With iconic historical monuments, innovative modern art museums, and a red-hot culinary scene, the City of Brotherly Love easily eeks out a spot among America’s top destinations. But should you look to set your eyes on new sights just for a day or two, we’ve got a handful of equally worthwhile options just a short distance away. Pound the pavement in other top-notch cities or ditch it all for the outdoors on a romantic mountain retreat.
Cape May, New Jersey
1 hour and 50 minutes by car from Philadelphia
The Jersey shore may have developed a (rowdy) reputation over the last decade, but the resort town of Cape May is unlike anything you've seen on MTV. When it comes to stays, you have to go with the Virginia Hotel— a 24-room landmark that’s been in the heart of the historic district since 1879. On a tree-lined street just half a block from the beach, the boutique welcomes guests with airy, light-filled interiors and fresh farm-to-table fare at onsite Ebbitt Room (think: rainbow trout with herb-caper brown butter, and broccolini and duck fat potatoes). Despite its less than cheerful name, Poverty Beach is a standout among Cape May’s many Atlantic shores (and parking here is meter-less—a rare find). Comb for shells, try your luck surfing, or just enjoy the quiet shore. The low-key, seaside town has more to offer than sand, though—take a trip to Willow Creek Winery or Cape May Winery & Vineyard for tours, tastings, and even summer lobster bakes.
2 hours by car from Philadelphia
If you’re not interested in escaping all cities, but simply your city, on your weekend away, then NYC—as always—is a top contender. Drive not even two hours northeast of Philly and you’ll land yourself in the five boroughs. While you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to dining and daily activities, there are some things we’ll never tire of: exploring the High Line—a now-defunct railroad turned 1.5-mile-long elevated city park that runs from Gansevoort St. to 34th Street on the West Side; walking over the East River on the Brooklyn Bridge from Dumbo to Lower Manhattan; and popping by envelope-pushing exhibits on the Museum Mile stretch of Fifth Ave (see: the Guggenheim, Neue Galerie, and Met). When it comes time for dinner, we’ve been drooling over the new BBQ-meets-fine-dining menu—particularly the smoked and grilled pork chop with peach habanero jam— from chef Matt Abdoo (previously of Mario Batali's Del Posto) at Pig Bleecker in Greenwich Village.
RELATED: 10 Best Day Trips from NYC
The Poconos, Pennsylvania
2.5 hours by car from Philadelphia
Looking to flee the stifling summer city heat? Head 2.5 hours out of Philly to the adults-only Lodge at Woodloch for a retreat packed with farm-to-table meals (check out seasonal chef-curated garden dinners), wine tastings with chocolate pairings, and lavish spa treatments—all bookended by afternoons spent by cozy stone fireplaces and tranquil soaking pools. While we wouldn't blame anyone who chose to spend their entire weekend onsite (just take a look at the lake-view porch just off of the library), there's much to see and do beyond the resort. One option: exploring the Pocono Mountains at Bushkill Falls— dubbed the Niagara of Pennsylvania—where eight cascading waterfalls are connected by a series of hiking trails, observation decks, and wooden bridges.
1.5 hours by train or 3 hours by car from Philadelphia
The nation’s capital may be contentious turf nowadays, but no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we’re sure you can get down with luxe hotels, gourmet grub, and iconic historical and cultural institutions. We love a good comeback, and in 2016—fresh off of a $125 million renovation— that’s just what we got with the illustrious Watergate Hotel (aka ground-zero for America’s OG political scandal). Avant-garde architecture from Luigi Moretti greets guests at the door, while interiors nod to the hotel’s original 60s design—right down to the staff who are decked out in period-appropriate uniforms by way of Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant. In terms of good eats, D.C’s culinary scene has been evolving at a breakneck pace. While we can’t keep up with all the openings, one in particular has our stomachs rumbling: Mirabelle. The glam dining room—just two blocks from the White House— serves up refined French fare from James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef Frank Ruta and IG-worthy desserts from Pastry Chef Aggie Chin.
Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania
3.5 hours from Philadelphia
Home to a thriving culinary scene and small-town-meets-big-city glam, Philly has many an enviable feature. But one thing the urban sprawl is lacking? Worthwhile options for the outdoorsman. While it’s a bit of a trek, making the 3.5-hour drive to Pine Creek Gorge—aka the Grand Canyon of PA—presents days full of open-air activities like hiking, fishing, biking, tubing, and swimming. Exhausted from all there is to explore along the 47-mile-long gorge, retire at La Belle Auberge B&B, a surprisingly luxe retreat (think: breakfast on a wraparound porch, in-house massage, and jacuzzi tubs) on gas-lantern-lit Main Street in Wellsboro.
2.5 hours by car from Philadelphia
An indisputable hotbed of American history (see: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and—don’t forget—the Rocky Statue and steps), Philadelphia isn’t lacking in monuments and patriotic sites. But if you’re a history buff looking to further broaden your horizons, you can always opt for a weekend in Gettysburg. Former host of one of the largest Civil War battles, and the site of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address, the town holds strong to its rich history with battlefield tours, annual war reenactments, and museums highlighting every interesting facet of wartime in the town. To stay close to it all—seriously, it’s just a two-minute walk from the Soldiers’ Cemetery and the Culp’s Hill section of the battlefield—check in at the Brick House Inn B&B. Turn of the century-style guestrooms are split between a three-story Victorian mansion and a home once occupied by Confederate sharpshooters (look for original bullet holes in the walls—they're there).
Two hours by car from Philadelphia
Traveling with hard-to-impress tots? Hershey, “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” is guaranteed to grab their attention with an unbeatable combo of roller coasters, carousels, and—of course—chocolate, all found at family-friendly Hersheypark. Though the sweets-centric town is known for just that, there are non-calorie-consuming things to do. You can visit the 23-acre Hershey Gardens (with a butterfly atrium), check out the river otters, black bears, bobcats, and more at ZooAmerica, or visit The Hershey Story, an interactive museum that follows the story of candy tycoon Milton S. Hershey.