STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Want to get tables at Phillly’s trendiest restaurants? Score discounted tickets to a show? Find where the best cheesesteaks really are? Keep your toddler busy on a rainy afternoon? Connect with your apathetic teen?
Believe it or not, the book “100 Things to Do in Philadelphia Before You Die,” the latest in a national series of travel guides by Reedy Press, was written by a Youngstown, Ohio native who’s only lived in these parts since 1991.
The guide’s author, Irene Levy Baker, worked at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau for nearly a decade, and it includes tips she discovered while working with five local tourist bureaus, celebrity chefs, hotels and attractions.
“Travel writers are the most jaded travelers in the world. I noted what surprised and delighted them, and I reveal the secrets in this new book,” said Baker, who’s the owner of Spotlight Public Relations, a firm specializing in hospitality and restaurants since 1998.
The 100 things are neatly divided into five categories: Food and Drink, Music and Entertainment, Culture and History, Sports and Recreation, and Shopping and Fashion.
“100 Things” also covers the bases with mini-itineraries by season; recommendations for young families, families with teens, dates and empty-nesters; and has bonus lists of free attractions, stuff to do near the Pennsylvania Convention Center and places featured in movies (Quick, can you name three made-in-Philadelphia movies that are not “Rocky?”).
What kind of hidden gems are there, that I might not have heard of?
“I talk about a speakeasy in Chinatown that has no sign, and there’s just a doorbell. I talk about what to wear, what not to wear and what will get you thrown out,” Baker said of Hop Sing Laundromat.
There’s also a place on South 20th Street called Cook, where top city chefs teach cooking classes, and they feed you. The catch is they’re limited to 16 people, and the guide tells you how to make sure you get in.
“I talk about Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, which is not a garden at all — it’s an art installation by Isaiah Zagar,” she said.
The guide also picks out points of interest in Laurel Hill Cemetery, such as the graves of passengers on the Titanic and the final resting place of hall-of-fame Phillies play by play broadcaster and NFL Films narrator Harry Kalas, which has four seats from the former Veterans Stadium beside it.
What about the suburbs?
Valley Forge National Historical Park, the King of Prussia Mall, Sesame Place, Longwood Gardens and QVC Studio Park are among the sites representing Greater Philadelphia. “You may have bought something on QVC, but maybe you didn’t know where it was. Their prop room is really interesting,” said Baker, adding that there’s often a chance for a celebrity sighting during the studio tours in West Chester.
The guide is available at www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com for $16, plus tax and shipping. Updates can be found at www.facebook.com/100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia, on twitter @100Philly and at www.instagram.com/100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.