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14 First Date Ideas: Philadelphia

Although I grew up in north Jersey, I had an accent that was slightly different from those around me. When my family moved to south Jersey fifteen years later, I discovered the nearby city of Philadelphia, and quickly learned that the natives who lived there spoke the same as me. I had found my home, and instantly became enamored with this city, which is cleaner and smaller than NYC, and so much easier to navigate. I spent years in Philly before returning to my NJ roots, and because of that I can offer a wealth of hand-picked places perfect for use as first date ideas.

  1. The Philadelphia Museum of Art contains 200 galleries featuring artwork from the 12th century through today. Stop by the cafe on the ground floor to fill up before you head out, and don't forget to check out the museum store on your way out. The best part? The museum is free on Sundays.
  2. What started as a hole-in-the-wall on Lancaster Avenue in nearby Ardmore serving mom's authentic, homemade Italian recipes to eight tiny tables gradually expanded into an empire, with locations in Berwyn and Paoli. Fellini's Cafe Trattoria offers bruschetta that is beyond description and the chicken alfredo is to die for, but it's BYOB so hit up the wine and spirits shoppe across the street before dining. You won't believe the prices either: less than $30 for a meal for two, including appetizers!
  3. If you prefer a romantic stroll and some good, getting-to-know-you conversation, try Fairmount Park. Spreading over 9,200 acres throughout Philadelphia, the park has over 215 miles of scenic walking or biking trails. You'll pass sculptures, an historic mansion, and you might even catch the sounds of a nearby concert.
  4. The Ritz at the Bourse is just one of three Ritz's located in Philadelphia. The theaters only play alternative films of an independent nature; you won't see Lindsay Lohan or Sandra Bullock on these silver screens, but you will see productions of incredible artistic brilliance. Check the website for showtimes.
  5. South Street is Philly's urban shopping mecca. Running the length of nine city blocks, South St. has restaurants, bars, tattoo shops and clothing stores that sell original items you won't find anywhere else. Not many chain-stores here, most of the shops are one of a kind. Check out Bridget Foy's for a fine dining experience, or South Street diner for amazing food at an amazing price.
  6. The Mutter Museum is a disturbing place that is absolutely perfect for those with strong stomachs who are fascinated by the the odd, the demented and the medically impossible. The museum has over 20,000 freaky specimens preserved in jars for your perverse viewing pleasure.
  7. Just outside the city is the Philadelphia Zoo, featuring leopards, kangaroos, monkeys, parrots, pandas, reptiles and more. Wander through the African plains on camelback, or take a ride in a Swan boat for $5 per person.
  8. If you have access to a car, you might want to take the drive out to Longwood Gardens in nearby Kennett Square. The gardens stretch across 1,050 acres and feature both indoor and outdoor exhibits. I recommend going there at night, when the fountains come to life (and in full color!) to dance to classical symphonies. Even better, visit the gardens around Christmas time and you'll enjoy an experience you'll never forget.
  9. Dave & Buster's is the perfect place to eat, drink and be merry on a first date. Once you've digested, you can head over to the games section to play skee-ball, drive a race car or pilot an airplane in one of the many simulators. Test your compatibility by pairing up to compete against six other people in a trivia competition.
  10. For nerds like me, the Franklin Institute Science Museum is a great place to spend a date. Begin your trip by crawling through a life-size replica of the human heart, visit the King Tut and ancient history exhibits, and close out the evening by watching the stars in the night sky at the planetarium theater.
  11. It won't take up enough time to count as a date, but on the way to your real date location (and if you're feeling presumptuous), pass by Love Park in JFK Plaza to see the infamous LOVE sculpture. The skateboarders who used to ride there offered great entertainment, but the city has since banned them from practicing their sport. You can still eat lunch on the terrace, however, or compete in a game of chess with one of the locals or, better yet, with each other.
  12. The legendary Italian Market in south Philly is over 100 years old. Although predominantly Italian as the name implies, you can sample the wares of hundreds of outdoor vendors offering the best of their homeland cuisine. Grab a bite to eat, or just pick up the items you need to go back to your place and cook dinner yourself.
  13. I personally don't like cheesesteaks, but that's because there's something wrong with me. You, however, cannot traipse around Philadelphia without getting a greasy cheesesteak for dinner or a mid-date snack. Pat's King of Steaks in South Philly is not just a restaurant -- it's a landmark. Located on Passyunk Ave. at Ninth Street, Pat's sits directly opposite from it's rival, Geno's. Both offer piping hot Philly cheesesteaks 24 hours a day.
  14. Take the Riverlink ferry from Columbus Blvd. straight into Camden to visit the Adventure Aquarium. Ferries leave from Philly every hour, on the hour, from 9:00am until 6:00pm. The best thing about the aquarium is the hands-on interaction it allows. After a quick briefing by staff, you can swim with the sharks, feed the seals or help care for the sea turtles. Don't worry, if that's too much there's always the standard exhibits as well.

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