Philly From the Top
The Loews Philadelphia, in the City Center, and puts your family in walking distance of many attractions, parks, and museums for your visit, City Hall, Independence Hall, and LOVE Park. The neon sign, PSFS, seen for miles is a Philadelphia skyline icon, and the building served as the headquarters for the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society for many decades. The Loews Philadelphia opened in 2000 to accommodate the Republican National Convention, which took place at the convention center across the street.
It would be cost-prohibitive to replicate the building’s construction today because of the cost of the materials used. You’ve never seen more black marble. The modernist fusion of wood and chrome is very sleek, and it reminded me how much Ralph Lauren’s design focus on this period, as his flagship Madison Avenue store’s home section would look fitting off the hotel lobby. The hotel’s stylish metallic holiday decor pairs well, especially for covering the original bank vault doors.
America’s First Modernist Skyscraper
For parents interested in design history, the 1932 building by William Lescaze and George Howe is considered the first modernist skyscraper in the country. Lescaze and Howe were passionate about bringing the International Style to Philadelphia. Cartier clocks hang on every floor, and it could be a fun game for those children who have been to the Empire State Building to help identify the subtle differences of the International and Art Deco styles.
Loews Loves Kids
My son and I shared a mini-break together at the Loews over Thanksgiving weekend. The front desk agent presented him with activity books and crayons before the bellman told him to hop on the luggage cart to ride to the 32nd floor.
The Loews Loves Kids program has a partnership with Sprout Television, and the activity booklets included postcards and a charming map of the Loews properties for kids to color. These maps are dangerous to give to children unless you are ready to raise them obsessed with hotels. I speak from experience, given my childhood library of hotel directories in the pre-internet age. My son chose where he wanted to go next when I read him the locations, which— of course—was Orlando, where Loews dominates the Universal Studio’s on-property resorts.
I was in heaven with our corner room views of the Philadelphia skyline and our proximity to the tower of city hall, one of my favorite buildings in the United States. The effect of the bronze sculpture of William Penn on top fascinates me. He looks far too casual perched at 550 feet up in the air.
The drawback of the hotel rooms is the size. If we had been a family of four, it would have felt crowded in a room, so I would suggest adjoining rooms if traveling with two or more older children. The rooms are very contemporary feeling, with an in-room Keruig machine and mini bar.
Another aspect of the hotel that make it a great fit for families is the indoor pool on the 5th floor that offers a swimming break during a site-seeing trip. There is a hair and nail salon, large fitness center and on-site massage as well, but it is more of a local, casual health club spa, not a Loews-run spa found at their resorts.
Bank & Bourbon at the Loews Philadelphia
The most winning feature of the hotel is easily Bank & Bourbon, the on site restaurant. Clearly one of the best places in town for a business lunch or date night dinner, Bank & Bourbon also manages to be the perfect place for foodie families to enjoy a meal in downtown Philadelphia. The space is beautiful, illuminated by multiple jumbo drum chandeliers, and we had an incredibly memorable meal. If you want something to make every charcuterie plate you’ve had look puny, start with the ham and a house cheese board. A true standout was the roasted baby carrots with toasted pistachio nuts and quinoa. The roasted rainbow cauliflower salad with sliced grapes was almost as good, and a tuna tartare with pickled jalapeño and toasted coriander seeds? I can’t tell you. I devoured it in a few bites. My son enjoyed grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.
Once I could tell what quality the restaurant’s food was, I decided, in what was starting to feel like a very special meal for me, to let my son have a real desert— no scoop of vanilla ice cream today. We both loved his peanut butter, chocolate and pretzel sundae, and the house made ice-cream sandwiches with orange essence and homemade graham crackers were out of this world. The most popular dessert is the house-made doughnut that took any doughnut experience I have had to a new level. A warm donut covered in brown sugar bits, drizzled with warm caramel sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream was incredibly decadent with warm, cold, gooey, and subtly crunchy in every bite. I promise I only ate a quarter of it. Even if you are not staying at the Loews, Bank & Bourbon is an ideal family-friendly foodie destination while seeing the sites downtown. Go for the donut alone.
Reading Terminal Market
The other foodie destination nearby is the Reading Terminal Market two blocks away. There are many food stands inside, and it was hard to see which were the good places, and which were the tourist trap places. The hotel steered us towards Termini Brothers Bakery for the cannoli, the Famous Fourth Street Cookie Company for amazing chocolate chip cookies, and the Four Seasons Juice Bar. With our overly decadent lunch, we sampled the juice bar. I noticed huge lines at the Little Thai Market while all surrounding stands were empty, so it must be worth a try, too.
A great way to commence your vacation in Philadelphia is to head to the new Philly from the Top experience at One Liberty Place, a 57th floor panorama view all the way to New Jersey and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. I had no idea what the large green shoes were when we entered. It felt a little bit like the Jolly Green Giant had stolen colonial shoes, but when I got to the 57th floor I understood they were Benjamin Franklin’s, as his massive head greeted us. For some reason, at every image of Benjamin Franklin, my four-year-old son would say, “That man really is freaking me out,” which made me laugh. Given we were in Philadelphia, I laughed quite a bit.
The most impressive aspect of the experience, besides the views themselves, is the interactive guide available at each window to help identify buildings and landmarks seen from every direction. Any Google Earth fan will love looking at the buildings, zooming in and out with their hands learning more about the earmarked building. It is well-suited to engage your whole family in planning a site-seeing itinerary of the city.
I returned to my 32nd floor hotel room to photograph the building I had just peered from its 57th floor, but when we awoke the next morning surrounded by dense rain clouds, it was clear that it was a morning for a goat cheese and vegetable omelet from room service. We sat surrounded enjoying the cotton ball-like cocoon, loving the Loews back.
Although we were guests of the Loews Philadelphia, the opinions expressed in this article are, as always, my own.