MARAC in Philadelphia: Where Can I Get a Drink In This Town?

by Sarah Seraphin, Local Arrangements Committee

Philadelphia is known as a “city of neighborhoods.” If you’re thinking of venturing out in the evening, the reality of that moniker might overwhelm you. Each Philadelphia neighborhood has a truly unique character. If you haven’t visited us for a while, you will find the restaurant and bar scene has exploded over the past decade. Here’s a guide to help you find a nice place to relax and have fun while you’re in town. Consider it as a “choose your own adventure” tour of some of the many bars our city has to offer. Don’t forget, bars in Philadelphia close at 2am!

Do you want something scenic and convenient? Choose the bar in the conference hotel!
Keatings River Grill in the Hyatt at Penn’s Landing has happy hour specials Monday – Friday from 5pm to 7pm. Prices ($3 draft beers and $4 house wines) are extremely reasonable for a hotel bar, especially one that overlooks the Delaware River!

20c Penn’s Landing (E) by Kansas Sebastian

Do you want to take a short walk? Head over to Old City!
Right on the other side of Columbus Boulevard is Old City, the Philadelphia historic district. This area is well known for the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, the Constitution Center and much more. It is also the neighborhood with the highest concentration of bars, restaurants and clubs in the city. You may like this area if you are looking to try out a few different options. Bear in mind, most of the places in Old City a relatively small. The happy hour crowd in Old City is typically professionals coming from work and a little bit of the tourist crowd. At night, especially Thursday through Saturday, the vibe is a bit more youthful. The clubs in this area tend to open around 10 or 11pm and things can get rowdy late at night.

Philadelphia 11 by Photommo

There are many options to choose from in Old City, so where do you want to go?

Looking for a huge beer selection? Choose Eulogy!
Eulogy, at 136 Chestnut Street can be easily reached by foot from the Hyatt via the Chestnut Street Bridge. You’ll find that this Belgian tavern has hundreds of beers for you to choose from. The space is small, but Thursdays through Sundays a second bar is open upstairs.

One of the wonderful Philly bars by craigemorsels

Looking for a fancy cocktail? Choose the Continental!
You’ll find the diner-style martini bar on the corner of 2nd and Market Streets. A classic spot for fun drinks and people watching, this bar is a long time Old City staple. It’s not recommended for large groups, but perfect for couples and trios!

Continental by Kevin H.

Looking for a classic cocktail? Choose Sassafras!
This bar on 2nd Street, between Market and Chestnut Streets has terrific atmosphere– very mellow, excellent lighting, and classic drinks. Good for a medium sized group. Also a great spot for loners! TVs at the bar, and good old fashioned friendly bartenders to keep you company as you unwind.

Sassafras Restaurant 2nd Street Philadelphia by A.Currell

Looking for a fun bar with a friendly environment? Choose Mac’s Tavern!
At 226 Market Street, Mac’s is the closest thing to a true “Philadelphia bar experience” that you will get in Old City. This is the old Skinner’s Tavern, now owned by Rob and Kaitlin McElhenney, of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame. You’ll find a good selection of cheap beer, a sports loving crowd, some hipsters, and ample seating.

Looking for that true Philadelphia bar experience? Time to head off into Center City!
Sure, this is a pretty subjective concept, but as a life-long resident of the Philadelphia area (who worked in the hospitality industry for over six years) I think I can offer some insight into what an authentic Philadelphia bar is… but the truth is, it is not one single type of place. One street in Center City seems to capture it all: Sansom Street. Sansom is a small, alley-like street between Walnut and Chestnut Streets.

Sansom Street by Marisa | Food in Jars

Catch a cab “downtown” to 16th and Sansom Streets and head to the Oyster House for buck-a-shuck oysters and $5 martinis from 5 to 7 pm. Get yourself a seat at the bar. Two doors over you’ll find Oscar’s Tavern. Oscar’s doesn’t have a website, but do yourself a favor and skip the Yelp reviews about it. If you like dive bars, you will like Oscar’s! Looking for an Irish bar? Head down over Broad Street to Fergie’s Pub at 1214 Sansom. You’ll find a classic pub environment with friendly service. Get there before 9pm on Thursday night and sign up for Quizzo! The good thing about this general area is that there are a lot of fun options; but if you’re exploring, don’t bother heading north of Chestnut Street because that’s the business district.

Feeling stylish? Head over to Rittenhouse Square!
On 18th Street between Chestnut and Locust Streets you’ll find a number of fun bistros and cocktail lounges with a classy feel. Check out Rouge for a view of the park. Step down into the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co and find a speakeasy-style bar with creative cocktails. Walk over to 20th and Sansom and check out the bar at Village Whiskey for fancy drinks and great food!

Rittenhouse Square by jdv+

rouge, philadelphia by cafemama

Feeling adventurous? Heading back?
There are countless places around the city to have a good time. Most of the above options are walkable from the conference hotel, or centrally located in areas frequented by cabs. There are a lot of fun bars in the Northern Liberties and East Passyunk neighborhoods as well. If you find a place that you’re interested in that’s off the beaten path, grab a cab there, but make sure to get the phone number for that taxi service! You will find it hard to find a return cab in some of these areas. In my experience, you will usually pay no more than $10 to some of the more remote nightlife locations. Have fun, but be safe, and never drink and drive.

Northern Liberties Neighborhood by Matt Kowal

Summer night on East Passyunk Ave. by chrisinphilly5448

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