Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market is the oldest farmer's market in the United States.
Established in 1892 by the Reading Railroad, the market was home to more than 800 local food vendors. After a period of decline in the '70s, new merchants, including many from Lancaster County's Amish community, were invited to ply their wares. Today, nearly 80 small independent businesses make their home here, representing a diverse blend of nationalities and foods.
Three are the families of original stall holders.
More than 100,000 people come through the market every week, participating in an old school shopping experience that is unparalleled. Many locals shop here because it's a place they grew up going to, and others come because it's the real deal - not just a hip market featuring overpriced exotic foods.
Each step of your journey through these hundred-year-old aisles brings a new olfactory delight. As you marvel at what's available - from Pennsylvania Dutch fresh milk and cream to organic, artisanal produce to infused extra virgin olive oils - it's truly like stepping back in time.
RESTAURANTS AND DINERS: There are plenty of places to consume food, too. Want to go retro? Try the Down Home Diner. Delicious seafood? Pearl's Oyster Bar. Classic Philly hoagies and cheesesteaks? Spataro's. And if a roast pork sandwich tickles your fancy, try DiNic's; theirs was picked last year by the Travel Channel as the Best Sandwich in America.
PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH STALLS, MERCH AND EATING ESTABLISHMENTS: Pennsylvania Dutch merchants are here Wednesdays through Saturdays. Try the hot apple dumplings with whipped cream at the Dutch Eating Place (featured on the Food Network). Lancaster County Dairy has fresh milk and cream the likes of which you've probably never tasted, unless you grew up on a farm. A.J. Pickle Patch & Salads can satisfy your pickle needs.
SPECIALTY FOODS: Watch the artisans at Chocolate by Mueller make all kinds of incredible chocolate molds (not just hearts ... but lungs also, and chocolate cheesesteaks and hoagies, too.) The Head Nut has nuts of every kind, dried herbs and spices, as well as coffee and tea. Perhaps homemade extra virgin olive oil infused with blood oranges, herbs or white truffles is your passion? Get thee to the Tubby Olive, which also sells barrel-aged and flavor-infused vinegars, in addition to Champagne wine vinegar - rumored to be the best around.
CHEESE AND DAIRY: Try Salumeria for a wide selection of international cheeses, deli meats and Italian groceries. Valley Shepherd Creamery features locally made dairy products and cheeses. There's also Downtown Cheese, with farm-made exotic cheeses. How about some ice cream? Check out Bassetts, America's oldest ice cream company (established in 1861) and a fifth-generation family business.
Directions: Philadelphia is a two-hour drive from NYC, but trains and buses also bring you right there. Take the Amtrak to 30th Street, then the Septa Regional Rail two stops to Market East. Take NJ Transit and change at Trenton for any train stopping at Market East. The Greyhound station is a block and a half away. Bolt and Megabus both stop nearby.