The Best of Philadelphia

Philadelphia Love park

Love Park

What are the top things to see in the “City of Brotherly Love?” We’ve compiled a run-down of our “must-sees” and grouped them by areas of the city for the best of Philadelphia. Philly is unique because there’s a lot to see in a very concentrated area. Consider this a one-day itinerary. But, you can easily stretch it to a second day. Trying to escape for the weekend? Philly’s the perfect place to visit. Our tour begins  in the historic district.

OLD CITY

The first step to conquering any city is getting your hands on a map. Luckily, there are several visitor centers strategically placed throughout the city. Inside the Independence Visitor Center at the corner of 6th and Market Streets, you can pick up free maps, learn about discounts and deals for various attractions and tours in Philadelphia, or you can simply rest your feet and grab a bite to eat at the café. This is a great starting point, because here, you must pick up your free, timed tickets for a tour of Independence Hall (March-December only).

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall

Why is it worth taking a tour of Independence Hall? The Declaration of Independence, George Washington, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Flag. I know you recognize all of these important terms from your middle school social studies class. Don’t you want to be smarter than a 5th grader? Exactly. Go here.

Between the visitor’s center and Independence Hall on 6th Street, you can wait in line to see the Liberty Bell. It is a very powerful symbol of freedom that silently rings throughout the world. This is also free to see.

Other nearby museums and attractions include: National Constitution Center (paid admission), Congress Hall, Declaration House, and the Betsy Ross House.

When you’re ready to take a break from history, start walking east on Market Street toward the water. But be sure not to miss the post office at 316 Market Street. Founded in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin (before the United States had an official flag), it is the only active post office in the United States today not flying the American flag. (Lock that factoid away in your brain for some future trivia night…)

If you keep walking, you will soon near the end of Market Street and arrive at Penn’s Landing. Enjoy the great view of the Delaware River from above or take a boat ride below. Depending on when you visit, you may be lucky enough to catch a concert or festival here.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

CENTER CITY

From Penn’s Landing, it’s easy to hop on Philadelphia’s subway, SEPTA.  The Market-Frankford (blue) line runs east to west along Market Street. Buy some tokens or pay $2.25 and hop on the subway heading west, getting off at 13th street. You’ve probably worked up an appetite, so this is the perfect time to grab some lunch.

Reading Terminal Market, at 12th and Arch Streets, is a historical farmer’s market filled with ethnic foods, fresh meat and produce, flowers and crafts, and includes Amish specialties. The Reading (pronounced Reh-ding,) Terminal Market is open seven days a week. You’ll be sure to find something to eat at one of the merchant stands.

Philadelphia City Hall

City Hall

After eating, leave the market on Filbert Street and continue walking west.

Within a few hundred feet, look to your left to see the impressive architecture of Philadelphia’s City Hall. The statue of what man is located on top of the clock tower? Hopefully you’re an expert at Philadelphia history now. If you guessed William Penn, you’re correct. For those interested in learning more about City Hall, there are tours offered daily. If after a few photos, you’re ready to move on, keep walking west as the street has turned into John F. Kennedy Blvd.

At the corner of 15th, you won’t be able to miss it: Love Park. Just keep your eyes pealed for the iconic “LOVE” statue. This is the city of “Brotherly Love” after all. Be sure to visit this plaza during the day when you can get the best photos. Sometimes the line is long to snap a shot with one of the city’s most recognizable statues, but it’s totally worth it. People will offer to take a photo of you, but just remember they will expect a tip.

FAIRMOUNT/ART MUSEUM AREA

LOVE Park is the starting point of the Ben Franklin Parkway, which stretches all the way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Philadelphia Art Museum

The Art Museum

There is plenty to see along the parkway, so simply exit the plaza behind the statue and follow the rows of international flags that line the parkway.

Walking toward the Art Museum, you’ll pass the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the Swann Memorial Fountain, the Franklin Institute and more.

As you reach the base of the Art Museum steps, off to the right is the statue of Rocky Balboa. Let this statue inspire you to run (not walk) up the steps of the Art Museum, Rocky-style. Once you reach the top, turn around and soak in a great view of the Philadelphia skyline. (Return after dark for the BEST view of the city.) The Philadelphia Museum of Art has more than 227,000 works of art and more than 200 galleries, making it one of the largest museums in the United States. General admission for adults is $20 and the museum is closed on Mondays.

Philadelphia Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Behind the Art Museum, along the east bank of the Schuylkill River, is Boathouse Row. This historic site consists of 15 boathouses and hosts various rowing regattas throughout the year. Several Philadelphia universities have teams that row out of this location. Take a stroll along the river and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Boathouse Row and Kelly Drive.

One final stop in this neighborhood is the Eastern State Penitentiary.

This is not to miss, especially if you love ghost stories! If you’re along Boathouse Row, you may have to backtrack a bit toward the art museum. Look for a sign for Fairmount Avenue. Follow Fairmount Avenue until 22nd Street where you will see a very eerie-looking, Gothic-style structure. This former prison opened in 1829 and was centered on solitary confinement for inmates. Its more famous inmates included William Sutton and Al Capone. Although not operational today, this historic landmark gives visitors a look inside 19th century incarceration. It is open every day and costs $14 for adults. During the Halloween season, the prison offers a special (frightening!) experience: Terror Behind the Walls.

SOUTH PHILLY

Finally, no one can leave the city without having a famous Philly cheesesteak. You do have options, just remember that most places accept cash only.

Cheesesteaks

Geno’s Steaks

If you want to join the cheesesteak war that has lasted decades, you should head to 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue (by car or taxi) to see Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks who both claim to have the best cheesesteaks in the city. Try one from both and you can determine the winner. Make sure you use the ordering lingo. Say “whiz wit” and you’re getting a cheesesteak with Cheese Whiz and onions. “Whiz wit-out” means no onions. They are open 24 hours a day so there’s really no excuse not to try one.

Another favorite cheesesteak location is on South Street. Jim’s Steaks, on 4th and South St, is a great place to go if you also want to spend time exploring Philly’s “hip” and historic South Street. It includes 10 blocks of eclectic shops, restaurants and performance venues that are sure to keep you busy for a few hours.

There is plenty more to see in Philadelphia. But, consider this our highlights. We hope you enjoy your visit!

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