Starting this Thursday, September 20, internationally acclaimed new media artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s public art project Open Air will illuminate the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for three weeks of awesome evenings in Philadelphia. Pair it with dinner at one of our top picks below. (Photo credits clockwise from top left: G. Widman for GPTMC, Association for Public Art rendering, G. Widman for GPTMC, courtesy XIX Nineteen)
Dinner and a sky movie, anyone?
Open Air begins September 20, which means that in just three days the night sky above the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will come to life with 24 powerful searchlights whose pattern is determined by crowd-sourced vocal recordings.
It’s definitely not too early to begin planning your Open Air experience. And one great way to engage in Open Air is by making a whole evening of it out in the city.
Below, check out our top picks for restaurants near the Parkway that will allow you to have bit of an upgraded version of the traditional candle-lit dinner, or else put you close enough that you can head right down to the show after your meal.
From September 20-October 14, during the weeks of Open Air, you can take your pick of these indoor and outdoor locations where artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s searchlight spectacular will be within viewing distance. Note that these are our suggested picks, but we can’t be sure as to how great the view will be from the restaurant until Open Air actually debuts later this week.
Also be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to check out our interactive map of places to watch Open Air.
These restaurants will allow you to watch Open Air while you’re dining.
• Bistro St. Tropez: Watch Open Air from the enormous picture window at Bistro St. Tropez. To get the best view, reserve a spot by calling (215) 569-9269.
• XIX Nineteen: For the ultimate high-class, high-rise viewing experience, XIX Nineteen in the Hyatt at the Bellevue has floor-to-ceiling arched picture windows that will give you a luxurious look at the light spectacle. There are balcony tables available on the west side, weather permitting, but most definitely call first to reserve and request a table optimal for watching the show.
• R2L Restaurant: Dine in style 37 floors above street level while taking in the already normally breathtaking view of the city from R2L, made all the more stunning by 24 shape-shifting searchlights.
• Water Works Restaurant: Riverside deck seating with phenomenal views of the museum, the skyline, Boathouse Row and now Open Air are all yours at Water Works Restaurant.
• Comsic Cafe: Situated perfectly within eyeshot of the famous Boathouse Row, Cosmic Cafe offers a more down-to-earth (literally) seating area on their back deck which faces the Schuylkill River.
• Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel: The food is worth the prices but not all parts of the restaurant are conducive to seeing the Parkway and the namesake Swann Fountain, so if you’re interested in getting a taste of the upscale American cuisine with a view, be sure to call and reserve.
• The Belgian Cafe: One of the most sought-after restaurants in the Fairmount neighborhood, the Belgian Cafe has outside seating in great proximity for watching the show. It’s also close enough to walk to the Parkway after dinner if you’d rather get a more front-row seat.
• The Kite & Key: Located just a few blocks from the action, the Kite & Key is a quint neighborhood hangout bar and restaurant with pretty delicious eats, a draft list sure to make your night and a patio perfect for watching the show.
• Hickory Lane Bistro: Outside seating at this modern American restaurant will grant views of the show, as it’s faced towards the Parkway and has great sidewalk seating to boot. (Find Hickory Lane in our list of the Best Alfresco Dining in Philadelphia.)
• Sister Cities Park: On Thursday evenings, the newest Benjamin Franklin Parkway park invites you to bring your own bottle of wine and enjoy this great new green space while Milk & Honey Cafe helps you find cheeses and other goodies to pair perfectly with your selection. Open Air will provide the perfect mealtime entertainment from this front-row seat.
Pre-light show entertainment
If you’re more into the idea of saving the show for after dinner and getting right down to the Parkway for the up-close experience, here are a few great spots close nearby.
• Granite Hill: This French bistro-style restaurant is located inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so once you’re finished you can simply walk right into the sights. Granite Hillcloses up early, though, so be sure to reserve appropriately.
• Zorba’s Tavern: Enjoy delicious Greek specialties like kabobs and yemista, then go sky-gazing. Zorba’s is just a short walk to the Parkway, or you can just cross Fairmount Avenue and stick around up there.
• Lemon Hill Restaurant: The recently-opened-but-already-a-hit restaurant Lemon Hill, just a few blocks north of the Perelman Building on the Parkway, is a great place to get your fine classic American comfort food then meander on down to the museum area.
• Figs: BYOB Figs is a Moroccan/Mediterranean restaurant nestled in the hills of Fairmount just a short walk from the Parkway.
• Rose Tattoo Cafe: This place is one of the hidden secrets of Fairmount with its mouth-watering classic American cuisine. While there’s not much in the way of a view from Rose Tattoo, you’re only a few blocks away from being right in the middle of the show.
• King of Tandoor: The local go-to spot for Indian, King of Tandoor is also just a quick walk from the Parkway. Hint: they do the saag paneer perfectly and the lamb chops are absolutely decadent.
• Sabrina’s Cafe & Spencer’s Too: Locally famous breakfast is available all day here, but they offer a mean dinner menu as well (Sunday and Monday, they close at 4 p.m.). The Callowhill location of Sabrina’s is also walking distance from the Parkway.
• La Calaca Feliz: Indulge in bold flavors, bright colors and get your contemporary Mexican fix right on Fairmount Avenue only a few blocks from the Art Museum. Reserve a spot here.
• London Grill: After 20 years in business, Co-owners Terry Berch McNally and Chef Michael McNally still have one of the city’s favorite restaurants, located a short walking distance from Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount. Grab a bite then meander down south to see Open Air.
• Paris Wine Bar: Sister restaurant to London Grill, intimate 50-seat Paris Wine Bar is another great option for pre-Open Air dining, complete with live music.
• Jack’s Firehouse: This Fairmount Avenue hot spot is faced the wrong way to watch Open Air as you eat, but it’s perfectly located for pre-show dinner, only five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Interactive Map: Our Top Picks For Where To Watch Open Air Philadelphia
Check out the map below to browse our top picks for where to watch Open Air, which includes the restaurants listed above as well as our top picks for Parkway viewing spots we rounded up last week.