Philadelphia may be known as the City of Brotherly Love, but my recent weekend getaway showed me that this town really knows how to treat a lady! Should I have expected anything less from a destination that counts divas like Patti LaBelle, Jill Scott, and, if we want to go way back, fierce flag-making colonial gal Betsy Ross, as hometown girls?
Where to stay: The Hotel Palomar (A Kimpton Hotel) Stay 2 nights and save 15%. Rates starting from $139, valid through Thursday-Sunday.
Conveniently located in Center City near shops and restaurants, the Hotel Palomar is a contemporary hotel that cleverly pays homage to Philly's past. Housed in the 80-year old American Institute of Architects, this 24-story property has been themed "Art in Motion." Walk into the lobby and the candy colored busts of founding father Benjamin Franklin are sure to give you a chuckle. Even the elevator interiors are whimsical.
The Palomar's guest rooms are not only beautifully decorated but can be transformed into an oasis when you schedule an in-room spa treatment. No no-name amenities here - the bathrooms are stocked with luxurious L'Occitane soaps and shampoos. Best of all, this gorgeous property is eco-friendly - the Hotel Palomar is the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in Philadelphia.
Head over to the Northern Liberties neighborhood and stroll The Piazza at Schmidts. Inspired by the piazzas of Rome, this 80,000 square-foot open air space is surrounded by a captivating mix of artist studios, boutiques and restaurants. Located within the Piazza are 2 great pampering spots - Spa East and Tenshi Beauty Bar.
Rejuvenate your face with Spa East's Jet Set Face Glow treatment - a 30 minute facial that cleans your pores and gets you pretty in a flash! Spa owner Samiyyah Staten gently massaged and treated my face with natural skincare products by Rhonda Allison. After this treatment, my skin looked and felt so smooth that I strolled for an hour before putting on any makeup. Spa East also offers massages, eyelash enhancement, and waxing. You can also indulge in the latest manicure trend, MINX, at Spa East.
Tenshi means angel in Japanese and the makeup artists at Tenshi Beauty Bar can create a natural angelic look or a bold face using their line of mineral makeup. Pop in for a complimentary makeover at this beauty hotspot owned and created by Philly native Brandy Davila. Tenshi Beauty Bar also carries high-end botanical Phyto haircare products and offers hairstyling at Salon Tenshi, a full service salon, in the loft district.
Brandy Davila, creator and owner of Tenshi Beauty Bar, Tenshi Cosmetics and Tenshi Salon. In 2009, Brandy won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Urban League.
Wine & Dine
My Philly friends wasted no time in letting me know that the wildly popular Buddakan restaurant started in their hometown and NOT in New York City. OK, I get it! This sleek and modern eatery draws a glamorous crowd that pampers their palates with Chef Stephen Starr's masterful Asian fusion cuisine. Under the serene eye of a massive statue of Buddha, diners indulge in Japanese Black Cod (pictured), Edamame Ravioli, King Crab Tempura, and the divine Tea Smoked Spareribs.
Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner Jose Garces' Chifa restaurant is a winning culinary tribute to the unique melding of Peruvian and Cantonese cuisines found in Peru. The restaurant's colorful and spicy ambiance matches the menu. Try the Thai Beef Salad (made with tender Kobe. pictured), Chicken Wings in Spicy Garlic Ginger Sauce, and the jumbo & juicy Salt Baked Shrimp.
For a bit of Paris in Philly, a visit to the bustling Parc Brasserie is a must. Arrive early to snag one of the outdoor tables just steps away from picturesque Rittenhouse Square. Delicious pastries, perfect omelets, and fluffy pancakes are all served with a dash of ooh la la at Parc Brasserie.
Let them eat cupcakes! One of Oprah's favorites, Brown Betty is a "modern vintage bakery" with 3 locations in Philly. The sweet creation of mother/daughter team Linda and Nerrinda Hinton, Brown Betty serves up moist and addictive cupcakes, poundcakes, cheesecakes and more. The Red Velvet cupcake is a top-seller along with unique flavors like Sweet Potato and Rum Nudie. Many of the treats have clever names, such as Hattie Don't Play and Alice's Two Step, inspired by women in the Hinton family.
Mural Arts Tour
The entire city of Philadelphia is an open air museum thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Mural Arts Program. Home to an astounding 3,000 murals, you never know when you will encounter a breathtaking work of art in Philly. A really fun way to learn about the murals and see a great deal of the City is to book the trolley tour. On a nice day, the flaps on the side of the trolley are left open for optimal viewing. I also observed that Philly residents passing by weren't shy about starting up conversations with us!
Maybe that lack of shyness is the essence of Philly. From passionate foodies, groundbreaking artists, and fierce fashionistas, Philadephians don't hold back on enjoying life.