MidAtlantic fun: The Reading Terminal Market

When I’m in Philadelphia with the kids, I really like to go to lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. It’s chaotic and crowded and not for the faint of heart, but if you’ve got kids who like food and enjoy a wide variety of choices, it really can’t be beat.

I never try to remember where anything in the market is, choosing instead just to plunge into the rabbit warren, stopping often to admire whatever catches my eye, whether it’s the cases chock full of every cheese from Morbier to Gouda, the gorgeous coral of salmon steaks resting on a glistening bed of ice, or row upon row of Amish pickles and jellies.

Travel With Kids Tip: Visiting the market is a fun activity unto itself; there’s lots to see. We like to get there a little ahead of the lunch rush and stroll around to view all of our dining options before committing to what we want to eat.

Not planning any extensive family travel anytime soon? No worries: the food options here serve as a one-stop lesson world cultures covering as they do everything from whoopee pies to pad thai. Last time we were there the boys decided they wanted crepes and bellied up to the counter at Profi’s Creperie.

Surprisingly I wasn’t in the mood for French food and ate a bowl of chicken in red curry sauce instead from the Little Thai Market.

There are some full-fledged restaurants complete with table service, although the majority of vendors sell their food strictly to go. And if you don’t feel like buying a hot lunch, you can also assemble quite a nice picnic of antipasti or mezze items accompanied by fresh and crusty bread.

Travel With Kids Tip: There are tables and chairs in the middle of the market, but they tend to fill up at lunch time. If you are visiting with more than one adult, send a scouting party ahead to stake a claim while another person makes food purchases. This would work especially well if you’ve got a stroller, which might get awkward in the narrow aisles.

If you’re feeling expansive, you can let the kids pick a dessert once they’ve finished lunch. My boys always like to spend a long time looking at the candy on offer in a gorgeous display at Chocolate by Mueller (where you can also sometimes see the candy being made). This is a merchant with a good sense of humor (and a bad taste in puns):

The boys didn’t choose a dozen chocolate noses, but instead opted for a dinosaur lolley pop and some candied citrus slices.

Lunch isn’t your only option at the market – from Monday to Saturday it opens at 8 and closes at 6 and it’s open from 9 to 5 on Sunday – so it makes a great place to pick up breakfast or dinner (to say nothing of a snack or a cup of coffee). If you’re staying somewhere that’s got a kitchen, you could even pick up some things to cook. When we go there I tend to find myself mourning the fact that we’re playing tourist and wishing I could shop for the fixings for a fancy meal – I could cover everything from the soup to the cheese course and also pick up some gorgeous flowers to decorate the table.

Travel With Kids Tip: If you are staying in Philadelphia overnight, this is a great place to pick up a bottle of wine and a dessert to share after the kids have gone to bed. (I recommend the cannolis at Termini Brothers.)

The Reading Terminal Market is located a few blocks east of City Hall in Center City Philadelphia right by the Pennsylvania Convention Center – convenient to both the historic attractions of Old City and the museums along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

I share this post also as part of WanderFood Wednesday (so many memes – so little time!) over at Wanderlust and Lipstick. If you stroll on over there and check out the posts about food from around the world you’ll likely soon find yourself hungry. Bon appétit!

Photo of inside of the market courtesy of Geoff Livingston on Flickr.

Photo of cheese courtesy of camera_obscura on Flickr.

Philadelphia Family Travel Tips

Reader Responses

6 fellow travelers had this to say

  1. Great post, Mara! I’m a big fan of markets like this; frequenting them has become a recent hobby. I’d be nervous about heading to such a place with kids, but your tips are very helpful, too.
    .-= Liv´s last blog ..The Butcher, the Baker, the Neighborhood Maker =-.

  2. VERY cool place – i have a friend who works near there and heads there often. i am envious!
    .-= jessiev´s last blog ..Before leaving =-.

  3. That top photo looks so much like the Granville Island market in Vancouver, BC. I would swear that’s where you were.

    It all looks delicious but I’d probably fall for the cheese!

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