Lonely Planet Local Michael Butler has been living in Philadelphia for more than eight years. Though he originally moved for the professional opportunities, it’s been the amazing places to see and a thriving food culture that’s ended up keeping him here. He shares his tips on the best spot for cheap eats, the best place to bring friends in town and the best place for the oh-so-Philly water ice.

View of Philadelphia's gothic City Hall at sunset, with high rise buildings on either side
It may be known for history but there's a lively modern side to Philadelphia © joe daniel price / Lonely Planet

When I’m up for a big night out… I’ll go to NOTO. It’s a state-of-the-art nightclub that regularly has special guests like hip-hop star Travis Scott and an impressive drink menu. You have to dress nicely to come (no sneakers, work boots, sandals, ripped/baggy clothing or athletic wear) but it’s worth it. Since it’s close to Chinatown, there are many late-night Chinese restaurants to dine at after NOTO closes its doors at 2am.

Overhead view of a city park, with tables shaded by bright yellow and red umbrellas and Edison bulb fairy lights overhead
One of Philly's major urban parks, Spruce Street Harbor offers performances, food vendors and more © Visit Philadelphia

When I have friends in town… I make sure they visit Spruce Street Harbor Park. It’s an urban park experience complete with hammocks, bright lights hanging from trees, outdoor games and more. Tasty Philly food and drink vendors like Hip City Veg make it easy to not have to go far for a bite to eat while you hang out. It’s the sort of place that instantly reminds people why they decided to come to Philadelphia.

A typical weekend involves...  Brunch at Green Eggs Cafe. Green Eggs Cafe has a location in Center City and Northern Liberties. While both are popular, I prefer the Northern Liberties location because it has a BYOB license, allowing customers to bring champagne for mimosas to go with dishes like red velvet pancakes and fried chicken and waffles.

Young man in hat stands in front of blue and purple graffiti at Graffiti Pier in Philadelphia
Lonely Planet Local Michael Butler at Graffiti Pier in Philadelphia © Michael Butler / Lonely Planet

For my 29th birthday I splurged at... UBIQ. UBIQ is a popular local sneaker boutique with an international following and has a sneaker selection to appeal to fashion-conscious people of any age. As a lifelong lover of sneakers, it’s refreshing to find footwear I’ve never seen before with every visit to this Philly staple.

For cheap eats... Silk City Diner & Lounge is the place to be. From appetizers like scrumptious Thai chili chicken wings to entrees like the Kabayaki glazed salmon, Silk City has several delicious and cost-friendly options to help you enjoy your night. As a bonus, there are dance nights and music performances throughout the week, so it’s easy to have a great meal in the diner and go across the entrance space to the lounge area for live entertainment.

Storefront with glass windows, white trim and a blue-and-white awning that has the words ' Philly Flavors' in a red circle
The frozen dessert known as water ice is a Philadelphia staple; Philly Flavors is one of the best places to try it © Michael Butler / Lonely Planet

I have friends and family with kids...  Philly Flavors is one of my favorite places to take them. Philly Flavors has some of the best water ice (a sorbet-like mixture of sugar and water) in the city and an amazing selection of ice cream made from scratch, making the long lines here more than worth it.

One thing I hate about Philly is...  Philly is notorious for having potholes in streets and roads throughout the city, so this is one of the primary reasons I recommend traveling by foot and via public transit whenever possible. Your tires will be better for it. On a lighter note, a benefit to seeing much of the city by foot is that you’re exposed to places you probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise – I discovered South Street comic shop Atomic City Comics this way.

four twenty-somethings lift their glasses in a toast on the outdoor patio of Mixto in Philadelphia
Mixto is a lively spot for a date night © Visit Philadelphia

The best place to go on a date is...  Mixto, a fun Latin restaurant tucked away in posh Washington Square West. With al fresco dining when the weather permits and signature dishes like their Arroz con Pollo Cubano, this is a great place to take that special somebody. It has an intimate feel while also being lively enough to bring energy to the conversations between you and your date.

I know I’m a Philadelphian because… I love experiencing the city I live in at any time of the year. Whether it’s hanging in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park during the warm months or sipping warm apple cider at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest in the cold ones, there is always something new and different to experience for both Philly residents and visitors. The fact that it’s relatively inexpensive to enjoy yourself in Philadelphia also makes it easier to seek out new experiences even if you’ve lived here for years.

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