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The Pope is Visiting Philly: Here is Everything You Need to Know

Pope Francis is Visiting Philadelphia!Pope Francis is Visiting Philadelphia (Photo Credit)

Seeing the Pope in person is rare for most people, but your opportunity has arrived! Pope Francis is visiting Philadelphia on the weekend of Saturday, September 26th and Sunday, September 27th. Here’s what you need to know as you plan your trip to Philadelphia, both to see the Pope and to visit other amazing Philadelphia attractions.

Itinerary

Saturday, Sept. 26:
8:40am Travel to Philly
10:30am Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (closed to the public)
4:45pm Papal Address at Independence Mall
7:30pm Visit the Festival of Families on Ben Franklin Parkway

Sunday, Sept. 27:
9:15am Meeting with bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (closed to the public)
11:00am Visit to Curran-Formhold Correctional Facility (closed to the public)
4:00pm Papal Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway 7:00pm Visit with organizers of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation (closed to the public) 8:00pm Depart for Rome

How to Travel

Pope Francis will be doing a papal Mass on Sunday, which is open to the public and is expected to bring over 1.5 million people into the city center. Transportation will be the most important step to figure out as a number of major highways, along with the Ben Franklin bridge, will close during Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia. Don’t even think about trying to drive around Center City as no cars will be allowed to enter specific zones, which are outlined below.

As a result, the best plan for travel is to plan to park outside the restricted area and bike or walk in or to obtain mass transit passes. Act fast: SEPTA had a lottery for special $10 three-day passes valid for Saturday – Monday for travel on subways, buses, and trolleys, which has already ended. You may also use a regular weekly/monthly SEPTA pass or TrailPass, One Day Convenience Pass, One Day Individual or Family Independence Pass, or Senior Fare, but all passes must be purchased in advance as sales offices will not be open, Ticket Vending Machines will not be services, and cash will not be accepted on Saturday and Sunday. Regional Rail will only have daily passes available, which will be $10 a day, and must be ordered in advance.

Only 18 of the 282 rail stations will be open over the weekend for travel into Center City. Drop off locations are listed on a special SEPTA site about the event. The ticket you receive will be stamped with the station name and will only be accepted at that station. Arranging to be dropped off and picked up at the station will be essential, as the amount of parking available will not meet demand.

PATCO will also offer transportation from four of its New Jersey stations and one Philadelphia station. NJ Transit and Amtrak will also be making arrangements in the area. Visit the websites of these transit operators for more details.

Map of Pope Visit to PhiladelphiaMap shows road restrictions, transit stations that will remain open during the papal visit, and locations at which Pope Francis will hold events.

Things to Know the Day of the Pope’s Visit

Keep in mind that camping out the day before the Mass will not be allowed by Philadelphia authorities. Selfie sticks will also be banned from the event. There will be no tickets required to view the Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, so don’t get duped by scalpers. Pope Francis’ address at Independence hall will have some ticketed areas, and other areas available to the public.

Food and beverages are OK. Bags may be subject to size restrictions. The U.S. Secret Service will spell out all the restrictions in early September. Also vendors will be set up all along the parkway. Food trucks will also provide a variety of cuisines and Philly Favorites. No alcohol will be sold.

The Pope’s visit has been declared a National Security Special Event (NSSE), which means that the United States Secret Service is the lead agency responsible for security. This designation is only in effect for the weekend of the Pope’s visit, not the entire week of the World Meeting of Families, but does mean enhanced security measures will be in place. Stay tuned for a list of restricted items.

[More information to come]

Where to Stay and What to Eat

If you haven’t already booked a room, you may need to check several hotels before you find one that has rooms still available. Also, be aware that many hotels raise their rates around a major event like this one, so don’t be alarmed by prices.

At the time of this writing, the hotels in or near city center that still had rooms were around $400 - $550 per night on the weekend of the Pope’s visit. Hotels 10 or more miles from city center were in the $180 - $225 per night range. Using booking sites with reviews such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, or Hotels.com is recommended in addition to AirBnB options.

There are a number of amazing restaurants in Philadelphia that you will want to visit during your stay. For lunch, Sketch Burger is a must-have Philly classic. Don’t miss the Harissa Aioli for dipping. For lunch or dinner, Radicchio has amazing Italian fair that’s highly recommended. If barbecue is more your style, be sure to visit Fette Sau, which features indoor/outdoor seating, naturally raised meats, and amazing barbecue side dishes. When you’re done with your meal, don’t miss The Franklin Fountain for dessert. It’s nationally known for its amazing ice cream blends.

Philly Cheesesteak 101

A trip to Philadelphia is never complete without a famous Philly Cheesesteak! Below are our top, local recommendations:

Rounding Out Your Vacation

While seeing Pope Francis is certainly exciting, there are many other attractions in the city of Philadelphia that will help you finish out your vacation well. Here are some suggestions.

The Liberty Bell

If you haven’t seen the Liberty Bell before, it’s a must-hit attraction in Philadelphia. It may be crowded with so many other people in the city, so be patient. The Liberty Bell Center at Independence Hall has a wealth of artifacts from the early history of the United States.

The Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute has three floors of exhibits, including The Giant Heart, Changing Earth, and Your Brain. There are also live science shows and a Planetarium. Fun for all ages!

Please Touch Museum

After telling the kids to be quiet, sit still, and keep their hands to themselves for a few days why not take them to the Please Touch Museum®? Located at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, the museum has been recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 children’s museums. They’ll love the fun and freedom!

Eastern State Penitentiary

If you’re looking for a more adult-focused attraction, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a fascinating place to visit. The prison was known for its grand architecture and strict discipline. Tours include Al Capone’s cell, Death Row, and artist’s installations.

Seeing a Pope is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people. As you plan to visit Philadelphia and see Pope Francis, be sure to purchase transportation passes in advance and be aware of street and station closures. After you’ve attended the Mass, stick around Philadelphia and take in the many other attractions the city has to offer. You’ll have a fantastic vacation!

Updated 8/25/15

The Beginner's Guide to Atlanta: Travel like a Local

Atlanta is an amazing city, boasting close to 500,000 residents in the city itself, and another 5 million in the metropolitan area that surrounds it. With so much going on, it can be overwhelming to even know where to start looking for things to do in Atlanta.

There are a lot of major tourist attractions in the city, but if you really want to enjoy the hidden gems, try to explore Atlanta like a local. Here are five activities you don’t want to miss on your trip to the capital city of Georgia.

Tubing in the Chattahoochee River

This summertime staple is a much-loved activity in the Atlanta area. If you’re looking for things to do in Atlanta this weekend, give it a shot! There are outfitters on the river who can set you up with tubing gear. You’ll want to call in a reservation in advance – if you walk in, you run the risk that all the equipment will be rented. You don’t want to miss your chance to “Shoot the Hooch,” so plan ahead to enjoy this local activity. Of course, don’t forget to bring your own beer!

College Football

College Football Hall of FameCollege Football Hall of Fame

In the Southeast, college football is everyone’s favorite religion. If you’re visiting in the fall, make plans to catch a game at Georgia Tech or Georgia State. The scene will be very wild, so be prepared! If you’re visiting outside of football season, be sure to at least visit the College Football Hall of Fame, which features 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, interactive multimedia displays, children’s activities, and a 45 yard indoor football field.

Enjoy Local Beer

Drinking is a local pastime, and no beginner’s guide to Atlanta would be complete without mentioning SweetWater Brewing Company. While you plan things to do in Atlanta, make time to tour the brewery, attend a tasting, and get to know this local landmark of the city. If you can’t visit the brewery directly, be sure to visit the many pubs that feature local brews and enjoy a drink with your friends.

Hit Up a Food Truck

Atlanta has a thriving food truck scene, and as a result there are a lot of unique places to catch lunch in the city. To really explore Atlanta like a local, you can look up your favorite food truck and find out where they are on a given day. Some good options for specific trucks include King of Pops, the Atlanta Burger Truck, Wing King and Things, and Genki-to-Go. For an easier option, just visit Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market to see what you can find.

Grab Some Barbecue

Atlanta is in the south, and that means you can’t miss the best barbecue around. Which place has it is still open for debate, but you can try either Fox Brothers or Fat Matt’s without being disappointed. In fact, there may be fistfights between Atlantans over which one is better. Regardless of which place you try, grabbing some barbecue is a great thing to do in Atlanta this weekend.

As you look for things to do in Atlanta, don’t miss these five great activities that will have you experiencing the city like a local. And watch out for that other experience all the locals have – traffic. Don’t laugh that folks always seem to know side roads – in Atlanta, that’s a survival skill. Plan plenty of time to get where you need to go.

Romantic Activities for Couples in Seattle

Space NeedleSpace Needle at Sunset

Trying to find the perfect romantic getaway, packed with heart-throbbing dates sure to sweep your significant other off of their feet? Love is in the air of Seattle, hanging on the gray clouds enveloping the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, and trickling down below into the city. Fuel the fire of romance with these great Seattle attractions that are sure to heighten the attraction between you and your date.

The Space Needle: A Date in the Sky

Take your relationship to new heights at the famous Seattle Space Needle. It’s the perfect place to see the entire city, 520 feet high in the sky. A 360-degree view of picturesque Seattle is sure to impress any date, and it’s a good place to start when planning your romantic itinerary; you can see everything from up there!

Get a glimpse into Seattle’s history and most famous sights with advanced interactive technology. The Space Needle is one of many romantic dates in Seattle, especially for the sightseeing, outdoorsy kind of couple. Get a closer look with a cutting edge Swarovski telescope, and enjoy the fresh perspective.

With Seattle CityPASS, you can take your date to the Space Needle twice within 24 hours. Begin your day with crisp Seattle air by heading to the Space Needle early in the morning, and end it with a breathtaking sunset like you’ve never seen before. Enjoy a locally flavored lunch at SkyCity restaurant and get a unique, panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, misty bays, and the Emerald City as you dine in the sky.

Dinner by Candlelight at Il Bistro

Nothing says romance like a candlelit dinner for two. While Seattle is known for its breathtaking skylight views, Il Bistro’s underground setting allows the focus to be on your date, sans distractions. This dimly-lit taste of Italy is consistently voted among the most romantic dining locales in the Emerald City.

Tucked away beneath the Pike Place Market, Il Bistro serves sumptuous Italian food. Their wine selection is ample, and they serves Happy Hour Crostinis – a palate-pleasing appetizer. Pasta and seafood, such as fresh mussels and calamari, are another Il Bistro staple. Choose from their selection of authentic Italian desserts to cap off your meal. Il Bistro also has a late-night menu for those lovebirds that enjoy an after-hours bite to eat.

Argosy CruisesTake an Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour

Hop on the Love Boat with Argosy Cruises

The Argosy Cruises harbor tour is one of many romantic dates in Seattle. Find a seat on the right side of the boat facing the front to get the best views. It’ll give you the perfect excuse to cuddle up next to your sweetheart! The Cascade and Olympian snowy mountains make a serene backdrop for an entertaining and informative Seattle Harbor tour.

The magnificent Alki Beach starkly contrasts the great heights of the Space Needle. Gaze at the sky above and see just how high you were. Watch the container ships as they tread the waters. They look like cubed collages floating in the distance.

Rock the Night Away at EMP Museum

Experience pop culture at its finest. An interactive journey into the world of music, literature, video games, film, and even television, EMP Museum is full of fun and exciting Seattle activities perfect for the cultured couple.

Go back in time to the most thrilling moments in rock n’ roll history. Watch music performances and light shows in Sky Church, complete with a 60’ HD LED screen that’ll take you back in time.

Impress your significant other with a rocked out recording in the Sound Lab. Whether you’re playing your heart out on a guitar or serenading your girlfriend in a soundproof room, the Sound Lab transforms any date into a self-made concert!

Complete the exciting date in the Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume, where 55 vintage guitars dating from the 1770’s until now are on view.

Silver Screen Sweethearts See “The Big Picture”

Perfect your “yawn, stretch, and put your arm around your date” move and see a movie in style at Seattle’s Big Picture theatre. Voted one of the Top 20 Movie Theatres in the World by Men’s Journal, not only does the Big Picture show movies on its glorious big screen, it also plays host to a bar and lounge where you can enjoy a drink before the movie starts.

If you’re enjoying the film and need something to go with the theatre’s gourmet truffle popcorn or white cheddar popcorn, servers will bring a hand-crafted beverage of your choice to you in your seat.

Whether you’re heading to the top of the Seattle Space Needle, or cruising down below on the Argosy Cruise harbor tour, don’t forget your Seattle CityPASS: the ultimate romantic package deal.

Boston vs New York: How Does Each City Stack Up?

CityPASS recently conducted a poll among prominent bloggers in New York City and Boston to get their impressions on these two great cities and the best of what they have to give to tourists and locals alike. Both New York City and Boston have a lot to offer and do it in their own way, at their own pace. Let's take a tour, shall we? read more »

Hidden Gems Around North America: Let CityPASS Take You There

Hidden Treasures For adventure junkies and treasure hunters alike, the time has come to embark on the ultimate quest. Whether you're a curious parent or a retiree looking for adventure, CityPASS attractions offer many exciting gems. From Atlanta to Toronto, every city has attractions full of hidden wonders and worthwhile treasures. Explore North America's secrets and find your inner pirate. read more »

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