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Philadelphia is open for business: Here's what you need to know to plan a trip

June 13, 2021
6 min read
Elevated view of Philadelphia skyline
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Philadelphia is having a moment: The Sixers are in the playoffs, there's a new Four Seasons with a pool that dreams are made of, a new Centurion Lounge at the Philadelphia (PHL) airport, and for those on the Eastern Seaboard not ready to jump on a plane just yet the city is easily accessible by rail.

And as of June 11, the city of Philadelphia is officially back in business as all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

The past year-plus has been tough on Philly, just as it has been on most cities across the US and around the world.

"So much of city life is about interacting with people on the street. Everything shut down so quickly and people had to lock themselves inside [if you could]. So the sense of community that was just so present on the street evaporated, instantly," said South Philly native and co-owner of South Fellini apparel shop, Johnny Zito. "One of our favorite Philly videos is of customers at Jim's Steaks, standing in line, and singing Boyz II Men together. That kind of weird spontaneity, an energy that makes Philly the way it is, had to go away so we could do the responsible thing and socially distance."

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"What I have missed most about Philadelphia in the last year is the lively nature of this city, as once the pandemic hit mid-March 2020, tourism significantly decreased," said Gilbert Santana, GM at the Hyatt Centric Center City Philadelphia. "Philadelphia has always been a vibrant city with its rich history, and arts and entertainment offerings. The city’s strong sense of community is instilled in its residents and felt by our visitors."

"We were pretty impressed with how everybody came together to help during the lockdown. People funneled that loud, Philly energy into new charities, services, and businesses. As things open up we're really excited to see what the next version of Philadelphia looks like," said Zito.

The next version is here. "There's a general sense of optimism when we talk about the future," said Zito.

"Since we officially opened our doors for travelers in October 2020, we have seen demand for leisure travel begin to ramp up, with a strong outlook heading into the summer," said Santana.

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You can officially eat your cheesesteak indoors, explore the wonder-filled Magic Gardens, and brush up on your history at the African American Museum.

That said, there are a few things to know before you pack your jawn.

There is plenty to do...

Most museums, attractions, restaurants and hotels have reopened for business.

If the Four Seasons is out of your budget, consider the newly-opened Hyatt Centric or the Motto by Hilton (review coming soon) at Rittenhouse Square.

Related: The real deal: Why the new Four Seasons in Philly is the perfect weekend getaway

Aside from doing your due diligence exploring Independence Hall, don't miss the aforementioned African American Museum, the Barnes Foundation and United States Mint (the only time you'll catch us fawning over cash).

When it comes to restaurants, there's no shortage of incredible things to eat. Grab a bottle of Crémant and some Camembert and relax in the Di Bruno Bros. plaza in the Italian Market (just make sure to save room for dinner at Esquire Best New Restaurant Kalaya just up the road). Get a table and a Detroit-style pie at Down North Pizza. Have breakfast for dinner at South Philly mainstay Melrose Diner.

Explore the more than 2,000 acres at Fairmount Park after a day at the museum, or venture out to Wissahickon Valley Park for even more nature.

Head on over to the Deleware River, lace up your roller skates and hit the Blue Cross RiverRink then take a load off in the hammocks at the Spruce Street Harbor Park.

Cruise the shops along East Passyunk Ave. (pronounced "pa-shunk"), like South Fellini, which has not only weathered the storm but managed to come out on the other side better than ever. "The immediacy of the shut down was really tough. We spent years building a business and then overnight we had to close. We didn't know if we'd ever reopen," said Zito. "During 2020 we shifted focus to our website and original content creation to keep our customers engaged. South Fellini launched a podcast, a city-wide scavenger hunt, and a free Blockbuster Box where people can exchange DVDs."

Browse around Fishtown for MCM (that's mid-century modern, of course) furniture finds and craft beer.

Related: Can’t-Miss Philadelphia Attractions for Families

...But not everything is open — yet.

Restrictions have been lifted but lingering effects remain. I was disappointed to find not only the hip ground-floor restaurant and bar at the Motto by Hilton closed on a recent visit but the rooftop restaurant as well.

While attractions like the Mint are open, certain aspects like the gift shop may not be, so plan your souvenir expectations accordingly.

A few of my favorite watering holes, like The Ransetad Room, are also still closed.

This shouldn't stop you from planning a trip by any means (as a creature of habit I've found this is good motivation to try new places), but make sure to call ahead to find out who has the lights on.

Related: 7 easy Philadelphia escapes you can get to in 3 hours or less

Some COVID restrictions still linger...

Some businesses still require masks or have other COVID-era modifications in place. Indoor seating at restaurants can be limited or hours may have changed.

If you take the Amtrak to get to Philly, you'll need a mask on the train as well. Be prepared and you won't have a problem.

...some of which are for the better.

It's summer and a great time to take advantage of being outdoors — even in a city. Philly is incredibly walkable, and the proliferation of outdoor seating at restaurants and bars has kept an added element of summer fun to the streets — perfect for people watching.

Other indoor activities are here to stay as well (for now at least): "One of the initiatives that we’re continuing to see strong demand for is the Hyatt Night In offering at Hyatt Centric Center City Philadelphia, which provides a local escape or staycation to break from the routine and enjoy a truly unique stay...The popularity of this offering among local travelers has been an indicator of the pent-up desire for travel and new experiences," said Santana.

Related: First look: The Private Suite Dinner program at Philadelphia’s Hyatt Centric Center City

You'll also find more contactless payment options than ever and hand sanitizer pretty much everywhere (but good luck finding parking).

Photo by Yongyuan Dai/Getty Images

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.