Sarah Van Aken, designer and owner of SA VA (1700 Sansom Street), a sustainable women’s boutique, originally wanted to set up shop in New York City’s trendy Soho nabe. Instead, she fell in love with the smaller community vibe of Philadelphia.
“You can feed off the energy of entrepreneurship and creativity here. Philadelphia is a great incubator and allowed me to grow my business,” Van Aken says of her boutique, which sells beautifully-made fair trade and locally-made garments. “From a fashion perspective, I felt like Philadelphia was being elevated in all areas, and that I would have a real opportunity to stand out.”
The entrepreneur describes Philly style as “a strong mix of aesthetics” that range from hipster and hip-hop to preppy and high fashion.
Other noteworthy stores include: Verde (108 S. 13th Street), where you can pick up trendy jewelry and Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates (the related online store, We Heart Philly, is where you can scoop up a “LOVE” necklace or stud earrings inspired by Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture in the John F. Kennedy Plaza, northwest of City Hall); Concrete Polish (716 N. Third Street), an indie boutique that sells handcrafted statement jewelry pieces; and Aoki Boutique (115 S. 22nd Street), an eclectic women’s lifestyle boutique stocked with clothes, jewelry and home goods inspired by street style, world travels and modern femininity.
Housed in Philadelphia’s historic Tiger Building, Vedge (1221 Locust Street) was hailed by Philadelphia Magazine as the best vegan restaurant in America and perhaps one of the best restaurants, period. With innovative dishes prepared using locally-sourced ingredients like wood-grilled sweet potato pate and salt-roasted gold beets, going meatless never tasted so good.
At Distrito (3945 Chestnut Street), Iron Chef and restauranteur Jose Garces elevates Mexican street food to gourmet heights. Inventive tapas dishes like yellowfin tuna ceviche and Mahi Mahi tacos are meant to share, but you’ll want to keep your house-made margarita to yourself. The vibrant University City eatery is adorned with Mexican wrestling masks and taqueria-reminiscent flower tablecloths.
Philadelphia’s awe-inspiring street murals are part of the city’s art and soul. Take a walking tour to see Center City’s collection of 15 murals created by local artists. The guided Mural Arts Program tour is two miles and takes two hours. Tickets are $20 per person.
Art, artifacts and cool exhibits such as Come See About Me: The Mary Wilson Supremes Collection —featuring extravagant gowns worn by the superstar girl group, album covers and rarely seen video footage — steeped in the rich black American experience are on display at the African-American Museum (701 Arch Street).
Twice a year, in the spring and fall, the outdoor Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show showcases the original work of more than 140 artists.
Centrally located in the tony Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, Hotel Palomar Philadelphia (117 S. 17th Street) embraces the Palomar brand’s theme of “Art in Motion.” Housed in a landmark art deco building, the strikingly-stylish hotel boasts the original work of local artists including sculpture, multimedia and an abstract portrait of Benjamin Franklin that greets guests under the entrance awning. The inviting living room-style lobby is the gathering place for the complimentary evening happy hour.
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