Visiting Philadelphia is a real treat! Founded by William Penn in 1862, Philadelphia is considered the birthplace of the United States. The city is filled with rich history, culture, art, and good food. From historical sites and museums to outdoor art and and food tours, there are plenty of things to do in Philadelphia to keep you and your family entertained. Below you’ll find a few of the more popular places to visit while in the city.
1. Philadelphia Museum of Art
Located at the end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, you may recognize the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Rocky Balboa movies. A popular tourist attraction, you’ll find many visitors reenacting the iconic moment as they run up the 72 steps. And, at the bottom of the stairs you can even snap a picture with the Rocky statue.
Within the museum you’ll find a very large collection of Renaissance, American, and impressionist art, along with rotating exhibits. There are over 240,000 pieces that span around 2,000 years. As well, the museum has a beautiful one-acre outdoor Sculpture Garden that you can tour. Be sure to give yourself at least a couple of hours to get through the entire museum.
2. Mural Arts Philadelphia Tour
To combat a major graffiti problem, the city created the Mural Arts Philadelphia program in 1984. The program connects artists and local communities by creating murals that represent the people of Philadelphia. The city collaborates with local artists, world-renowned artists, and even everyday people. Murals can be found all throughout the city and the best way to learn about them is by taking a mural tour!
3. The Liberty Bell Center
No visit to Philadelphia is complete without seeing the iconic Liberty Bell! The Liberty Bell Center is located at 526 Market Street and can be found across the street from Independence Hall. There is no charge to visit this museum.
First, you’ll enter the remains of what was once the White House between 1790 to 1800 when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. As you walk from wall to wall you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the house and its history. Once you’ve toured the house, you’ll enter the Liberty Bell Center where you’ll learn more about its significance and history. At the end of your tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see and photograph the Liberty Bell herself.
4. Hop-On / Hop-Off Bus Tour
Philadelphia’s hop-on / hop-off bus tours are a great way to see all the main attractions in the city at your own pace. Hop on at any of the 28 stops, sit back and enjoy a narrated tour. And when you learn about a stop that grabs your attention, hop off and check it out!
Some of the popular stops include:
- The Liberty Bell
- Betsy Ross House
- Reading Terminal Market
- Cathedral Basilica
- Rocky Balboa Statue
- The Franklin Institute
- Eastern State Penitentiary
Being on the top of a double-decker bus will give you some amazing views! The full tour loop is around 90-minutes and your ticket is good for the entire day.
5. Reading Terminal Market
An indoor public farmer’s market, the Reading Terminal Market is located at 12th and Arch Street. Currently, the outside of the market is under construction, but the inside is open. The open-air market has been in business since 1893 and was originally located under a train shed owned by the Reading Railroad Company.
Today, you can find bakeries, local florists, produce, restaurants, and foods from other cultures. While you browse the market, stop at a restaurant and grab a locally made bite. Don’t forget to support a local merchant by snagging a souvenir or two!
6. Visit South Street
Described as the “edgiest street in Philadelphia,” visiting South Street is one of the top things to do in Philadelphia. The district begins at Front Street and goes for 14 blocks to Broad Street. A melting pot of cultures, this trendy neighborhood brings the latest in fashion, has great bars and eateries, and live local music. You can take a daytime stroll and checkout all the shops, search for the best cheesesteak, or wait until evening when the nightlife awakens.
Finding the Best Philly Cheesesteak
Looking for the best Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia? Unfortunately, that’s a difficult question to answer. With so many different versions of the city’s classic, you’re likely to get different answers from locals.
You’ve got Pat’s King of Steaks, the self-proclaimed inventor of the cheesesteak, or the iconic Geno’s Steaks, as well as a many of other restaurants to choose from on South Street and throughout the city. And, if you’re a foodie at heart, you’ll definitely want to check out a Philadelphia food tour.
7. Betsy Ross House
Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Historic District, the Betsy Ross House is open to the public and offers self-guided tours for $8 and audio tours for $10. Betsy Ross was said to have lived in this house when she sewed the first American Flag.
However, there is a big dispute amongst historians who believe that the original house was torn down by mistake. Still, the Betsy Ross House is one of the most popular attractions in Philadelphia where you can learn all about the history and making of the American Flag.
8. Delaware River Attractions
There are several pier’s with attractions you can visit in Philadelphia. These parks feature gorgeous views of the Delaware River and the Ben Franklin Bridge. Many have vendors, seating, and green space for you to enjoy. Below are a few of the more popular waterfront attractions in Philadelphia.
- Race Car Street Pier: beautiful views, space for picnics, flea market, and amphitheater
- Cherry Street Pier: food and drink vendors, views, seating, farmer’s markets and other events
- Spruce Street Harbor Park: hammocks, beer garden, vendors, boardwalk, and views
- Blue Cross RiverRink: Ferris wheel, rollerblading rink in the summer and ice skating in the winter
If you’re looking for something to do outdoors in Philadelphia with the family, be sure to check out one of these waterfront attractions!
9. Museums in Philadelphia
If you’re looking for educational things to do in Philadelphia, consider a museum! With Philadelphia’s deep appreciation for the arts and rich history, there’s no shortage of museums in the city. You have options for art museums, science museums, history museums, cultural museums, and museums of kids! Below are just a handful of the museums you can visit in Philly.
- Philadelphia Museum of Arts: a world-renowned collection of art exhibits
- Museum of American Revolution: focuses on the stories of the American Revolution.
- The Franklin Institute: a science featuring rotating exhibits like the Harry Potter Exhibition.
- Rodin Museum: an art museum showcasing the sculptors and art of Auguste Rodin.
- Barnes Foundation: contains impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern art
- African American Museum: focuses on African American heritage
- Please Touch Museum: a children’s museum with interactive exhibits
- Penn Museum: The University of Pennsylvania’s archaeology and anthropology museum
Most large museums require a minimum of two hours to fully experience them. Be sure to give yourself enough time to explore these wonderful institutions of cultural education!
10. Parks & Gardens
Philadelphia is filled with public parks and gardens for you to enjoy. Spend the day outside and have a picnic or enjoy the sights and amenities these parks have to offer. Here are a few of the more popular parks and gardens in Philadelphia.
- Dilworth Park: a modern outdoor city park featuring a fountain, café, and lawn near city hall.
- Love Park: public park in city center featuring Philly’s selfie-worthy Love Sculpture
- Franklin Square: located in city center, this park has mini-golf, a carousel, and a café
- James G. Kaskey Memorial Park: the botanical garden of the University of Pennsylvania
- Bartram’s Garden: 50-acre garden that has been named a National Historic Landmark
- Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens: indoor/outdoor art gallery featuring mosaics and sculptures
- 18th Century Garden: inspired by Philadelphia gardens from the 18th century
- Morris Arboretum: the state’s official arboretum ran by the University of Pennsylvania
- Shofuso Japanese Garden: 17th century style Japanese house and garden
If you’re looking for a peaceful afternoon outdoors, be sure to explore some of Philadelphia’s beautiful parks and gardens.
The list of things to do in Philadelphia is quite long and the above list barely scratches the surface. I highly recommend taking a tour or two to fully grasp Philadelphia’s rich culture and history. And, when you’re done touring the city, if you’re looking for a little beach time check out Cape May, NJ for the perfect day trip!
Alexandrea Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.