Joseph Kaczmarek  /  AP
A bronze sculpture in Philadelphia, titled Benjamin Franklin Craftsman.
By
Special to msnbc.com
updated 8/28/2006 2:36:58 PM ET 2006-08-28T18:36:58

“I once spent a year in Philadelphia. I think it was on a Sunday, ” joked W.C. Fields in a put down that has unfairly stigmatized travel to Philadelphia ever since.

Fields should have used the itinerary below. Philadelphia is no longer the stolid, grimy, sad-sack city of years past. The streets are bustling with chic boutiques and eateries, the city’s prized historic attractions have been polished to a high glow, and at night…well, people here don’t just go to bed anymore. Music clubs, bars and dance clubs fill the evenings with rhythm and life. Try 24-hours in this vibrant modern city, and ignore the advice of that cigar-chomping cynic.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.: In Pennsylvania, breakfast for many means “scrapple”, that artery hardening, greasy, glorious slab of flour, cornmeal and … well, pig offal (all the “scraps” that were too small for the butcher to sell). It was invented in colonial Pennsylvania. If you want to try it, head to the Dutch Eating Place , belly up to this Amish lunch counter and dig in. Too squeamish? Blueberry pancakes are equally famous here, and they’re top-notch, almost as big as a pizza and loaded with butter. Though there’s often a line, service is so speedy there’s rarely a wait.

9 a.m. - noon: Make your way into the heart of the most historic square mile in the United States, stopping first at Independence Hall . A ranger will lead you through, pointing out the silver inkstand where the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Assembly Room where the Constitution was hammered out, the courtroom that once held Philadelphia’s Supreme Court and much more. From here, stroll to the Liberty Bell Center and the wonderful, relatively new National Constitution Center , which uses all the latest technology to create an interactive, fascinating examination of both the history of the constitution and its relevance to Americans today. It doesn’t shy away from the more controversial aspects of the document either, featuring in-depth presentations on both sides of the “right to bear arms” debate, discussions of the attempts to impeach Andrew Johnson, Nixon and Clinton, and exhibits on civil rights, privacy rights, you name it. Truth be told, a first-time visitor could spend all day slowly going through these three sites and probably should (so if this is your first time touring Philly, skip the rest of this article!).

MORNING ALTERNATIVE
Indulge your tastes for the grisly and grim with a visit to the Mutter Museum , one of the oddest collections of medical bric a brac anywhere. From the frightening (antique surgical instruments) to the compelling (a plaster cast of conjoined twins Chang and Ang) to the just plain weird (who knew that President Grover Cleveland had a huge tumor and that someone would save it in a jar?!?) you’ll find much to pique your interest…if it doesn’t turn your stomach first. Not for the faint of heart.

Noon-2 p.m.: We won’t get into the debate about which brand of Philly cheesesteak is supreme --for the first-timer they’re all good, gooey fun and whether you do Gino’s, Pats , or somewhere else you’re going to enjoy it. For ease of transportation go to the most central of the cheese steak joints, which would be Jim’s Steaks on funky South Street (it’s lined with tattoo parlors, shops and bars). Order it with cheese whiz -- it’s the classic choice -- and don’t pass on the grilled onions, another must.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Run up the broad expanse of stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art -- hey, Rocky did it! -- to visit America’s third largest museum, which has a sprinkling of masterpieces from every important era of art history. Marcel Deschamps’ iconic Nude Descending a Staircase, Ruben’s startlingly gory Prometheus Bound , Poussin’s Birth of Venus and Cezanne’s Bathers are its glories, but there are dozens of other treats -- Egyptian statuary, gleaming Shaker furniture, homeboy Thomas Eakin’s water colors -- the list is endless.

AFTERNOON ALTERNATIVE
If you had all the money in the world and a penchant for buying art, would you be able to put together a collection as nifty as Albert Barnes, the patent medicine heir, did with his Barnes Collection ?That’s the game to play at this idiosyncratic museum where Barnes not only chose the art, but arranged its placement so that one painting might best play off another, or off the shape of the window lintel it sides. Be sure to call far in advance and make reservations, as the hours here are unpredictable.

6 p.m. - 9 p.m.: Have dinner at Susanna Foo’s which first put the “haute” into Asian fusion food when it opened in 1987. It’s still tops for exquisite dumplings, gourmet fried rice dishes, curries, noodles and other Asian fare, which is “upgraded” with such costly ingredients as carmelized foie gras, venison and truffles.

9 p.m. - on: Wind down at the World Café Live , the music club off-shoot of the popular NPR show of the same name. All of the contemporary music acts—and they range from pop to rock to folk to jazz -- that have made a name on that show play live at this truly adult club where the floor is never sticky, the sightlines and sound quality are first rate, and smoking is banned. Check the website to find out what acts will be appearing on the Café’s two separate stages when you’re in town.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which debut in bookstores this summer.

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Dutch Eating Place, in Reading Terminal Market (at 1136 Arch Street); phone 215-922-0425.

Independence HallChestnut St. between 5th and 6th sts., flanked by Old City Hall to the left and Congress Hall to the right; phone 215/965-2305; www.nps.gov/inde. Open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., later in summer, but you must sign up for a free tour in order to see the interior of the building. Reserve a time slot in advance online or go to the Visitor Center at 6th and Market sts., at or around 8:30 a.m., to pick up time-reserved tickets.  

The Liberty Bell, Chestnut St. between 5th and 6th Streets; 215/965-2305 . Open daily 9 a.m. - 5pm but visitors must clear security by 4:45 p.m. Admission is free with ticket from the Visitor Center.

National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St; Sun-Fri 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sat 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.; phone 215/409-6600 or 215/409-6700 for advance ticket sales; www.constitutioncenter.org/. Admission $7 adults; $5 seniors, active military, and children 4-12.

Mutter Museum, 19 S. 22nd St; 215/563-3737, ext. 293; www.collphyphil.org/.  Open daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission $9 adults, $6 students and children under 18

Ginos and Pats King of Steaks are right next to one another on the South Side of town. Pat’s address is 1237 E. Passyunk Avenue. Both are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Jim’s Steaks, 400 South St; 215/928-1911. Open Mon-Thurs 10am-1am; Fri-Sat 10 a.m. -3 a.m.; Sun noon-10 p.m. 

Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th St. and Ben Franklin Pkwy; 215/763-8100; www.philamuseum.org/. Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm; Fri evening hours to 8:45 p.m. Admission $10 adults; $7 students, seniors, and children 12-18; free for children under 12; pay-what-you-wish on Sundays.

Barnes Foundation, 300 N. Latch's Lane; phone 610/667-0290; www.barnesfoundation.org. Open Sept-June Fri-Sun 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; July-Aug Wed-Fri 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission $10 per person, but reservations at least a month in advance are essential.

Susanna Foo’s,1512 Walnut St; 215/545-2666. Open Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. (Fri until 10 p.m.); Sat 5-10 p.m.; Sun 5-9 p.m. 

World Café Live, 3025 Walnut Street; phone 215/221-1400; www.worldcafelive.com

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which debut in bookstores this summer.

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Photos: Gotta Love Philly

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  1. A gangster's palace

    The preserved prison cell of America's best known gangster, Al Capone at Eastern State Penitentiary. A leading symbol of illegal activities in Chicago during the Porhibition Era, Capone spent eight months on a weapons charge 1929. Eastern State Penitentiary, now a museum, was built in 1829 and closed in 1971. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Living history

    Cyndi Janzen displays the United Stats Flag as she plays the part of Betsy Ross at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Paving the way

    Visitors admire a Porsche 917, left, on display in the "pit road" section at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. (Tom Mihalek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Getting a feel for the city

    A life-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty's Arm & Torch, a sculpture built of toys and found objects by Philadelphia artist Leo Sewell, greets visitors in the Please Touch Museum's Great Hall. (Michael Branscom / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Tourist magnet

    Visitors view the high-definition LED screen in the main lobby of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. This city best known to tourists for its historical sites and museums has a surprise new high-tech hit that began to develop into a must-see attraction in 2008. (Justin Maxon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Freedom rings

    Visitors listen to a Park Service guide's presentation about the Liberty Bell - an international icon of freedom. ) (Tom Mihalek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A walk of art

    Andrew Wyeth's 1951 painting 'Trodden Weed,' displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest museums in the United States. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Benjamin in Philly

    Philadelphia's bronze sculpture, titled Benjamin Franklin Craftsman. The statue shows a young Franklin in the process of printing on a hand press. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania commissioned the work and presented it to the City on June 24, 1981. (Joseph Kaczmarek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A walk in the heart

    Schoolchildren stand in line next to a giant two-story papier mache-on-metal heart as they wait to walk through the Philadelphia icon at the Franklin Institute. The giant heart is one of the Philadelphia area's best-known icons, and a rite of passage for school groups across the region. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Nation's birthplace

    Independence National Historical Park where the Liberty Bell, an international symbol of freedom is hung. The park's World Heritage Site, includes Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were created. (MPI via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Musical magic

    The cello-shaped 2,500-seat auditorium of the Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. It was the first major concert hall to open in the 21st Century, and is one of the world's best performance venues. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Eagle eye

    Lincoln Financial Field, front, home stadium of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles. Other sports complex buildings shown include the Veterans Stadium, the Eagles' former home, and Citizens Bank Park, right. (George Widman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Immortalized master

    A bronze bust of musical great Gustav Mahler, conceived in 1909 by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, exhibited next to other busts in the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Love in the middle

    Behind the fountain in JFK Plaza, Philadelphia's century-old City Hall is illuminated at night. (George Widman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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