King Tut in Philadelphia

"Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" reigns at the Franklin Institute.

Photograph: Dirk Fletcher

Photograph: Dirk Fletcher

Thirty years ago there was a tour through America with more gold, groupies, magazine covers and sold-out shows than Ghostface or Young Jeezy could ever hope for. We speak, of course, of King Tut, the mummy who created the first “museum blockbuster” with the 1976 exhibit “Treasures of Tutankhamun,” seen by over 8 million people in North America alone. Now the famed boy emperor, over 3,000 years dead, is on tour again—this time with a layover at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute from Sat 3 through Sept 30.

Philadelphia is rested and ready with hotel deals, restaurant specials, Egypt exhibitions and spa treatments galore for the estimated 1 million visitors expected to storm the city to see the show. Though a day trip is a breeze, taking in the Tut might justify a two-day stay considering all the city is offering. Plus, most city hotels are offering rates with VIP Tut tickets thrown in: The centrally located Loews Philadelphia Hotel (1200 Market St, 215-627-1200) offers relatively swanky rooms (around $199 a night), although lists a variety of other options, too.

Exhibit and culture

Most items on display haven’t been viewed by the general public: You’ll see King Tut’s royal diadem, the inlaid mini-coffins that contained his mummified organs, and his child-sized throne crafted out of ebony, ivory and gold. Also included are artifacts from his family members’ tombs, but sadly, not the iconic heavy gold death mask that covered Tut’s face for millennia. (You have to go to Egypt to see that.)

Photograph: Dirk Fletcher

If the Tut exhibit hasn’t sated your need for kingly bling, take the Tut trolley for $2 from the steps of the Franklin Institute to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (3260 South St; 215-898-4000,, which is hosting an exhibit about Tut’s childhood Egyptian city, Amarna. The trolley will also make stops at Liberty Place and the Independence Center.

Learn about Egyptian architecture—and maybe what Freemasons actually do—at the Philadelphia Masonic temple (1 North Broad St, 215-988-1900). As odd as it may sound, the temple’s design is so Egyptologically correct that visits are required field study for local scholars of Egyptian history and architecture.


If flaky winter skin has you feeling a little, well, ancient, Rescue Rittenhouse Spa Lounge (255 South 17th St, 215-375-5562) is offering a Cleopatra treatment ($160), which involves a milk-and-honey exfoliation, a full-body mummy wrap, a facial and a scalp massage, as well as a purifying mask. Meanwhile, at the Richard Nicholas Hair Studio (1716 Samson St, 215-567-4790), you can book a Cleopatra cut and color (black dye, naturally) for $140. Bonus: no asps.


In the right light, a “wit Whiz”--embellished cheesesteak can gleam like gold, but if you want traditional Egyptian fare, book reservations early for a seat at hot young chef Michael Solomonov’s BYOB Mediterranean-influenced Marigold Kitchen (501 South 45th St, 215-222-3699), which is offering a three-course “Taste of Egypt” menu ($40), featuring fare like braised lamb with sumac-infused rice and chickpeas. Meanwhile, Center City’s Twenty21 (2005 Market St, 215-851-6262) offers a host of Tut-inspired menu items, such as a mixed-greens salad with toasted almonds, soft cow’s-milk cheese, spiced chicken with dates and a pyramid of chocolate cake topped off with mint-tea ice cream. Save 50 percent on anything on the menu with a Tut icon if you present your ticket from the show. Loads of restaurants are delivering similar discounts: Check for a complete list.


Thanks to antiquated liquor laws, bars stop serving in Philly at 2am, but that will still leave you plenty of time to throw back some golden King

Tut--tinis at McGillin’s Old Ale House (1310 Drury St, 215-218-1439)—the city’s oldest continuously operating tavern. A haven for frat boys and the seemingly underage drinkers who follow them, it’s still worth stopping by to check out the photos of Philly on the walls that date from Lincoln’s era.

For those on a royal budget, Old City’s attempt at NYC’s Marquee, Red Sky (224 Market St, 215-925-8080), is offering a king’s VIP night where four bottles of Dom Perignon and 50 chocolate-covered strawberries are yours for $1500. You’ll also score a table in the private mezzanine area, where you can gaze on Philly’s version of the B&T crowd (who, surprisingly, are still from New Jersey).


Bus $80 (two round-trip tickets)
Hotel 195
Museum 33
Spa 180 (one package, plus tip)
Meals 140


(one night, two people)

The details: Tickets are dated and timed, so advance purchase is highly recommended. The exhibit will be open daily from 9am to 8pm at the Franklin Institute (222 North 20th St; 800-TUT-TKTS,


1hr 30mins