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Your Guide to 3 Big Cities: New York-Philadelphia-Washington, D.C.

By Jess Moss


It's easy to combine a visit to three of the USA's most exciting cities in less than a week. From the soaring skyscrapers of New York City, New York, to the history-rich streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to the seat of government in Washington, D.C., this six-day itinerary will give you a taste of the country's food, culture and spirit.

Take in New York City's Famous Sights

Often called "the city that never sleeps," New York City offers non-stop dining, world-class shopping and dazzling urban sights.

Begin your visit in Midtown: Here you will find the flashing billboards of Times Square; Broadway shows, which sell discounted tickets at the TKTS booth in the famous square; and Macy's, one of the world's largest department stores. Nearby is the Empire State Building. Take the elevator to the viewing decks on the 86th and 102nd floors for aerial views. Also in this area is the Rockefeller Center and Bloomingdale's, another major department store. Travel a little farther uptown to visit the internationally renowned artworks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, stroll the shady paths of Central Park and stop by the park's zoo.

Spend your next day downtown in Lower Manhattan, where you can ride the free Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, see the 9/11 Memorial, explore the shops and galleries of the SoHo neighborhood and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to check out the trendy area's food and gallery scene.

Philadelphia Offers History Lesson

Roughly midway between New York and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia delivers with a mix of important historical attractions, charming neighborhoods and a booming food scene.

Many of the most popular attractions are located near the historic city center. You'll want to spend a few hours around Independence National Historical Park. This is where the USA declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776; it's also home to the famed Liberty Bell. Within walking distance is the indoor food emporium Reading Terminal Market and Rittenhouse Square, an upscale neighborhood with public park.

Devote a few hours to exploring the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which houses a world-class collection and its stairs have a famous appearance in the "Rocky" movies. Stop and pose for a photo with the Rocky Balboa statue at the bottom of the museum's steps. To get back downtown, walk along the scenic waterfront Schuylkill River Park.

Museums and history aside, Philly boasts a vibrant food scene. Don't leave without trying the cheesesteak sandwich, made famous by rival outdoor stands, Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks.

Museums, Monuments Beckon in Washington, D.C.

As the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., is home to some of the country's most iconic monuments and museums.

Focus your visit around the National Mall, a large, open space that runs through the heart of the city. Spend a few hours walking around the country's monuments including the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Also near the Mall are many of the Smithsonian Institute museums. All are free, including the popular National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History. The White House, home to the nation's president, sits just north of the Mall and the white-domed U.S. Capitol Building, where Congress meets, is at the east end of the Mall.

On your second day, cross the Potomac River into Virginia and visit Arlington National Cemetery where you can see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visit Mount Vernon, which was home to the country's first president, George Washington. At night, head to Washington's U Street Corridor for dining and nightlife.

Train, Bus Offer Best Transportation Options

The best options for traveling from New York City to Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., are the Amtrak trains or less costly bus service from Bolt Bus or Megabus. Amtrak service from New York City to Philadelphia takes less than 90 minutes for the 156-kilometer trip, while the cheaper bus service takes about two hours. To travel from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., which are about 224 kilometers apart, the train trip lasts about two hours and the bus trip about three hours. It's also possible to drive between the cities, but parking can be challenging and expensive.

Here are some shops and cafes to complete your three-city experience:

New York City

Carnegie Deli (854 7th Ave.): Traditional deli known for its giant sandwiches.

Gramercy Tavern (42 E. 20th St.): Upscale restaurant-bar owned by renowned New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer.

Lombardi's Pizza (32 Spring St.): Pizzeria that first opened in 1905 and specializes in thin-crust pies.

Shake Shack: Burger and milkshake restaurant chain with multiple locations in NYC, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Philadelphia

Bud & Marilyn's (1234 Locust St.): Upscale restaurant-cocktail bar with inventive versions of traditional American cuisine.

Mercato (1216 Spruce St.): Storefront Italian restaurant that lets you bring your own wine or alcohol.

Parc (227 S. 18th St.): Bistro offering breakfast, lunch and dinner with great views of Rittenhouse Square.

Washington, D.C.

Jaleo (480 7th St. NW): Star chef Jose Andres serves Spanish tapas at this D.C. culinary classic.

Le Diplomate (1601 14th St. NW): French bistro dishing out excellent dinner and brunch on the 14th Street corridor.

Martin's Tavern (1264 Wisconsin Ave.): Georgetown tavern that has been popular among many past U.S. presidents.

Official Your Guide to 3 Big Cities: New York-Philadelphia-Washington, D.C. Travel Site

The Official New York City Guide to NYC Attractions, Dining, Hotels and Things to Do

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