The only U.S. city on National Geographic’s 2020 ‘Best Trips’ list, Philadelphia is a sought-after destination for international travelers and global meetings alike. Here are some at-home, do-it-yourself experiences that will help you enjoy Philadelphia wherever you are and prepare you for your eventual visit.
The collections and artifacts that fill Philadelphia’s museums are certainly worth seeing in person, however many local institutions offer online tours and tools to spotlight key parts of the experience. Eastern State Penitentiary – once the world’s most famous and most expensive prison – offers an online tour that highlights several cell blocks, the baseball field, and other locations throughout the historic site.
The Barnes Foundation allows virtual visitors to navigate one of the greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings based on visual relationships, such as lines, light, space, and more, while also regularly producing videos for their Barnes Takeout series, where representatives from the museum offer insights into pieces from the collection. The Independence Seaport Museum lets those with an interest in maritime history browse their expansive collection of artifacts, historic ships, and more.
The Museum of the American Revolution in Old City has a robust online tour, which navigates throughout the museum’s immersive galleries and incredible replicas via 360-degree, high-resolution images. A virtual tour of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens — one of the city’s must-see attractions and the largest work to date by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar — is available online as well. The Betsy Ross House also offers a 360-degree virtual tour that encompasses the courtyard, parlor, Betsy’s bedroom, and her upholstery shop. Throughout the tour, viewers will learn more about historic house via interactive stars.
The National Constitution Center features an Interactive Constitution complete with insights on the document’s history and impact from multiple scholars with varying backgrounds. The museum also offers digital gallery experiences as well as a Facebook video walkthroughs of its new Civil War and Reconstruction permanent gallery (here, here, and here). The Franklin Institute invites you to challenge your mind with a series of online interactive activities inspired by the museum’s award-winning Your Brain exhibit. The celebrated science museum also regularly shares new videos on YouTube as part of their #SparkOfScience series that highlights various science experiments, including several which can be done from home.
Home to one of the world’s greatest collections of sports racing cars, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Southwest Philadelphia allows those who download its free mobile app to virtually tour the museum while enjoying over four hours of audio explaining the history and significance of each car. The National Museum of American Jewish History offers virtual tours of past exhibitions including Leonard Bernstein – The Power of Music and Chasing Dreams, while also allowing visitors to digitally browse highlights from its impressive collection of over 30,000 artifacts.
The Penn Museum’s collections — featuring artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Italy, Mesopotamia, Asia, Africa, and the Americas — are available online, along with additional multimedia elements shared on their website and social media that are designed to welcome new visitors by bringing the galleries into living rooms around the world (don’t miss their Digital Daily Dig series on Facebook). The museum also regularly shares activity ideas, ancient recipes to try at home, and family-friendly crafts on Pinterest.
The Philadelphia Zoo streams via Facebook Live Monday – Friday beginning at 2 p.m. each day, showcasing some of the many animal species that inhabit the nation’s first zoo including lions, tigers, giraffes, red pandas, and more. The Adventure Aquarium offers at-home kids activities such as coloring pages, word searches, and mazes with marine animal themes. The aquarium also regularly shares video updates of their adorable animal residents on their website and social media.
To remotely view and learn more about Philadelphia’s impressive collection of public art, the Association of Public Art offers an interactive map with photos, historical backgrounds, and even audio guides for hundreds of pieces of outdoor art. The association has also published a roundup of virtual art experiences, including those offered by Mural Arts Philadelphia, Fabric Workshop and Museum, University of Pennsylvania, and other organizations. Consult PhillyFunGuide’s Arts + Culture To Go resource for more remote cultural experiences from around the region.
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’ PAFA from Home: Inspiration Everywhere, Anywhere resource allows online visitors to browse the museum’s renowned permanent collection, take 360-degree virtual tours of the Historic Landmark Building and Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, and more. Through an online tool, the Pennsylvania Convention Center allows you to learn more about the art and artists featured in its West Wing. The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s treasured collection can be browsed online, and the acclaimed museum regularly shares highlights of the collection on social media.
The Academy of Natural Sciences — the first natural sciences institution in the Americas — has created a Science From Home resource which offers a number of at-home museum experiences, including coloring sheets made of images from the Academy’s library and archives, do-it-yourself science experiments, a backyard bird-watching guide, and more. The Wagner Free Institute of Science’s mineral collection can be viewed online, while they share images and insights on their taxidermy collection and other specimens on social media.
The Center for Art in Wood in Old City is publishing new experimental online content to a sister site, The Wood Shed, including artist podcasts and studio tours, home crafts, and more. Set to open in late 2020 along Independence Mall, the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center invites visitors to its interactive website to explore the diverse Visions of America from historical Americans such as William Penn and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Visit Philadelphia and NBC10 host Philly Live Weekends — a series of interviews, at-home cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and behind-the-scenes looks at local attractions on Facebook Live. The livestreams begin at 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and feature guest appearances by local chefs, musicians, zookeepers, artists, and other Philadelphians.
The Philadelphia International Airport’s suite of virtual experiences include highlights of their PHL Art Exhibit Program, podcasts, a guide to Philadelphia-based films, and activities for kids that showcase how the airport works. For more remote Philadelphia experiences, follow the #VisitFromHome and #PhillyFromHome hashtags on Twitter.
Whether it’s for a workout routine or just lounging around the house, be sure to round out your playlist with music by some of the most iconic performers from the Philadelphia region. Will Smith, The Roots, and Boyz II Men are some of the city’s essential hip-hop artists, as well as Meek Mill, Lil Uzi Vert, and Freeway. Jazz fans can find solace in John Coltrane albums, while rock and roll fans can jam out to music by Hall & Oates, The War on Drugs, or Kurt Vile. There are also punk and alt-rock artists such as The Wonder Years, Modern Baseball, and The Menzingers.
Those with a more classical taste can stream several albums by The Philadelphia Orchestra on Spotify, view a recent performance of Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 at Verizon Hall online, enjoy other performances with the new Listen On Demand feature, and take advantage of an array of other virtual Orchestra experiences now online. Additionally, Opera Philadelphia provides an on-demand audio recording of a 2016 performance of Breaking the Waves on their website.
Other iconic Philadelphia artists include female vocalists Patti LaBelle and Marian Anderson. Of course, no Philadelphia playlist is complete without the timeless anthem to Rocky, “Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now.”
You can listen to these artists and more via our custom “Philadelphia From Home” Spotify playlist.
For more information on Philadelphia’s impact on music, and where to watch live musical performances in the city, click here.
You can get your bearings for the City of Brotherly Love by watching one of the many films or television shows in which the city has played a supporting role in over the years. The Rocky and Creed series is an absolute must-watch, as Sylvester Stallone plays the titular boxer who perfectly personifies the underdog, never-give-up spirit of Philadelphia, all while training his way through Philadelphia’s Italian Market and eventually up the 72 eastern steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Director M. Night Shyamalan has a tendency for basing his films in Philadelphia, including Unbreakable, Split, and Glass, as well as the 1999 thriller, The Sixth Sense. Several scenes in the action adventure film National Treasure feature some of Philadelphia’s most iconic attractions — such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Reading Terminal Market — and the comedic Trading Places shines the Hollywood light on Rittenhouse Square. More recent movies include the dramatic Silver Linings Playbook and the DC comic superhero film, Shazam!
While Philadelphia only has a brief appearance at the beginning of Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the city has more extended television roles in AMC’s Dispatches from Elsewhere, Apple TV’s The Servant, and the upcoming season of Queer Eye on Netflix.
From grabbing a meal from one of the 80+ vendors at the historic Reading Terminal Market to enjoying dinner at the acclaimed Zahav, Philadelphia’s food scene alone is worthy of a trip to the city. However, some of the city’s essential eats can be enjoyed from afar.
Pretzels, Tastykakes, Peanut Chews, and Bassett’s Ice Cream are a few of the most preferred snacks in the city. Thankfully, these delicious items are available to be shipped nationwide thanks to Pennsylvania General Store, who operates a stand inside the 127-year-old Reading Terminal Market.
If you’re craving a classic Philadelphia cheesesteak, Campo’s Deli in Old City (214 Market Street) ships their delicious sandwiches nationwide, as does the iconic Pat’s King of Steaks in South Philadelphia. But if you’re looking to try your hand at cooking the perfect cheesesteak at home, Campo’s has provided a recipe to help guide you in the kitchen:
For dessert, you can treat yourself to a babka with help of a recipe from Camille Cogswell, Pastry Chef at Zahav. Additional recipes are available via several cookbooks published by marquee Philadelphia chefs including Marc Vetri (Vetri Cucina, Fiorella) and Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Laser Wolf). Additional cookbooks are available that feature recipes from Frog Commissary, Pizzeria Beddia, Vedge, Vernick Food & Drink, and other local favorites. To learn more about the essential Philadelphia eating experiences that await, click here.