Girl’s Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia: Spas , Art and Nighttime Fun

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Girls Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia - Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square Park
The weeks-long Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square Park is a great excuse to set up a girls weekend getaway in Philadelphia. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Philadelphia, The City of Brotherly Love, is ideal for a girl’s weekend getaway, especially if some of the girlfriends are coming from New York City or New Jersey and others are coming from Washington, D.C., or Maryland. Since my sister lives near Wilmington, Delaware, and I live in New York City, we can easily meet in Philly.

Center City Philadelphia is about a two-hour drive or 90-minute Amtrak ride from Manhattan, and slightly closer to DC.

Girls Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia - Outside the Rodin Museum

Outside the Rodin Museum. Photo credit: Judy Antell

What to Do in Philadelphia on a Girl’s Weekend

Despite its proximity to NYC and Washington, D.C., Philly often has small-town prices on boutique hotels, but there still are big-city things to do. There is fine dining for the foodie in the group, fun nightlife, and unique annual events that keep me, my sister, and friends coming back. The city is small enough that many of the things to do are within walking distance of each other, too.

Spa Time

No girl’s weekend is complete without a trip to a spa. Several hotels in Center City have spas that welcome non-hotel guests.

Joseph Anthony Retreat Spa and Salon is in the Loews Hotel. It has a Turkish bath, plus scrubs, soaks, massages and facials.

The signature Chocolate and Champagne facial at The Rittenhouse Spa & Club is another way to indulge. There is also a CBD body treatment, You can use the saltwater pool, steam room, and fitness center at the Rittenhouse Hotel when you are a spa guest.

Art Time

Center City is filled with museums and when you are without kids, you can skip the family-friendly destinations and head straight to The Philadelphia Museum of Art. This comprehensive museum has works by Renoir, van Gogh, and Degas, a sculpture garden, and interiors that were redesigned by Frank Gehry.

And no whiny kids (that belong to you) asking when it’s time to go.

The Rodin Museum, part of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, has a pop-up garden bar on Friday evenings in the summer. There is music, and dogs are welcome. You can also get summery cocktails and small plates.

The museum has about 150 sculptures by Auguste Rodin and is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the artist.

Barnes Foundation

The idiosyncratic Barnes Foundation offers a feast of art, with an astonishing 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, and 59 Matisse works. They are crowded on walls with no accompanying wall labels – you feel fully immersed in the works. Go on first Fridays, when you can listen to live music and buy cocktails. 

The museums are all along the main street of Philadelphia, The Ben Franklin Parkway, which also passes by the family-friendly Franklin Institute.

Another main street, Market Street, runs from William H. Gray III 30th Street Station, where Amtrak comes in, down to Penn’s Landing and the Delaware River. Once you know where these main streets are, it’s easy to get around the city.

Outdoor Arts

See the murals in Philadelphia. Many are within walking distance of each other, but you can combine your art tour with bike riding. There is also a Segway Tour of the murals. My husband was embarrassed in Lancaster when we did a Segway Tour, but doing this with your girlfriends could be fun.

Girls Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia - Ridley Creek State Park

The eponymous creek of Ridley Creek State Park. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Outdoor Fun Near Philly

If seeing the murals whetted your appetite for the outdoors, Ridley Creek State Park has hiking trails and paved paths for biking or cross-country skiing. Unfortunately, you really need a car to get here.

Nighttime Culture

The Miller Theater has touring productions of Broadway shows. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, also presents other types of music, along with dance.

City Winery Philadelphia has live music, comedy shows and more, including wine tastings and cocktail classes. You can go for brunch or dinner without seeing a show.

Girls Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia - Yellowstone National Park at the Philadelphia Flower Show

You can be transported from Center City to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Philadelphia Flower Show

When my sister and I head to a girls’ weekend getaway in Philadelphia, our favorite reason to go is the annual Philadelphia Flower Show. The show is held annually in the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Presented by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, the show is a riot of color and floral displays. It is held in March, to rev you up for spring planting.

Old City

Philadelphia’s historic district, Old City, goes down to the Delaware River and up to 7th Street. It has family-friendly historic sites you may have taken your kids to visit, like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

But it also has Riverfest in winter, along Penn’s Landing. You can ice skate outdoors in a huge rink overlooking the Delaware River, and warm up at a cozy firepit or cabin. Of course, there are winter cocktails to help warm you up.

In summer, the same area becomes Summerfest, with roller skating, boardwalk games, and an urban beach. And summertime cocktails!

Chinese Lantern Festival

An annual Old City tradition is the Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square. Franklin Square has family-friendly daytime activities like a playground, a carousel, and mini golf. But every summer, the illuminated Chinese Lantern Festival makes this a great evening destination.

Mini golf is also fun to play with your adult friends. You putt through historic landmarks like the Liberty Bell, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the LOVE statue.

Where to Eat in Philadelphia

Girls Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia - Federal Donuts

Federal Donuts, a local specialty. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Federal Donuts

I like the one in Center City. It has wonderful treats that you can eat in Rittenhouse Square. There are also several other Philly locations of this local chain.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market, a giant indoor farmers market, also has tons of prepared food that you can eat right there. Bakers have Pennsylvania Dutch specialties like shoofly pie or warm apple dumplings and Amish whoopee pies. You can get vegan food, cheesesteaks, Thai, Middle Eastern, and deli – it is impossible to leave here hungry. Pick up fresh milk from Lancaster County Dairy, or wine from local wineries at Pennsylvania Libations.

Talula’s Garden

Where better to eat with your girlfriends than a place named for a woman? Talula’s Garden in Washington Square West in Center City, near the Historic District, is great for brunch. Owned by local celebrity chef Stephen Starr, it has house-made baked goods and brunch faves like shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and omelets.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Be sure to try the fresh baked cheddar chive biscuits. You’ll think you’re in a small town in the South.

Emmy Squared

Another girlfriend-friendly place is this New York City import with Detroit-style pizza. Is your head spinning yet? In addition to the square pizzas, they have delicious salads and great cocktails And have I mentioned the rooftop bar?

Girls Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia - The Aloft Hotel in Center City

The Aloft Hotel in Center City, in a former bank. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Where to Stay in Philadelphia

Although I love to stay in bed and breakfasts, they are often better designed for romantic getaways. Guest rooms usually have only one bed, and I don’t like to share a bed with someone other than my husband.

The Aloft, a boutique hotel in Center City is walking distance to Reading Terminal Market and has a huge gym on-site. Guest rooms with two queen beds are perfect for a girlfriend’s weekend.

Things to Do in Philadelphia on a Return Trip with the Kids

You certainly could visit any of these on a girlfriend’s weekend getaway to Philadelphia, but I vote for spending your time at non-kid-friendly sites like the spa and rooftop bars. Here are the decidedly family-friendly things to do in Philadelphia:

  • National Constitution Center
  • The Betsy Ross House
  • The Liberty Bell
  • The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia
  • Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches

Girl’s Weekend Getaway Outside Philadelphia

Other Pennsylvania places for girl’s weekend getaways include Bucks County, the Pocono Mountains, and New Hope.

Girls Weekend Getaway in Philadelphia - Moynihan Train Hall

Start your Philly getaway on an elegant note, from the new Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Getting to Philly from NYC

For bargain hunters, there is a cheap way to travel: from NYC, take New Jersey Transit to Trenton, New Jersey, and change to SEPTA, the Pennsylvania train system. This adds about half an hour to your journey, but for last-minute travel, it is much cheaper than Amtrak.

Masochistic bargain hunters can take Megabus to Philly. This cheap bus line goes right to Center City. But like being in the car, a two-hour drive can easily turn into a four-hour drive thanks to traffic and highway construction. On one trip, our bus broke down on the New Jersey Turnpike and our bus driver pulled over, walked away and abandoned everyone. I do not recommend this option.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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