition, ''Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World," making its debut at the National Constitution Center Dec. 15, 2005, through April 30, 2006. The $150 million collection includes the republic's five founding documents, all of which Franklin signed, and more than 250 original artifacts that will help visitors get to know one of the most beloved citizens in US history.
The exhibit will be the focal point of Ben Franklin 300 Philadelphia, a year of special events and programs. Among many other things, restaurants will serve Franklin specials, and there will be Franklin-themed tours of the city. You can also be certain that hotels will come up with their own Franklin specials.
There are always things to see in Philadelphia, even in the off-season (did we mention something called the Liberty Bell?). A Philly Overnight Hotel package, available through March 16, gets you two nights' accommodations for two adults, free hotel parking both nights, and gifts upon check-in. Prices can range from around $130 to more than $300, depending upon dates and choice of hotels. Visit www.gophila.com. While there, you might check out its list of monthly events and its movie-themed National Treasure package for both Washington and Philadelphia.
Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at email@example.com.