Author to tell locals how to have a Philly good time

by Len Lear
Posted 11/11/20

Would you believe that Philadelphia is the only U.S. city to be included in National Geographic magazine's recent list of the world's best places to visit? And that despite the pandemic, new …

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Author to tell locals how to have a Philly good time

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Would you believe that Philadelphia is the only U.S. city to be included in National Geographic magazine's recent list of the world's best places to visit? And that despite the pandemic, new restaurants, hotels, shops and other attractions have kept opening in the city at about the same rate as before the coronavirus?

And author Irene Levy Baker, 56, who has a Zoom talk coming up for West Mt. Airy's Big Blue Marble Bookstore on Monday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., will tell Northwest Philly residents and others about under-the-radar spots, from an old fashioned rodeo to a former opera house turned modern venue for A-list performers, up 60 floors to indulge in cocktails and down a tiny alley to visit the city’s oldest tavern.

Baker has authored the just-released updated edition of “100 Things to Do in Philadelphia” (2016), which became one of the best-selling books in the national travel series published by Reedy Press. Baker lived in Elkins Park for 14 years before moving to center city a few years ago. Prior to starting her public relations firm, “Spotlight,” in 1998, Baker spent nearly a decade at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The new book includes tips that Baker discovered while working with five local tourist bureaus, celebrity chefs, hotels and attractions. In 2018, she also wrote “Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia,” which is filled with anecdotes and facts about 90 area restaurants. In the new edition of “100 Things,” Baker included many more lesser-known sights “that even long-time locals might not know about, such as museums for birding, helicopters and an internationally-known museum for race cars.”

First-time visitors will discover attractions such as Reading Terminal Market, the Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, mural tours, Spruce Street Harbor Park as well as tips on making the most of Restaurant Week, how to get admission discounts, best days and times to visit museums, et al. Many of the attractions were not in the earlier edition.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Baker has a degree in journalism from the University of Cincinnati. She moved to the Philadelphia area in 1991 when her husband got a job here and immediately started trying to find the best of everything.

While working with the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Baker learned that "travel writers are the most jaded travelers in the world … I noted what surprised and delighted them, and I reveal the secrets in this book. I was doing the research for the first book for 25 years, but I didn’t actually KNOW I was researching a book (for 25 years). That’s just how long it took me to get to know Philly well enough that I could actually sit down and write it when the publisher contacted me.”

When asked how the pandemic has affected her life, Baker replied, “I am grateful that my loved ones are healthy. This book launch has been different than the launches for the first edition and for 'Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia.' I’ve scheduled more than two dozen book talks, all virtual, so everyone can attend safely. I call the talks 'There’s No Place Like Home,' and I focus on staycations so no one ever has to waste free time doing laundry.

“I tell stories about where to have adventures including good places to social distance, secret destinations even long-time locals don’t know about ... and how to help restaurants survive with limited capacity.”

With each of Baker's “100 Things,” she includes helpful tips. For example, even the busiest restaurants may hold a few tables aside for walk-ins; or stopping at the Betsy Ross House right at 10 a.m., when you can take part in a charming flag-raising ceremony “with Betsy,” or how to get a glimpse inside the homes on Elfreth's Alley, the nation's oldest street.

To register for the Zoom talk, visit bigbluemarblebooks.com. For more information about the book, visit 100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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