This spring, OUT sent the fabulous and fashionable 'South Bronx Luxe'-creator Jerome LaMaar to Philadelphia to explore the city and give us his recommendations for the best way to experience the city while showing a little pride. Just a quick train ride away on Amtrak's Northeast Regional(sm) route, there is so much to explore in The City of Brotherly Love. Read on below to find Jerome LaMaar's guide to visiting Philadelphia as an Out Traveler.
As a creative director, I am constantly in search of new experiences that I can share. Often, my search for newness isn't without hassle when it comes to traveling outside of New York City. From long lines to delayed flights and annoying bag checks, who would want to travel anywhere?
This all changed when I decided to ride Amtrak(r) for a short trip. It was full of ease, good energy and most of all it was hassle free! The process of getting my ticket in Penn Station was so easy, I wondered why I didn't do this sooner. I rode on the smooth Northwest Regional from Penn Station to the beautiful 30th Street Philadelphia station, just a little over an hour's ride. Along the way, I managed to hop on Wi-Fi and get some work done while relaxing in a comfortable seat.
The best part is it was stress free.
After arriving in the stunning Philadelphia 30th Street Station, you immediately fall in love with the simplicity of traveling with Amtrak. It felt surreal how quickly I arrived at my destination and had to share my excitement. But first, it was time to find a spot to eat and I'm not talking about cheesesteak.
WHERE TO EAT
Double Knot Cafe is officially my new favorite spot. Its cozy setting is the perfect backdrop for creative conversations and brainstorming, but what I love most about this place is the quality of food for such an affordable price. The lunch rice bowl is only about $8.00, and tastes fresh, satisfying, and delicious.
Vista Peru is full of life with a focus on Peruvian dishes with a Philly twist. Its modern decor becomes a frame to its colorfully vibrant dishes. I recommend you go in a small group to experience the large plates of freshly-made lomo saltado.
One of the newest spots I love is Redcrest Fried Chicken. This modest-yet-pristine location is in the middle of one of the coolest neighborhoods just a ten-minute ride from Downtown. You can smell the freshly prepared chicken in the air from all directions. Their iconic chicken sandwiches are to die for. Trust!
WHAT TO DO
If you are looking for creative energy and a fresh take on culture, check out the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Stop into the cafe when you arrive to order some fresh-brewed tea or coffee, which is prepared artistically and served up with a friendly smile. As you enter or leave the galleries, make sure to shop the curated selection of over 100 art books, which are on display in the gift shop.
HOW TO CELEBRATE PRIDE ALL YEAR
For a colorful LGBTQ-friendly hangout with friends, try Sampan / Graffiti Bar, which is located beside Double Knot Cafe, past a graffiti-adorned alley that opens up to a speakeasy-style outdoor bar. There, you can enjoy a refreshing summer cocktail with friends or ask the bartender to whip up a mock-tail of your choice.
Pride season is full of great experiences. Fringe Arts is full of interactive shows, art exhibitions and music. Depending on the day you visit, you can hear a live jazz band, watch witty performance art, or view pulsing light stories that are guaranteed to make you dance in your seat.
WHERE TO SHOP
Open House Philly is full of the things you never knew you needed. You will find everything from funny greeting cards, artistic jewelry, clever mugs and celebrity candles, to great plants and artsy light fixtures. There is something for everyone, but most of all the energy was so inviting. The store makes you appreciate the unique experience of shopping in a physical store - a feeling that can't be replicated by today's online shopping habit.
Omni Zakka Shop has a series of well-made Japanese items. Its focus is on subtle details and expanding various needs to enhance your lifestyle from skincare, grooming, candles and tea, to books and ceramics.
If you love fresh handcrafted soaps, Duross & Langel is your paradise. The shop is full of mini bath bombs, charming soap blends and the store's signature fragrances.
WHERE TO STAY
The Study is pretty central to the happenings of city life. Full of young energy, it welcomes you with a massive statue of a pair of glasses at rest, as if the wearer was studying for hours. The lobby is framed with a library of interesting books that give The Study - a hotel right in University City - its name. The hotel also features an open gallery space that showcases local talent.
Into something more grand? The LOGAN Hotel provides you with plenty. It opened in the former Four Seasons location with a modern spacious lobby. This 391-room hotel is artistic in many facets, and has marked itself as "Philadelphia's Hotel."
Hotel Monaco is really a sight to behold with its bold textures, colors and prints designed in a "maximalist" vein. If you're seeking a premium hotel experience with a great family environment, I recommend you stay here. Just be sure to enjoy the character of the quirky decor.
Philadelphia is full of so many new and exciting experiences for any Out Traveler. Just a brief ride away from New York City and many more stations along Amtrak's Northeast Regional(sm) route, it can be the perfect place to celebrate Pride this June.
Wherever you travel this Pride season, travel smart and don't be afraid to try new experiences. You may even discover a new sense of freedom just a ticket away.
For more travel tips from Jerome LaMaar, check out his guide to The Bronx. Visit Amtrak.com to book your next trip to Philadelphia, or any one of Amtrak's more than 500 destinations across the United States and Canada.