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Top Things to Experience in Philadelphia

January 21, 2021

Whether it’s your first visit to Philadelphia or your first visit in a while, the city is filled with many can’t-miss experiences and “Instagram-able” moments that should be added to any itinerary.

Photo by M. Zugale for PHLCVB.

Visit the Liberty Bell

A symbol of freedom, the famed Liberty Bell is synonymous with Philadelphia. The cracked bell is free to visit year-round and is found inside the Liberty Bell Center, which sits just across Chestnut Street from its former home at Independence Hall. Inside the Center, you’ll find exhibits highlighting the bell’s history, as well as written information available in a dozen languages. Learn more about visiting the Liberty Bell here.

Tour Independence Hall

Transport yourself back to 1776 with a tour of Independence Hall and step foot into the Assembly Room, where the Founding Father’s debated, adopted, and signed the Declaration of Independence and later the U.S. Constitution. The tour reveals interesting details about the building’s history and architecture, as well as insightful tales about the Framers of the nation shared by national park rangers, as highlighted by travel guide Frommer’s. To learn how to visit, click here. For more historic experiences, click here.

Run the Rocky Steps

As made famous by an inspirational training montage in the 1976 film, Rocky, the 72 steps that lead to the eastern entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are now at the top of anyone’s Philadelphia to-do list. Thousands of visitors flock to the steps each day to race their way to the top and strike their best “Rocky pose ” at the spot where he stood – arms held high with the city skyline serving as the ultimate backdrop. TIP: Don’t forget to snap a photo with Rocky’s statue at the base of the steps before you leave, and don’t miss the many other iconic filming locations around the city.

Photo by B. Dale for PHLCVB.

Walk through the Italian Market

You’ll find the nation’s oldest open-air marketplace, the Italian Market, along 9th Street in South Philadelphia. Another location for Rocky’s training run, the market is home to dozens of produce vendors, butchers, cheese connoisseurs, and restaurants. The cuisine offered throughout the Market extends far beyond what its name implies, with Asian and Latin American menus becoming more prevalent as the cultural identity of the surrounding neighborhood continues to change.

Photo by M. Zugale for PHLCVB.

Snap a selfie at LOVE Park

Installed in John F. Kennedy Plaza – now affectionately referred to as LOVE Park – for the nation’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976, Robert Indiana’s now-iconic LOVE sculpture is arguably one of Philadelphia’s most photo-worthy pieces of public art. Visitors and locals alike can be seen posing for a photo in front of the artwork, which marks the beginning of Philadelphia’s Museum Mile, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The park is also home to various pop-up events throughout the year, including the popular Christmas Village each holiday season.

logan circle on parkway
Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia.

Explore the museums along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Known as Philadelphia’s Museum Mile, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is home to many of the city’s most coveted institutions. It is here that you can study science at The Franklin Institute or learn about dinosaurs and natural history at the Academy of Natural Sciences – the first natural sciences institution in the Americas. There is also the Barnes Foundation – home to the world’s greatest collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Early Modernist paintings – and the Rodin Museum, featuring one of the largest collections of Auguste Rodin’s work outside of Paris. Capping the western end of the Parkway is the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose 200 galleries (with more on the way) are filled with artwork from around the world spanning 2,000 years. Learn more about the Benjamin Franklin Parkway here.

Sink your teeth into a true Philadelphia cheesesteak

Philadelphia is a renowned food town, with award-winning chefs and restaurants found in nearly every neighborhood throughout the city, but one dish is consistently at the top of every visitor’s must-try list: the cheesesteak. Though popular shops like Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks, and Jim’s on South Street draw long lines and international attention, local favorites are also worth exploring, such as Campo’s, Dalessandro’s, John’s Roast Pork, and Angelo’s. After choosing your preferred shop and steak sandwich preparation (choose cheese whiz and grilled onions for the “traditional” route), you’ll spend hours debating your friends and family on whose cheesesteak was best.

Photo courtesy of Reading Terminal Market.

Satisfy your cravings at the Reading Terminal Market

Opened in 1893, Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market is one of the oldest (and one of the best) farmer’s markets in the nation, and is home to nearly 80 vendors inside, including 26 restaurants. The Market’s vendors serve a wide range of cuisine, including Caribbean, Cajun, Greek, Japanese, and soul food favorites, as well as local flavors like the cheesesteak, pretzels, hoagies, and more. Not to be missed are the several stalls that specialize in traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipes – Dutch Eating Place and Beiler’s to name just a few. For more information on how to visit the market, click here. For some suggestions on must-taste items, click here.

Photo by M. Zugale for PHLCVB.

Immerse yourself in mosaics at the Magic Gardens

Encompassing three full city lots in South Philadelphia, artist Isaiah Zagar’s magical mosaic maze is one of Philadelphia’s most “Insta-worthy” attractions. Zagar’s largest work to date features an indoor gallery space and a sprawling, layered outdoor maze, with narrow pathways and hidden nooks lined with pieces of mirrors, ceramic tiles, and found objects ranging from bike wheels to soda bottles. To learn more about Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens and to plan your visit, click here.

The Philadelphia skyline as viewed from the South Street Bridge. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Admire some of the city’s best views

There are plenty of vantage points offering breathtaking views of the Philadelphia skyline from multiple angles. Catch the sunrise while perched high atop Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, or watch the sun dip behind the Center City skyscrapers as you stroll along the Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s pedestrian walkway. Cheers to unforgettable happy hour views at Bok Bar, Assembly Rooftop Lounge, XIX Nineteen or JG SkyHigh, or take in waterfront views at Penn Treaty Park in the northeast or aboard the historic Battleship New Jersey just across the Delaware River. For more tips on finding can’t-miss views, click here.

Photo by M. Stanley, courtesy of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

Relax along the waterfronts

The city of Philadelphia is sandwiched between two rivers – the Delaware and the Schuylkill – with each offering their own waterfront experiences. On the eastern side of the city along the Delaware River, enjoy recreational piers and parks like Race Street Pier, Cherry Street Pier, Penn’s Landing, and Spruce Street Harbor Park, all soon to be connected by an improved waterfront trail system. To the west, the Schuylkill River Trail runs along the Schuylkill River and presents a walking, running, or biking path with ample lawn space perfect for riverside picnics.

Photo by S. Spitzer for PHLCVB.

Survey Boathouse Row (by day or night)

The beginning of Philadelphia’s 2,000+ acre Fairmount Park is marked by 15 beautiful and historic boathouses along the Schuylkill River. Home to the rowing clubs of various local universities, these houses are notably lined with bright LED lights that glow in the evenings and change colors to honor certain holidays. TIP: The best view of the boathouses is from the eastern-most end of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where you’ll find a small platform perfect for admiring the landmark.

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