Where we scramble in and around Philadelphia

Alexander Inn
, inexpensive to moderate, (215) 923-3535.
Alexander's employees are so knowledgeable and helpful, you might think they're on the payroll of the local tourist bureau. But it's all just part of the quality experience you get at this 48-room charmer in bustling Center City. Inside tip: if there's more than one of you, ask for one of the larger rooms.

552 Restaurant
, expensive, (215) 968-5300.
Anticipating the coming winter chill, we eat outside whenever possible. and there's no more charming place to do so than the terrace at this Euro-American dining room occupying an old victorian farmhouse in Bucks County.

Aji Ichiban, inexpensive, (215) 629-1283.
The food at this new outpost of the Japanese and Chinese snack chain might remind some of an episode of Fear Factor. But for others, the serve-yourself containers boast a smorgasbord of exotic eats, including oddities such as shredded squid, dried guava, plum slices, chili olives, rose slim prunes, and mini fried-egg gummy candies.

Viv Pickle
, (215) 922-5904.
Ladies, can't find a handbag that has you written all over it? We've got the solution: head to Viv Pickle and design your own. You pick the shape, size, materials, handle, etc., and their talented folks put it all together for you. P.S. We've seen their new fall fabrics, and they're very retro-cool.

Ubiq, (215) 988-0194.
Guys, we've got one of your obsessions covered, as well: sneakers. From up-to-the-minute styles to hard-to-find reissues (do you remember your first pair of Air Jordans?), Ubiq is a veritable museum of footwear. The store carries clothing, too, for both men and women, but we must confess that it's a little too young for our tastes. Your 'tweens and teens will love it, though.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, (215) 763-8100.
The PMA's ­Friday-night jazz series is not only smokin' but sensible. A measly $12 gets you into the museum to check out the masterpieces, into the cabaret to hear the jumpin' jams, and $2 off your first cocktail at the outdoor martini bar.

Army/Navy game
, Lincoln Financial Field, (877) 849-2769, (800) 872-6289.
These two college football powerhouses always put on a show, and Philly will be their battleground in 2005, 2006, and 2008.

Bob and Barbara's Lounge, (215) 545-4511.
You could probably argue whether ping-pong is a true sport or not, but the table tennis enthusiasts who converge on this south street bar every tuesday night can be quite competitive. Anyone can play, there are no table fees, and the drinks are cheap. So go ahead, pack your paddle.