There are always new things to see and do in the city of brotherly love. Even if you’re a weekend visitor, a newly relocated resident, or a long-time Philadelphia local. Even though it is the fifth largest city in the U.S., there are many opportunities for enjoying the outdoors and soaking up the natural beauty amongst the city’s vibrant streets. This guide will offer a some of the best things to do in Philadelphia so you canexplore this cultural mecca.
What’s Up With Philly Anyway?
There is a rich history behind Pennsylvania’s largest city, beginning with its founding as the center of the Pennsylvania Colony by William Penn (the man for whom Pennsylvania is named) in 1681. The colony boomed and grew rapidly. Philly (as everyone calls it) even served as the United States’ temporary capital city between 1970 and 1800, while the nation built Washington, D.C. As one of the oldest cities in the country, much of Philadelphia’s history can be explored in the city’s historic museums.
Today, several different icons come to mind when thinking of Philly, from the cheesesteaks to the American Revolution, to that iconic scene from Rocky (and yes, you can still run up the steps). Regardless of the city’s size and rich history, it still maintains an intimate, small-town feel. Most of the largest attractions can be explored on foot. Aside from the museums, you’ll wind through immaculate parks and historic architecture.
Getting To Philly
Philadelphia can be easy to access, depending on where you’re coming from. The city neighbors several other notable cities, such as New York and Washington, D.C., all within a short drive.
You don’t have to drive, though, thanks to the city’s prime location in the middle of the Northeast Corridor railway (Amtrak) and its many options for bus routes offered by Greyhound, Megabus, and Flixbus. If traveling by car, bus, or train isn’t your style, you can fly to the Philadelphia International Airport.
Getting Around Philly
Once you arrive in the city, there are many ways to get around. If you decide to drive, the good news is you can park your car wherever you stay and leave it there. Year after year, Philly has been voted one of the nation’s best walking cities. Philadelphia is also known as one of the most bike-friendly cities. It s a city-wide bike-sharing service (Indego), which allows site-seeing on wheels with rides starting at $4.
Don’t worry, though; there are many other options to get around once your feet get tired. You can take a ride in a cab or ride share service like Uber. Or, you can hop on public transit to get you everywhere you need.
Best Things To Do in Philadelphia
Depending on your interests, you could spend several days eating your way through the city or perhaps hopping from one museum to the next. The possibilities are endless in this accessible, diverse cultural playground. The suggestions below take into account a wide variety of interests. Remember to take your time strolling and sniffing out (quite literally) the rich atmosphere of the city streets.
Visit the Birthplace of the United States
Independence Hall and the Independence National Historic Park are the birthplace of the United States. This is where the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place. The Independence Historical Center offers an extensive opportunity for the whole family to learn about the rich history of Philadelphia and snap a photo with the Liberty Bell. This iconic landmark symbolizes abolitionists, suffragists, and other freedom-seekers throughout history.
Entrance to all buildings, including Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Franklin Court, the Bishop White House, New Hall Military Museum, and the Liberty Bell, is free. Guided tours are available all year round, and you must book in advance.
Nibble Your Way Through Reading Terminal Market
Settled under an old railroad, Philadelphia’s 127-year-old Reading Terminal Market is a great source of fresh produce, seafood, meats, and cheeses. With some of its vendors operating almost exactly as they did back in 1892, this international food haven and public marketplace is one of Philadelphia’s most notable cultural experiences.
Marvel at Philadelphia’s Magic Garden
For those wanting to explore the quirkier side of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Magic Garden will make you feel like you fell down the hole into Wonderland. Spend some time wandering through Isaiah Zagar’s “unique mosaic art environment and his public murals” while learning about the public art community in Philadelphia.
Artist Isaiah Zagar took the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” as his raison d’être. They repurpose bicycle tires, bottles, and other forgotten items into colorful public art. Wander through the small galleries inside, then head outdoors to the garden and wind your way through the labyrinth of mosaics. The museum is open daily except Tuesdays, and guided tours are available.
Stroll Philadelphia’s Distillery Trail
In the city’s early days, Philadelphia was a domestic distilling capital and hub for whiskey production supplying the rest of the nation. The 18th Amendment nearly killed Philly’s distilling industry for the better half of the following century. In recent years, however, the city has seen a comeback in its local craft distilling practices. Taking the Philadelphia Distillery Trail, you can now tour the distilleries, see how they make spirits, and sample the many different alcohols.
Chow on a Cheesesteak
You can’t visit Philly without indulging in a famous Philly Cheesesteak. For this one meal, forget your diet and sink your teeth into this classic rib-eye-beef-and-melted-cheese-on-a-bun delight. For an iconic Philly experience, visit the intersection of South 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, where rivals Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks feed the masses daily. Bring cash, and be ready for long lines, but it might just be worth the wait.
Run up the Rocky Steps
Made famous by their screen appearance in the 1976 film Rocky, the 72 famous Rocky Steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art have become an international sightseeing destination for Philadelphia visitors. It has become a tourist requirement to run up the steps and then pose with the bronze statue of Rocky.
Museum Hopping on Benjamin Franklin Parkway
While you’re there, you may as well visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There are also other museums that line the famous Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The parkway was modeled after the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. It is referred to as Philadelphia’s “most artistic mile” for obvious reasons.
Aside from the art museum, the parkway is home to The Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute, and The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Another popular attraction is the world’s most famous and expensive prison, Eastern State Penitentiary. It has now become a historic site, as well as public art and community space.
Visit the October Gallery
Founded in 1985, The October Gallery is one of the country’s oldest African American art galleries. The intimate gallery is located away from the hustle of the city center. On the first floor of a Victorian home in a residential area of Northwest Philly, it operates as home to an eclectic and ever-changing collection of established artists and up-and-comers.
The gallery is open by appointment daily.
Hang Out in Fairmount Park
After all that sightseeing, you may want to unwind and get some fresh air at Fairmount Park. Home to the Centennial Exposition in 1876, this park offers natural landscapes and peace. There are more than 2,000 acres of rolling hills, walking trails, waterfront views, and forest paths with the Schuylkill River running through.