Are you the type of traveler that likes to arrive in a new city without a plan and follow wherever your feet lead you? Or, are you like me and feel more comfortable coming armed with a plan of what to see and where to eat, and in what order, based on carefully researching all the things there are to do in that city? I’ll admit I’m totally Type A about planning, but there are times when I pop into a city for a weekend, or stop by as part of a multi-destination trip and I just don’t have time to pull a plan together.

Whether you are footloose and fancy-free, or just find yourself on the ground without a plan, the Choose A Way™ series of travel guides can be that genie in your pocket that lets you wander at will but still helps guide your path to attractions and food that suit your interests. I chafe a bit to think of these as guidebooks, because you won’t sit down and read it cover to cover in advance of your trip (in fact, reading it cover to cover is discouraged.) You also won’t find comprehensive listings of hotels and restaurants, grouped by price range or any other criteria. Available in digital format only, these guides operate a little more like a travel guide app than a travel guidebook.

I recently had a chance to check out the Choose A Way: Philadelphia guide by Jim Cheney. I’ve seen Jim in travel blogger forums for quite a while and have used his UncoveringPA website quite a few times in my own research, so I was confident he knew his stuff. And, after growing up in New Jersey and going to graduate school in Philadelphia, I’m comfortable enough exploring Philly without too much of a plan. So Choose A Way: Philadelphia was a great place to start experimenting with this new format of guidebook. 

Choose a Way Philadelphia Cover

Choose A Way: Philadelphia Book Review

Let me start off by saying that if you don’t read anything else in the book in advance of your trip (and you really don’t need to), do take a quick peek at the pro-tips offered in the very beginning. Jim includes some very important advice here, especially regarding reserving tickets to Independence Hall online in advance of your trip. I did not heed this advice and when I arrived for our visit to historic Philadelphia in the mid-morning of a holiday week, we were lucky to snag tickets to the last tour of the day.

The book is set up as a personal tour guide for a one-to-five day visit to Philadelphia. When you read through, you’ll want to think of it as a website and click on links, versus flip through pages.

Here is how it works. You click on Day 1 and then pick a time of day (before 9am, 9-10am, 10-11am, 11am-12pm, or after 12.) This will set your course for the day and make some estimations about how many activities you will fit into your schedule.

After clicking on your departure time, you’ll be presented with some options and you’ll make a choice based on your whims and interests. Do you want to:

  • Take in the Philadelphia Mint where the coins in your pocket were made
  • Start with Philadelphia’s most famous destination – Independence Hall
  • Head to the Liberty Bell and take in some of Philadelphia’s history

Luckily, Jim also included if attractions were closed on certain days to avoid a futile expedition (e.g. the Mint is closed on Sunday.)

Once you click on your chosen destination, you jump to a page with a picture and description of the attraction, along with admission prices and hours. You might want to double-check this information as it can be subject to change. Also included are directions on how to get there.

When you have finished exploring the attraction, just pull up the guide once more to see the next set of options. Here you will be presented with three more choices, and the guide will specify which is closest and which is furthest, so you can budget your time and travel expenses.

If you really want to do some planning, you can also jump to the list of attractions in the back and start clicking on ones that sound interesting to build your own itinerary.

Choose A Way: Philadelphia is perfect for visitors that want to wander and explore Philly without a set itinerary. The guide covers 39 of Philadelphia’s most interesting sites, with enough to see to cover up to a five-day visit. The sites included cover the mainstream, offbeat, indoors, outdoors, kid-friendly, and for adults only, but they aren’t grouped that way. One thing that could make this guide even more fun in the next edition would be to choose your path in the beginning based on your interests. For example, select a kid-friendly track or hipster/artsy path. Either way, you are bound to find plenty of interest as there are over 800 different paths to take each day!

Being a foodie and knowing that Philadelphia is a foodie city, I’d also love to have the guide include more restaurants, especially since it has a sense of where you are at different times of day and because exploring a city through its food is an important part of the experience.

Jim Cheney from UncoveringPA.com

Jim Cheney from UncoveringPA.com

You can download Choose A Way: Philadelphia at either Amazon or ChooseAWay.com for $6.99. Choose A Way: Philadelphia was written by Jim Cheney. Jim is a travel writer and photographer based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His writing focuses primarily on the state of Pennsylvania, but he also writes about his extensive world travels through Europe, Asia, and North America. Jim is one of the foremost experts on Pennsylvania, and writes UncoveringPA.com, Pennsylvania’s top travel blog.

Note: I was provided a free copy of this book for purposes of review, however all opinions are my own.

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