Philadelphia comes alive as temperatures rise. The colonial cobblestone streets glisten in the sun. The Schuylkill River gets crowded with rowboats and crew teams. Cyclists cruise along the river banks, and The Philadelphia Phillies once again make a run at the National League East title. New travel deals to the City of Brotherly Love reflect its availability to tourists and visitors looking for a quick fix on America's colonial past.
First, getting there. USAir (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usair.com/pro/specials/phl_gofares.htm) has a hub at the Philadelphia International Airport and some ongoing online specials called "Go Fares." No Saturday night stay is required and some of these fares work for last minute departures. Round-trip fares to Philadelphia start from $198 out of Los Angeles; $158 from Chicago; $138 from West Palm Beach; $48 from Providence, RI; and $198 from Phoenix. Air taxes and security fees are not included in the above fares. These low tickets must be purchased 14 to 21 days in advance of travel or within 24 hours of your trip.
On Travelocity (www.travelocity.com), packages to Philly can be had for less than $400 from most gateways around the country. From Charlotte, NC, a last minute getaway has a base price of $320 with a Thursday, May 19 departure; you return the following Sunday. Your accommodations will be at either the Independence Park Omni Hotel or the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue in the downtown area. For $129 extra you can stay at the luxurious Loews Hotel, also downtown. Included in the $320 base-price are airfare and accommodations (including hotel taxes and fees). From Memphis, the same trip starts from $329 per person. A shorter two-night combo will run you around $273 before taxes for a Friday to Sunday stay.
Once in Philadelphia, there are many things to choose from. Sylvester Stallone fans can check out the jog through the Italian Market featured in Rocky. Haute cuisine fans can check out Le Bec-Fin, one of the finest classical French restaurants in this city if not in all of North America. More low-rent foodies can down Philly's cheese steaks at world famous Pat's, Gino's, Lee's Hoagies or Abner's, all of whom serve up their own rendition of the culinary treat. Ben Franklin fans can tour the University of Pennsylvania, the Ivy League school Franklin founded. How do you find all these places? Check out www.phillytours.us for virtually every Philadelphia sightseeing experience available. From trolley tours to river cruises to food tours, the website is a must for those looking to do Philadelphia right. The site also lists many hotels to check your rates.
The rave in Philadelphia right now is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (tel. 215/235-7469; www.philamuseum.org). The Salvador Dali exhibit, marking his 100th birthday, runs through May 30, 2005 and features over 200 pieces of his work from paintings to sculpture. To guarantee admission to the Dali show, you should call or book online. Tickets will run you $20 for an adult, $10 for children and $17 for a senior citizen. Hours for the jam-packed show are from 8 a.m. till 10 p.m. with the last entrance time at 7:30. Apparently, the show is one of the best Dali shows ever. No, you cannot bring cheese steaks into the viewing areas.