|Subject: Re: Philadelphia help, please|
The Holiday Inn in the historic area is a good choice for a centrally located hotel (I assume you do mean the Holiday Inn, and not the Holiday Inn Express). From the airport you may either take a cab, which I believe is a flat fee of $25, or the train (SEPTA's R1 airport line, see www.septa.org), which is $5.50 each way per person. If you are traveling with a family I think the cab would be a better choice. It's a bit of a walk from the Market East train station to your hotel, about six or seven blocks.
I assume you are flying US Airways to Paris. We fly them several times a year to Europe and have always been very pleased with the service. Although Philadelphia Airport's new international terminal (terminal A) is open, you still have to check in at US Air's counters in the B/C concourse, and then walk over to A. I believe they are still working on the baggage screening equipment in A; they may have the counters open there by the time you fly (although I doubt it). We usually allow about two hours or so to check in for our international flights there.
Re: downtown Philadelphia, you won't be lacking for things to do during your brief stay. Philadelphia is a very walkable city, and you can get to most place easily. I work on Indpendence Mall, about two blocks from your hotel, and can easily walk to everything mentioned below on my lunch hour.
The Lights of Liberty looks neat. I've never actually sat through an entire show, but have seen it when I've been walking around downtown. The area a few blocks from your hotel (known collectively as Old City) is also a popular nightspot area, with plenty of good restaurant choices and clubs, etc. Where your hotel is should be pretty quiet. Directly across the street from your hotel is an old Friends (Quaker) meeting house, which is occasionally open for touring. Of course, there is the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc. Because of security concerns you must get tickets (free). I believe these can be obtained at the Philadelphia Visitor's Center right on Independence Mall at Sixth and Market streets, right across from the Liberty Bell. One newly opened site that is interesting is the Christ Church cemetary, which is located at Seventh and Arch streets (about a block from your hotel). This has been closed to the public since 1976, and just recently reopened. Many prominent colonial americans are buried there, including Ben Franklin. There is a small booth at the entrance where they sell stuff, but entrance is free. On the backside of the booth they have free laminated cards that you can borrow to see who is buried where, with some history thrown in. Christ's Church itself (one of the oldest in America) is down near the river at Second and Market streets, and is open for visitation (free), but probably will be closed for services on a Sunday morning. Ben Franklin's house, part of Independence Natl. Park, is neat, but is kind of hard to find. The easiest entrance to find is off of Market street. Skip Betsy Ross' House, which doesn't offer too much (and they aren't even really sure it was her house). Walk through the Society Hill area, which offers pretty tree-line streets with well-tended Colonial-era townhouses. Walking from Independence Hall down Sixth to Spruce street will show you some of the area. Turn left on Spruce, walk down to Third, turn left again and head back to the historic district at Chestnut Street.
The brand-new National Constitution Center is an interactive museum that opens July 4th. Don't know much about it, as it's not open yet! I work directly across the street from it on Independence Mall, though, and have watched it being built (it's huge). For your short stay I'd probably skip it. For interesting people-watching, day or night (especially at night) head over to South Street, with lots of small restaurants, funky stores, nightlife, and people-watching.
There are myriad carriage ride vendors around Independence Mall who will accost you for a ride. Actually, it's not a bad way to get an overview of the area. I'm not sure what the going rate is (I'm sure it's not cheap), but it's perfectly acceptable to haggle with the drivers for price. Another fun option is Ride the Ducks, which gives you an 80-minute tour of the city coupled with a brief boat ride on the Delaware River (Ducks are WWII-era trucks that can work as boats, too). I think they are $20/person.
Restaurants: What do you like? Philadelphia is actually a really good restaurant town, one of the tops in the country (according to several magazines). Some suggestions: A good Indian buffet (around $10/person) is Darbar Grill on Market Street around Fourth. An upscale Irish pub/restaurant is Plough and Stars, on Second Street (there are a number of restaurants on Second Street). Good mexican can be found at the Mexican Post on Chestnut Street between Second and Front streets. There are plenty of more upscale restaurants that you can drop some good money at, including Fork and Susanna Foo's. Another fun option is to head up to Chinatown, the thriving Chinese section of downtown (about three blocks west of your hotel). Pretty much any restaurant there will fill the bill. A good choice, but a bit more upscale, is Joseph Poon's Asian Fusion restaurant on Arch Street. Brunch can be had at many area restaurants, including your hotel. The Moshulu, as someone else suggested, is interesting. It's an old (early 1900s) sailing ship that is now a restaurant, docked on the Delaware River. I've never heard any raves about the food, but the ambience is nice if you are into that (as an aside, a really good book is by travel author Eric Newby called The Last Grain Race, where he recounts sailing on the Moshulu from Africa to England in the 1930s on one of its last runs; Newby is a great travel writer if you haven't read any of his stuff). Personally, I think there are better, cheaper dining options. Probably the area's best restaurant finder is at http://www.phillymag.com/dining/FullSearch.php Another good restaurant Web site is at http://www.gophila.com/dining/ But, I imagine you are saving your dining dollars for France!
Brian Wasson Philadelphia, Pa.