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Philly in Winter

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

By Shari Hartford

Photos courtesy VisitPhilly

There are three kinds of winter people. Some yearn for white sand beaches, exotic tropics and fruity drinks topped off with tiny paper umbrellas. Some dream of fluffy white snow, whooshing down mountains and hot buttered rum. Then there are my kind of people…we’ll take a city, thank you very much. It’s business as usual, no scary driving and always a special incentive or two to make getting out and about a reward for endurance.

I recently decided to visit Philadelphia (one of my fave cities) and see how they hold up during January. As an added enticement, there is a Visit Philly Winter Getaway Hotel Package (through March 19) that offers great value and a special something for everyone.

My hotel of choice (there were 38 to choose from) was the very convenient Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Center City, located just across the street from the Academy of Music. This base of operation for the next 36 hours was spacious, comfy and had a staff to answer and direct even the most geographically challenged. And the warm chocolate chip cookies upon arrival were a welcome nosh.

Our first stop, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, is one of the many perks of the package. Located at Penn Landing’s seasonal park, this is a village built in a city. The package provides tickets to the open-air ice rink and skate rentals (not for me; long story) and admission to the winter wonderland. We happily sat for hours in the rustic lodge, surrounded by Wyoming-esc furnishings, throws, tchotchkes, rugs and multiple fireplaces. The antler chandeliers were clichéd but adorable. Outside, there were twinkling lights, fire pits, food and beverage options (cocoa, anyone?) and an arcade for the kids.

Jones Restaurant

Eventually the brisk air stirred our appetites so off we went to Jones Restaurant, a great comfort food establishment with a blazing double-sided fireplace. Brunch was delectable, as was the monkey bread that is the house special. With its cool vibe and appealing menu, this is the type of restaurant you want to fall into every weekend.

The package offers a dining option as well. Use the discount gift card to try one of the ten Garces Group restaurants. Amada serves wonderful tapas and signature cocktails named after Pedro Almodovar films. Check it out for lunch or happy hour.

After a bit of retail therapy (can a New York City girl not shop??) we again took our passes and ambled over to the Franklin Institute to see the blockbuster exhibition titled “Jurassic World.” Modeled after the film of the same name, the exhibition immerses patrons in scenes from the movie. The dinosaurs are life size (well, almost) and displayed in a natural (well, almost) habitat. Kids especially will enjoy this fantasy trip to Isla Nublar.

The famous meatballs at Little Nonna’s

The weekend finale was a stupendous dinner at Little Nonna’s. This tiny gem has some of the best, and innovative, Italian fare around. I could happily immerse myself in the beet and citrus salad with whipped ricotta and pears. (Please, please ship me a vat.) The autumn squash lasagna was smooth and heavenly as was the linguine vongole. The house specialty – for carnivores guests – is the handmade meatballs with spaghetti and pork marinara. Our surrounding tables were diving right in.

Another very welcome inclusion in the Winter Getaway package was an Uber credit. Philly is a great walking city, but perhaps not so much in January. The credit was happily put to good use.

And so ended our brief sojourn to Philly. Spring will eventually spring and with it will come many new events and attractions. I am looking forward to the new Museum of the American Revolution (opening April 19) and the Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival (May 20). It will be time to visit again.

For more information on the Philadelphia Winter Hotel Package or any other Philly event, see visitphilly.com.


Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.



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