Expert Tips From a Local Concierge
Nobody knows a city like the local concierge team. With the inside track on all the best places to dine, shows to see and things to do, they’re a wealth of knowledge for all travelers. We talk with a top local hotel concierge in Philadelphia to get the inside scoop on all their expert tips.
Jean-Francois Dupont, Concierge For W Philadelphia
What are your best tips for exploring Philadelphia like a local?
Dupont: As the birthplace of America, Philadelphia (or Philly for short) offers a rich history dating back to our founding fathers. It is a diverse city offering something for everyone. Also known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philly is quite expansive as a whole, yet many of the popular attractions and neighborhoods are easily accessible by foot. If you prefer not to put your soles to the sidewalks, the double-decker bus tours, with unlimited on/off privileges, are another great option. Either way, map out your plan for the day and enjoy!
What should be on every visitor’s “bucket list” when visiting?
Dupont: Located in the bullseye of the city, where east meets west and north meets south; City Hall is one of Philadelphia’s most iconic landmarks. The highest point of the building is adorned with a statue of the founder of the Colony of Pennsylvania, William Penn. The tip of the statue comes in at 548 feet high. From many of the north-facing rooms of the W Hotel, there is an incredible view of City Hall and the statue. And a little bit of trivia: For many years, there were no buildings higher. William Penn towered over the city. With revitalization and modern architecture, this has since changed, yet the building itself has lost none of its lackluster.
What’s an excellent spot to capture a great selfie?
Dupont: The best selfie background in the city is the iconic City Hall building. Make sure you place yourself on the island in the center of South Broad Street around Chestnut Street or Walnut Street with City Hall in the background. Especially in the warmer months, it is not uncommon to see wedding pictures being taken at this same location. Just be careful…it can be a busy place, and there is traffic all around!
Where’s the best place to take kids of all ages?
Dupont: Philadelphia has an incredibly vibrant art scene. We are home to a world-renowned symphonic orchestra as well as a theater that hosts many of the most well-known shows, both past and present. Our Art Museums are second to none. We are home to The Barnes Collection, which showcases the world’s most important impressionist, pre-impressionist, and modern paintings.
A few streets down is the Rodin Museum which needs no introduction, and another short walk from there; at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has whimsical exhibits that both adults and children will love. If formal galleries are not your thing, one could legitimately call Philly itself the world’s largest outdoor gallery as one can admire over 3,600 murals all over the city. These murals can be found on buildings, bridges, houses, and who knows where else…each of these has its own story.
For a guest looking for a night on the town, what would you recommend?
Dupont: One of my personal favorite evening activities is a visit to one of our “speakeasy” bars. Depending on which you choose, you can enter these speakeasies through a laundromat, a barbershop, or a “secret door” in an alley.
Additionally, all you need to do is a little research to find something to your liking, maybe a little music or dancing. Hip hop, Latin, alternative, burlesque, LGBTQ, goth, Philly has it all and venues are scattered around the city.
Any suggestions for the best under-the-radar sites or uncommon things to do?
Dupont: One of Philadelphia’s “under the radar” attractions is located on eclectic South Street. It is called The Magic Garden. It has a unique story; Google it to learn more.
While on South Street, there are numerous eateries where one can purchase a famous Philadelphia Cheese Steak. Philly Cheese Steaks are an integral part of the city’s DNA. There is an eternal (friendly) battle as to where one can get the best Philly Cheese Steak. I’m not even going to give a hint on this one; you must judge for yourself.
What is your expert tip?
Dupont: I am now going to give away some great advice: Many of Philadelphia’s restaurants have a BYOB policy that allows you to stop by the local wine shop and pick up your favorite bottle on the way. There are no corkage fees, and you are then guaranteed to enjoy exactly the wine you want. This is a huge deal for those on a limited budget and even for those who simply have a particular favorite that the restaurant may not offer.
You may want to phone ahead as some of the more well-known restaurants do have liquor licenses and do not offer this option, yet they are in the minority. Most restaurants offer BYOB.