How to Spend a Perfect Fall Season in Philadelphia

From hayrides and pumpkin picking to Oktoberfest celebrations, you won’t want to miss these festivities.

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The City of Brotherly Love is at its busiest and buzziest in autumn, showing its true colors as a premier getaway destination. And if you’re looking for natural colors this fall, look no further than Philly’s parks, squares and gardens.

History Lesson

The expansive rowhome that’s now the Guild House Hotel dates to the early 1800s, when it served as the headquarters of the New Century Guild, one of the first organizations in the country to support working women. Each of the 12 rooms and suites in this National Historic Landmark pays tribute to the ladies who ran the guild. The furnishings and art throughout reflect these early years of women’s activism. Three of the suites have kitchenettes, and the strikingly furnished Eliza junior suite is popular among honeymooners and other romance-minded couples. Fireside chats in the lounge often feature celebrity speakers. Rates starting at $249. 1307 Locust St., (855) 484-5333, guildhousehotel.com.

Guild House Hotel
Guild House Hotel. Photo by Jason Varney.

Let It Be Ritten

For elegant, Old World décor and service, nothing compares to the Rittenhouse Hotel. Its classy Rittenhouse Square location puts you right in the middle of everything—and if you want to go farther afield in style, the hotel offers a Jaguar driver service. Rooms are spacious and luxurious, some with large windows overlooking the square. Sip a glass of wine or cold-pressed juice with a shrimp cocktail or charcuterie board by the indoor pool. Indulge in an Astrology Massage based on your zodiac sign in a treatment room or on the spa terrace. Don’t miss high tea in the lovely Mary Cassatt Tearoom, or try a pasta-making class at the Scarpetta Philadelphia restaurant on site. Rates starting at $699. 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, (215) 546-9000, rittenhousehotel.com.

Rittenhouse Hotel
Rittenhouse Hotel. Courtesy of The Rittenhouse Hotel.

Get Wet

Among the varied and unique amenities offered at W Philadelphia: the year-round WET Deck, with a heated outdoor pool, cozy cabanas, a firepit for chilly evenings and the enchanting Secret Garden, where you can quaff craft cocktails. Just steps from Love Park and City Hall, this sophisticated hotel is decorated throughout with contemporary art, right down to the bespoke print on its bedspreads. Pamper yourself with an in-suite massage, rev up for a private or group running tour, chill out at a guided yoga and meditation experience, or focus on body and soul with a health and human performance specialist. Dogs are welcome. Rates starting at $369. 1439 Chestnut St., (215) 709-8000, marriott.com.

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W Philadelphia
W Philadelphia. Courtesy of W.

Family-Friendly

With spacious rooms, fully equipped kitchens and a complimentary breakfast featuring an array of healthy options, Element Philadelphia offers families a comfy home away from home. The décor combines natural and Nordic styles for a clean, modern design. Oversize windows in rooms and suites offer scenic views of the city. A full complimentary breakfast is included with your stay. The hotel’s “Love That Dog” program provides a signature dog bed, food, a water bowl and cleanup supplies. Guests can borrow bikes to tour the town—and for the adults, there’s an evening wine and beer reception. Rates starting at $279. 1441 Chestnut St., (215) 709-9000, marriott.com.

Element Philadelphia
Element Philadelphia. Courtesy of Element Philadelphia.

City of Industry

The city’s rich industrial past is celebrated at the pet-friendly Hyatt Centric Philadelphia in Rittenhouse Square, within easy walking distance of the historic area and the Avenue of the Arts. Floor-to-ceiling windows and invigoratingly colorful furnishings combine for a cheerful vibe. Many of the rooms offer spectacular views of the downtown area. Dogs 50 pounds and under are also honored guests. To-go breakfast is available for a fee. Rates starting at $279. 1620 Chancellor St., (215) 985-1234, hyattcentricphiladelphiacentercity.com.

Hyatt Centric Philadelphia
Hyatt Centric Philadelphia. Photo by Christopher Vilano.

Philly for Free (Or Close to It)

The Barnes Foundation First Sunday of every month. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., (215) 278-7000, barnesfoundation.org

FREE Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site
532 N. 7th St., (215) 597-8780, nps.gov

Institute of Contemporary Art
118 S. 36th St., (215) 898-7108, icaphila.org

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Polish American Cultural Center Museum
308 Walnut St., (215) 922-1700, polishamericancenter.org

Science History Institute Museum
315 Chestnut St., (215) 925-2222, sciencehistory.org

U.S. Mint
151 N. Independence Mall E., (215) 408-0230, usmint.gov

Weitzman National Museum of Jewish History
101 S. Independence Mall E., (215) 923-3811, theweitzman.org

Philly
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Pay as You Wish

Philadelphia Museum of Art First Sunday of every month and 5–8:45 p.m. Fridays. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org

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Rodin Museum
2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., 215-763-8100, rodinmuseum.org

Seize the Day

Helen Yin won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur this year, and her a.kitchen+bar is a big reason why. Start with one of her loaded breakfast sandwiches or nibble on a few gougères (baked choux-dough pastries mixed with cheese). Later in the day, try the addictive crispy oyster mushroom (with black truffle and mushroom truffle aioli) or the littleneck clams with lamb meatballs. 135 S. 18th St., (215) 825-7030, akitchenandbar.com.

a.kitchen+bar
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Northern Liberties’ Café La Maude doesn’t accept reservations for breakfast or brunch, but it’s worth the wait. Highlights include the baklava blueberry pancakes (with raspberry cream, bananas, bits of crunchy pastry and whipped cream, drizzled with rose syrup) and the red or green shakshuka (colorful North African vegetable concoctions topped with sunny-side-up eggs). 816 N. 4th St., (267) 318-7869, cafelamaude.com.

Start your morning adventure at Royal Boucherie with mushroom toast (crispy speck, crème fraîche and a fried egg), custard-soaked French toast with berry puree, or a goat cheese omelet. 52 S. 2nd St., (267) 606-6313, royalboucherie.com.

New & Noteworthy

Tel Aviv native Mike Solomonov serves up an irresistible array of Israeli breakfast and brunch noshes at K’Far Cafe. The boureka is a small, savory pie filled with potatoes or cream cheese and olive. The rugelach is chock full of chocolate, and the pistachio sticky bun is simply outrageous. Or try the flat-pressed Jerusalem Bagel Sandwich stuffed with smoked salmon or marinated labneh. The unique menu also offers grain bowls, salads, and sweet and savory Kubaneh toasts made with traditional Yemeni bread. 110 S. 19th St., (267) 800-7200, kfarcafe.com.

K’Far Cafe
K’Far Cafe. Courtesy of J. Fusco/ Visit Philly.

Just opened in March, Mawn has quickly become a Philly favorite. The Cambodian noodle house’s Thai crab fried rice and seared whole fish are studies in delicious abundance. Small-plate recommendations include beef ribeye marinated in ginger, galangal and lemongrass or shallot oil, and the scallion-basted charred squid. 764 S. 9th St., mawnphilly.com.

One of the hottest tables in town right now, My Loup offers simple preparations that are nothing short of sublime. In season, the chef does magical things with morels and soft-shell crabs. Or savor a sumptuous cote de boeuf for two. Closed weekends. 2005 Walnut St., (267) 239-5925, myloupphl.com.

There’s no sign to guide you to Royal Sushi & Izakaya. But when you see a red lantern over the door, you’ll know you’ve come to the right place. Specialties include spicy crab tempura, dragon and Wagyu rolls, chirasi (sushi rice and fishbowl), and Japanese pub fare like salmon with green tea dashi broth and steamed shrimp dumplings. Or let the sushi chef assemble a 17-piece omakase (tasting menu). 780 S. 2nd St., (267) 909-9002, royalizakaya.com.

Royal Sushi & Izakaya
Royal Sushi & Izakaya. Courtesy of Visit Philly.

In the Mix

Cocktail culture is alive and well in Philly. Toast with a spirited concoction at Grace & Proper’s lively Italian Market setting. 941 S. 8th St., graceandproper.com. Or chill out in sophisticated Scandinavian style at Andra Hem, set in a Rittenhouse Square townhouse. 218 S. 16th St., (215) 545-0823, andrahem.com.

Cocktail
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Lunch is a special occasion at Caribou Café with two prix fixe menus. Each features a classic French entrée and a sweet crêpe or chocolate mousse for dessert. There’s also an all-day, prix fixe five-course bistro menu and à la carte standouts like croque monsieur or madame, a lamb burger, and steak frites with Chilean salmon. 1126 Walnut St., (215) 625-9535, cariboucafe.com.

Must-Dos…

Immerse yourself in 17th-century Japan at Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center in Fairmount Park. Built in Japan in 1953 and first displayed at the New York Museum of Modern Art, the traditional-style house and gardens depict the everyday lives of different economic classes. In the fall, the maple trees are at their fiery height—and don’t miss feeding the giant koi in the pond. In October, prepare for a scare during Yokai Weekend, a Japanese version of Halloween complete with monsters, creatures from folklore, and ghost stories. Lansdowne and Horticultural Drives, (215) 878-5097, japanphilly.org.

Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center
Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center. Courtesy of J. Fusco/ Visit Philly.

When sisters Nakia and Taahirah Stith greet you at Dope Botanicals, they don’t ask, “How do you feel today?” Instead, they want to know how you’d like to feel today. With over 30 years between them creating plant-based remedies to bolster health and well-being, these herbal wizards offer all-organic blends. For a quick pick-me-up or calm-me-down, choose a refresher from their extensive menu of hot and iced tonics and elixirs at the herbal bar. To get the full body-and-spirit experience, try the 14-day Dope Detox. Be sure to check the website for classes. 257 S. 20th St., mydopebotanicals.com.

Dope Botanicals’ Nakia and Taahirah Stith.
Dope Botanicals’ Nakia and Taahirah Stith. Photo by R. Rabena/ Visit Philly.

Philadelphia has been dubbed the Mural Capital of the World, with more than 4,000 works found throughout the city. Get a potent sample of these vibrant, culturally diverse projects on a tour with Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program. (215) 925-3633, muralarts.org.

In the soaring South Kensington space that houses The Clay Studio, more than 100 resident artists and others from around the world display their one-of-a-kind works—from small whimsical subjects to magnificent vases and bowls. You can also schedule a private lesson with one of the resident artists. 1425 N. American St., (215) 925-3453, theclaystudio.org.

It’s always OctoberFest at Walnut Garden, a new biergarten near Rittenhouse Square. A once fire-ravaged space has been transformed into an urban oasis, with upcycled art made from rescued discarded materials. 1708 Walnut St., walnutphi.com.

Begun in the 1980s with a single food tent, the Southeast Asian Market at FDR Park is now a cultural hub, bringing Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian and Indonesian vendors together to share food, drink and wares from their native homelands. Open Saturdays and Sundays. Bring cash. 1500 Pattison Ave. and South Broad Street, fdrseamarket.com.

Nature’s Colors

You’ll find the most dramatic foliage in Philly around the third week of October, and Japanese maples blaze red the first 10 days of November. Some of the best places to immerse yourself: Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Eakins Oval (in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art), Rittenhouse Square (at Walnut and South 18th streets) and Locust Walk (the main thoroughfare on the University of Pennsylvania campus).

The foliage isn’t the only thing on display in Philly every fall. More than 100 species of birds come to roost at Bartram’s Garden. Established in 1728, America’s oldest surviving botanical garden is free to the public. 5400 Lindbergh Blvd., (215) 729-5281, bartramsgarden.org.

Philadelphia
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Related: Oktoberfests and Fall Festivals Happening Around the Main Line

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!