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One of America's best food towns, most interesting architectural and artistic communities, biggest sports cities and most fun college towns, Philadelphia is a first-rate tourist destination all of its own. The City of Brotherly Love knows it, experiencing none of the inferiority complexes some American cities feel next to New York. With a new building by world-renowned architect Richard Meier in the works and the attention of the world's most famous chefs, the city continuously looks to improve itself. And something special this year, Philadelphia's citizen number one Ben Franklin would have turned 300.

Go Philadelphia (tel. 215/599-0776; www.gophila.com), the official website for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Association, lists everything from events, museum shows, restaurants, hotels, nightlife, shopping, and regional happenings. In addition to providing links to other sites promoting Philadelphia cuisines, the GoPhila lists available packages so you can take advantage of the great travel options available to the city. A search of available hotels for a weekend for two adults in early December yielded a centrally located Microtel ($63 per night), Best Western ($98 in Center City), Hilton ($119) and a Sheraton on the Campus of the University of Pennsylvania ($199).

The University of Pennsylvania (tel. 215-898-5000; www.upenn.edu), founded by Benjamin Franklin and now one of the country's finest educational institutions, has a vibrant weekend scene that includes football at Franklin Field, one of the oldest standing football stadiums in the United States, an exciting campus centered upon Locust Walk with turn of the century fraternity houses, a library by Frank Furness, the architect who built America's early skyscrapers, and great food and drink at the White Dog Caf¿ (tel. 215/386-9224; www.whitedog.com), Abner's Cheese Steaks (tel. 215/662-0100; www.abnerscheesesteaks.com), and Smokey Joe's Bar (tel. 215/222/0770; www.smokeyjoesbar.com) where students have been drinking pints (at three different University locations) since the 1930s. A tour of Penn's campus is as interesting a Philadelphia experience as Center City or South Street.

If you travel to Philadelphia in January, you can help the city celebrate Ben Franklin's 300th Birthday. Events include a birthday for Ben on January 17, 2006 and a special exhibit titled "Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World" at the National Constitution Center (www.gophila.com/culturefiles/historicattractions/constitutioncenter) from December 15, 2005 until April 30, 2006. The exhibit includes Franklin's walking stick, his signed copy of the "Treaty of Paris", andan odometer he invented. Several city hotels are offering packages to the Franklin Birthday party that include discounted rates on hotels between December 15, 2005 and April 30, 2006 and two tickets to the exhibition and a Ben Franklin birthday pack that includes discounts to restaurants and retail stores.

To get to Philadelphia, Travelocity (tel. 888/872-8356; www.travelocity.com) offers last minute travel packages to Philadelphia that include air and land deals. A three-day Thursday to Sunday trip out of Atlanta that leaves November 3, 2005 starts at just $400 with accommodations at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia Center City hotel. From your Center City location, you can hit most of the Philadelphia neighborhoods via public transportation, short walk, or inexpensive taxi (under $10). Nearby sites include the historic district where you can see the Liberty Bell, the Federal-style red brick townhouses for which Philadelphia is well-known, the Philadelphia Museum of Art sitting atop the Schuylkill River and the string of houses along the river that house the university crew teams that compete internationally.

To fly to Philadelphia, American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) has a fall special where round-trip airfare into the city costs the following:

  • Chicago $138
  • Houston $178
  • Nashville $176
  • Omaha $198
  • St. Louis $208

These fares are only available online with travel good through February 3, 2005. A one-night, three-night or Saturday night minimum stay may be required with certain blackout dates applying. Tickets for this fare need to be purchased by midnight on October 31, 2005, or this Monday night. Additional fees include an $18 in local airport charges, $10 round-trip deplaning fee and $2.50 in security charges.