Philadelphia is one of our favorite cities for so many reasons. This is the City of Brotherly Love—literally what Philadelphia means in Greek—where you’ll find historical references on almost every block since it was the meeting place of the Founding Fathers during the American Revolution. Today, you’ll find the Liberty Bell on display, countless museums, the location of where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, and other American historical sites. And don’t forget the iconic steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, made famous by Sylvester Stallone’s run in the film “Rocky.” But there’s so much more than just history. Boasting some of the best restaurants and unique gourmet offerings in the country, Philly is a foodie’s delight, leaving both your mind and appetite fulfilled, but always wanting for more. Here are our top 7 things to do in Philadelphia…
1. Discover the Revolutionary War
Philadelphia was founded by William Penn in 1682 to serve as the capital of the Pennsylvania Colony, and it played an instrumental role in the American Revolution, serving as one of the nation’s capitals. It also was the temporary U.S. capital while Washington, D.C., was under construction. Today, there are many ways to learn more about our rich history in this important city:
- Museum of the American Revolution
Highlights include the opening shots of the War of Independence, the creation of the American Republic, and legacies of America’s beginnings. A special exhibit “Hamilton Was Here” reveals connections between Philly and Alexander Hamilton’s extraordinary contributions to our nation, and is on display until March 17, 2019.
- Independence Hall
At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can see the room where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both signed.
- Liberty Bell
Perhaps the most iconic attraction in Philadelphia is Liberty Bell Center, where you can view the exhibits, see the film, and gaze upon the famous cracked bell that symbolizes American independence.
2. Food and more
No visit to Philadelphia is complete without enjoying an infamous Philly cheesesteak—with locals arguing whether Pat’s or Geno’s is best—but there’s so much more to the Philly food scene than this iconic greasy goodness. In between the museums and your historical tours, be sure to recharge at some of our following favorites:
- Restaurant recommendations some of our favorites include Talula’s Garden for the city’s best brunch, an amazing multi-course tasting experience at Vetri Cucina, The Hungry Pigeon for all-day comfort food, and Amada for extraordinary tapas.
- Reading Terminal Market
Here at one of America’s largest and oldest public markets, you’ll find locally grown and exotic produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, seafood, cheeses, baked goods, and confections. There’s also cookbooks, table linens, kitchenware, fresh-cut flowers, and more. Some must-dos include DiNic’s, home of the famous roast-pork sandwich, and the
Flying Monkey Bakery for their award-winning whoopie pies.
- Federal Donuts With six locations in Philly, you’re bound to pass a Federal Donuts while touring the city. Famous for comfort classics in unexpected flavors, you’ll find hot from the fryer donuts, fancy donuts topped with imaginative glazes, twice-fried super crispy chicken, and coffee.
- Campos Located just conveniently in Old City Philadelphia, just blocks from the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and The Independence Visitor Center, Campos has been offering quality cheesesteaks since 1947. They’ll even ship to you once you’re back home when you get a craving!
- 9th Street Italian Market For a family neighborhood feel, visit the nation’s oldest outdoor market with gourmet specialty food stores; a number of Philly cheesesteak spots; Italian, Vietnamese and Mexican offerings; and homemade chocolates, gelato, or pastries from several coffee shops and bakeries.
3. Explore the world of art
There’s no shortage of art museums and exhibits in Philadelphia, with new collections arriving all the time. Here are some of our favorites for the art lover:
- Philadelphia Museum of Art Here you’ll discover works of art at one of the largest and most renowned museums in the country. Find artistic and architectural achievements from the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. “Fabulous Fashion” is being exclusively exhibited from now until March 3, 2019, where you’ll experience the glamour of some of the most creative fashions ever designed, from romantic ball gowns to contemporary ensembles, and everything in between. The pieces in the exhibition—daywear, bridal wear, and more—showcase the museum’s outstanding costume collection, with many on view for the first time.
- Magic Gardens These unique indoor/outdoor gardens, an immersive mixed-media art environment that is completely covered with mosaics, was created by Isaiah Zagar in the 1960s. He used handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirror, and international folk art to chronicle his life and influences. The space is made up of two indoor galleries and a bi-level outdoor sculpture garden.
- Mural Arts For the past 30 years, thousands of murals and graffiti art have been created throughout Philadelphia, making it one of the world’s largest outdoor galleries. Take your own tour around the city discovering these neighborhood works of art or arrange a private tour by foot, car, or train, and explore these graphic collections that literally add color to the streets of Philadelphia.
- Rodin Museum This art museum boasts more than 150 objects by Rodin, including the Thinker and Gates of Hell, and is the largest collection outside of Paris.
- Barnes Foundation This collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Early Modernist paintings includes work from Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso.
4. Wander the old streets
It’s no exaggeration to say that every block in Philly is chock-full of history, so be sure to explore on your own and find some of the city’s best nooks and crannies.
- Elfreth’s Alley This historic alley is an “exceptional example of early American structures built between 1720 and 1830,” celebrating the working class of America who helped build this country through sweat and commerce. The alley is still a thriving residential community home to artists and artisans, educators and entrepreneurs, and everything in-between.
- Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill Germantown Avenue is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and most vibrant tree-lined streets, linking Chestnut Hill to Mount Airy. Home to dozens of stores, galleries, restaurants, and bars, Germantown Avenue’s beautiful cobblestones are a fun place to visit, day or night.
- Delancey Street, Society Hill This historic neighborhood is lined with gorgeously renovated Federalist and Greek Revival-style rowhomes and is home to the city’s elite. Wander Delancey, especially the 200-300 block, which is cobblestoned and lined with trees, and sneak a peek into these breathtaking homes if you can.
5. Eastern State Penitentiary
Preserved from 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive jail in America. It once held some of the country’s most notorious criminals including “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone, but now stands today in ruin. They offer daily tours and a glimpse into the darker side of our country’s history.
6. Visit a museum
With more than 100 museums and ever-changing exhibits in the city, it may be hard to decide where to start first. Here are some must-stops:
- Edgar Allan Poe House Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia for six years, which were his happiest and most productive. Here in his humble home, you’ll learn about his struggles with bad luck, his personal demons, his wife’s illness, and his astonishing creativity.
- Constitution Center Interactively explore the Constitution’s history—and what it means to us today—with leading constitutional scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum. Sign the Constitution alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers, and enjoy a stirring, 17-minute multimedia performance.
- Mutter Museum The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease. This medical museum features a collection of anatomical and pathological specimens, and antique medical equipment, including medical amputation tools from the Civil War.
- Franklin Institute Founded in honor of America’s first scientist, Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Institute is one of the oldest and premier centers of science education and development in the country. Kids and teens will love the all-new escape room, along with the Fels Planetarium, the IMAX theater, and Foucault’s Pendulum. The institute also offers live shows, dissections, 3D printing, simulators, and more. Be sure to check the schedule for the date you’re visiting so you can maximize your experience with their many offerings.
7. Day trips
There’s so much to do and see in Center City Philadelphia, but there are also wonderful attractions outside of the city that are worthy of a day trip.
- Brandywine Valley You could easily spend the whole day in the historic Brandywine Valley, full of history, art, antiques, mansions, gardens, and their own brand of country casual hospitality. The Brandywine Valley is nestled amidst the hills of southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, where the Battle of Brandywine was fought, and northern New Castle County, Delaware, where the paper was milled for the Declaration of Independence and America’s first currency. Here is where the duPonts made their fortunes, built their mansions, and where three generations of Wyeths have lived and painted the landscapes and people of Chadds Ford.
- Valley Forge Visit this 3,500-acre monument dedicated to the winter encampment of the Continental Army under George Washington in 1777-78. Historic landscapes, structures, objects, and archeological and natural resources at Valley Forge are must-sees for any history buff.
- Amish Country Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is home to history, art, antiques, and Pennsylvania Dutch Country hospitality. Here you’ll find an authentic Amish community, along with great restaurants, microbreweries, and activities for the entire family.
With so much to do in Philadelphia, Beyond Times Square can make planning your itinerary—and securing tickets for many of the attractions—a breeze. Don’t waste your day standing in line or not being able to obtain tickets for some of the city’s most popular attractions, which can easily sell out. Explore more of Beyond Times Square’s Philadelphia programs here. And please feel free to reach out if you have any further questions.