He hasn’t been around for 3,000 years, but King Tut currently reigns in Philadelphia.
More than a million people are expected to gaze at the treasures uncovered in the tomb of the boy king before the exhibit “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” leaves the Franklin Institute September 30.
With some 130 objects—many never seen before in this country—the exhibit is more than twice as large as the show that set US attendance records 30 years ago. Among the wonders: Tut’s crown, jeweled dagger, and the golden collar found around his neck; the child-size throne of ebony, ivory, and gold for a nine-year-old king; and the jeweled mini coffin holding his mummified liver.
This time, says curator David Silverman, “Tut brought the family.” The introductory rooms show relics from the tombs of royals who ruled before Tut. A companion exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology—“Amarna, Ancient Egypt’s Place in the Sun”—is an introduction to Akhenaten, Tut’s probable father, and the city he created. A Tut Trolley offers easy connection between the two exhibits for $2.
To add more Egypt to a visit, check out the Penn museum’s vast Egyptian collections and its Mummy Room. Or visit the Masonic Temple’s Egyptian room, one of seven elaborately themed halls shown on daily tours. The Calderwood Gallery (calderwoodgallery.com) is showing rare photographs, some dating to the 1860s, that are among the earliest taken of ancient pyramids and an Egyptian sphinx.
Visitors can share the fun of a city in the grip of Tutmania. Many bars are serving tut-tinis, and there are enough Tut souvenirs to fill a pyramid. Halloween, an over-the-top jewelry shop at 1329 Pine Street, has an owner/jewelry maker whose displays and original pieces are inspired by Egyptian design.
Tut is good reason to plan a Philly weekend, but it is not the whole show.
Philadelphia keeps finding new ways to bring American history to life. From May 26 to September 3, as part of the Once Upon a Nation program, trained storytellers will entertain for free at 13 locations throughout the historic district, including newly renovated Franklin Square. The square features a spectacular restored fountain and a carousel, plus mini golf with icons such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Rocky steps, the “Love” statue, and the Liberty Bell.
The city offers one of the nation’s best Fourth of July celebrations. Culminating a week of events, the July 4 gala features food booths lining Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a parade of floats and marching bands, a concert, and a fireworks finale lighting the sky over the Museum of Art.
Whenever you visit, you can sample the city’s latest dining craze—intimate bring-your-own-booze restaurants.
Among the most popular are Old City’s Chloe (232 Arch St.; 215-629-2337), known for its creative Modern American fare and fig flatbread; Center City’s Audrey Claire (276 S. 20th St.; 215-731-1222), whose Mediterranean menu features grilled fish and red-wine-and-balsamic-marinated rack of lamb; and Mercato (1216 Spruce St.; 215-985-byob), an innovative Italian eatery near Washington Square known for its lobster and shrimp “pyramid” pasta. (Many BYOBs are cash only and do not take reservations.)
Among the city’s non-BYOBs, you might sample the great burgers and bistro fare at Rouge on Rittenhouse Square (205 S. 18th St.; 215-732-6622) or go Italian in an upscale, Old World setting at La Famiglia (8 S. Front St.; 215-922-2803).
For lunch, check out the city view at the airy new XIX (Nineteen) atop the Park Hyatt (Broad and Walnut sts.; 215-893-1234) or the new Water Works Restaurant in the old city waterworks overlooking the river in Fairmount Park (640 Water Works Dr.; 215-236-9000). Or find out why it is worth standing in line at Rick’s Philly Steaks in Reading Terminal Market (215-922-2317).
On the way home, you might stop at the bustling Italian Market for a great cup of coffee and Gilda’s locally made biscotti at Anthony’s Italian Coffee House (903 S. Ninth St.; 800-833-5030) and bring home a supply of fresh pasta and homemade sauce from Talluto’s Authentic Italian Foods (944 S. Ninth St.; 215-627-4967).
Considering that adult tickets to the Tut exhibit cost $27.50 weekdays, $32.50 Friday to Sunday, hotel packages including two tickets can be a good value. These are VIP tickets so you can go to the exhibit—and the front of the line—whenever you wish.
Weekends offer better rates, and among the best buys are the Crowne Plaza (215-561-7500; philadelphia.crowneplaza.com), where a room for two is $189 including breakfast, and Doubletree Hotel (215-893-1600; doubletree.com), where rates beginning at $229 include buffet breakfast and parking. You can splurge at the Ritz-Carlton (215-523-8000; ritzcarlton.com/hotels/philadelphia), where a Tut package is $289, or the five-star Four Seasons (215-963-1500; fourseasons.com/philadelphia) where a $365 weekend rate includes parking. For more packages, see gophila.com.
For details on the Tut exhibit, call 877-888-8587 or visit fi.edu/tut.