We’ve all done it: chatted with our besties about taking a group trip, then watched as our lofty travel plans fizzle because we can’t settle on a destination, a date, and what we should do when we get there.
Well, dream no more because Philly is the perfect setting for a weekend escape with your gal pals. About two hours away via Amtrak (or three hours via car), this city is having a renaissance, with great places to stay, shopping, and things to do — and a different experience awaits in each neighborhood.
Visit stylish Rittenhouse to live the luxe life, with restaurants like French-inspired Parc (its Niçoise is a must every time) and Philly-based Anthropologie, whose pretty shop is filled with the boho-chic attire you already love. Munch on sourdough pizzas and uncork natural wines at Sally in nearby Fitler Square. A quick walk over to the Schuylkill River Trail after dinner ensures you’ll burn off that pie.
Discover eclectic finds in Queen Village — a growing vintage scene (check out Wayward Collection and B-Bop Vintage), a curated lineup of cool housewares at Black-owned Yowie, and an Insta-worthy plant paradise at Walter Pine. And in Old City? Step back in time at the Liberty Bell (don’t buy tickets when you can simply peek through the windows) and Independence Hall.
Hotel options span the gamut based on your group’s travel preferences. The W Philadelphia in Center City is tops for a lively bunch. Opened in fall 2021, the vibe-y, 295-room hotel is geared toward music-loving night owls. The living room area (aka the lobby lounge) buzzes with live performances and creative cocktails, and the Wet Deck rooftop escape on the seventh floor keeps things cool with rentable cabanas, a heated pool (up to 95 degrees in winter), and an adjacent bar. If you’re really looking to party, book the Extreme WOW suite. It has two beds, two baths, its own DJ table — and comes with a whopping $7,500 price tag per night.
Feeling a little more low-key? The recently restored Guild House Hotel, located in a historic townhome in Washington Square West, is the former hub of a 19th century progressive women’s club. Each of the 12 beautifully appointed suites is named after a feminist icon and New Century Guild member, and the library is lined with historic and modern tomes to browse at your leisure.
When it comes to food and wine, Bloomsday in Headhouse Square is a popular outpost for weekend brunch, nightly dinner, and its retail wine shop, Fancy. The café serves a global-ish menu stocked with local, sustainably farmed ingredients, and even the simple stuff (plump shrimp cocktail and tart bloody mary cocktail sauce) is lip-smacking. Later this year, the restaurant will begin offering its Fancy Wine Snack Feast for up to six. The program will uncork a selection of bottles (from sparkling to red) and a food spread.
For one last splash, charter a cruise with Sea Philly at Penn’s Landing. Day and sunset trips — plus longer excursions for wildlife-watching — are offered on a 1961 restored Chris-Craft picnic boat. Arrange for a charcuterie board, BYO drinks, and motor along the Delaware — a perfect end to a trip with your girls.
Where to Stay
If you’re game for a splurge (come on, you haven’t had a girls trip since pre-COVID!), book a suite at the Four Seasons Philadelphia, a luxury playground for adults on the 48th through 60th floors of the Comcast Center. A skyline corner suite is tops for groups (it can hold three adults) and will afford you sweeping panoramas of the skyline (though you get city views from any room), a spacious bathroom with natural Sodashi amenities, a living room, and other perks. Make time for a treatment at the 57th-floor spa — its walls are embedded with more than 700 pounds of healing crystals — not to mention a dip in the breathtaking infinity-edge pool. One of the more popular gathering spots in town is the hotel’s JG Skyhigh, a bar in the literal heavens. It’s always packed with hip folks sipping craft cocktails and nibbling crispy sea trout sushi, and who, perhaps, didn’t plan far enough in advance to book a table at Jean-Georges. But there’s no shortage of dining options with Vernick Fish and Vernick Coffee Bar on the bottom floor. This fall, look out for private yacht rides via the Philadelphia Cruise Co. and a collab with nearby Barnes Foundation to see impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern art: A new Modigliani exhibit begins in October. $750 per night, 1 N. 19th St.
What to See
If your group is drawn to creative exploits, head to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for Matisse in the 1930s. Opening October 19, it’s the first exhibition — and only one in the U.S. — dedicated to the French painter’s pivotal work in that decade. The collaboration with Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée Matisse Nice features more than 100 rare and well-recognized works — paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and illustrated books — organized chronologically. While there, check out the new Frank Gehry–designed main hall and step into the courtyard to see larger-than-life sculptures overlooking the Schuylkill. $25 per person, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
Where to Eat and Drink
Whether you’re going for brunch (new for fall) or simply for a drink and to ogle the gorgeous designs, Wilder in Rittenhouse will satisfy. Opened in March, the two-story eatery (plus a third-floor event space) is housed in a 4,500-square-foot former row home and carriage house that’s been outfitted in pure glam. Vintage Persian rugs serve as wall hangings, chandeliers line the ceilings, and rich textural velvet banquettes invite you to take a seat. Consider visiting for early evening snacks; split the petite seafood tower and sip on interesting wines like a mourvèdre rosé from Swartland, South Africa. 2009 Sansom St.
Where to Shop
You could simply hit the local stores for all your style needs. Or you could make them yourself at Madalynne Intimates in Brewerytown. Designer Maddie Kulig is known for her flirty but wearable bralettes, panties, bodysuits, swimsuits, and more, which you can learn to sew yourself at one of her classes. She’ll be on hand to walk you through each step no matter your size. (The inclusive patterns range from extra-small to 3X and A to H cups.) You’ll have something frilly and handmade to take home. $125 per person, 3101 W. Glenwood Ave.
This story originally ran in our September issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.