EDUCAUSE 2011 is going to be busy. If you wanted to, you could certainly stay within the Philadelphia Convention Center for the duration of the conference without getting bored. However, chances are you’re going to want to pop out into the “real world” at least once or twice. Whether you want to do some sightseeing, chug a quick beer, or grab a bite to eat, we’ve got suggestions for you on the best walkable destinations from EDUCAUSE 2011.
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1. Relax with a drink
Being around all those edtechers getting you wound up? There are plenty of good watering holes within walking distance of the Convention Center. Your best bet might be to walk around and find one that suits your fancy, but if you’re a planner by nature, try Tria (1137 Spruce Street), which bills itself as “Philadelphia’s destination for wine, cheese, and beer lovers” or Oscar’s Tavern (1524 Sansom Street) for a classic dive bar experience.
2. Ogle at William Penn
Philadelphia City Hall — the largest municipal building in the U.S. — is only a 5 minute walk from the Convention Center. Check out lavish public rooms like the Supreme Court Room and Conversation Hall; crane your neck up at the station of city founder William Penn on top of the building (it’s one of 250 sculptures that Alexander Milne Calder created for the building); and travel up to the building’s observation deck to get a view of the whole city.
3. To Market!
Reading Terminal Market, that is. A 5 minute walk from the Convention Center, this historic indoor market is a food court on steroids. Vendors line every square inch of the space, but the food is worth the crowds. Try Delilah’s Mac and Cheese, voted best in the country by Oprah Winfrey and featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network and don’t miss dessert from Bassetts Ice Cream, “America’s oldest ice cream company since 1861.”
4. Check out Chinatown
Philadelphia’s Chinatown is within a 10 minute walk of the Convention Center. Walk under the Chinatown Friendship Gate, a symbol of cultural exchange between Philadelphia and its Sister City of Tianjin, China on on 10th and Arch. Hungry? We recommend David’s Mai Lai Wah at 1001 Race Street (it’s open until 3 AM on weeknights and 4 AM on weekends!) or Sang Kee Peking Duck House at 238 N 9th Street.
5. Visit America’s most historic square mile
About a mile’s walk from the Convention Center, Independence National Historical Park serves up a powerful history lesson along with green space and fresh air. Marvel at the Liberty Bell and don’t miss Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written.
6. Be artsy
Just a stone’s throw away from the Convention Center is the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which features not only a world-class school of fine arts but also an impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century American paintings and sculptures. The museum is open 10 AM – 5 PM on Tuesday through Saturday and 11 AM to 5 PM on Sundays. Adult admission to the permanent collection is $10 ($15 to see the special collections).
7. Get your caffeine fix in
8. See the magic
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a “folk art environment, gallery space, and nonprofit organization,” is just over a mile away from the Convention Center by foot. The Magic Gardens features the work of mosaicist Isaiah Zagar. If you need a quick recharge from making small talk and typing furious notes on your laptop, this colorful, unconventional art space might be just what the doctor ordered.
9. Get jazzed
Want to cap off a busy day of sessions with some relaxing jazz? Check out Chris’ Jazz Cafe at 1421 Sansom Street for food, drink, and great music.
10. Bring your own… tequila?
At Lolita, a Mexican restaurant at 106 S. 13th Street, you can do just that. But even if you’re not feeling quite so feisty (after all, you want to be awake for those early morning sessions, don’t you?), you can still enjoy the modern Mexican cuisine at this sophisticated Market East restaurant. Think chipotle mango guacamole, hazelnut-crusted duck, and more. Entrees generally run from $18 – $24.
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