The Venice Cheat Sheet 

With the Venice Biennale, the granddaddy of all contemporary art exhibitions, taking place from May 11-November 24, now is the time to book your ticket to Italy’s surreal floating city.  

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The Best Things to Do and Where to Eat in Copenhagen

Easily navigated by foot or bike, the city is home to many sights within the city center and fun neighborhoods to explore beyond the old town. Perfect as part of a more extended Scandinavian trip or for a long weekend, especially during the summer months, here are highlights of our trip.

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No one seemed excited when we told them we were going to Philly for the weekend, in fact, we got a few whys, and a sarcastic have fun. But all those naysayers are missing out on the reemergence of America's birthplace as an exciting destination with world-class art, a red hot food scene, and historical sights that remind us, in these stressful political times the essence of who we are as Americans and the lofty aspirations of our founding fathers. Three days was hardly enough time to see and do everything, and we can’t wait to return, this time in warmer weather! 

Sleep: Our first choice the recently renovated Rittenhouse Hotel was sold out, so we divided our stay between the city’s two Kimpton properties, first checking into downtowns Hotel Palomar, housed in a former 1920s Art Deco building just a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square. The location was very convenient, but a tad busy, especially on the weekend though we did enjoy having Dizengoff and a branch of Federal Donuts right around the corner. Our group much preferred the vibe, design and the location of its quieter sister spot, the Hotel Monaco, with an excellent position in the old city directly across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We loved the colorful interiors, quirky décor, and the spacious rooms. (Much larger than at the Palomar) The Monaco might be a little further from the center of downtown, but everything is only a quick cab ride away, including close by Fishtown.) 

Art Meca: Rocky made the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps famous, but this is one of the most visited museums in the world thanks to an impressive collection of European, American and Asian art.  And things are going to get even better by 2020 with the help of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry who is redesigning the interior, expect more public spaces and more room for the art itself. And yes, be sure to go outside and take in Rocky’s Steps for awesome views of the city of Philadelphia from the east entrance of the building.  

Hip Neighborhood: Locals told us that years ago no one ventured into Fishtown, but that has certainly changed. Frankford Ave is now a trendy street with boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. We had lunch at Cheu Fishtown where you must order the brisket ramen with matzoth ball and kimchi in a red chili broth. Whoever thought of this combination-- we thank you. One brunch we had a fantastic array of Lebanese mezes and flatbreads in the beautiful sprawling space of Suraya. With a large back garden and a front of house all-day market and café, if we lived here, we’d be regulars. (The dinner menu looked equally appealing and is a difficult reservation to secure) Allow time for a coffee after at La Colombe’s flagship, a vast industrial space of high design with not just coffee but also a food menu, it’s a must see!  Other Fishtown restaurants that have the town buzzing include Frankford Hall, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, Kensington Quarters and Stock.  

More Eats: Good luck getting a reservation at Zahav, Philly's acclaimed Israeli restaurant from Chef Michael Solomonov, we have never had any success, even trying weeks in advance. We did pat ourselves on the back for securing at a table at Vernick Food and Drink and our meal was a home run –start with one of the toasts and go crazy from there. We dined another night very happily at Friday, Saturday, Sunday—a small intimate restaurant near Rittenhouse Square serving inventive new American cuisine washed down with excellent craft cocktails. Other top tables on our to go list include Abe Fisher, Vetri Cucina, Vedge, High Street on Market, Sampan, and Palizzi Social Club.  

Old City: If you haven't visited the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall since your kids' school trip to Philly, it may be time for a repeat visit, but if you’re short on time we’d suggest the nearby National Constitution Center.  It’s an engaging, informative and surprisingly stirring museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution. Kids will love it as there are tons of interactive exhibits, but we admit we teared up at the 20-minute show called Freedom Rising. A perfect one-two punch, you can walk over after to the year-old Museum of the American Revolution for a full history immersion.  Other landmarks in the old city include Elfreth’s Alley one of America’s prettiest streets with homes built in the 18th century and The Betsy Ross House.  

Quirky Attraction: The Mutter Museum whose tagline is “disturbingly informative” is not your ordinary museum, located inside the headquarters of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It’s not for the faint of heart showcasing medical oddities, and after looking at all the diseased lungs and kidneys, you might want to embark on a juice fast after your visit.  With everything from the remains of Einstein’s brain, conjoined twin skeletons, shocking wax models showing the effects of syphilis and preserved human fetuses it’s no surprise children are discouraged from visiting. Fascinating! 

See This: Another unique attraction, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a walk on the wild side, an indoor and outdoor space from local mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. It’s a surreal, dreamlike experience that’s spread across three city lots-- a mash-up of colorful tiles, glass bottles, and objects reminiscent of Gaudi’s works and Fusterlandia in Havana. You don’t need much time; I'd set aside an hour and a bit especially if you want to watch the interesting short film that interviews Zagar playing on a loop.   

Mangia: Don’t miss wandering around South Philadelphia’s Italian Market where vegetable vendors, butcher shops, fresh seafood and Italian goodies of all kinds can be found in this legendary district, a cross between the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue and NYC’s Little Italy.  The neighborhood market stretches down some ten city blocks on Ninth Street.  Don’t miss Philly’s beloved Di Bruno Bros. where locals come to stock up on meat and cheeses. In the last few years the area has seen an influx of Mexican and Vietnamese run businesses and none more famous than South Philly Barboca, considered to have some of the best slow cooked lamb tacos in the country. There's bound to be a line, but it moves fast, and yes we waited, and yes it was well worth the wait. Note: it’s only open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays so plan accordingly.

Public Art: Philadelphia has been called the city of murals thanks to the city’s Mural Arts Program,  one of the US’s largest urban arts programs. Be on the lookout, and you’ll see many murals in your travels throughout the city, but if you want to delve further there are walking, trolley and train tours plus maps for self-guided experiences. High on our list is the Love Letters Train tour, read all about it here. 

Foodie Nirvana: The Reading Terminal Market is a city landmark and a must-see, even if you don’t go for a meal, go for a morning stroll and a cup of Old City Coffee or an afternoon snack.  A large, bustling old school food hall that dates back to 1893 it’s filled with neon lights and a maze of some 70+ food vendors, plus flower stalls, kitchenware, cookbooks, even jewelry and craft merchants—a visual feast! Try some apple dumplings at Dutch Eating Place, roast pork sandwiches at DiNic's, fried oysters at Pearl’s, pretzels at Miller’s Twist, salmon curry at Little Thai Market  or ice cream at legendary Bassett's Ice Cream just to name a few local favorites, but expect crowds--the market attracts more than 6 million visitors a year—only the Liberty Bell has more tourists! 

Until Next Time: We ran out of time and were bummed to miss the Barnes Foundation to see Dr. Albert C. Barnes’s once private collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early modern paintings. We had also hoped to squeeze in a visit to the Rodin Museum and the American Museum of American Jewish History.  

Warsaw: Walking Back in Time

Daytripper’s favorite English writer is back, and this time he takes us to Warsaw, exploring the horrors of its Nazi past and its reemergence as a thriving Eastern European city.

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Chicago’s Best Bites

Narrowing down where to eat on a recent trip to Chicago wasn’t easy. Did we want to revisit old favorites such as Blackbird, Naha or The Publican? Dine at high-end legend Alinea or their brand new, much praised, more casual Roister. Did we spend hours trolling the Internet, grilling the hotel concierge and asking local friends –yes, yes and yes. Can we save you time with our go to list—again-yes, yes and yes. Happy eating!

Side Note: Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and you could very easily dine well without leaving a zip code. Taxi’s and Ubers are plentiful, and you can also hop on the “L,” Chicago’s elevated train line.

Wicker Park: Right in the heart of hip Wicker Park, are our new favorite next door neighbors --Dove’s Luncheonette, and Big Star Tacos.

  • Dove’s is perfect for a solo meal or a cozy couples date, with counter service (just 41 stool seats) Dove’s doesn’t work for a group. A Tex-Mex diner with retro throwback chic, our lunch of chicken fried chicken with chorizo gravy with sweet peas, (a signature dish) was worth the Uber.  With over 70 agaves and tequilas to choose from, we’d love to return for a casual dinner date.

  • It’s always a party at next-door’s Big Star, especially on a warm day or evening when the patio is packed with groups enjoying tacos and pitchers of margaritas, beers or bourbon.

  • After lunch, we spied someone walking by with a soft serve that looked so good we just had to ask. Right across the street at noodle heaven, Urban Belly, you must get  (you don’t need to be hungry) a soft serve vanilla ice cream topped with peanut butter and jelly. Trust us.

West Loop: You could easily eat all your meals in the red hot west loop ‘triangle’ with everything on or branching off Randolph Street, a mini restaurant row.

  • Many visitors make Au Cheval a priority destination; fans claim this is the best burger in the country. With a no reservations policy and long waits, go early so you can grab a seat at the bar and see for yourself. (Tip: in Bucktown, sibling, Small Cheval you can get the same burger, smaller yes but with the same taste, an outdoor patio and usually no wait)   

  • The reigning star of the West Loop, Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat has not lost any steam since it opened some eight years or so ago --still an impossible reservation to come by. No luck getting a table, go and sit at the bar, and sample from the eclectic menu. The Goat empire continues across the street at Little Goat, good for breakfast and lunch—a diner with a chef’s creative twist. We loved the inventive Chinese fare at Duck, Duck, Goat washed down with killer cocktails.

  • The space at Avec is cool and minimal, the service is professional and friendly and the food is delicious, with many vegetarian options. Do not miss the chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates. There’s a reason you see it at every table.

  • We wanted to love Bad Hunter, it’s a big, lively space with an interesting veggie-centric menu, but the food was good, not great. Press has been very enthusiastic, so perhaps we hit an off night.

The Loop: After a mandatory stop at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, or a visit to The Art Institute, go high at The Chicago Athletic Association. Reborn as a hotel, the 1920’s Venetian Gothic building, an architectural gem offers tours in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

  • Cindy’s, the rooftop restaurant at the Athletic Association has stunning panoramic views overlooking Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. The seasonal American plates compliment the view, quieter at lunch; things heat up at 5 when everyone arrives for cocktails around the fire pit or in the glass and steel atrium.

River North: Rick Bayless may be the most famous chef for Mexican fare this side of the border and his three restaurants in River North are favorite Chicago destinations.

  • Head to Frontera Grill, the original restaurant for casual, regional specialties while Topolobampo features more daring, sophisticated tasting menus. Xoco, right next door, is counter service only, perfect for a quick meal of Mexican street food, known for excellent tortas. (Bayless’ new Lena Brava in the West Loop has the critics going crazy—with no stoves and no gas everything is cooked open-hearth on a wood-burning stove.)

Logan Square:

  • Lula Café put Logan Square on the map serving locally sourced fare on its inventive menu, you’ll find long lines at brunch and dinnertime, but we enjoyed a quiet weekday breakfast with no wait and no crowds

  • We had our best meal of the trip at tiny Giant. The narrow space is perennially packed thanks to fried uni shooters, homemade biscuits with jalapeno butter, crab salad with waffle fries, drool-worthy pasta and pecan-smoked baby back ribs. Come hungry and order as many small plates as your tablemates will allow.  (If you wind up waiting as we did--our table was lingering and who can blame them--head to corner lounge Scofflaw for an artisan cocktail)

  • Fat Rice can be credited for bringing Macau cuisine into the spotlight. (a fusion of Chinese-Portuguese influences) Though everything on the menu sounds great, the namesake dish of Arroz Gordo (fat rice) is the draw, resembling paella on steroids.


Related Destinations

The Insiders Guide to Mykonos

Sometimes we haven’t been there, done that. When a friend called asking for tips on Mykonos, we couldn’t help her as our information from some 20 odd years ago (backpacking after college) was just a little out of date. Then we remembered a friend of a friend, a very chic woman who has a house on the island for over 20 years who was more than willing to help. This is what Daytripper is all about - word of mouth from trusted sources. 

Hotel Info: I steer friends to stay at three different hotels depending on what they are looking for. Santa Marina has a private beach, quite decent and there’s a large pool. It’s not far from town and it’s the most similar to a resort that we have on Mykonos. Cavo Tagoo is not on the beach, but it's across the street from the sea. Everything is very white, a design and décor that works for grown ups (I wouldn’t stay here with young kids.) There's a pool but I suggest you go to different beaches every day. It’s also pretty close to town. If you want to stay in town, there is the Belvedere Hotel; it's a small boutique hotel with a stunning Nobu restaurant. You can then go to beaches during the day and not have to drive at night, a good plus after a late night dinner and dancing.

Best Beaches: I love Agios Sostis, though it’s not organized, by which I mean there’s no umbrellas, etc. But, there’s a tiny taverna called Kiki's that doesn’t take reservations, everyone waits, EVERYONE. Lia Beach is 30 minutes from town, it’s organized with umbrellas and there’s a taverna on the beach. The water is lovely. If you’re looking for something low key, Kalafatis Beach is a great place to enjoy the water -  it’s very local with a taverna that’s just OK.

Lunchtime Beach Eats: Spilia is a restaurant on the beach in a cave. It's great-- really fab--you must book ahead of time. Definitely go. On Ftelia Beach, Alemagou is the coolest restaurant, another don’t miss. It’s not the nicest beach on the island, but people still swim there. Nammos on Psarou Beach is a complete’s like St. Tropez’s Club 55, but on steroids... totally full on. The water is beautiful and it is something to experience--at least once during your stay. On Kalo Livadi, an organized beach there is a good taverna as well. I love going to Fokos Beach; it’s a mix of locals and cool people, the closest to what Mýkonos was many years ago. There are no loungers’ or umbrellas, but there is a simple taverna that we like very much. The owners spent a lot of money refurbishing Panormos, there’s a good restaurant and you can arrange beach seating. Finally, Scorpios restaurant is very cool…almost too cool… great food, great vibe, very cool peeps, must book. Must go.

At Dinner: Our favorites include: Interni Restaurant, Chez Katrins, Kalita, Nobu, Sea Satin, and Kazarma


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Washington DC: Capitalizing on Our Nation’s Capital

Whether you live in the U.S. or are visiting from another country, Washington D.C. is a must see. Boasting some of the best restaurants, boutique hotels, monuments, and museums in America, you could easily spend months exploring and never see (or eat!) the same thing twice.

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