The Best Places to Sit in Town, According to These Philly Celebs

From a park bench to a sky-high restaurant table to a simple seat on a SEPTA bus, here’s where notable Philadelphians prefer sitting.

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One of Inga Saffron’s favorite seats in Philly? On a SEPTA bus.

We reached out to some notable Philadelphians to discover their favorite spots to sit and soak in the city. From a park bench to a sky-high restaurant table to a simple seat on a SEPTA bus, here’s where they’re sitting.

Inga Saffron

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and architecture critic for the Inquirer
“I like to sit midway back on the SEPTA bus, where you have to step up. I always choose the seat in the first elevated row, on the driver’s side, opposite the door — assuming it’s free. This is the perfect SEPTA bus seat because it gives you the best view of what’s happening outside as well as a clear view of the front of the bus. It also lets you ring the stop button easily and make a quick exit out the back door. If someone happens to be sitting in my seat — yes, I think of it as my seat — I’ll sit on the right side, right in front of the door. That seat isn’t nearly as good, because there’s a protective Plexiglass window that’s usually a bit cloudy.”

Josh Shapiro

Pennsylvania Governor
“My favorite place to sit is at our family dinner table in Abington on a Friday night, celebrating Shabbat and enjoying each other, as we do every week.”

Conrad Benner

Founder of Streets Dept and host of WHYY’s Art Outside podcast
“On the swing benches at the Rail Park, you can people-watch as you overlook Chinatown and see murals from local artist Dora Cuenca and internationally renowned artist Shepard Fairey, among others.”

Lisa Scottoline / Photograph by Jeff Wojtasek

Lisa Scottoline

Best-selling author of The Truth About the Devlins
“My love for Boathouse Row goes back to my days at Penn, where I was a member of its first women’s crew team and I used to sit on the dock next to the water — an oasis of peace amid the hustle-bustle of the city and the traffic rushing by. I still get that oasis feeling on any bench overlooking the water.”

Ali Velshi

MSNBC anchor and author of Small Acts of Courage: A Legacy of Endurance and the Fight for Democracy
“There isn’t much sitting in my life. The exception is when I’m in transit — seats on transportation are my happy place. The best is when I’m heading to the Middle East and fly on Qatar Airways, because not only do the seats turn into beds, but the beds become double beds. It’s the best sleeping situation in life. I tell people there’s no wi-fi on the plane — of course, that’s not been true for a decade, but I turn off my life and I can sleep 13-plus hours. I never sleep that long at home.”

Della Clark

President and CEO of the Enterprise Center
“I prefer a nice chair in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton.”

Albert Lee

Photographer and prolific Philly Instagrammer (@urphillypal)
“My favorite dim sum spot is Ocean City in Chinatown — and, as in any pushcart dim sum place, the best seat there is the one closest to the kitchen. When the carts come wheeling out, you get first dibs on those shrimp dumplings, sticky rice and sweet buns before they’re all gone.”

Hanna & Chad Williams /  Photograph by Ted Nghiem

Hanna & Chad Williams

Wife-and-husband team behind restaurant Friday Saturday Sunday
Hanna: “Oh, I know what Chad is going to say about where he likes to sit.”
Chad: “It’s in the Wissahickon — ”
Hanna: “Yep.”
Chad: “Once you get in a little bit on the trail that’s right off Kitchens Lane — about five minutes in — there’s a little bench overlooking the river. It’s super-nice. Peaceful.”
Hanna: “For me, wait … what’s our table at the Four Seasons — 32?”
Chad: “Yeah. It’s the table toward the back of the dining area. You look straight out onto the clouds.”
Hanna: “Your back is to the whole restaurant, and your view looks out over the tops of buildings, with no seats in front of you. The back of the sofa banquette is so high that when other people are coming in, you’re hidden. It’s like you’re there alone.”

Photograph by Karen Harmelin

Jamie Joffe

Creator of Binge or Cringe, the TV-criticism social media and podcast
“I could talk about the bench on the Bridlewild Trail in Lower Merion and how I used to kiss guys there, but the place I really love to sit the most is my couch — this huge greige sectional, 90 by 130 inches. I had it custom-made because everyone else in my house is over six feet tall. The tragedy is that we still don’t all fit. The most in-demand seat is mine — it’s the perfect distance to the kitchen, the outlets and the TV, and right by a big window, so you can see my Conshy neighbors outside. It’s the best seat in the house, which means as soon as everyone is home, I’m kicked out of it. It’s very upsetting.”

Ken Kalfus

Short-story author and novelist whose most recent novel is 2 a.m. in Little America
“My favorite place to sit and read is on the footpath in Schuylkill River Park, between Spruce Street and the dog park. Three benches line the path, looking out on the lawn, which is heavily populated by picnickers and Frisbee and Spikeball players in good weather. The path sees a lot of traffic as well. I’m always looking up to watch. Each bench has a plaque, presumably in honor of a former park-goer. My favorite is dedicated to Professor Alexander Fiorillo; beneath his name is a sketch of an elegant lit cigar, probably celebrating one of his favorite park pastimes.”

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Ken Kalfus’s favorite seat in Philly is in Schuylkill River Park

Nikil Saval

State senator
“I go to the Art Museum pretty routinely on Friday nights — they stay open late and have music and drinks. I take my kid, and we get food, then sit on the big interior steps that lead up to Diana, the Saint-Gaudens statue.”

Jay Shah

Executive Chairman of Hersha Hospitality Trust
Table number 42 at Saloon: It’s a round table upstairs in the corner around the bar, off to the right of the piano player. Fun gatherings with friends and family over the years.”

Susan Slawson

Philly Parks & Rec commissioner
“I do a lot of sitting at the Dell Music Center — though my favorite spot isn’t a seat, but a ramp where I can stand and look at the entire venue. I just love to watch everyone. Neighborhood people and families who’ve been going here for decades all come to hear music year after year, to dance and sing and get food and have fun.”


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Published as “Save My Seat” in the July 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.