Visitors come to Philadelphia the first time for the history, but they come back for the shopping. On the front edge of every emerging East Coast trend, Philly's entrepreneurs are the first to offer the season's hottest trends in clothing, jewelry, and home decor.
The biggest concentration of shops is in the city itself, with some communities, such as Manayunk, known as shopping destinations in themselves. In the suburbs, towns along the Main Line and in West Chester and Bucks County are shopping draws, as are the mammoth, 450-store King of Prussia Mall and the outlet stores at Franklin Mills.
The best news of all: Pennsylvania doesn't charge a sales tax on clothing -- a major consideration when you consider the dollars saved during a shopping trip.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Philadelphia
Singling out the best shopping opportunities is difficult in Philly, because every shopping district can boast "the finest" in some area, and some of those are included in the suggested itineraries to follow. That said, you can't do better than a shopping day in the neighborhood of Manayunk, a short drive up the Schuylkill. Along the Main Street corridor you'll find quality shops such as Nicole Miller Fashions (4249 Main St), Smith Bros for Jeans (4430 Main St), and Belle Maison (4320 Main St).
Unlike many cities, Philadelphia still boasts some old-fashioned department stores, such as Lord & Taylor (1300 Market St). Formerly the Wanamaker's, Lord & Taylor is more upscale and, thankfully, kept Wanamaker's 30,000-pipe organ; be there at noon and 5 pm for daily concerts. The best way to listen is with a glass of wine in the third-floor cafe.
Then move down the street to Strawbridge's (801 Market St), anchoring the eastern end of The Gallery Shopping Mall (801 Market St). Visit the recently downsized, but still intriguing, food hall. If you dine at the Mobil Two-Star White Dog Cafe (3420 Samson St), be sure to step into its Black Cat (3424 Sansom St) next door, a wonderful crafts shop offering handcrafted items of every style and material, from aluminum to paper and fabrics.
You can find dozens of older rare items, crafts, handmade linens, and more along Antique Row (9th South and Pine sts, from 9th to 17th streets along Pine). You'll be kept busy with about 25 antique stores lining the avenue.
The South Street District (from the Center City area, it's five blocks south of Market Street) offers thrift stores, one-of-a-kind off-beat shops, cafes, and street musicians for those who don't mind the smell of incense or light reflecting from crystals in store windows.
What city guide is complete without a look at the nightlife? Keep reading to learn more about Philadelphia's entertainment opportunities and its active after-hours scene.