With loosening restrictions in nearly every state, the travel industry is slowly creeping back to life across the country. Among warnings against “irresponsible travel,” a serious concern with legitimate validity in some cases, not all travel is recreational or even optional. Work obligations and medical treatments account for more than 1 million daily domestic flights in traditional times, and many of those continue today out of necessity. When you have to travel in uncertain times, you may find the most security in new hotels, where few people have stayed before and designers may even have had time to accommodate additional adjustments for social distancing and minimal contact with staff or room amenities. Canopy by Hilton, which last year announced plans for 20 new hotels in 2020, recently opened Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia offering a virtually untouched Center City stay with a vibrant culture of arts and eats both onsite and in the immediate vicinity for a low-contact, high value experience, whatever the reason for your travel.
Just opened in August, Canopy Philadelphia is in the heart of the East Market, a new mixed-use development comprising a full block in Center City with brand new living, working, shopping and dining opportunities throughout. It follows the trend of upscale micro-communities popping up in leading cities across the globe, offering everything you could need or want in the most hyperlocal of environments, but still connected to its greater neighborhood pulses. Don’t think of it as a gated community, but as an open-access ambassador to its city offering locally inspired design, work from area artists, and culinary contributions from city favorites—you’re welcome in and encouraged to explore out, but you can have a full Philadelphia cultural experience without leaving the block if that’s what’s best for you right now. Whether you decide to stay as local as the hotel itself or feel comfortable exploring some of the beloved neighborhoods surrounding East Market, here’s what you’ll find from arts and eats in and around Canopy Philadelphia.
Inside the completely renovated Stephen Girard Building, a 13-story tower lauded as the most elegant American office building of its day when it was completed in 1896, Canopy Philadelphia draws design inspiration from the glamorous department store and one-time world’s largest clothing manufacturer, Snellenburg & Co., which was once it’s neighbor, and the Philadelphia hip-hop culture of the 1980s. Look for art installations of pop arrangements ranging from expensive handbags to deflating basketballs with quirky light fixtures hung over vibrant rugs and boldly upholstered plush furniture. It’s an invigorating mix at every turn with few, if any, surfaces left unadorned in a mélange of styles that speaks to the address’s long history in such a colorful city.
As with most Canopy properties, an impressive collection of local art spanning disciplines from sculpture and collage to prints, paintings and murals fills the public spaces, offering a diverse and casual museum-like experience for guests and visitors, far from the stuffy yet stark atmosphere of traditional galleries. In a similar spirit, the Barnes Foundation, just over a mile from the hotel, presents one of the world’s largest and most important collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and modern paintings in seriously atypical style, arranging them in staggering clusters of intermingled theme and visual interest punctuated by antique metalwork and furniture that communicate with the paintings as essentially as the works speak to each other. You can’t touch, but that’s about as far as the similarities stretch between the Barnes and the world’s other leading museum collections.
Back at Canopy, while there’s a tremendous amount of art to discover throughout, be sure to note the mural dressing the stairs descending from the lobby-level bar to the can’t-miss restroom (honestly, don’t miss it). This Isaac Tin Wei Lin work recalls Start From Here, his much larger mural on Race Street, a 10-minute walk away, representing immigration and new beginnings through a chaotic collection of banners in color combos recognizable from national flags. This work was commissioned by
Mural Arts Philadelphia, the country’s largest public arts program, which has been commissioning primarily large-scale works throughout the city for more than 35 years, following its mission to ignite change through art. With an estimated 4,000 works commissioned through time (some have been lost to weather, construction, destruction, etc.) the city is practically covered by this important collection that both responds to current conversations and inspires new ones. Mural Arts Philadelphia offers themed walking tours, customizable private tours and a robust app for self-guided immersion.
In homage to the building’s namesake, Stephen Girard, who emigrated from Bordeaux to Philadelphia before becoming one of the richest men in American history with wealth totaling more than 100 billion dollars in today’s value, Canopy Philadelphia opened The Wayward, an American brasserie serving a heavily French-influenced American menu with a gin-forward signature cocktail list and a collection of French75s for ideal for pre- or post-dining (or both). Start with small plates of meatball blanquette or escargot croquettes before moving on to heartier bites of steak frites with bone marrow chimichurri or branzino almondine. The corn beignets should accompany every meal here. Philadelphia has allowed indoor dining to resume at reduced capacity as of last week, but The Wayward is currently still serving only on its garden terrace until at least late September.
If your French palate has been awakened by the Wayward, you should also visit Rouge, overlooking Rittenhouse Square, less than a mile away. With classic Parisian ambiance, especially when dining al fresco, this favorite Philadelphia bistro is truly American, with a seafood-leaning menu featuring starters of shrimp wontons or fried calamari and entrees of tandoori swordfish or clams and spaghetti, but the perennial favorite Rouge burger remains the most beloved selection. Don’t skip the creamy burrata with black garlic balsamic reduction and Calabrian chili.
For a true taste of the most authentic Philadelphia cuisine culture (no, not cheese steaks or soft pretzels, though both should be sampled heartily), you’ll need to make two nearby stops—one practically next door to Canopy Philadelphia, and one just about a mile away.
A three-minute walk from the hotel, Reading Terminal Market is one of the nation’s oldest public markets and, with more than 80 merchants inside, it’s also one of the largest. Since 1893 it’s been a go-to for local meats, seafood, produce, cheeses and more, and there’s more than enough restaurant representation within to satisfy any meal craving instantly. You’ll find plenty of exotic fare from far-flung corners, but take the opportunity to chow down on some made-to-order Pennsylvania Dutch classics or the famous roast pork sandwich from Tommy DiNic’s, winner of Travel Channel’s Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America. Pop in for any meal or snack and you’ll immediately see and smell why this is a top stop for any Philly foodie.
Finally, just about a mile south from the hotel, the Italian Market is the stuff of Philly fantasy. Though it’s diversifying today to reflect an evolving population and you’ll now find plenty of well-loved Latino and Asian businesses, too, this lengthy stretch of 9th Street is brimming with locally legendary Italian names that have been supplying the restaurants and homes of Philadelphia with top ingredients and belly-bursting meals for generations, and it’s still a family affair for most. For true hospitality, whether shopping or eating (or drinking!), head first to Di Bruno Bros. Though now something of an empire, the Italian Market location is the original and still retains the Old World charm and unique Di Bruno Bros. charisma that endeared this humble 1939 shop to the collective heart of Philly. Stop in for cheese and cured meats, stay for a glass of wine and a story, and leave with a bit of history. You’ll definitely want to explore the rest of this iconic street before you go, but you’ll certainly end up back at Di Bruno Bros. (and not just to gobble your purchases in the public “piazza” they maintain next to their famous shop).