An 18-point golfer's guide: Philadelphia Off Course

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

PHILADELPHIA -- New York is so yesterday. There's a new East Coast "in spot" with a ton of cutting-edge restaurants, hip neighborhoods and happening hangouts. It's where you can get the best cheesesteak in the world and so much more.

Philadelphia skyline
Great news for golfers: There's a plethora of good golf around Philadelphia.
Philadelphia skylinePhiladelphia Museum of Art
If you go

Yes, Philly. Ben Franklin's home has never been hotter and more important, more interesting. It's New York before the tourists invaded in mass and everything became corporate, super expensive and blah, blah. That's great news for golfers, for there happens to be a plethora of good golf around Philadelphia.

From the North suburbs to South Atlantic City and on to Wilmington, Del., there's cluster after cluster of interesting courses within an hour of Philadelphia. Venture out and play. Just don't be surprised if you decide that the only place to make your golf base is the town that booed Santa Claus.

Hotel rooms

Place to stay if you're filthy rich: The Rittenhouse -- Every bathroom has its own TV, just because. Indulgence for indulgence's sake. Pity the fool who blinks at any tab.

Place to stay if you just want to feel rich for a weekend: Hotel Sofitel -- Rooms are actually nicer than The Rittenhouse's, location's just as good and the bill can be half as much.

Place to stay with a date: Westin 17th Street -- There's just something about those Heavenly Beds. Plus, the hotel's connected to a decent shopping center, all the better for when you need to slip out to the course.

Place to stay with the family: Sheraton University City -- Closest hotel to the zoo, easy museum access, even a special check-in desk for the kids. Alas, you still get the bill.

Place to bump shoulders with an NFL team: Marriott Downtown -- Almost all the visiting teams stay at this hulking Market St. location. Rejected NFL groupies fill the lobby bar.

Place to stay if you're simpatico with the Original Cheap Bastard: Gables -- There's only nine rooms at this 1889 Victorian and with rates under $80, they go fast. Philly's not the town where you want to go too cheap. You don't want a knife in your back.

Dining scene

Single best dining experience: Striped Bass -- Through ownership and chef change, remains the standard bearer. Not quite as great, but still the best.

The Jacques Cousteau hidden treasure award: Next -- Doesn't get the hype of its South Street BYOB competitor Django, but it's appetizers wow in relaxed setting. And you can get in.

Best new edition: Django -- For once, the hype's deserved. Book your reservation a few weeks in advance and enjoy great food while saving big bucks by bringing own wine.

Best cheesesteaks: Pat's -- And it's not even that close. Don't go across the street to Geno's neon for an inconsistent imitator. The clear-cut winner in the only Philly category that truly matters.

Top cheap eats: Nam Phuong -- It's huge portions for low prices at this Vietnamese restaurant. Save some room for the super-sweet desserts.

Drinking and sightseeing

Spot to try and pick up a young business professional: Rouge -- Right in Rittenhouse Square, this dark, love seat bar/restaurant is as trendy as trendy can be. It's also packed with people looking for a hook up. Plus, no cover charge.

Bar to mingle with true Philly tough guys: Frankie's on 8th Street -- If you come in timid, you're likely to get a ruder reception than Santa at an Eagles game.

Must do Philly experience: Running the steps of the Museum of Art, Rocky style. Yes, it's corny. Yes, it's been done. Still something you'll never forget. Go ahead and feel like a kid again.

Shopaholic's delight: Center City around Market and Chestnut streets -- You'll find real unique shops here rather than just the usual chains. Even the shopping phobic can have fun on this stroll.

Most surprisingly fun place: Dave & Buster's -- Yes, it's a chain. And yes, it's a lot of games. But with no kids allowed, it's an adult scene at night. You won't believe you'll love it, but you will.

Most overblown attraction: Liberty Bell -- Call us unpatriotic, but it's really not that impressive. Certainly not worth standing in line for hours to gawk at. Show up at night, get a glance of it through the glass walls and call it seen.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Shopaholic's delight: Old City

    Sugarcube wrote on: Apr 19, 2012

    Old City is a gem for independent shops many of which are nationally and internationally known. Visit for art, fashion, and design. Specifically the 3rd Street Corridor from Chestnut to Vine streets, host to many of the best locally own shops in Philadelphia. Old City District has a website listing restaurants, boutiques, galleries, and historic sites.