Philadelphia: Where to Stay and What to Eat

This is my fourth post about our adventure traveling through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the other educational US travel our family has done here

Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the hotels and attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend. If you notice any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love a particular hotel, attraction, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay. 


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We arrived in Philadelphia in the evening of Tuesday, October 3 and left early on Friday, October 6. During the two full days we were in town, we filled our time with museums, monuments, tours, and scavenger hunts. How did we manage to pack so many activities into such a short amount of time? Part of it was by being really organized and setting a schedule ahead of time, but no matter how much preparation I'd done ahead of time, we would not have been able to do so much if we hadn't chosen the hotel we did. The Thomas Bond House was just a short walk from absolutely everything we wanted to do. It was so convenient to park the car once on Tuesday night and not move it until we left town on Friday morning. We saved a lot of time not having to deal with traffic and parking, which left us with more time to explore and enjoy Philadelphia. 


Dr. Thomas Bond built the house in 1769. In 1988, it was restored to its Federalist glory and opened as a 12-room inn. Each morning we had a wonderful breakfast to start our day. In the evenings, we enjoyed wine (soda or juice for Trevor) and fresh-baked cookies.


We stayed on the second floor in the William Penn room, which was ideal for our family of three. (Go here for an explanation of the stickers on Trevor's jacket.)

This is the view from the window next to Trevor. That's Welcome Park.

While the Thomas Bond House was perfect for our family, it may not be right for your family. Their policy is, "Children over 10 are welcome, as long as they will respect the historic fabric of the building, the value of the antiques, and are sensitive to the presence of our other guests." Not a problem for Trevor. The other guests wouldn't have known he was even there if he hadn't challenged them to chess. 

And when he wasn't playing chess, Trevor was working on homework. He was on Independent Study during the two-week trip, which means that he had to stay current with all the work his 6th grade classmates did. This translated to two reports, an essay, daily journal writing, four blog posts, an entire math chapter, an entire history chapter, a daily reading log, and a few other items. As it turned out, school was canceled during the second week of his Independent Study because of the fires, but we didn't know that at the time. Trevor returned to school one week ahead of his classmates in every subject and enjoyed a very easy week when school resumed!

Now that I've covered where to stay, it's time to tell you where to eat! We had fantastic food in Philadelphia, starting with Little Lion.

Not only was the food amazing, but they serve mocktails (and cocktails) made from colonial shrubs that were almost as good as the ones we made! (OK, fine. Their shrubs were actually much better than ours, which were pretty tasty. Meaning theirs were amazing. You should try them. And then try making your own! Perhaps rhubarb?)


Another restaurant you absolutely should not miss, no matter what? City Tavern. It's just across the street from the Thomas Bond House and dates back to the same era. Every detail, from the servers' clothing to the harp player, brings you right back to the 1700's. 


Check out our dining room. Apparently there are 10 dining rooms, plus the patio. 


The menu is based on authentic American cooking from the 18th century. Everything we had was fantastic. If it weren't 3000 miles from home, City Tavern would be my go-to special occasion restaurant. I'd love to try the rest of the things on the menu. Shout out to our server, Sierra, who made the evening extra fun!


Speaking of places I'd like to go to again and again... Reading Terminal Market is, in a word, awesome. It is an indoor public market and it is so large that it has street signs and friendly, green-aproned ambassadors to help you find your way around. 


We wandered up and down every aisle before selecting pizza, a beef sandwich, and a whoopie pie to share. Delicious! You could go there every day for a year and not repeat a meal. And based on the lines and the yummy smells, all those meals would be outstanding.

I also recommend a meal at Philadelphia's 9th Street Italian Market. It is the oldest outdoor market in the United States and it is an experience not to be missed. Many of the stands are for grocery items that won't work for a tourist staying in a hotel, but they're still worth a visit. 


There were plenty of places selling ready-to-eat food. We split some amazing pizza, a sandwich, and two flavors of Pennsylvania's iconic water ice. So good!

And while I'm talking about refreshing desserts, The Franklin Fountain is an absolute must. This old-time soda fountain serves up drawn sodas (we got one for the three of us, finished it quickly, and went back to try a second flavor because it was so good), sundaes, phosphates, and all sorts of other delicious concoctions. We tried the Ladies Choice, raspberry soda infused with peach ice cream and sweet cream. It was amazing. 

You can't go to Philadelphia without having their most famous food, the Philly cheesesteak. I did a bunch of research ahead of time and asked every Philadelphian we met for recommendations. Armed with that knowledge, we did a head-to-head taste-off from two of the most highly recommended, Campo's and Sonny's


They're located just a few storefronts away from each other, which was key to having a fair tasting. Steve and I split up, each buying an identical cheesesteak at the same time so neither would be fresher than the other. We brought them to a neutral location and opened them up. That's Campo's on the top. It's stuffed with more meat and was oozing with cheese. Sonny's fillings fit nicely in the bread. From a 'what you get for the money' standpoint, Campo's is the clear winner. (Those are The Franklin Fountain drinks on the right. Pineapple soda and Ladies Choice.)

I cut each sandwich into chunks. Campo's cheesesteak basically fell apart, while Sonny's split nicely with the bread sturdy and holding all of the fillings. 

As for the taste? They were both outstanding and I'd have either one again in a heartbeat. Steve had a slight preference for Campo's because of the meaty flavor. Trevor preferred the flavor of Sonny's. Both looked to me expectantly for the tie-breaking vote. It was so difficult! Ultimately, I went with Sonny's because the onions were caramelized a bit more than Campo's and the bread was tastier. But it could have just as easily gone the other way. Have your own taste test when you're in Philadelphia and let me know what you prefer!

We had the best time in the City of Brotherly Love! Tomorrow I'll share our next destination. 


  1. I agree that staying at a central location and planning really help save time. You guys got a lot done in a few days! Yay for Trevor keeping ahead of school work!

  2. Loving all the photos!! That hotel you stayed in sounds WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!


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