Pope Francis once compared life to a journey. “When we stop,” he cautioned, “things don’t go right.” Taking cues from the hippest Pope to date, travellers from around the globe are journeying to the City of Brotherly Love, famous for its innovators (Ben Franklin), actors (Will Smith), and activists (Noam Chomsky), and infamous for its rowdy sports fans. “Pope-apalooza” is about to take Philadelphia by storm, providing visitors with a divine opportunity to experience one of the most vivacious cities in America. Saddle up, hip pilgrims!
Barnes and Burgers
For travellers arriving a day before the Pope does, be sure to check out the Barnes Foundation, ($10 admission for students with IDs, $23 for adults; open 10 a.m.—5 p.m. Wed-Mon), as it will be closed for most of his visit (Sept. 26-27). Located near Philadelphia’s bustling downtown, the Barnes boasts one of the world’s most remarkable permanent collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings. Like Pope Francis, Albert C. Barnes—the ‘man behind the collection’— was a community-minded individual, and he established his foundation with the altruistic mission of educating the public on the fine arts. A short cab ride from the Barnes and in the heart of South Philadelphia’s artistic Fishtown neighborhood, carnivorous adventurers will relish the best red meat in the city at the reasonably priced Sketch Burger. Say a Hail Mary (if you feel so inclined) and order a Truffle Butter Burger with a side of Hand Cut Belgian Style Fries and a classic vanilla milkshake. Feeling sleepy after a big meal? Enjoy a long, well-earned slumber at luxurious Monaco Philadelphia.
Pontiff at Independence
At Independence Mall around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, September 26, Pope Francis will speak to massive crowds about issues ranging from immigration to religious freedom. If you’re feeling adventurous and hungry for a glimpse of the pontiff, pack a day bag with some power snacks and ask a park official to point you in the direction of a non-ticketed area to view the spectacle from. Within a half mile radius of the park, history lovers will find the Liberty Bell, the First Bank of the United States, and, importantly, the expansive, timber-framed Independence Beer Garden, which offers its customers 40 different taps of domestically brewed craft beers. Having savored a few cold beverages, head to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by way of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to delight in performances by Andrea Bocelli and Juanes. Pope Francis will make an appearance sometime after the start of the event (7:30 pm). After a few hours of cutting loose in the papal parade, walk the relatively short distance to Boutique Hotel, Rittenhouse 1715, and revel in a night of heavenly rest on an inviting pillowtop mattress.
Oh Holy Victory Dance
Following a good night’s rest, begin your Sunday with an elegant brunch at Lacroix. Just blocks from the hotel, on the eastern side of the lush Rittenhouse Square, Lacroix specializes in ‘progressive international cuisine’, and it has been heralded for having the ‘Best Brunch’ in the city by Philadelphia Magazine. Regulars swear by the Belgian Waffles with mixed berries and a side of Applewood Smoked Bacon. After brunch, treat yourself to a pleasant afternoon stroll along The Benjamin Franklin Parkway and admire views of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Free Library of Philadelphia Museum, and the Rocky statue. At 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 27, Pope Francis will deliver a closing mass to the public near the Philadelphia Art Museum. When you’ve had your share of the craziness of ‘Pope-apalooza’, consider taking a short cab ride to the chic Sofitel Philadelphia in the city’s exquisite French Quarter. Drift happily to sleep, repeating softly and verily the sacred travelling mantra: it’s time to embrace “the city that loves you back.”
The Pope’s full schedule can be found here. Just remember to plan for extra time getting to and fro, as there will be lots of crowds and unexpected street closures!