28 THINGS TO DO IN PHILADELPHIA YOU’RE GONNA LOVE

When it comes to iconic American cities, few can surpass Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Besides being one of the founding parts of the country, Philadelphia has consistently been a travel destination for centuries. Whether you visit Philadelphia for the food, the views, or the history, you can’t go wrong in the City of Brotherly Love. 

With museums, parks, gardens, historic districts and more, it’s no wonder National Geographic has named Philly as one of the Best Cities in the World before.

Ready to learn more? Here are 28 things to do in Philadelphia that you and your crew will LOVE!

28 THINGS TO DO IN PHILADELPHIA YOU'RE GONNA LOVE

RUN UP THE “ROCKY STEPS”

Two of Philly’s biggest tourist attractions are right by one another. The view from the top of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art became famous after “Rocky III” came out, so now you too can run up the “Rocky Steps.” Countless visitors snap pics of the staircase or with the Rocky Balboa statue that stands at the bottom of them. 

You might be surprised at the length of that cinematic staircase though — Visit Philadelphia warns it’s 72 steps to the top! So take some deep breaths before you take off.

TAKE A SELFIE WITH THE LOVE SCULPTURE

It should come as no surprise that the City of Brotherly Love culminates in a piece of art that reads “LOVE.” Designed by artist Robert Indiana, “LOVE” was originally just a visitor to Philadelphia for the United States Bicentennial in 1976. But, after a brief time away in New York, someone bought it from Indiana and it found a forever home in John F. Kennedy Plaza. 

The plaza is inside Love Park, which is housed on the University of Pennsylvania campus. “LOVE” has a sibling sculpture designed by Indiana as well, this time for Pope Francis’ visit to the city in 2015. The “AMOR” statue can be found at the nearby Sister Cities Park. 

In our opinion, there are two great money-saving options for exploring Philadelphia. If this is your first visit then opt for the Philadelphia CityPASS. It offers three, four or five popular tourist stops for one low price. If this isn’t your first visit, you are staying for more than a few days, or you are with kids and need a lot more flexibility then opt for the Philadelphia Sightseeing Pass. Pick Day Passes or the FLEX Pass, and then select from over 55 different attractions, big and small.

WALK THE BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PARKWAY CULTURAL MILE

Created as an homage to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Cultural Mile is a central hub for all things culture. Also referred to as the “Museum Mile,” you will have a hard time choosing where to spend your time. Still, you can’t really go wrong with any of these sites. So make a day of it! (Or three.)

PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART

While Philly has a few art museums to partake in, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the premiere spot for art buffs. Their collection is known for its variety and uniqueness, with some pieces you won’t find anywhere else. For example, they are home to “Sunflowers” by Vincent van Gogh and the largest collection of work by Marcel Duchamp. 

If you need some refreshments after seeing all that art, there are several places around the museum property to grab a bite or beverage. Stir Restaurant, the Cafe, Espresso Bar, and Balcony Cafe are all available at varying times for your enjoyment. 

BARNES FOUNDATION

Named for Philadelphia art collector Albert C. Barnes, the Barnes Foundation has been encouraging the Philly community to engage with art for over 100 years. Per the foundation website, Barnes’ collection consists largely of impressionist, post-impressionist, modern paintings, and other cultural works from all over the world. 

Throughout the year, the foundation hosts art exhibitions, as well as showcases its own private collection. Guided tours are also available to learn more about Barnes and the work he collected during his life. 

THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE

“Furnished as all Europe now is with Academies of Science, with nice instruments and the spirit of experiment, the progress of human knowledge will be rapid and discoveries made of which we have at present no conception. I begin to be almost sorry I was born so soon, since I cannot have the happiness of knowing what will be known in a hundred years hence.” -Benjamin Franklin in 1783

Created as a way to celebrate Benjamin Franklin, the country’s first scientist, The Franklin Institute is dedicated to the scientific spirit. As far as museums go, the institute is one of the most visited in the region, on top of being a popular destination in the city.

A dozen permanent exhibits give visitors an opportunity to engage with learning. Meanwhile, temporary exhibitions like “Body Worlds,” as well as ones focused on the work of Ben Franklin himself, give guests more reason to come back again and again.

The world premiere of Harry Potter: The Exhibition opened here in 2022. The new exhibition celebrates the characters, settings, and moments from the films and books.

THE ACADEMY OF NATURAL SCIENCES OF DREXEL UNIVERSITY

Like many of the other institutions around the Benjamin Franklin Cultural Mile, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has roots in the 19th century. It is the oldest natural history museum in the country, as well as one of the nation’s foremost science institutions. It is home to over 19 million specimens and has been actively engaging with top-of-the-line research in its history.

Some of their permanent exhibits include the Invisible World of Water, Dinosaur Hall, Outside In, and their Butterflies! experience. Throughout the year, the academy also offers a variety of special events, including Dinos After Dark, Environmental Justice Week, and BugFest! (Does anyone else want to bug out?)

WEITZMAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORY

Situated on Philly’s Independence Mall, the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is the country’s only museum exclusively focused on the American Jewish experience.

The museum was founded by Congregation Mikveh Israel, which was established in 1740 and nicknamed the “Synagogue of the American Revolution.” Throughout the museum, you will find exhibits that are interactive, inspiring, and accessible for visitors of all ages.

PHILADELPHIA’S MAGIC GARDENS

If you head down South Street, you will undoubtedly stumble upon Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Started in the 1960s by Isaiah Zagar as a means to make his street artier, the space blossomed into a public art masterpiece. At PMG, you are surrounded by everything from handmade tiles to found objects to creating organically grown art. 

In addition to the street art itself, PMG is also a nonprofit art organization. They host temporary exhibitions, which have included programs such as “Ebb Tide” sculptures by Tasha Lewis, “Time’s Funeral” drawings and poems by Justin Duerr, and “Patterns of Obsession” by Claes Gabriel and Andrew CHalfen.

CELEBRATE AMERICA AT INDEPENDENCE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

Not only is Independence National Historical Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it is also widely considered the birthplace of America’s democracy. For folks who want to celebrate America, there is no better place to do so than this park. Here is where you’ll find Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Congress Hall. The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed inside Independence Hall.

You can make a stop at the National Constitution Center which perfectly compliments a history of America tour. 

Visitors do not pay admission to visit most elements of the park, with the exception of the Constitution Center. Tickets are required to go to Independence Hall for most of the year, however, those tickets are free. 

PLEAD THE FIFTH AT EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY

If creepy historical haunts are your specialty, you’ll feel right at home at Eastern State Penitentiary. According to the site’s website, this eerie locale was once the most expensive prison in the world–and the most famous.

Eastern State was once the prison home of felons like Al Capone, so if you hear any wandering souls, be sure to plead the fifth.

EXPLORE THE PHILADELPHIA WATERFRONT

Along the shores of the Delaware River, there is much to explore at Philadelphia’s Delaware River Waterfront. This riverfront district showcases much of what Philly has to offer, including iconic views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

No matter the time of year, you can hit RiverRink in Penn’s Landing for either roller skating or ice skating, depending on the temps. Or check out what’s going on at Cherry Street Pier, where there is always something new going on. 

Better yet, grab a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park. See for yourself why this area is considered one of the best urban beaches in the country. 

VISIT FAIRMOUNT PARK

With the Philadelphia skyline towering over the greenery, Fairmount Park is a natural oasis within the bustle of the city. Somehow, these 2,000 acres of nature have survived the expansion of the city for centuries, for the betterment of the community and visitors alike. Hiking trails invite you to wander the banks of the Schuylkill River. 

Music can be heard throughout the year billowing through the park from two different venues. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is situated on the park premises too (in case you didn’t stop in when visiting the Rocky statue).

Relax in the serenity of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden or rent a bike and make your way through those 2,000 acres. Plus, you can find the country’s oldest zoo here–the Philadelphia Zoo. 

GRAB A BITE AT READING TERMINAL MARKET

You’ve undoubtedly seen the Public Market signs in cities like Seattle and Milwaukee, but did you know one of the largest and oldest public markets is in Philadelphia? Reading Terminal Market can be found in Center City, where it has resided since 1893. According to the market’s website, the market was considered for Philly by William Penn himself at the end of the 17th century. 

With over 80 vendors to choose from, there’s no doubt you’ll find something for everyone here. If you need to grab a bite in Philly, there’s no better variety than at Reading Terminal Market. Plus you can even arrange for tours of the market where, in just over an hour, you’ll learn all about Reading Terminal and some of Philly’s most iconic food histories. (Did you know there’s a “proper” way to order a Philadelphia cheesesteak?)

ENJOY A PICNIC AT RITTENHOUSE SQUARE

Like Reading Terminal Market, Rittenhouse Square was also a creation of William Penn, who designed it. This square is one of five planned by Penn, whose statue you can see on top of City Hall. Here you can relax and enjoy a picnic near some flowers or the reflecting pool. 

If you need picnicking supplies, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. You can head over to Di Bruno Bros., whose flagship location happens to be at Rittenhouse Square. Di Bruno Bros. has been feeding Philly residents and visitors since 1939. Head into their signature cheese cave, grab some vino, and soak up the sun. 

OR NOSH ON AN ORIGINAL PHILLY CHEESESTEAK

Looking up where to get a good Philly Cheesesteak in Philly is like asking a Chicagoan which pizza place is best. (There is usually one right answer and you’ll be hard pressed to get it.) A cheesesteak might not be the most delicate of delicacies, though it certainly has the “deli” part down. The City of Brotherly Love’s love affair with this messy sandwich began in 1930, when street vendor Pat Olivieri thought it up. That’s how Pat’s King of Steaks was born, out of the mind of a hot dog vendor whose deli dreams were bigger than the dog. 

You can grab a cheesesteak drenched in cheese whiz (per the traditional recipe) at a place like Steve’s Prince of Steaks, which Eater Philadelphia lists as the number 1 cheesesteak stakeout. Or you can go see how James Beard Award winner John’s Roast Pork dresses up this not-so-dressy meal.

No matter how you nosh these bad boys, you better remember to say if you want the sandwich with or without onions. Got it?

STROLL LONGWOOD GARDENS

Public gardens have no business looking like they should be surrounded by Grecian fountains. This historic space combines the natural beauty of Philadelphia with the architectural splendor, dreamt up by Longwood Gardens founder Pierre S. du Pont. Guided tours of the garden give a glimpse into du Pont’s legacy, as well as the gardens he created. 

Over 1100 acres, you will find more gardens than you’ll know what to do with. Over a dozen indoor gardens, over two dozen outdoor garden spaces, and four fountains give visitors a lot to take in. There are events held at the gardens throughout the year, from concerts to educational series, as well as festivals. Plus, special exhibitions pop in and out of the garden spaces, so you never know what you might see. 

SEE THE KISS AT RODIN MUSEUM

Situated along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with other cultural institutions, the Rodin Museum is a testament to the work of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. In fact, this museum has the largest collection of his work outside of France. Over 120 of his sculptures are housed at the museum, including “The Gates of Hell” and “The Kiss.” (Not to be confused with “Eternal Springtime,” which resembles Rodin’s “The Kiss.”) Outside the museum, you’ll find peaceful gardens with works of art of their own. 

According to the museum’s website, Philadelphia was the first city in the country to show Rodin’s work back in 1876 in celebration of America’s centennial. In total, the museum’s art collection includes just over 180 pieces, in a range of artistic mediums. This includes the bust of Victor Hugo by Rodin, as well as his book “Les Cathédrales de France.”

TAKE THE KIDS TO THE PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM

Unironically, the Please Touch Museum is a place where your kiddos can feel free to get hands-on with the exhibits. (And you don’t have to worry about them mangling a priceless vase.) This two-floor wonderland of interactive exhibits encourages children to embrace their creativity. Please Touch Museum houses 18 permanent exhibits, catering to children of all ages with a wide range of interests. 

Cents and Sensibility teaches little ones about money, Happy Camper gives a simulated camping experience, and Please Touch Garden gives everyone a chance to put their green thumbs to work.

The revamped Food & Family exhibit is a 3600 square foot behemoth of an experience. Children can explore three areas, including a supermarket, a home/kitchen, and a festival. These different locations give them the chance to experience different activities like decorating a cake, cooking a pizza, and even shopping or ringing up market customers. 

FEED YOUR SQUEAMISH SIDE AT MUTTER MUSEUM

For a city so steeped in scientific history, the Mütter Museum fits right in. Philly’s own museum of medical history invites guests to set their squeamish sides aside for a moment. Located at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum had humble beginnings as a donation of 1700 objects and funds from Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter in 1859. Now the collection has grown to over 25,000 objects and specimens. 

Their permanent exhibitions include a cast of the bodies of conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, the Hyrtl Skull Collection, and their skin exhibit entitled Our Finest Clothing. Past temporary exhibits have included Broken Bodies Suffering Spirits, Bones Books & Bell Jars, Corporeal Manifestations, and Going Viral. 

DRINK IN THE VIEWS AT BOK BAR

Now that the One Liberty Observation Deck is gone for good, there’s even more reason to head up to Bok Bar. This rooftop bar, on the 8th floor of the Bok Building, gives respite to weary wanderers during the warmer months. From here, you can grab a bite, sip a cocktail, and take in the gorgeous city views. 

Their aptly named specialty cocktails, like the Sunset Situation and View from Above, will revive your spirit at the end of a long day.

DILWORTH PARK

Dilworth Park, located on the west side of City Hall, is the centerpiece of the city, and is filled with activities and events throughout the year.

Here, you’ll find an interactive fountain, greenspace, and a cafe on site. In the winter, the fountain transforms into an ice skating rink the whole family can enjoy. Festivals, live music, and outdoor movie nights are also held here.

Underneath Dilworth Park, you’ll find a new transit gateway, which provides entrances to Broad Street and Market Street subways and the trolley lines. 

BUY ONE-OF-A-KIND ART AT OCTOBER GALLERY

One of the oldest African American art galleries in the country, October Gallery has been welcoming guests since 1985. They do not just cater to the elite art purchasers either, their work is for sale at a range of prices, from the affordable $25 to $25,000. Although you can find October Gallery kiosks around the Philadelphia metropolitan area, their flagship location at Greene Street is where you’ll find the majority of their work.

They also host the Philadelphia International Expo every year which, for 12 years, was the largest African American art expo in the country. (Can you guess what month this expo takes place? It’s October.) 

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE AT PHILADELPHIA ZOO

Home to many of America’s firsts, Philadelphia is also home to another: the country’s first zoo. That’s right! Philadelphia Zoo has been housing animals and welcoming the public since 1874. A lot has changed since then, but what hasn’t changed is the zoo’s dedication to the well-being and conservation of wildlife. It is home to almost 1300 animals now, including some critically endangered critters such as the Guam rail and Sumatran orangutan.

What makes this zoo especially cool is its Zoo360 Trail. This observation trail, rather than for the guests, is actually for the animals. If you look up, you might see some lemurs on the move or a gorilla watching you from behind some foliage. Zoo360’s mesh trail gives the animals a birds eye view of their zoo, while also giving guests a unique perspective as well. 

GET ARTSY AT PENNSYLVANIA ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS MUSEUM

“Promote the cultivation of the Fine Arts, in the United States of America, by […] exciting the efforts of artists, gradually to unfold, enlighten, and invigorate the talents of our Countrymen.”—PAFA Academy 1805 Charter from the museum’s website.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum isn’t just another art museum. PAFA is the country’s first art school and museum. Since its founding in 1805, PAFA has garnered a collection with a wide array including work by renowned artists such as Mary Cassatt, Kehinde Wiley, and Andy Warhol. Their collection towers at over 16,000 works celebrating historic, modern, and contemporary American art.

Some of their temporary exhibits have included American+, Making a Landmark, The Mystical Heroine Revisited and I’ve Always Worked Hard. 

PAFA’s current home since 1875 was designed by celebrated American architects Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt. The museum has been a Historic Landmark Building since 1975, 100 years after it was built.

In our opinion, there are two great money-saving options for exploring Philadelphia. If this is your first visit then opt for the Philadelphia CityPASS. It offers three, four or five popular tourist stops for one low price. If this isn’t your first visit, you are staying for more than a few days, or you are with kids and need a lot more flexibility then opt for the Philadelphia Sightseeing Pass. Pick Day Passes or the FLEX Pass, and then select from over 55 different attractions, big and small.

TAKE A GANDER AT CITY HALL

Not only is Philadelphia’s City Hall dreamy on the outside, but it’s also equally dreamy on the inside. Although it took 200 years for William Penn’s idea to have Philly’s public buildings occupy Center Square, his vision was eventually realized. City Hall at Center Square began construction in 1871, and because of its elaborate nature, it took three decades to finish. Even so, City Hall remains the nation’s largest municipal building, at nearly 15 acres of floor space.

One glimpse inside the lavishly decorated building and you’ll know right away how this space took so long to construct. It was once the tallest building in the city (until 1987), and remains the “tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame.” The City Hall website notes that the building’s influence is from the Victorian style, though it was inspired by Paris’ Palais des Tuileries and the New Louver. 

STEP BACK IN TIME IN THE SOCIETY HILL HISTORIC DISTRICT

A visit to Philadelphia is hardly realized without embracing the city’s notable history. Though tourists flock to places like Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell, Philly’s storied history is just as much in the neighborhoods themselves as it is in those public spaces. The Society Hill Historic District is one of the city’s oldest areas. As part of Historic Philadelphia, Society Hill very much resembles the area’s colonial past. 

Not only will you find more 18th and 19th-century buildings here than almost anywhere else in the country, but being surrounded by so many historical buildings will make you feel like you’re really walking back in time. There are walking tours offered through the neighborhood, though you might find yourself just wandering around, enchanted by the history around you. 

Even if much of this area is residential, there are still plenty of monuments, boutiques, and restaurants around to enjoy. Here is where you will find Washington Square, James Beard Award-winning Zahav, and even a charming spot called Bloomsday. 

CHECK OUT BETSY ROSS HOUSE

In yet another historic neighborhood, Old City, you will find the Betsy Ross House. This house is over 250 years old, and by 1876 was home to Ross. It is believed that she was here when she made the first American flag. You can take a tour of the home while also learning more about Ross’ life, as well as life in Philly during that and previous periods.

It should be noted that, because the building is so old, it is not accessible for strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, or motorized scooters. There is a first-floor tour option, however, that also includes a few steps both up and down. 

BE REVOLUTIONARY AT THE MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

One of Philadelphia’s newest museums, the Museum of the American Revolution opened in 2017. Aptly located near Independence Hall and the other historic places in Philly connected to the Revolutionary War, this museum is focused on telling the stories of that period, as well as helping the public understand what it took to achieve democracy. 

Interactive exhibits at this museum include The Road to Independence, The Darkest Hour, and A New Nation. Some previous temporary exhibitions have included other periods of American history as well. Past exhibits have included When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia, and Flags and Founding Documents 1776-Today. 

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