For even casual patriots, it might be tempting to visit Philadelphia around Independence Day. Please don’t. In the dead of summer, the city is about as comfortable as a pressure cooker full of maple syrup, busy with tourists and devoid of locals wise enough to decamp to the mountains or beach. You want Philly now, early June, when it’s warm enough to tackle one of the world’s largest urban park systems, but cool enough to throw back a few Belgian quads at the city’s wild ten-day craft beer festival. Please meet your perfect Philly weekend.
With its unparalleled private collection of post-Impressionist art (more Cezannes than all the museums in Paris, more Renoirs than anywhere in the world), the Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy; 215-278-7200) just celebrated the one-year anniversary of its controversial relocation from suburban Merion to a modern HQ in Center City. You’ll need at least two hours to take in the unorthodox, sunlit galleries. Time it so that you end your ogling at 6 p.m., just as the Barnes’ Friday night music series, starring locals acts such as Alô Brasil and the Oscuro Quintet, kicks off.
At 4,100 acres rambling through the Northwest Philly, Fairmount Park is less a neat urban green space than a self-contained horticultural ecosystem, at times prim and manicured, at times as wooded and unruly as something out of a Grimm fairy tale. Explore it by bike, which can be rented by the full ($32) or half ($25) day at Wheel Fun Rentals (1 Boathouse Row; 215-232-7778). An hour’s ride on the Schuylkill River Trail loops you around the iconic Art Museum; Paine’s Park, a stunning new multitiered skatepark; Shofuso, a Japanese house set in vivid gardens; and “the place called the Plateau,” immortalized in Will Smith’s "Summertime.” Official name: Belmont Plateau, and it’s still where everybody goes for the best views of the skyline.
After that ride you deserve a liquid reward, and the City of Brotherly love obliges with ones of the nation’s best craft-beer scenes. Head down to South Philly, once a Peroni stronghold now home to some of the city’s best bars, such as the South Philadelphia Tap Room (1509 Mifflin St; 215-271-7787) in Newbold, a wellspring of rarities from breweries such as Founders, Dogfish Head, and Elysian, and the Industry (1401 E. Moyamensing Ave; 215-271-9500) in Pennsport, where the $6 staff-meal special lets you splurge on barrel-aged biggies from Russian River. If you happen to be in town during Beer Week (through June 9), a ten-day extravaganza that draws amateur and professional beer geeks from all across the globe, be sure to check the festival website for events such as the annual Oskar Blues Rodeo at American Sardine Bar (1800 Federal St; 215-334-2337) in Point Breeze. Chef Scott Schroeder is cooking fried ribs, Rocky Mountain oyster tacos, head-and-foot posole and other dishes starring pork and beef raised on the craft-can pioneer’s Colorado farm.
Sleep in and head to the Farm and the Fisherman (1120 Pine St; 267-687-1555) in the tree-lined Washington Square West neighborhood. There Joshua Lawler, former chef of New York’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns, turns his impeccable 30-seat BYOB into a classroom for butchery seminars (1 p.m., $125–$160) one Sunday each month through the summer. You’ll learn to break down and craft sausage from whole pigs and goats (steer too, minus the links) raised by Lawler’s banker-turned-farmer pal, Dean Carlson of Chester Country’s Weybrook Farm, then feast on your efforts at a five-course lunch. (Email Judy for reservations.)
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