DAY TWO: YOU GOTTA HAVE ART
The stately Philadelphia Museum of Art (26th St. and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy; 215-763-8100) is the region's museum of record, housing over half a million works, including Duchamp's scandalous "Nude Descending a Staircase" (it's a male nude!), van Gogh's "Sunflowers," Picasso's "Three Musicians," Mary Cassatt's "Woman and Child Driving" and a remarkable survey of Renaissance masters and medieval art. Even sports fans will recognize the museum; Philly native Sylvester Stallone ran up the front stairs in the iconic scene from Rocky.
Behind the museum, Fairmount Park ambles for many miles along the Schuylkill River, and Boat House Row provides an old world backdrop for practicing rowing crews (mostly spring through fall in the early morning and late afternoon) and regattas.
Shimmering works inspired by those rowers, by professor and painter Thomas Eakins, are on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA, Broad and Cherry streets; 215-972-7600), the oldest art school in the country. Eakins, insisting on realism, was ousted after ripping a loincloth off a live male model.
Meanwhile, across the Schuylkill in West Philly, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA, 118 South 36th St; 215-898-5911) offers an ever-changing lineup of challenging shows, on the Ivy League campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
Half a block from the ICA, Pod (3636 Sansom St; 215-387-1803; $14-30) is fittingly contempo-cool. The interior is glossy white, with mood lighting and molded rubber fittings ? snuggle with your sweetie in privacy, in one of the namesake pods. The Asian-fusion menu features dim sum and larger plates.
For a quick bite near PAFA (and the Gayborhood), the Reading Terminal Market (Arch between 11th and 12th Streets) is the authentic experience Boston's Faneuil Hall should have been. It's best for a quick lunch, and on weekends Amish sell handicrafts. A few minutes' walk away, Valanni (1229 Spruce St; 215-790-9494; $19-29) offers plenty of art on the plate and in the crowd around you. Look for Caribbean and South American cuisine and, in fair weather, an open-air perch. There's plenty of flattering lighting to play off those dishes at the next table (both the culinary and human varieties).
Or down in South Philly, Victor Caf? (1303 Dickinson St; 215-468-3040; $15-$20) is an intimate Italian boite with an opera soundtrack, where otherwise dignified waiters might just break to belt out an aria in the middle of dinner.
Thus inspired, head to the shimmering new Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (at the corner of Broad and Spruce Streets; 215-893-1999), home to the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, under a barrel-vaulted ceiling. It's just steps from the Gayborhood for post-show bar-hopping.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four