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Philadelphia Locals! Tell me about this... place!

zerzhulzerzhul Registered User, Moderator mod
If you are on these forums and have attended a PAX, hopefully you are familiar with our FAQ threads that are maintained with information provided by the community.

The current one for PAX East

We need some help with this new PAX city! There will need to be a "Philadelphia" section for the PAX Unplugged community FAQ, and I have never been there.

If you feel so inclined, please take a look at the "Boston" section in the East FAQ and post information about Philadelphia that would help complete a Philly section.




  • SchmulkiSchmulki Registered User regular
    edited February 8
    Some short answers to the same questions on the FAQ, others can expand:

    Oh God, I can't leave!
    It's been mentioned a couple of times, but walking around Philly is VERY easy. There's no crazy "levels" of streets, there's tons of signage, and for the most part, your phone should work outside so you can use it as a map.

    Mid-late November is a bit of a mixed bag. It's usually not too cold yet, but every now and then, you get one of those years where there's some snow already. This year, for instance, we were all wearing short sleeves in November. So you might need a range of clothing from short sleeves up to winter coat (especially if you're going out at night).

    Free Parking?
    HAHAHAHAHAHA no. In that part of Philly, you are not going to park for free. You might be able to park on a street and keep feeding a meter if you're REALLY lucky, but I wouldn't count on it. Your options are really to find out if the hotel you're staying at has reasonably-priced parking, pay through the nose for a lot near the convention center (right down to the fact that lots near the convention center have multiple sets of signs for the normal prices and then the prices for when a convention is going on) or park VERY far away and use mass transit to get to the convention center.

    Parking Cost
    Sorry, it's been over a decade since I've tried to park around there during a convention. Hopefully someone else can remember prices better.

    Here's where it gets fun. You have your normal "convention center garbage" in the convention center. Right across the street is the Reading Terminal Market (http://readingterminalmarket.org/). It's this gigantic, open space with an absolute ton of independent vendors, about 3/4 of which are food (there's a handful of crafts/books/etc) with some really great food options in there. Everything from Amish places (closed on Sunday) to soul food to German to a make your own salad place to a grilled cheese place that makes their own cheeses. Have a look at the list of places on the site, there's going to be something you want to eat there. Probably several somethings. One caveat: they're only open until 6 pm except Sunday, when they're open until 5. One other caveat: during large cons, this place is bonkers. You are going to be squeezing between people to get through isles, lines are going to be enormous for the more popular places (you can easily wait 20+ mins in lines just to order during large cons), and if you don't know where you're going, it's going to be even more daunting since there isn't a good option for a place to stop and stand off to the side and just look around.

    If you go south/west from there, there's plenty of your normal chain options including a Hard Rock Cafe and a Chilis right there.

    If you're thinking, "this is Philly, I want a cheesesteak!", well, you CAN get an OK one right around there, but the famous places (Pat's, Geno's, Tony Luke's, Jim's, etc.) are going to mean traveling. None are right there. If you're going to travel and want to choose which one(s) to go to....well, if you ask 3 people around Philly which place to go for a cheesesteak, you'll get 4 answers. So I'll try to sum it up somewhat impartially. The "traditional" fight is between Pat's and Geno's. They're literally across the street from each other and honestly, If you're going for the first time with a couple of people, I recommend getting 1 from each and splitting them to try both out. NOTE: Both serve you at a counter outside and only have outdoor seating (undercover, but outdoors). If it's raining, you can definitely still go, but if it's too cold, you're going to have no way to hide from the cold. Tony Luke's is known for it's "Italian" cheesesteaks (and even moreso, thinly-sliced roast pork) which is with Provolone and Broccoli Rabe. Jim's....ok, I know multiple people who say this is their favorite, but I just don't like it as much as a LOT of other places. That said, it's right in the middle of South Street. If it's a nice day out to walk, South Street is a fun place to go. Lots of really crazy shops and people, bars, a really good concert venue, etc. So if you're going to take an extra day and see some cool stuff, it's not bad to try one there.

    But if instead, you go north/east out of the convention center, you're in Chinatown. And I'm talking less than a block to start. And it's....what you expect. Tons of restaurants, take your pick.

    Philly is a very good food town, so it really comes down to how far away from the con you want to venture and how much you want to spend.

    I guess TBD?

    Getting around
    There's Uber, Lyft, bicycle rentals (I think I remember there being a station for that right outside of the convention center on Arch St around....13th st), you're a couple of blocks away from a SEPTA train station, there's a pretty good bus system, and you're a few blocks further from PATCO.

    You can definitely drive and in that part of the city, it's a bit grid of mostly 1-way streets (alternating every other street). If you get over by City Hall (about 4 blocks west of the convention center), there's a big circle around it which is a bit daunting and if you venture further away, you get to less of a grid structure, but it's FAR easier than NY or Boston no matter where you are. Parking is tough, though until you venture outside of "Center City" (the downtown area). Well, tough or expensive.

    I'd personally recommend, weather-permitting, to park your car and unless you're planning on going somewhere you know requires driving, leave it parked and walk or use one of the other means of getting around. I'll let others fill in more details there.

    Other things to do in Philly
    If you're going to do touristy things, I'd recommend the Philadelphia Phlash (http://www.visitphilly.com/tours/philadelphia/phlash/) which is a tour bus that stops at the convention center, runs every 15 mins, is $2 per trip or $5 for an all-day pass, and goes to basically every touristy place you'd want to hit. The only caveat is I can't find the exact dates it runs, but I "think" it runs during that time.

    You have your normal museums (including the art museum, feel free to run up the steps and throw your arms up in the air, every tourist does it), the Liberty Bell, and the Philly Zoo, which is really an amazingly large and sprawling zoo. It's quite difficult to actually get through the whole zoo in 1 day.

    For less touristy stuff, there's more food and GREAT bars than you could possibly hope to see in a weekend. You can make a day of just going around eating and drinking. I've done it before :)

    I mentioned South St before, I'm referring to this: http://southstreet.com/ . If it's a nice day out for walking, I'd recommend getting down there (again, tough to park unless you're paying for a lot). A lot of strange shops, lots of interesting people, good food, good bars, and a really good concert venue, the TLA http://venue.tlaphilly.com/ . If you're going to be down that way, it's worth looking to see if anyone is playing you'd be interested in.

    I don't know what schedules will look like at that time, but there's also the sports teams. The Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers will all be in season at that time, so it's just a matter of who's in town. Those 3 (plus the Phillies) all play in the same complex. All the stadiums are next to each other, sharing parking. There's also a train that goes straight to the stadium which makes it even easier. While you're over there, there's some good food/drink, but it's sort of on the outskirts of things, not nearly as densely-packed near the convention center.

    Hopefully that's a good start, I know others can fill in a lot of details and other things I've left out.

    Schmulki on
  • zerzhulzerzhul Registered User, Moderator mod
    That is an awesome start!

    Also I guess there should probably be some info about the convention center since I know nothing about that either! :P

  • SchmulkiSchmulki Registered User regular
    Ah, well, the center itself....it's on Arch St, you generally enter on 12th st (there's other entrances, but they usually lock those when there's a large convention to funnel everyone through the same entrance to check tickets), takes up a couple of blocks, it's more like Boston than Seattle, where it's all inside (you don't have to go to multiple places for different events), the food is your typical overpriced, not-very-good convention fare....is there anything else specific to note about it?

  • zerzhulzerzhul Registered User, Moderator mod
    hmm... best way to get there from the airport and from the train station?

  • HazelHalfBloodHazelHalfBlood Unapologetic Dungeons and Dragons Enthusiast New HampshireRegistered User regular
    zerzhul wrote: »
    hmm... best way to get there from the airport and from the train station?

    We are traveling from NH by train to Home2. But from what I've seen posted so far if there is a walk from the train station it won't be too bad! Thank you for starting this thread btw! I've never been to Philly so this is super helpful!

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  • SchmulkiSchmulki Registered User regular
    edited February 8
    From the airport: Septa Regional Rail train that goes to Jefferson Station or, of course, Taxi or Uber/Lyft if you would rather not have to deal with dragging luggage on the train and just go door-to-door.

    From Jefferson Station (where you'll generally come into): https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Jefferson+Station,+Philadelphia,+PA+19107/Pennsylvania+Convention+Center,+1101+Arch+St,+Philadelphia,+PA+19107/@39.9534516,-75.1605073,18z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c6c629723a425f:0x52cd17be0653b167!2m2!1d-75.1580556!2d39.9525!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c6c62bddfc9707:0x87374431ef79ff64!2m2!1d-75.1593274!2d39.9547548!3e2

    It's a .2 mi walk from the train station to the convention center. If the weather is bad, there is an exit from Jefferson station that actually goes to a covered area, you cross the street (staying under the covered area the whole time), and walk right into Reading Terminal, you can cut through there, and then only have to walk outside to cross the street to get to the convention center. If you're staying at the Marriott or the Hilton Home2, as you can see from the map, it's an even shorter walk.

    There's also a bus station at 12th and Arch if you're planning on taking a bus in.

    If you're going to come from NJ, the closest PATCO station is 8th and Market. It's a .5 mi walk to convention center from there: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/8th+and+market/Pennsylvania+Convention+Center,+1101+Arch+St,+Philadelphia,+PA+19107/@39.9529552,-75.1586951,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c6c8826f051765:0x58a77ac7e15a0dcc!2m2!1d-75.153587!2d39.951152!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c6c62bddfc9707:0x87374431ef79ff64!2m2!1d-75.1593274!2d39.9547548!3e2

    As was mentioned in the other thread, The Gallery, an underground mall, actually goes from the 8th and Market Patco station to Jefferson Station. It's currently under renovations so it is not open to walk through and is "supposed" to be open by the spring, but walking by there, it doesn't look all that close. If it's open, it's perfect to walk through. If it's closed, it means walking outside.

    Finally, there is a subway that comes into 8th and market as well. I am honestly not familiar with that line, I haven't taken it before.

    edit: Oh, I should mention, there's a Grayhound station across from Jefferson Station, so you could get there by bus as well. I have no experience using that, maybe someone can fill in details there.

    Schmulki on
  • SchmulkiSchmulki Registered User regular
    edited February 8
    We are traveling from NH by train to Home2. But from what I've seen posted so far if there is a walk from the train station it won't be too bad! Thank you for starting this thread btw! I've never been to Philly so this is super helpful!

    I'm assuming you have this figured out by now, but for others, if you're taking Amtrak in, you'll arrive at 30th St station in Philadelpia. It's a major hub, really nice train station. From there, just ask someone there for what the next train to Jefferson station is, they'll point you to the right track. Bonus: they almost never check for tickets in that stretch. But, if they do, it's $6 pp for that ride.

    Also, while you're stopped in 30th st, there's actually some REALLY good food there. Beck's Cajun (which has a smaller location in Reading Terminal) has really good cajun food (including breakfast!), there's some normal chain places, and if you're coming in around lunch time, if you walk outside of the train station, there's "The Porch" which has several different food trucks every day: http://www.universitycity.org/the-porch , schedule here: http://www.universitycity.org/tags/porch

    (If you're coming in a morning when Schmear It is there, I can recommend their bagels, they're good stuff, and lunchtime, Pitruco is a wood-fired pizza oven built into a food truck, which is AMAZINGLY good, and Foolish Waffles basically makes waffles and serves them to you like a taco with things in them. They've won awards and their pork belly and chicken and waffles are both outstanding.)

    Schmulki on
  • Knight_Knight_ Dead Dead Dead Registered User regular
    Taxis from the airport to anywhere in center city are a flat 28.50+1 dollar per extra person, so at least you'll know what you get on that front if you decide to cab it.

    Don't go to any of the famous cheesesteak places, they're generally mediocre.

    For parking, if you don't want to spend 30+ dollars a day and don't need your car for the weekend, your best bet would be going to a SEPTA park and ride, leave your car out there, and take the regional rail into Market East. Anything near the convention center is going to be 25+ dollars a day minimum. Here is SEPTA's page on the matter.

    For getting around, there are nearby stations of the BSL, the El, or the trolley lines which can get you a whole lot of places. Additionally, that close to city hall you can take a bus to basically anywhere. Philadelphia is on apple and google's transit search, so you can use that to get fairly good public transit instructions throughout the city. Driving and parking in this section of the city is an abject nightmare when it's crowded, I'd really recommend not doing it if you can avoid it. It's hard to do a write up about the fare process because SEPTA is currently in the middle of a changeover to contactless carts, but generally a fare is 2.25, or 1.80 if you can buy tokens. Not sure what the status of tokens will be in 10 months however.

    For stuff to do, if you haven't done it I recommend independence mall. It's only about 8 blocks away from the convention center, and you can see the liberty bell, independence hall, the constitution center, and it's just nice. Additionally, the Franklin Institute is real neat, that's about 8 blocks in the other direction.

  • gonexallgonexall PhiladelphiaRegistered User regular
    edited February 9
    Just a few additions to the awesome work done so far.

    Metered street parking is available on most streets. During the week, it is possible to find a spot with a patience and driving around. On the weekend, it is more difficult, but not impossible. Of course, parking may be even harder during PAX. On the positive side, Philly is experimenting with a parking app, where you can use your phone to pay for parking, get notifications when the meter is about to expire, and "re-load" the meter without having to go back out to your car. This is only in certain areas right now, but is planned to rolled out by November.

    If you come to Philadelphia via Amtrak, you arrive at 30th street station. You can take the green line (trolley) or the blue line (subway) from 30th street to Jefferson Station. I would recommend the blue line because it is cleaner and has fewer stops. You could also take one of the regional rails from 30th Street Station to Jefferson Station. On the regional rail, there are no stops between the two, but the trains run less frequently and are a bit more expensive.

    Things to do:
    A personal favorite of mine is the Franklin Founain (http://www.franklinfountain.com/) for old-timey ice cream. Also great, and maybe more appropriate for November is the hot chocalate place in the back of the old-timey Shane's Candy Store right next door (http://shanecandies.com/). Both are a short trip on the Blue Line.

    If you are in an Indiana Jones mood, check out the Penn Archeology Museum (https://www.penn.museum/). They have the biggest Sphinx in North America and other cool stuff from ancient civilizations. The building itself is awesome, entirely red brick, built around 1880, with an amazing rotunda. Again, the blue line is your friend, though you do have to walk a few blocks after getting off at 34th street.

    gonexall on
  • dfc123dfc123 Registered User new member
    edited February 9
    Here's what you need to know about cheesesteaks. The visit Philly site has a lot of good info. I use it and I live here.

    I do like John's Roast Pork in South Phila. However th Reading Terminal Market has several good places.
    My recommendation however is forget about the cheesesteak and go for the Roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and greens. Di Nick's at the Terminal is one of the best.

    dfc123 on
  • theadman2315theadman2315 PhillyRegistered User regular
    I mean I live in philly, I've been to the convention center a bunch. It's a huge venue. VERY accessible. You can literally get off of an airplane or train, use SEPTA regional rail it goes into the convention center. There are a bunch of hotels in the area, including one that is attached directly to the convention center.

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  • dfc123dfc123 Registered User new member
    Some websites to do some research Uwishunu.com Foobooz.com Visitphilly.com Philly.com
    Foobooz has all the foodie stuff.

  • djlybsdjlybs Slayer of the Datas Boston MetroRegistered User regular
    Does anyone know the impact that the Philly Marathon will have on the convention area?

  • SchmulkiSchmulki Registered User regular
    So....just looked at the route and it goes down Arch St RIGHT by the convention center. That's.....not good.

  • Knight_Knight_ Dead Dead Dead Registered User regular
    edited February 12
    Schmulki wrote: »
    So....just looked at the route and it goes down Arch St RIGHT by the convention center. That's.....not good.

    It starts at ~7am and the start line is on the parkway, most if not all of the runners will probably be gone by 8 and the barricades taken down.

    edit: honestly the biggest problem the marathon is going to pose is people driving in from the northwest, because both drives are going to be closed until the afternoon which is going to jam up the expressway.

    Knight_ on
  • ishtraishtra Long IslandRegistered User regular
    Glad someone mentioned the marathon. Curious about leaving Sunday. Worth noting, looks like they have a list of partnered restaurants with the marathon participants, so if you were looking to go, plan Well ahead because those places might fill up more than usual. Also on their 'weekend activities' mentions a health expo in the Convention Center Hall F on Friday and Saturday. Looks like we're sharing :surprised:

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  • gonexallgonexall PhiladelphiaRegistered User regular
    ishtra wrote: »
    Glad someone mentioned the marathon. Curious about leaving Sunday. Worth noting, looks like they have a list of partnered restaurants with the marathon participants, so if you were looking to go, plan Well ahead because those places might fill up more than usual. Also on their 'weekend activities' mentions a health expo in the Convention Center Hall F on Friday and Saturday. Looks like we're sharing :surprised:

    Board Game nuts and Health nuts will be an awesome combination! I wish I owned a copy of Magical Athlete.

    I think the Marathon is important to be aware of, but won't affect much as long as you plan the timing of meals carefully and are staying at a hotel near the convention center or on a subway or train line. Even if there wasn't a marathon, I would not advise driving downtown. The trains are just easier. In the worst case, there are always the computer lots at Regional Rail stops outside of downtown. Parking there used to be just a dollar a day, but I'm not sure if it has changed.

  • EdwardFEdwardF Registered User new member
    edited March 13
    dfc123 wrote: »
    My recommendation however is forget about the cheesesteak and go for the Roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and greens. Di Nick's at the Terminal is one of the best.

    If you're in the Reading Terminal Market, there's a Grilled Cheese place in there, that's AMAZING.

    And they usually run a themed menu, to coincide with events at the Center.
    When I went there during Wizard's - there were a lot of Walking Dead stars attending that year.
    So, Valley Shepherd offered a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, that would survive a Zombie Apocalypse.

    Goat's Cheese - Pickles - and SPAM
    They called it "The Walking Bread"

    It . Was . Awesome.

    Valley Shepherd's Website

    EdwardF on
  • EagleAlphaXEagleAlphaX New JerseyRegistered User regular
    While we're talking about Reading Terminal Market, Famous 4th Street Cookies is also awesome!

  • EdwardFEdwardF Registered User new member
    edited April 3
    Let's keep this thread going, with more info about the Reading Terminal Market.

    I can personally vouch for the Heat and Flavor of Beck's "Alligator Po' Boys".
    If you've never had an opportunity to try Alligator ... now's your chance.

    Reading Terminal Market

    (Lots of Good "What to do in Philly" Links at the bottom of the Page.)

    EdwardF on
  • SchmulkiSchmulki Registered User regular
    I know I said this before in passing but I can't say this enough: don't count on Reading Terminal for TOO much. It is going to be an absolute MADHOUSE in there. You're not going to be able to walk in around lunchtime, find something, and get your food in under an hour, especially the more popular places.

    Also, if you're not a fan of large crowds or people randomly stopping in the middle of rows, blocking the lane, to look at what's around them, it'll drive you nuts. I'm not saying people shouldn't go, it's an awesome place, just know what to expect.

  • Arithon32Arithon32 Member of the Pinquisition Registered User regular
    Definitely. Reading Terminal Market has some AMAZING food, but it's packed and busy on a slow tuesday, during the convention it's going to be a mess. If you have any issues with crowds I recommend you give it a pass. Chinatown is literally around the corner, and should be a lot less hectic.

    If you do decide to brave the market, Dinic's roast pork sandwich. Best in the world, hands down.

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