Garden Show Survival Strategies


How I “Do” the Philadelphia Flower Show

For an outsider the transportation and housing issues may seem complex but there is an easy way to get from point A to point B without too much hassle.

First of all I take the Amtrak train up from Raleigh. A round trip ticket costs the same as the cheapest flight but you can take along a backpack of food and you can haul home all the flower show treasures you can carry onto the train (I’ve brought home bushes before). It takes the same amount of time to ride the rails as it does to drive up I-95 and costs the same unless you split the gas costs with others – don’t forget the $15 worth of tolls along the way north.

The Amtrak station is the big 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia and my train gets there around 3:30pm. From there I walk around to the side of the station and catch the local rail SEPTA to the Market Street station – with my Amtrak ticket stub this ride is free.

The Market Street station is underneath the downtown buildings and is connected to a shopping mall, fancy hotels & restaurants and the convention center where the Flower Show is held.

Up on street level the convention center is next to the Reading Terminal Market – a wonderful farmer’s market kind of place with food, groceries and gifts (most of the vendors are gone by the afternoon). Across the street in another direction is China Town, a great place to wander and eat.

When you want to leave downtown the cheap hotels are out by the airport, a 30 minute train ride from Market Street. Most of the trains run every 30 minutes and cost about $6. The hotels are nearby and have shuttles. Each wing of the airport has a small train station. The trains only go from the airport to downtown so you can’t get on the wrong train.

For food I like to eat at any of the food vendors inside the Reading Terminal Market or walk around China Town. There is fast food in the food court of the mall and restaurants at street level all around the convention center.

Rest on the train because you will be walking and walking while downtown – there are few places to sit down.

Don’t bother bringing along a fancy camera – the convention center is very dim and without a tripod and strobe your photos aren’t going to be very crisp.

A “real” Philly Cheese Steak has cheese whiz on it – fun, but there are better things available.

This year’s theme is Paris, so expect French food and gifts available at the convention center. Oui oui!


  1. This is my first year going to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. I’ll be sure to get there early and be prepared to walk. Thanks!

  2. John sounds like he has a good plan for visiting the Philadelphia Flower Show. I can’t add anything to it.

    I would only say that the vendors in the Reading Terminal Market do not leave in the afternoon during the show. The show is a big money-maker for them and they stay open. They normally close around dinnertime when the center city workers have gone home. Since the show runs much later in the evening, I’m not sure how late they’re open.

    I have taken wonderful pictures of the exhibits with my ‘nothing special’ camera. So be sure to bring one, fancy or not.

    Can’t wait. Hope John and I cross paths.

  3. Most digital cameras have settings options for poor lighting situations – even the pocket sized ones. Both my $450 Cannon DSLR and $89 pocket Casio have a tungsten light setting that works perfectly at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I tend to bring the pocket cam ’cause it is easier to carry in a crowd and I won’t cry if it breaks or gets lost. To get good shots in low light rest your elbows against your body for stability, exhale, then snap your picture.

  4. Thanks Amy for mentioning my article about Seattle’s garden show! Right on about the Palace Kitchen, too!

    I should’ve put more in about where to eat because people like to make a whole day of it when they go ‘a garden showing. I’ve got to plug Tutta Bella Neopolitan Pizzeria which is certified authentic Neopolitan pizza, super yummy fresh food, family prices, often free live music, the best pizza on the west coast, and a Tiramisu that when combined with a hand-pulled Doppio will kill you dead.

    I have no affiliation with them, this is an unsolicited plug. Although, when we had to wait for a table one night because it was crowded, we all got a glass of wine free for waiting. Full disclosure.

    It will kill you:

  5. From this day onward I will walk
    easy on the earth. Plant trees. Kill
    no living things. Live in harmony with
    all creatures. i will restore the earth
    where I am. Use no more of its resources
    than I need. And listen, listen to what
    it is telling me.

  6. I have attended the Chicago Garden Show via a bus trip from Green Bay, Wisconsin. We can keep our coats on the bus which is a plus. I however usually win the prize for buying the most “stuff.

    I bring a big backpack or my gym bag converts to a backpack. I peruse the vendor list on line and visit certain ones right away. Some of the vendors will hold larger items until you are ready to leave.

    I concur about some of the display gardens. If the lines are small or non existent I go through them right away.

    I always come away with some great finds.

  7. I stupidly thought that all cities had a Flower and Garden Show as much fun and thought-provoking as Chicago. It would take years with a gardening shrink to figure how I came to that conclusion! Now I am in Denver, and we have a Home & Garden Show. I understand the economics of combining the two, but it is just so wrong. I may have to fly back to Chicago next year… if it’s not snowing because going to a CA show would probably bring me to tears with the possibilities of all I can’t grow.

  8. I’m going to try to go to the Chelsea Flower Show again this year. I spent a few months in London in 2004 and got to go but I accidentally deleted all of my photos plus the friend who got me tickets ended up having an appointment for her thesis so we got there really late and were very rushed. I’d like to be able to experience the show for the entire day, get some great photos, and visit some cool English gardens.

Comments are closed.