Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia

The Avenue of the Arts began as a city planning project under Ed Rendell, former Mayor and present Governor of Pennsylvania, and was further developed under the guidance of the current Mayor John Street. Philadelphia, often referred to as the city of brotherly love, is also a city of interesting culture and a variety of major attractions. Throughout the many areas of this metropolis, visitors will find a wealth of diversity in its museums, theaters, restaurants, and shops. A visit to Philadelphia is not complete without exploring its premier center for arts and entertainment, the Avenue of the Arts. Bordered by the city’s main north and south throughway, Broad Street, the district extends as far as Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia to Dauphin Street and Glenwood Avenue on the north, east to 13th street, and west to 18th. The entire section of Broad Street between Spruce and Market is a three and a half mile avenue of distinction, with decorative sidewalks, antique street lighting, and historic architecture.

Visitors to the Avenue will find everything here in the way of entertainment, from dining, shopping, theater, and art to holiday tree lighting, festivals, and jazz. Of an approximate 37 organizations and attractions along the Avenue, there are 11 museums and art galleries including the Brandywine Workshop, the Asian Arts Initiative, and the Philadelphia Doll Museum. The University of Arts campus, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, the only one of its kind to feature new media and materials, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest art academy and museum in America, built in 1805, are popular places of interest along the Avenue, as well.

Theater and music are very much a part of Philadelphia’s culture, as residents and tourists alike attend performances at the many arts centers on the Avenue including the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center, the Clef Club and Freedom Theater, the oldest African-American theater in the U.S, and Broadway shows at the Merriam. Since its establishment in 1918, the Merriam Theater has featured famous entertainers such as Al Jolson, Helen Hayes, John Barrymore, and Laurence Olivier. Others enjoy the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Jeanne Ruddy dancers, the Wilma Theater, known for its non-traditional productions, and the Prince Theater nearby. Music lovers are treated to the best in opera at the Academy of Music, the oldest opera house in the U.S., and classical and chamber music in the Rock Hall Auditorium at Boyer College of Music and Dance, a part of Temple University’s main campus on Broad Street. For sports aficionados, the Avenue is the site of the world’s number one boxing venue, the Legendary Blue Horizon.

Over 25 restaurants offer a variety of dining experiences such as Italian at Sotto Varalli, continental cuisine at Bliss, international jazz and dining at Zanzibar Blue, and Greek at the Estia, as well as before theater cocktails or late night dinner at the K. Lounge overlooking the Avenue. A number of hotels are located in and around the Avenue of the Arts, priced to fit the traveler’s budget. Vacationers on a liberal budget may decide to stay at the Ritz Carlton, where afternoon tea at the Rotunda, brunch at the Pantheon, and dinner at the Paris restaurant are all a part of the luxury of this hotel. For a different type of accommodation, some may choose the historic Inn at the Union League, one of the many Leagues founded in 1862 in support of Lincoln and his beliefs.

In addition to conferences, education, and special events, visitors are discovering the Avenue is more than just a place to visit; it has become an extremely desirable place to live. Residential groundbreaking progressed rapidly in 2006 with the Ritz on Walnut Street, lofts at 640, and construction of the $92-million Symphony House, a condo tower that will house the Philadelphia Theater Company. In addition to residential development, plans for the Avenue include revitalizing City Hall, which connects the north and south ends of Broad Street, Progress Plaza, and the city’s Metropolitan Opera House.

(Note: Hours and admission to the various arts and entertainment venues will vary; however, museum admission is generally free. The Avenue is accessible through Philadelphia’s excellent transportation system including SEPTA rail lines, the subway, and NJ PATCO trains. Over 30 parking garages are in the area.)

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