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What To Do Over Thanksgiving Break: Philly Edition

For those of you who are actually going to the Philadelphia area for Thanksgiving break, you’re in luck. Although you might find yourself missing the HUB after a few days away from campus, Philly is the hub of all activity for southeastern Pennsylvanians, and the bustling city attracts people from all over the state with its many incredible tourist spots. Whether you’re anxious to get back to State College or ready to explore the city, we’ve put together the hottest restaurants, the most historic sights, and the coolest concerts to check out during your stay in the City of Brotherly Love.

Sights To See

The best place to see the sights is Center City, Philadelphia. One of the most well-known and picture perfect spots is LOVE Park, located in the John F. Kennedy Plaza. Not only can you take pictures at the famous LOVE sign, but you can also enjoy the awesome food trucks from Monday, November 23 to Wednesday, November 25. Starting on Thanksgiving, you can also visit the Christmas Village that takes over LOVE Park. If you can’t make it during Thanksgiving break, don’t worry — the village will remain in the park until December 27. Once you’re finished at LOVE Park, you can head over to City Hall, which is only a three minute walk away.

Although it’s closed on Thanksgiving Day, the Philadelphia Art Museum is a great place to tour, and it’s open Tuesday through Sunday every week. It even stays open late on Wednesday and Friday evenings, for those of you who enjoy evenings in the city. The museum is currently featuring a collection of American still life paintings, and has collected 227,000 different objects and other works of art since opening in 1876. If you’re feeling especially cliché, run up the museum steps and snap a few pictures posing with the Rocky Statue right outside of the museum. Other historical sites include the Philadelphia ZooAmerica’s first zoo, and Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence (and Nicholas Cage did some serious code-cracking in “National Treasure”).

Things To Do

The biggest spectacle of the holiday is the Thanksgiving Day Parade, held in Center City. Not only is it the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country, but it’s boasting some pretty big names this year. With special guests like Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd and American Idol Season 13 Winner Caleb Johnson, you’re not going to want to miss out on the star-studded parade. There will also be special performances from choirs and marching bands across from the country (no, unfortunately the Blue Band won’t be there).

The Franklin Institute is another staple of Philadelphia tourism, and general museum hours are from 9:30-5 every day. The Institute always has special shows and exhibits going on, and has featured exhibits that explore the Titanic and the lost city of Pompeii in the past. It’s a great place to go with the family, or on a nice date with your hometown sweetheart.

If you’re looking for a super-sophisticated date night feel, however, you can catch a show at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts or the Forrest Theatre, located within a 10 minutes of each other. The Forrest Theatre will be showing “The Book of Mormon” starting on November 24, so now is the time to buy your tickets.

One last Philly favorite is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. The Magic Gardens are described as a “mosaicked visionary art environment, gallery, and community arts center” on their website, but it’s something you truly have to see to believe. The attraction is a beautiful sight and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make sure you head to South Street on any day of the week from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. You can even get a $2 discount on admission with your student ID.

Places To Eat

There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at in Philadelphia, and the hardest part about your trip will be choosing which one to eat at. A great lunch spot is Garces Trading Co., a small restaurant located near the Magic Gardens. Their duck fat frites (which is just a fancy way of saying french fries cooked in duck fat) are to die for, and the quiet ambiance and other great menu selections will make for a relaxing and satisfying lunch.

If you’re craving some delicious Mexican food and searching for a more fun, upbeat environment, head to El Vez for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s an awesome, authentic restaurant that’s great for groups and even has a photo booth. Make sure you make your reservations ahead of time, because El Vez packs the house on a daily basis.

One major favorite among tourists is Hard Rock Café because it never disappoints. This all-American joint has great burgers, great music, and great service. After your meal, don’t forget to stop in the gift shop and buy a T-shirt to commemorate your trip.

Whether you feel like touring or sitting down for your meal, check out the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s famous indoor farmer’s market. Vendors at the market offer a wide variety of foods and specialties, including seafood, fudge, cheese, donuts, and, of course, cheesesteaks.

Concerts to Enjoy

A Beatle may not be coming to town, but there are definitely some worthwhile concerts to see during your time in the city:

Elle King –– November 27  at Union Transfer, 8:30 p.m.

August Burns Red — November 27 at the Theater of the Living Arts,6:30 p.m.

Radio 104.5 Presents The Front Bottoms — November 28 at the Electric Factory, 8 p.m.

Andrew McMahon, New Politics, and The Griswolds — November 28 at the Fillmore, 6:30 p.m.

And for those of you planning on leaving early or coming back late:

All Time Low and Sleeping with Sirens — November 21 at the Liacouras Center, 7 p.m.

Falling In Reverse Tour with Attila, Metro Station, and Assuming We Survive — November 29 at the Electric Factory, 7 p.m.


When in Philadelphia, do as the Philadelphians do. If you’re heading to the greatest city on Earth (besides State College, of course) for Thanksgiving break, make sure that you stay safe, have fun, and don’t act too much like a tourist.

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About the Author

Gabriela Stevenson

Gabriela is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism and Onward State's student life editor. She is from Norristown, PA, which she normally refers to as "30 minutes outside of Philadelphia" (she looked up the exact driving time). She enjoys Broadway musicals, neck pillows, and eating cereal at night. To contact Gabriela, e-mail her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @GabiStevenson if you want to feel young again.


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