This three-day By-the-Book itinerary is packed with tried-and-true Philadelphia adventures, essential for any first time visitor (or anyone’s first visit in a while). Delve into Philadelphia’s history and pivotal role in the founding of the nation, be awed by art collections, enjoy the great outdoors, and taste the wide variety of culinary offerings that have made Philadelphia an international food destination.
An essential starting point for any Philadelphia visit, the Independence Visitor Center along Independence Mall is where you can obtain tickets for local attractions and map out your journey with trip-planning help in 12 languages and an interactive, digital Welcome Wall.
TIP: Take a trip to the Visitor Center’s second floor to enjoy sweeping views of Independence Mall from the Liberty View Terrace.
Visit Independence Hall and take a free, ticketed tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site where America’s Founders signed the Declaration of Independence. Just across the street is where you’ll find the Liberty Bell. The symbol of American Independence is free to see (and snap a selfie with), as are the accompanying exhibits inside the Liberty Bell Center.
On the northern end of Independence Mall, the National Constitution Center is the only museum in the nation devoted to the U.S. Constitution, located just two blocks from where it was signed.
For lunch, visit Reading Terminal Market to shop and eat your way through 80+ vendors. The Markets is one of America’s oldest and largest indoor farmer’s markets. Satisfy your appetite for shopping with a visit to Macy’s. Shop for tax-free clothes and shoes at a true American department store, which is also home to the world’s largest playable instrument and a can’t-miss holiday light show.
Just a short walk away, take a photo of the architectural treasure that is City Hall. Then head to Dilworth Park for seasonal activities, food, and plenty of space to relax. Another photo op is just a few steps away at LOVE Park. Strike a pose in front of Robert Indiana’s iconic sculpture at the gateway to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Philadelphia’s Museum Mile.
Cheers to your first full day in Philadelphia at the city’s oldest continuously operating tavern, McGillin’s Olde Ale House. The pub has been pouring pints since 1860 and features vintage signs from Philadelphia’s past hung throughout the space.
Start the day by taking in historic city sights from a comfy seat on a double-decker bus, with tours available in multiple languages. Hop off the bus and explore the 9th Street Italian Market. Here you can retrace Rocky’s famous jog through a centuries-old open-air market filled with cuisine from many different cultures.
Follow the Italian Market south to refuel with a cheesesteak from Pat’s or Geno’s. Philadelphia’s two most famous cheesesteaks are cooked right across the street from one another. They are easily identified by neon lights and the unmistakable aroma of cheese whiz. Order a sandwich from each and debate amongst your family and friends whose was better.
Return to Old City to relive the story of the American Revolution and the early days of the United States at the Museum of the American Revolution. Then take a short walk back to Independence Mall and explore the groundwork of the President’s House Historic Site. Once home to Presidents George Washington and John Adams, this site tells the story of slavery and freedom in the early days of America.
Stroll down our nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street, Elfreth’s Alley. There you can admire 32 18th-century homes that line this cozy block in Old City. For a closer look at working-class living in early Philadelphia, visit the Elfreth’s Alley Museum at houses 124 and 126. Afterwards, fill any extra room in your suitcase with souvenirs, gifts and tax-free clothes and shoes purchased at one of the many independent shops and art galleries in Old City.
Enjoy dinner in the historic district from one of the many restaurants that line 2nd Street, such as Royal Boucherie, The Plough and the Stars, and Khyber Pass Pub. End the day by treating yourself to an old school scoop from a turn-of-the-century style ice cream parlor, The Franklin Fountain. This ice cream shop sits just a few doors away from the nation’s oldest continuously operating candy store, Shane Confectionery.
Start with a morning walk, jog, run or bike ride along the 20+ mile Schuylkill River Trail, weaving through downtown into Fairmount Park. Burn more calories by scaling the 72 “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Then head inside one of the nation’s largest art museums to explore a collection that spans 2,000 years.
Back outside, admire one of Philadelphia’s most iconic views: Boathouse Row. Find the best vantage point on the western shore of the Schuylkill River, along MLK Jr. Drive. Continue your adventure into Fairmount Park. Head to one of the many trailheads in the expansive, 2,000+ acre park for a hike, or tour one of the historic mansions scattered throughout.
Visit the castle-like complex that is Eastern State Penitentiary. Once inside, navigate the crumbling cellblocks and learn more about former inhabitants, including “Slick Willie” Sutton and notorious gangster Al Capone. The Penitentiary offers a comprehensive audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. After your tour, find a quaint lunch stop amidst an international array of flavor in the Fairmount neighborhood.
Finally, take a short walk to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to visit the Rodin Museum. There you can revel in one of the largest collections of sculptor Auguste Rodin’s works outside of Paris, including a six-foot cast of The Thinker.
End day three with an evening along the Delaware River with dinner and drinks aboard the Moshulu. This restaurant is on the world’s oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat.