It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling for a work conference or your daughter’s class trip, Philadelphia is a fun and friendly city to visit. Center City is the best place to stay if your primary destination is the Convention Center or the Liberty Bell. It also makes it very easy to stay in your fit life groove. After my own recent visit to the City of Brotherly Love, I learned a few fit and healthy things to do in Philadelphia.
You have plenty of choices for a hotel near the Philadelphia Convention center but none of them can hold a candle to the Bellevue Hotel (in the Unbound Collection by Hyatt) if you need to work out on the road. As a guest of the Bellevue Hotel you get access to the Bellevue Sporting Club, a facility with a 10,000 sq foot cardio and free weight area, a full slate of classes, pool, basketball court, café and sauna. I woke up our first day in Philly giddy with joy about the possibility of going to the gym to start the day. That NEVER happens on the vacation.
But why stay in a gym when you can run the streets of Philadelphia? On Saturday morning, Ichose to run down Market Street to Independence Hall and back. I had the streets pretty much to myself, except for the super friendly doormen who acted as my personal cheering section. Maybe it was because I was sans earbuds or because I looked like I wasn’t a local but I never get friendly banter when I run at home.
Even if you don’t want to spend all your time in the gym, you can also walk to many of the historical sites, a Target, the Philadelphia Convention Center and great restaurants with ease. One of the things I love about big cities is that is usually easier to walk than drive and therefore get your steps in each day. Take in all the historic monuments, museums and gorgeous architecture on foot and you’ll get plenty of activity.
For snacks, water and the hair gel you forgot you have plenty of choices to stock up. Not only is there a small Target in the area but also Rite Aid and Walgreen’s. If you do stay at the Bellevue Hotel the Walgreen’s on Broad has a huge selection of bars, ready to eat raw vegetables and even hard-boiled eggs to stock your mini-fridge. Of course, you can’t live on hard-boiled eggs, protein bars and bananas the whole time you’re there. You need to make time for delicious and mostly healthy meals.
If you choose to stay at the Bellevue Hotel you do have the Starbucks easy button in the lobby. Not only can you get oatmeal for breakfast (which I gave a protein punch with RXBar Nut Butter) but you can also get the Protein Bistro box for later in the day. It’s utilitarian but satisfying if your stay is all work with little time to play.
If you’re a foodie with a little more time, make your first stop the Reading Terminal Market. Located just a couple of blocks away from the Philadelphia Convention Center, the Reading Terminal Market is a festival of food choices. I walked the whole thing before even daring to place an order. Open only till 6 pm this is a perfect stop for breakfast or lunch and restock your supply of snacks.
I chose to visit Reading Terminal market every day for my tea. Tea Leaf is a small booth with four seats at the counter and a delicious tea menu. Each morning I ordered a cup of puerh to jump start my day. Start your visit here so you can sip and stroll the market before choosing your meal.
My two favorite meals at Reading Terminal Market were very simple. One day for lunch Bri and I shared a small container of vegan tuna salad from LUVH deli. Not set up to sell sandwiches, the kind person at the counter gave us slices of sourdough bread with our purchase allowing us to create our own sandwiches. I only wish there had been a cooler to take home giant containers of their deli creations.
My other favorite meal was perhaps the best avocado toast I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Molly Malloy’s serves “pub grub from local ingredients” in Reading Terminal Market. They offer full service dining and seating although I chose to grab and go. (Hint: seating midday in the Reading Terminal Market is a challenge but you’ll make great friends sharing a table.) Some folks have an issue with ordering toast at a restaurant but trust me this is so worth it! The avocado was creamy and bright from the lime salt, with a hint of spice from the red chili flakes.
Of course, trying a cheese steak is a must in Philadelphia. I can’t tell you the best place to go due to my “if it had a face I don’t eat it rule”. I can tell you there is a veggie steak version at By George’s. Enjoy with an order of the sweet potato fries. It’s not what I would call a healthy choice but it was tasty!
Philadelphia has a host of vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants. With only three full days in town, I only had the chance to sample two of their best. If you need more choices, I highly recommend Yelp. The recommendations we received lead us to these two restaurants, both of which I really enjoyed.
Hummusology is a perfect fast and casual spot after a busy day. We were the only people dining in but plenty of people stopped by to pick up bags of aromatic bowls and sandwiches to-go. In case you didn’t guess, everything on the menu involves hummus. While half the menu is hummus-based bowls, I chose the Sabich from the other half. The Sabich is a pita stuffed with hummus, roasted eggplant, hard-boiled egg, Israeli salad and tahini. It was pure joy for my taste buds! If you need it, they have plenty of gluten free options too.
Vedge was our fine dining experience in Philadelphia. Vedge bills itself as a “Vegetable Restaurant” serving a selective menu of seasonal vegetable focused dishes from Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. A perfect place to practice slow eating, the plates are small but bursting with flavor and creativity. We sampled three dishes: leek tart, eggplant braciole and seared maitake mushroom. Each dish was an adventure in new flavors and textures designed to make you ask “how did they do that?”.
Located in a historic brownstone, be prepared to wait if you don’t make a reservation. Trust me, it’s worth it. We chose to skip dessert but our kind server brought us a tiny treat of chocolate and peanut butter which I pretty sure isn’t on the current menu. It was the perfect way to end a near perfect meal at the end of a near perfect visit to Philly.
If you’re thinking about chaperoning the trip to Independence Hall or you have been offered a chance to attend the next conference in Philadelphia, do it! I found the people friendly, the city lovely and the food delicious. With a list of fit and healthy things to do in Philadelphia you’ll have a great time and still fit into your pants when you get home!