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Philadelphia: The Old City

Douglas Merriam
A vibrant city centered around the historic touchstones

Freedom is Philly's biggest attraction, and you'll want to see where America began at Independence National Historical Park. Obtain free timed-tour tickets at the Independence Visitors Center (Sixth and Market streets; 215-965-2305), or avoid a long wait by reserving tickets for a small fee (800-967-2283, Across Market Street at the new Liberty Bell Center, sunlight streams across the cracked metal of the iconic symbol. A multimedia presentation and dozens of interactive exhibits at the new National Constitution Center (525 Arch St.; 215-409-6600, illuminate how the document continues to evolve.

A vibrant city has blossomed around the historic touchstones . The industrial buildings of Old City, east of Independence Mall, are a hotbed of art and design. Glassblowers work away at Hot Soup Glass Studio and Gallery (26 S. Strawberry St.; 215-922-2332,, one block from City Tavern. Galleries keep late hours for First Friday, which is a monthly artistic open house.

The Old City dining scene hops. The cast concrete bar and faux-painted chandelier lampshades at Fork (306 Market St.; 215-625-9425) set a sophisticated tone for this market-focused New American bistro. Fork:etc. next door expands the vision into casual dining and take-out. But it's hard to beat the drama of Morimoto (723 Chestnut St.; 215-413-9070), where Lucite booths glow in changing colors. Click your chopsticks on Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's stunning sushi and sashimi (flying fish roe in crisped nori pops with flavor), or make a meal of the surf-and-turf riff of kobe short rib and poached lobster in red miso.