Elephants, Beaches and Philly…Oh My!

Lucy the Elephant

One of my BFF’s lives in Atlantic City. After making two trips over the past couple of years, I had stubbornly refused to visit again because, in my opinion, downtown Atlantic City (where we had spent most of our time) is the definition of ghetto UNfabulous. Well, that and because, in the old days (i.e., 6 or so months ago), it was a pain in the ass to get to. Flying from Boston required a flight to Philly and then an hour ride (i.e., another $100 cab fare) to downtown AC.  Spirit Airlines is now flying Boston-AC direct. So with one deterrent out of the way I succumbed and made the trip earlier this month—but made him promise that downtown AC would NOT be a part of our itinerary.  To my beyond pleasant surprise, our half Jersey/half Philly weekend was amazing. Here’s a few places to check out next time you’re there.

Lucy the Elephant
Don’t ask…not really sure, but if traveling with kids there’s no way they won’t love climbing into the bowels of this oversized pachyderm. Built in 1881, today it’s a popular tourist attraction offering breathtaking views of the ocean from 65 ft above the ground. Stop in and say hi to Rich, Lucy’s Exec. Director. If he likes you, you may even walk away with your very own Lucy collectible (Thanks Rich!).

Hannah G’s
A popular breakfast spot on Ventnor Avenue, it’s great if you don’t mind waiting in line (My friend knows the owner so we cut the line. Love perks! ) and a can’t-miss place before hitting the beach.

Beaches
Heed my advice: avoid the beaches downtown. Crowded with visitors staying in the casinos, they’re just not nice. Instead, drive out to summer resort towns Margate and Ventnor where folks from Philly and NY flock and pop a squat on what’s known as “Downbeach,” or the southern half of Absecon Island. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, the famous AC boardwalk extends from downtown all the way to the Margate/Ventnor border—a five mile or so walk if you feel like having a go at Lady Luck.

Rittenhouse 1715
Now into Philadelphia, the 23-room boutique hotel right off of Rittenhouse Square was graciousness through and through. The room was large and very well-appointed, and a breakfast of fresh fruit, pastries, cereal, yogurt, etc. is included in your stay. And we got a great rate when we booked the night before we arrived by using hotels.com.

Lisa m. Reisman Et Cie
This darling shop was right across the street from our hotel. All sorts of unique gifts…I was looking at some of the expensive jewelry but decided to pass; on my way out saw some rings for $14 that were even cooler than the pricey stuff…I bought three!

Amada
How much do I wish this restaurant was in Boston? Very. From Jose Garces (Tinto, Chifa, Distrito), I’m in love with this authentic Spanish tapas place. Buzzing with families, couples, friends and singles on a Sunday night, we found a spot at the bar where we sampled two of their offerings (we hit up four restaurants that night so had to save room). The first was the Habas a la catalana — a warm fava and lima bean salad that was amazing. The Garbanzos con espinacas were good, too, but I could eat that salad every day. And despite a really lovely glass of my standard summertime favorite, Rosé, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by their white sangria with watermelon and basil.  After enough questions, the bartender finally got the hint and let me try it. Unique AND delicious.  Next trip, Rosé be damned!

Osteria 
This 40-seat casual eatery in the heart of Center City comes from Marc Vetri, one of Philly’s most acclaimed chefs. We shared the chicken liver rigatoni with cipolline onions and sage…the perfect marriage of bubbe’s chopped liver and nonna’s perfectly-cooked pasta. 

Parc
Located right on Rittenhouse Square, we ended our evening with a nightcap here before heading to the hotel.  Another Stephen Starr Disney-esqe concept (Buddakan, Continental, Morimoto, etc.) it looked and felt like a place you’d pass on the streets of Paris.

Reading Terminal Market
One of the country’s largest and oldest farmer’s markets, there’s pretty much nothing food-related that you can’t find here. Cheese, meats, seafood, produce, honey, spices, candy, coffee, pretzels, ice cream, vegan…and on and on. A sucker for all things Greek, we ate lunch at Olympic Gyro; I find gyros at restaurants in the US are always a hit or miss—BIG hit. And if you’re saying to yourself “I wish we had something like that in Boston,” support our efforts to build a year-round public market at bostonpublicmarket.org.

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