19 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do at Philadelphia Hotels

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The Notary hotel, one of the many awesome Philadelphia hotels to check out now. Photograph by Rebecca McAlpin

Why should tourists have all the fun? Here are 19 ways you, a local, can reap the benefits of Philly’s booming hotel scene.

1. Have an actually productive coffee meeting

Remember the days of scrambling for a seat ahead of a networking sesh at La Colombe? Avoid the hassle by heading to the quiet lobby lounges at the Hyatt Centric or Renaissance, where there are typically tables aplenty. (And at the Centric, they’re still brewing with La Colombe beans.)

2. Swim some laps

Most Philly hotels limit their pools to overnight guests, but there are a few workarounds. At the Loews, the Rittenhouse and the Logan, anyone booking a spa treatment also has access to the lap pools. (The Logan hopes to bring back ResortPass access to its fitness center — it doesn’t require a spa appointment — in 2022). When it debuts this spring, the heated year-round rooftop pool at the W will also have a wet deck, a bar and cabanas — and they’ll be opening the party to locals on a select basis.

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The pool library at the Logan. Photograph courtesy The Logan Hotel

3. Play games

The gigantic Marriott by the Convention Center closed completely during the pandemic, then used the time to renovate. Part of the refresh: a new pub with a four-lane bowling alley and game room slated to debut this summer. At the Logan, use of the pool table in the James Logan library happens on a first-come, first-served basis — and locals are welcome.

4. Have dinner in a suite

Sometimes — but especially in COVID times — you just want to kick back with a nice meal that you don’t have to cook and watch a TV that isn’t the one in your living room. Hotel Monaco, AKA University City and the Logan are running pandemic- inspired specials that let you use their rooms to do just that — and without booking an overnight stay.

5. Get a late-night massage

The newest Four Seasons spa package isn’t cheap, but it’s also not an evening you’ll soon forget. For $1,500 and up, the hotel will give you exclusive after-hours access to the 57th-floor infinity pool. They’ll fill the space with flowers, candles and champagne, plus set up two tables for a romantic couple’s massage. The entire area is yours from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

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Night Spa at the Four Seasons. Photograph courtesy Four Seasons Philadelphia

6. Plan an outing with your pod

Pre-pandemic, the Deacon ran a wonderfully varied roster of group classes (challah-making with James Beard semifinalist Tova du Plessis of Essen Bakery; tie-dye taught by street artist Amberella). This year, they’re focusing on chef-hosted events that will support restaurants closed by COVID and wellness programming for anyone (a.k.a. everyone) still processing the trauma of 2020.

7. See some art

Little-known fact: Three original Mary Cassatt sketches grace the walls of the Rittenhouse lobby. Lesser-known fact: the co-working space at the Fitler Club doubles as an art gallery filled with amazing works by 21 Philly artists. And on the first Thursday of each month, they host free public tours. (They also don’t take a commission on sales.)

8. Take in the views

Every Philadelphian should see the city from the Four Seasons lobby bar at least once. (From 60 floors up, the beauty will catch your breath in your chest.) For a high-level hang with a side of fresh air, try the 16th-floor solarium-style eatery Attico at the Cambria or the 11th-floor taqueria El Techo (complete with retractable roof!) at Pod Philly.

9. Gamble

Slots, poker, craps, Sportsbook … after all this time, it’s finally here (and open 24/7) at the Live Casino & Hotel in South Philly. Whatever your game of choice, know you can celebrate your winnings — or wash away a loss — in one of the 200 rooms upstairs. (And yes, they can book you in night-of.)

10. Hang out in a Turkish bath

Unveiled in early 2020, the new 15,000-square-foot Joseph Anthony Retreat salon and spa at Loews barely had any time to spoil this city’s citizens before lockdown set in. When you’re ready for a proper pampering again, go for the Aqua Experience: a 60-minute circuit of scrubs, massage and Vichy showers, administered on a heated tile hammam table.

11. Eat your weight in raw fish

On the ground floor of Four Seasons, Vernick Fish isn’t your typical oysters-and-cocktail-sauce raw bar. It’s more like a halibut-ceviche-with-Thai-coconut-broth kind of raw bar. A torched-hamachi-crudo-with-blood-orange-and-jalapeño kind of raw bar. A $120-osetra-caviar-supplement kind of raw bar. You get the idea.

12. Take down a doughnut croquem­bouche

At the Wayward — the American-style restaurant at the new Canopy by Hilton — your dinner could and should end only one way: with a doughnut croquembouche. The tall pyramid of mini cream-stuffed Federal Donuts is doused in salted caramel that’s poured — for you and your Instagram account — table-side.

13. Pretend you’re on Bridgerton

Afternoon tea at the Rittenhouse is a beloved Philly tradition — and one that newly minted Regency lovers should get on, stat. During the three-hour service, a tea sommelier will guide you through a global selection of blends while you fill your plate with dainty finger sandwiches and pastries. Similar offerings — albeit with less pomp — were available pre-pandemic at the Sonesta and the Bellevue.

14. Listen to live music

In New Hope, River House at Odette’s has a dedicated piano lounge in which, on weekend nights, you can settle into a leather couch with a whiskey cocktail and listen to the resident player tickle the keys. In the city, Aloft hopes to bring back lobby-bar performances (everything from singer/songwriters to spoken word) by summer. And if you’ve got the money to spend and a quarantine pod ready to rage, the Extreme WOW suites at the W will have built-in DJ booths.

15. Get some work done

When a deadline looms — or when you simply can’t take another minute of your spouse’s Zoom calls — Dayuse.com lets you book hotel rooms at reduced rates just for working hours. The deal is available at properties all over the area, including the Westin, Hyatt Centric, the Inn at Penn, the Bellevue and Windsor Suites. Top-level Marriott Bonvoy members can also post up at the M Club at Marriott Old City, a hybrid co-working/lounge space with free snacks and strong wi-fi.

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Merguez kebab and berbere crisps from Spice Finch. Photograph by Breanne Furlong

16. Make dinner for one a special occasion

The solo takeout tasting at Spice Finch (reopening this spring) is a smorgasbord of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean goodies: charred carrot hummus served with crudités and berbere chips, a smoky baba ganoush, plus a bowl of broccoli tabbouleh and a grilled kebab. Yeah, you could take it home, but wouldn’t “me” time be so much better upstairs in a Warwick hotel room, with a hot bath and a fluffy robe?

17. Buy champagne from a vending machine

There’s really only one reason to buy champagne from a vending machine: because you can. So find something — anything — to celebrate, then head to the Ritz-Carlton lobby, where splits of (chilled!) Moët & Chandon come with a plastic sipping topper, so you don’t have to drink it straight from the bottle.

18. Do puppy yoga

In warmer months, the Logan runs all sorts of open-to-the-public (and often free!) exercise events in its interior courtyard — and it shouldn’t shock anyone that yoga with the adorable, adoptable pups of Morris Animal Refuge is one of the most popular. Watch IG and Facebook for date announcements in the spring and summer.

19. Enjoy two more restaurants from Nick Elmi

He opened Laurel seven years ago to acclaim. Then he opened ITV, the wine and cocktail bar next door. Then came Royal Boucherie, a cozy American-style French brasserie that he opened in Old City. And now, after a dreadful year, he’s hitting the ground running with two new restaurants (in partnership with restaurateur Fia Berisha) at the just-opened Marriott Residence Inn in Bala Cynwyd: a riverside all-day cafe called the Landing Kitchen, and a pseudo-Mediterranean mid-Atlantic restaurant chock-full of that purely Elmian elegance.

Published as “No Reservations” in the April 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.