Friday, February 28, 2014

Travelore Tips: 31 Reasons Philadelphia Is The Most Underrated City In America

The City of Brotherly Love doesn't actually seem to get much brotherly love from its east coast neighbors, New York City and Washington D.C. Meanwhile Los Angeles and San Francisco steal the glory on the opposite coast, and Chicago dominates the midwest. Being ranked the fattest and the ugliest big city in America probably doesn't help matters.
But when you're looking for an exciting American city to explore, Philadelphia deserves a second look. Whether you're into punk music or Impressionist art, competitive eating or fine dining, bike riding or marathon running, here's why Philly should be your next travel destination.

It has over 200 BYOB restaurants -- and almost none of them have corkage fees.
byob philly
An unusually high proportion of Philly's restaurants are BYOB, due in part to the state's expensive liquor licenses. You can even use this interactive map to locate BYOB restaurants in 17 different Philly neighborhoods.

It's the most thrilling, raucous place to watch a sporting event.
philly fans
According to almost any metric, Philadelphia fans are the most loyal fans in sports. Also: tailgating.

It is an American history nerd's Promised Land.
history in philly
You've probably heard of the Liberty Bell, the famed Philadelphia Art Museum and Betsy Ross House, the latter of which honors the maker of the first American flag. But you can soak in even more history at the Mütter Museum (devoted to medical history and oddities), the National Museum of American Jewish History, The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the African American Museum, the Philadelphia Mint, the Mummers Museum, the Independence Seaport Museum, Elfreth's Alley (supposedly the country's "oldest residential street"), the American Swedish Historical Museum, Carpenters' Hall, City Tavern (a recreated version of the original 18th century tavern the Founding Fathers used to hang out at, which now serves authentic colonial recipes)... the list is endless.

The "Citywide Special" consists of a shot of Jim Beam and a can of PBR beer for just $3.
citywide special
The insanely affordable combo, which legend has it was started at Bob & Barbara's on South Street, can be had in some form at over 20 bars in town.

Addison Street is arguably the prettiest street in the entire Northeast.
Located in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, this quiet, tree-lined street boasts the kind of picturesque brick townhouses you imagine the Founding Fathers once lived in.

The soft pretzels will change your mind about street food.
It's been said that soft pretzels are to Philadelphia as crepes are to Paris: You can get them for cheap, eat them on the go, buy them almost anywhere... and they will convince you that no other city's version is as good.

Or score pretzels from an actual establishment on the midnight Pretzel Ride.
pretzel ride
Every Tuesday night right before midnight, carb-loving bike riders meet at the Art Museum and take off down to Center City Pretzel Co., where you can score several pretzels for just $1. Oh, and there's plenty of mustard and Cheez Whiz to top 'em off.

It's home to the Wing Bowl, one of the wildest competitive eating contests you've ever witnessed.
wing bowl
Founded in 1993 by two hosts of Philly's Sportsradio WIP station, the Wing Bowl takes place in Philly's Wells Fargo Center, home on the Flyers and the Sixers -- in other words, it draws HUGE crowds. If seeing people consume hundreds of chicken wings in a matter of minutes is your thing, this is the contest you need to see.

The city's massive Eastern State Penitentiary is the best time you've ever had at a prison.
eastern state
In addition to historic tours narrated by Steve Buscemi, the Penitentiary also houses art exhibits and best haunted houses you'll ever walk through on Halloween. After all, Al Capone was once locked up here.

It's insanely easy to navigate thanks to Walk! Philadelphia, the largest comprehensive pedestrian sign system in North America.
walk philadelphia
Installed in 1995, these oversized, colorful signs are located throughout the city to demarcate cardinal directions, neighborhood names, historical sites, cultural destinations and more. Between the abundant signage and Philadelphia's grid system, this city is hard to get lost in.

The legendary cheesesteaks live up to the lore.
Sure, you can get the traditional experience at Pat's and Geno's. But John's Roast Pork serves a mouth-watering cheesesteak and has actually won a James Beard Award. (Needless to say, they don't serve cheesesteaks with the ubiquitous Cheese Whiz here.)

The Phillies stadium, Citizens Bank Park, has dollar hot dog nights.
philly hot dog
On Hatfield Phillies Franks Dollar Dog Night, hot dogs cost $1. 'nuff said.

The Phillies stadium was also rated #1 vegetarian ballpark.
citizen bank park
Southwestern veggie burgers, vegan chicken sandwiches, roasted veggie wraps, crab-free crab cake salad -- you can eat all these veggie things while taking in a baseball game, not to mention gluten-free hot dogs.

The Barnes Foundation is one of the quirkiest art museums in America.
barnes foundation
The Barnes Foundation is actually the personal collection of one rather curmudgeonly man, Albert C. Barnes. Barnes famously established his collection in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia, rather than in the city because he felt that "Philadelphia is a depressing intellectual slum" and "the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a house of artistic and intellectual prostitution." Despite his wishes and after much debate over his legacy (Barnes died in 1951), the $25 billion collection was moved into the city in 2012. Now Philly visitors can see Barnes' 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos and 7 Van Goghs, not to mention the many peculiar ironwork pieces interspersed among the paintings, up close.

But if you want a major, mega art museum like the Louvre or the Met, Philly's got that, too.
art museum
After running "Rocky"-style up the steps, you'll encounter over 400,000 works of art in this world-class museum, including Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers," Pablo Picasso's "Three Musicians," Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Bathers" painting and countless more iconic pieces.

Reading Terminal Market sells almost any kind of cuisine you can think of -- including authentic Amish food.
reading terminal market
Since its founding in the late 1800s, the indoor market has been stocked with food from hundreds of farmers and distributors. Standing close to its original location, the market now serves up Chinese food, cheesesteaks, hoagies, fresh seafood, produce, crepes, BBQ chicken, cajun cuisine and the Dutch Eating Place, an eatery featuring true Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.

Philadelphia is getting its own bike share program... and it will actually be accessible.
bike share philly
Beginning in fall 2014, 150-200 bike share stations will be installed throughout Philly's most popular neighborhoods (and not just the wealthy ones).

Beer is really, really cheap.
cheap beer
Like, $1 for a beer in some places and pitchers for under $10. The best deals can be had at happy hour, natch. (We can't guarantee, however, that the beers pictured above can be found for a dollar.)

In fact, America's oldest brewery is right in Philadelphia's backyard.
D. G. Yuengling & Son was founded in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, the town where it is still located today, and is one of the most ubiquitous beers in Philly. Oh, and you can get it for $3 at plenty of happy hours around the city.

The music scene is fierce, independent and embodying Philly's "fight the man" attitude.
r5 productions
From Pi Lam, the co-ed University of Pennsylvania frat-turned-indie rock venue, toR5 Productions, a DIY promotions agency that helps small bands land shows, Philadelphia is full of energetic musicians and fans dedicated to quality live music in an accessible way.

Federal Donuts is so good, you'll never eat at Dunkin Donuts again.
Scoring a donut here is a feat in and of itself -- there are a limited amount made per day, and if you come too late, they'll all be gone. But if you do nab one, you'll get to try the yummiest donuts you've ever had in flavors like sea salt and chocolate, sticky bun, cookies and cream, gingerbread, strawberry lavender, vanilla spice and "crumberry."

The Philadelphia Eagles have the best fight song of any football team.
eagles fight song
Redskins fans might disagree. But there's nothing to get you revved up like hearing 67,000 people sing "Fly, Eagles, Fly" in one spirited, drunken chorus.

Boathouse Row is one of the most beautiful places to run, bike and stroll.
boathouse row
Running along the edge of the Schuylkill River, this row of historic boathouses are not only the site of regattas dating back to the 19th century but also a stunning visual treat at night, when the edges of each boathouse are lit up in twinkling white lights.

It boasts some of the most accessible, scenic races for runners.
broad street run
Philadelphia is not only the site of one of the 30 Rock'n'Roll Half Marathons, it also has the insanely popular Broad Street Run, the nation's largest 10-mile race, which draws over 40,000 runners each spring.

It's bursting with a vibrant arts community, including numerous artist-run collectives.
artist collective
The fiercely independent, community-driven arts scene fosters individual artists and encourages collaboration, an effort exemplified by the recent CITYWIDE project, which brought nearly 20 collectives together to exchange ideas and art.

Some of the best restaurateurs in the world have set up shop in Philadelphia.
Stephen Starr was named "Restaurateur of the Year." Jose Garces is one of only eight chefs in the country to hold the title of Iron Chef. Marc Vetri is a James Beard Award winner. Between these big names and numerous other world-class chefs, Philly's restaurant scene is bursting with talent and ingenuity. (Don't believe us? Go have a meal at Buddakan.)

Fairmount Park is one of the largest city-owned parks in the country.
And it's drop-dead gorgeous.

Native New Yorker Jay Z set his "Made In America" festival in Philly.
jay z made in america
Jay Z not only performed on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the first annual "Made In America" fest; he also curated the entire impressive lineups both years, which in 2013 included Nine Inch Nails, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis... oh yeah, and his wife, Beyoncé.

If you love drag, you can get a weekly fix at Bob & Barbara's.
bob and barbara
Hailed as the longest-running drag show in the city, this show is a reliable Thursday evening feature of a local bar that draws a diverse crowd. Best part? Getting in will only cost you $7. (Pictured above: DJ K-Tell & The Dumpsta Players.)

The Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride is a bold celebration of body image.
naked bike riding
Like New York City and London, Philly celebrates cycling culture and positive body image with its annual Naked Ride, a massive event with over a thousand scantily-clad participants.

Has there ever been a more beloved convenience store? The touch-screen ordering docks, the milkshake machines, the signature lemonade iced tea, Hoagiefest... volumes of poetry could be (and, let's be honest, probably have been) written about Wawa.
Clarifications: This article has been updated to reflect that the current City Tavern is a rebuilt version of the 18th-century original, which was destroyed in 1854. It also has been updated to note that the Yuengling brewery is not actually located in Philadelphia proper, and Reading Terminal Market is not actually located on Market Street.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

10 US Travel Destinations You May Not Have Considered.


Contributed by Emily K Wolman· 

Planning a vacation in the US next year but aren’t sure where to go? After all, it’s a big place! For the fourth year running, our travel experts have scoured the States to make the decision a bit easier for you.
While Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 covers global must-sees, including Chicago and Texas, here we delve a bit deeper and showcase the top 10 places in the US that should be on travelers’ radars in the coming year. There’s something for all – beachcombers, nature lovers, beer aficionados, history buffs, road trippers, dice rollers – from every corner of the land. Whether quietly emerging destinations or perennial favorites, these places have new or timely angles that make them prime for visiting in 2014. So whatever your upcoming dream vacation, we’ve got some U-S-of-A inspiration for you.

1. Grand Rapids & Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast

Beach bums, beer lovers, and art enthusiasts agree: there’s a lot to love about western Michigan this year. Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, was voted best beer city in the US by the national Beer Examiner blog in 2012 and 2013, and its beer-tourism revolution rages on. Over 25 craft breweries pour in the area, and events like Cool Brews Hot Eats and the Winter Beer Festival (both in February), and the Summer Craft Beer Festival (August), keep the city festive year-round. Hops aside, the secret about Grand Rapids’ fabulous art scene is getting out. In addition to the impressive blooms and Rodin sculptures in the Frederik Meijer Gardens, and the excellent Grand Rapids Art Museum housed in a cool LEED Gold certified building, Grand Rapids is home to the world’s largest art competition, ArtPrize, in which more than 1700 creatives display their masterpieces.
A mere 30 miles away sprawls Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast, perhaps the USA’s most unexpected beach getaway. Some argue that these shores rival Hawaii’s and Southern California’s. Along 300 miles of seemingly endless beaches lie sugar-white dunes, wineries, antiquing, U-pick orchards and berry farms, cider houses, Hemingway haunts – you can even go surfing. In Michigan! So if you never thought you could head to the Midwest for a Cape Cod-esque beach vacation, think again.
Our (and everyone else’s) top-pick alehouse is rock-n-roll Founders Brewing Company, while the lake’s Oval Beach wins for smoothest sands.
Here is more information on how to explore Grand Rapids & the Gold Coast.
The Frederik Meijer Gardens at Sunset. Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids.
The Frederik Meijer Gardens at Sunset. Photo by William J. Hebert.

2. Yosemite National Park, CA

Much to the world’s delight, after the national parks’ temporary closure due to the government shutdown in 2013, Yosemite’s majestic peaks, thunderous waterfalls, and flower-peppered subalpine meadows are welcoming visitors again. Relax under the gaze of the valley’s monolithic El Capitan and Half Dome, or attain stunning views by climbing to Inspiration Point and Yosemite Falls (North America’s tallest). The crowds thin - as does the air - as you penetrate the park’s pristine backcountry, where you can hike for months. And through summer 2014, the park and gateway communities will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, signed by President Lincoln and a precursor to the modern National Park System. This milestone act was the first time a federal government set aside a piece of land purely for preservation by and for the people. Thanks, Abe!
Haven't been to Yosemite yet? Check out our perfect trip for first-timers.
The majestic valley of Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy of California Travel and Tourism Commission/Christian Heeb.The majestic valley of Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy of California Travel and Tourism Commission/Christian Heeb.

3. Boston, MA

Hot on the heels of another Red Sox World Series win, in January 2014 Boston is hosting the 100th annual US Figure Skating Championships, where the US Winter Olympics team is determined. Come spring, the gaze of international sports fans – if not the world in general – will turn to the Boston Marathon. Despite concern that the bombings in 2013 would deter entrants from the 2014 race, this will be the second-biggest Boston Marathon ever, with 36,000 runners flooding the course. And once summer hits, the city’s usual festivities are in full swing: all sorts of festivals abound, beer gardens and restaurant patios overflow, and a thriving arts and entertainment scene keep Bostonians content as the humidity yields to stunning, vibrantly colored autumn. Year-round, the past is very much alive here: follow in America’s revolutionary founders’ footsteps on the Freedom Trail, stopping to imbibe a bit of history at the Bell in Hand Tavern, the oldest tavern in the USA.
A favorite place to stay is the Omni Parker House, a historic hotel overlooking the Freedom Trail that has employed Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh, and accommodated Charles Dickens and JFK.
Our resident author offers up what's new in Boston for 2014.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace at dusk. Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.Faneuil Hall Marketplace at dusk. Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

4. Central Coast, CA

Often dismissed as flyover country between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this surreally scenic stretch of the Pacific coast is California at its best. Laid-back beach towns, sea-hugging Hwy 1 (one of the USA’s most iconic roadways), cliff-top lookouts, hidden coves, sea lion colonies and other wildlife, fantastical Hearst CastleSpanish missions, pleasant weather (even if it’s foggy) and no crowds. Dip inland to the up-and-coming Paso Robles wine country for scenery rivaling Napa and Sonoma. Back to the coast, after gasping at the raw beauty and energy of the 100-mile stretch of craggy coastline that is Big Sur, stop at the world-renowned, ecoconscious Monterey Bay Aquarium, who celebrates their 30th birthday this year. (To beat the aquarium crowds, buy tickets in advance and arrive when the doors open. The jellyfish exhibit is otherworldly.)
Outstanding farmers markets dot the coast. Check out Santa Barbara’s on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and San Luis Obispo’s, which turns into a full-on street festival every Thursday evening.
Big Sur along Highway 1 of the Central California Coast. Photo courtesy of California Travel and Tourism Commission/
Big Sur along Highway 1 of the Central California Coast. Photo courtesy of California Travel and Tourism Commission/

5. Jersey Shore

Perhaps the most famous and revered part of New Jersey is its sparkling shore. Stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May, the coastline is studded with resort towns ranging from tacky to classy. Hurricane Sandy in 2013 and the more recent fire on the Seaside Heights boardwalk devastated the Shore; as the recovery efforts continue, the 2014 summer season will be an important one for local communities. So come embrace the kitsch and you’ll discover a coastal extravaganza filled with family fun: beaches, dunes, lighthouses, amusement rides, go-karts, funnel cakes, bike trails, fishing, shopping, galleries, and more. It’s mobbed in summer, but in spring and autumn you may find yourself wonderfully alone on the toe-kissing sands.
Highlights include Wildwood, a kitschy slice of 1950s Americana and home to the state’s widest beach and the grand-daddy of Jersey Shore boardwalks. And of course, there’s the legendary, not-exactly-Vegas-but-kinda Atlantic City, whose famous 8-mile boardwalk was the first in the world. The fun ends at southernmost Cape May, with stunning Victorian architecture, sweeping beaches, and the only place in Jersey where the sun rises and sets over the water.
Post-Sandy, Asbury Park’s downtown is getting a revamped, revitalized image. The Antique Emporium of Asbury Park has two levels of amazing finds.
Here are more ideas for a summer getaway on the Jersey Shore.
Boardwalk lit up at night in Atlantic City, NJ. Getty Images/Panoramic Images.Boardwalk lit up at night in Atlantic City, NJ. Getty Images/Panoramic Images.

6. Kansas City, MO

Wide open and inviting Kansas City is famed for more than its 200 fountains (on par with Rome). Over 100 barbecue joints feed the city’s grateful denizens (and tourists), and the jazz and blues scenes serve as an anchor for a vibrant African American community. Kansas City’s intriguing and walkable neighborhoods warrant exploration, from the 1920s shopping district of Country Club Plaza to the Crossroads Arts District, which lives up to its name, and Westport’s alluring locally owned restaurants and bars.
Particularly appealing to World War I history buffs: Kansas City is home to the National WWI Museum. As 2014 marks the war’s centennial, major celebrations and events will ensue, and the museum’s adjacent Liberty Memorial is getting a $5 million renovation for the festivities.
Take your appetite across the border into Kansas City, Kansas, for incredible BBQ at Oklahoma Joe’s. People fly in for their ‘burnt ends’, the crispy ends of smoked pork or beef brisket. Amazing.
J.C. Nichols Fountain sits on the eastern edge of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Photo courtesy of
J.C. Nichols Fountain sits on the eastern edge of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Photo courtesy of

7. Cumberland Island, GA

One of the most underdeveloped places in the US, Cumberland Island is magical. Picture virgin beaches, windswept dunes, feral horses, wild turkeys, tiny fiddler crabs, beautiful butterflies, skittering armadillos, mossy old oaks, breathtaking sunrises... that’s Cumberland. Most of this unspoiled paradise, the largest of the Sea Islands in terms of continuously exposed land, is national seashore. On the ocean side are 18 miles of pristine sandy beach you’ll have all to yourself. The rest is maritime forest, marsh, mudflats, tidal creeks, and astounding ruins of the Dungeness mansion, once owned by the Carnegies. The whole lot is laden with hiking trails – 50 miles of ’em – and backcountry camping is permitted.
St. Mary's is the island's gateway, and where the mainland facilities and ferry terminal are located. Stafford Beach has some of the best sands in the South (excluding Florida, of course), and the magnificent old Greyfield Inn houses non-campers and the only restaurant on the island.
Camping under the oaks on Cumberland Island. Photo courtesy of National Park Service. Camping under the oaks on Cumberland Island. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

8. Las Vegas, NV

It’s always happening in Vegas, baby. But this year there’s more to discover than how much your savings have been depleted, especially as this dazzling rhinestone of a city attempts to draw more lower-rolling tourists in 2014 (per-person gaming revenue has dropped by 30% since 2006). Fremont East and the Arts District near downtown are blossoming into vibrant neighborhoods in their own right; the former has recently developed into an artsy hub – this is where the locals come to eat and drink. Lots of hip new bars, cafes and galleries – not to mention the Burlesque Hall of Fame – give revelers excellent reason to venture off the Strip. For the Strip-bound, the world’s tallest observation wheel (aptly named the High Roller), part of Caesars’ new $550 million LINQ ‘district,’ is slated to open center-Strip in mid-2014.
For high-octane thrills, find time between Blackjack hands for Vegas Indoor Skydiving, go-karting at Fast Lap, or ziplining with Flightlinez.
Get off the strip and head to Fremont East, where the locals go. Photo credit Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau.
Get off the strip and head to Fremont East, where the locals go. Photo credit Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau.

9. Sun Valley, ID

Sun Valley is the perfect alternative to Colorado’s ritzy resort areas, especially in summer when costs and visitor numbers are smaller. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, cultural events, and great food abound. In winter, world-class skiing can be had at the first purpose-built ski resort in the US, and you can ride the lifts with swanky Hollywoodsters in a refined and pretty place, sans fast-food joints and condo sprawl. Also absent: crowds and lift lines!
The stunning location is as impressive as the snow, and nearby Ketchum retains its authenticity and rustic beauty despite the seasonal deluges. A bit further on, Stanley – which might be the most scenic town in the US – is nestled on the crook of the Salmon River, thus a perfect launch site for killer rafting with the aptly named Sawtooth Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop.
Ernest Hemingway, who is buried here, had a deep affection for Sun Valley, and allegedly completed For Whom the Bell Tolls in the Sun Valley Lodge’s room 206 in between fishing and hunting excursions with buds Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.
Want more inspiration for year-round summer fun in Sun Valley?
Fireworks light up the Sun Valley ski slopes. Photo courtesy of Visit Sun Valley.
Fireworks light up the Sun Valley ski slopes. Photo courtesy of Tory Taglio.

10. Lana‘i, Hawaii

This unique speck of paradise boasts empty beaches, snorkeling and diving, shipwrecks, petroglyphs (!), otherworldly rock formations, red-dirt roads, rugged hiking (or 4WD) trails, and one of our favorite poke (raw fish salad) markets in the state. Lana‘i’s candy-colored plantation-style homes and teeny town center – yes, there’s only one town – offer a sense of isolation and small-island charm. It’s also about to undergo some serious change – and many say for the better.
The smallest of the visitable Hawaiian Islands is currently a mix of Hawaiian and Asian cultures, ritzy pools and rugged shores, and luxury and down-home travel experiences. Oracle bazillionaire Larry Ellison purchased 98% of the island in 2012, and his plans for Lana‘i are reputedly going to honor these distinctions while opening more high-end resorts and doubling the population. While some fear Lana‘i will become a playground for the wealthy, at least the playground will be, as Ellison puts it, 'a laboratory for sustainability' – and parts will still be accessible to budget-minded travelers, even if only by day-trip from Maui. Many feel this is all good, some not so much – it remains to be seen, but either way, see it now before it morphs.
Don’t worry, all the care goes into the food, not the décor, at the bare-bones Blue Ginger Café. Muffins hot from the oven are a must.
Here's an expert's view on how to find your center in Lana'i.
Polihua Beach, Lana'i. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority/Pierce M Myers Photography.
Polihua Beach, Lana'i. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority/Pierce M Myers Photography.

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