October 20, 2019

New Hotels: Philadelphia’s Red Hot Lodging Scene Has Something For Every Traveler

Philadelphia has been on a tourism hot streak for years, but the hotel industry fell asleep at the switch. Now they are making up for it - in a big way.

Way back in 2010, Philadelphia set its all-time record for tourism visits - and has broken that record every single year since, trending upwards and upwards. In 2018 another benchmark was shattered as 45 million visitors arrived, up from 43.3 in 2017.

Yet in the midst of this newfound travel popularity, the lodging scene remained stagnant - or worse. Between 2014 and 2016 only three new hotels opened in the city according to VisitPhilly, the city’s non-profit tourism advocate (and a great travel resource). That’s one per year, paling in comparison with most similarly sized U.S. cities (for example, with about one quarter of Philly’s population, New Orleans saw more than four times as many notable new hotels during the same period). Worse, during this stretch, the city’s top luxury hotel, the Four Seasons, closed in 2015 in anticipation of a new location.

But that is all now water under the bridge.

In the past three years roughly a dozen major hotel openings have occurred, including an all new flagship Four Seasons that debuted in August and immediately reclaimed its position atop the city’s luxury pantheon (an in a way, atop the nation’s - it is now America’s highest hotel). Look for a detailed review of the new property here.

In addition, there are several important hotels under construction for 2020 openings, including the city’s first gaming resort, A Live! Casino & Hotel, located by the MLB ballpark; its first Hyatt Centric property; and a 755-room dual hotel tower split between Marriott brands W and Element.

The interesting thing about the City of Brotherly Love is that it has a heavily leisure driven tourism economy, rather than meetings and conventions, with 88% of visitors coming for pleasure. Philadelphia is best known for its museums and rich American history - like an original signed copy of the Constitution - and Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, suburban Valley Forge, Congress Hall, the National Constitution Center and the Museum of the American Revolution.

The art scene is also world-class, between the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the country’s largest, and the famously stunning impressionist, post-impressionist and modernist collection at the renowned Barnes Foundation. There are several other very varied and high-profile museums including the Franklin Institute, one of America’s oldest science museums; the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University, the nation’s oldest natural history museum; the Independence Seaport Museum (maritime); the African American Museum in Philadelphia; the National Museum of American Jewish History, and the living military museum aboard the Battleship New Jersey. Philadelphia also has arguably the nation’s top zoo, while its civic anchor, the Reading Terminal Market, is one of the largest, oldest and best central markets in the nation.

The Reading Market is a great place to eat, and in recent years it has been a culinary upswing that has helped propel much of Philadelphia’s tourism prominence. The city has won accolades for its cuisine, from simple to gourmet, and for wine lovers and/or bargain seekers, it is singular for an abundance of high-quality BYOB restaurants of every cuisine. While Philly is most famous for its ubiquitous cheesesteak (the local specialty and hidden gem Italian pork is actually a much better sandwich) there is a lot more to eat here, and tourists spent more on food than anything else, including lodging. But they need a place to stay, and while the Four Seasons is the fanciest of the recent wave of new hotels, there is something for every taste and budget. Here are highlights of the new lodging newcomers:

Fitler Club: This brand-new property garnered national attention for its unique model combining a hotel with private club that includes a world-class fitness center with 25,000 square foot “Field House,” featuring everything from pools to bowling allies to golf simulators. It has every kind of workout you could imagine, plus spa, bars, restaurants and just 14 rooms, whose guests get to enjoy the otherwise private club amenities.

Pod Philly: Literally just opened, the city’s first micro-hotel concept has 252 units in an 11-story tower bringing bargain prices to a great location at Rittenhouse Square. Beloved Philadelphia restaurateurs Greg Root, Al Lucas and Chef Nick Kennedy operate Condesa, a first-floor Mexican restaurant and El Techo, a rooftop taqueria and bar. Even the smallest bunk rooms have two beds and private baths with upscale showers in just 150-175 square feet.

The Notary Hotel: This hip new 499-room Autograph Collection property opened its doors last summer in historic Penn Square, steps from the Convention Center and Reading Terminal Market. The former City Hall Annex building was where a Notary’s stamp was given to signify the start of a marriage or business. An upscale hotel, the Notary has a 1920’s theme, lively Spanish tapas restaurant and bar, and well-equipped 24/7 fitness center.

Holiday Inn & Suites Philadelphia West, Drexel Hill Hotel: This just opened, moderately priced property in the Drexel Hill neighborhood is close to the airport, pet friendly and features a heated indoor pool and indoor/outdoor beer garden.

Other new or soon to open properties include the boutique Lokal Fishtown, Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City and several extended stay properties such as Home2 Suites by Hilton, MainStay Suites and Wood Spring Suites.

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