How Should I Get to the Conference Hotel from the Airport?
The R1 regional rail line runs from the airport to Suburban Station, which is about three blocks away from the conference hotel. It'll cost you $7 one way, which you will want to pay in cash on the train. And, you'll be happy to know, the regional rail system is NOT on strike, although you might want to bring a fire extinguisher.
How Should I Get to the Conference Hotel from the Train Station?
The 30th Street Station, where Amtrak lands, is about a mile away, and is a pleasant enough walk. It would also be a cheap cab ride, easily obtainable at the taxi stand outside. I wouldn't recommend trolley or subway, as you'll end up practically walking a mile anyways. Plus, they're on strike.
Where Should I Drink the Alcohol and Eat the Food?
The neighborhood immediately around the conference hotel is slightly dull, thanks to that whole City Beautiful thing. BUT, a mere ten minute walk due south will get you to the Walnut Street/Rittenhouse Square part of the city, where bars and nightlife abound. People in Philadelphia tend to think of this area as full of yuppies, but that's only true within the context of Philadelphia; if you are from somewhere else it's basically just kind of normal. OR, if you walk about four blocks east and then five blocks (or so) south, you will be in the heart of the Gayborhood, where there are, well, lots of gays. And the bars and restaurants appropriate to their kind. AND, if you walk about five blocks due east from the hotel, you're in Chinatown.
A few nearby places for a meal:
- Sabrina's (18th and Callowhill) I haven't been to this location, but the original is cozy and friendly, especially good for breakfast, and the new location comes recommended to me.
- Vietnam (11th between Race and Vine) Great Vietnamese food, and a surprisingly nice bar/lounge kind of thing, although only open until 9:30 on Thursday and 10 on the weekend. Yes, even the bar.
- Sakura (10th and Race) One of the better Chinese restaurants in Chinatown
- Tria (18th between Walnut and Chestnut) Popular wine/tapas place down near Rittenhouse Square.
- Reading Terminal (Filbert between 10th and 11th) Big indoor food market in a former railroad station with lots of little food stands and things, sort of like the Fairfax Farmer's Market in LA.
Where I Should I Not Drink the Alcohol or Eat the Food?
The main nightlife part of Philly for tourists and annoying teenagers is "South Street," which refers to the easternmost ten blocks of South Street on the other end of the city. Not only is it full of tourists and annoying teenagers, but it is hard to get to on public transportation. Why bother? You can get better cheesesteaks elsewhere. And if you want to visit actual South Philly, which is quite an experience, walk down Broad Street below Washington. Well, take the orange line, it's a hike. Tell the dancers at the Dolphin I said hi. Just kidding. Or am I...
What should I do while people are droning on endlessly about things I don't care about?
- I'm a sucker for eighteenth-century touring as much as anyone, so knock yourself out. It's probably about a half hour walk to Independence Hall. You'll need to get a free-ish ticket, preferably in advance but you can also usually walk up. Seeing the Liberty Bell, on the other hand, requires airplane-style security screening, all to see, well, a bell.
- The former Wanamaker's department store on Broad Street now houses a Macy's, but they kept the in-store organ, all 28,250 pipes. There is a 45 minute recital every day at noon, and again at 7pm on Fridays and 5:30 on Saturdays. It is totally awesome.
- I've never been, but if you like looking at freakishly deformed things preserved in formaldehyde, the Mutter Museum is for you.
- I'm going to be honest: the Philadelphia Museum of Art is not very good, and definitely not worth the ridiculously high entrance price. But it is pretty to look at from the outside. And you can take your official picture on the Rocky steps without paying a thing. If you keep walking past the museum you get to the lovely walk by Boathouse Row and the Schuykill River.
And of course, at my paper--Sunday morning at 9am, so don't get too rowdy at the parties the night before.