Photo: Tom Bernard @Eastern State Penitentiary
Looking to take advantage of unseasonably warm temps and get away for a fall weekend before winter and holidays take over? You can find a great escape a short drive away in Philadelphia:
Eastern State Penitentiary: Imagine an imposing, iron-gated, Gothic fortress around the block from charming brownstones in Philly’s Fairmount section and just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This national historic landmark, open for tours since 1994, kept criminals from 1829 to 1971 including Al Capone.
Photo: Ava Marzulli
Beautiful, haunting and architecturally rich, Eastern State Penitentiary combines art installations, history and more in its sprawling space. Go anytime of year for daytime tours or, if you like being really scared, go this weekend, November 6 & 7, catch Terror Behind the Walls, a massive haunted house installation that also serves to raise preservation funds for the Penitentiary.
Photo: Ava Marzulli
Looking to refuel after walking the ground of Eastern State? Nearby, we like The Belgian Cafe for its hearty fare and 200 bottle beers from around the world.
The Barnes Foundation: It’s only been at its current location since 2012, but on Thursday, October 15, the Barnes Foundation welcomed its one millionth visitor to its magnificent digs on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Once you’ve visited, you’ll know why. A trip to the Barnes is hitting the art motherlode — the greatest private collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, including 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modiglianis, and 7 Van Goghs. What’s more, The Barnes juxtaposes these works with African sculpture and Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles, American paintings and decorative arts and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. Download the audio tour to understand the history of the paintings as well as Dr. Barnes’ unique arrangements.
Looking south east at night. The Barnes Foundation Philadelphia. © 2012 Tom Crane
* Got time to spare? Check out funky art galleries, bars, consignment stores in Philly’s Northern Liberties nabe. There’s also the unexpected Piazza at Schmidts, an 80,000 square-foot, open-air plaza with free events year-round, surrounded by artists’ studios, boutiques and restaurants.
* Love food? Shop Reading Terminal Market, which can be a bit of a tease for tourists. It’s packed with fresh ingredients you’d want to take home and cook, not exactly something you can do at your hotel. Still, the historic public market, around since the late 1800s, is a Philly experience chock a block with every imaginable food purveyor and if you get tired, you can stop for a beer, coffee or dine at one of the Market’s table restaurants. Think hoagies, killer donuts and of course, cheesesteak.
* Experience the next great classical musician at Curtis Performs Live, a student recital series, free to the public, every Friday at 8 p.m. at Curtis Institute of Music. You might be treated to a performance by a string quartet, a brass and percussion ensemble or a solo by a violin prodigy.
* Drop by for cocktails or comfort food (think lobster mac and cheese) at Continental Midtown Restaurant, pairs a playful atmosphere (yes, swing chairs) with inventive global tapas fare.
Where to stay? We like the Kimpton’s Palomar, a boutique hotel in the located in Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, as well as Sofitel or Loews Philadelphia.