Philadelphia, which is affectionately referred to as Philly, has the honor of being the largest city in the US state of Pennsylvania. It is also the sixth most populated city in the United States, with a recorded population of over 1.5 million people. This figure is according to the city’s most recent census, which took place in 2018. As Philadelphia is the largest city in PA, there’s no surprise that it is also the economic center of the state. In fact, there a currently five Fortune 1000 companies currently headquartered there. The city’s strongest economic sectors are financial services, IT, biotechnology, health care, oil refinement, trade, manufacturing, food processing, transportation, and tourism.
When tourism is one of the city’s strongest points, it means that there are numerous attractive tourist destinations and activities to do. Considering the city is so large and has such a booming economy, it is also understandable how all these attractions came into being.
Philadelphia is not just a town of big buildings and corporations, as it is also a place where you can go for some relaxing and harmless fun. In fact, whether you are visiting as a couple, alone, or as a family, there is no doubt that the city has something for you to enjoy. You may be planning to take a trip to Philly, but you may not be sure what you can do there. If so, have a look below as this list outlines the top 10 things to do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
10Kimmel Center Tour
The Kimmel Center is among the most well-known concert venues in Philadelphia. It is also quite aesthetically pleasing. Many people like to know the story and history behind such magnificent structures, and the staff at the Kimmel Center is acutely aware of the level of interest that the location has garnered.
This is why daily tours are conducted at 1 PM. Note that these tours are done on a first-come, first-served basis so it is in your best interest to ensure that you arrive early so you are not left out. The tours are limited to 20 persons per tour, and registration is done at the building’s information desk, which opens as of 10 AM daily. The tour guides are all volunteers; however, they are very experienced and provide informative and fulfilling tours.
Apart from the normal tours, the center also does Specialty Art & Architecture tours. These tours are conducted on a selected Saturday each month at 10:30 AM. The Kimmel Center tour website page linked above is consistently updated with tour schedules, so you can always check to see when the next Saturday tour is.
The tours are appropriate for both adults and children above the age of 10 years old. Therefore, the tour can be a family event if you so desire. Group tours are also possible for parties of 12 or more. They must, however, be booked two weeks before the desired date. Group and individual tours are all free of charge, so there’s no need to worry about budgeting.
The Philadelphia Zoo is the oldest in the United States as it opened in 1874. It doesn’t give away its age, as the facility is very well maintained. It has a very large collection of 1,300 animals, which is enough to keep your interest for an entire day.
The best part about a zoo is that it is an all-purpose location. You can take a trip there with your significant other, by yourself, or as a family, and you can have loads of fun either way. The zoo begins operating at 9:30 AM daily and it closes at either 4 PM or 5 PM depending on the day. It has consistently received high praise from travelers, and one of the key points is the level of immersion that it provides. For example, a visit to the PECO Primate Reserve, or the KeyBank Big Cat Falls makes you feel as if you are face to face with majestic animals.
One of the reasons the zoo has successfully operated for so long is that it consistently evolves with the times. New facilities and animal types are constantly added to help keep them feeling vibrant and fresh. One of the most recent examples of this occurred in 2018. Two new exhibits were added to the zoo, which was named Penguin Point and Water is Life. These are now home to red pandas, otters, among other animals. Note that this is one of those zoos that allows you to bring your own food, even though there are many concessions.
8Chew Philly Food Tours
Philadelphia, like many other cities in the USA, has its own unique dishes. There is no way you can say that you visited Philly and that you had the complete experience unless you indulged in some of the city’s cuisine.
If you are the type of person who is more content with trying a bit of everything, as opposed to trying a lot of one thing, then you may want to consider signing up for a foodie outing at Chew Philly Food Tours. Not only is it a two-and-a-half-hour tour of just food, but it also affords you six samples of each food, which is just incredible. The company also has what is known as the standard Authentic Philly Food Tour. For this, travelers are taken to the Manayunk neighborhood to indulge in samples of Philly’s most classic foods. The samples include gourmet chocolates, local cheeses, and much more.
If you are a Halloween buff, and you plan to visit the city in October, then there’s a tour for you too. Take on the spooky challenge of the Haunted Food Tour, which includes various fall-themed food samples. Additionally, there is a commentary about local “haunted” attractions. Chew Philly Food Tours begins most of its excursions between 11 AM and 12:30 PM. Saturdays and Sundays are the tour days, and tours run between March and November. You are encouraged to subscribe to Chew Philly’s e-mail list for promotional discounts. Reviews for these tours are overwhelmingly positive, so expect to be wowed by the Philly flavor.
Even if you have taken many trips in your life, chances are there are still experiences that you are yet to have. It is not unlikely that the sport of axe throwing finds itself on that list, as it really isn’t the most advertised activity.
Urban Axes allows you to take part in this niche sport for the experience. While it may sound a bit strange, axe throwing can be a great time, and it can rival the thrill people of sports like darts. Whenever people see the sport for the first time, they think that it looks a bit dangerous. Coming to this conclusion is very understandable, as axes are traditionally used to cut through very sturdy materials such as wood. Throwing them around sounds like a recipe for disaster. However, the sport has various rules and preventative measures against injury. In fact, the directors of Urban Axes have stated that once the precautions are followed, the sport is a completely safe one.
Axe throwing uses a target, which is like those used in archery or darts, with a bullseye at its center. Hitting each circular area is worth a different number of points, which increases as you get closer to the bullseye. Of course, hitting the bullseye is worth the most points.
The discipline has existed for centuries; however, it is yet to gain a cult following in the United States. Lily Cope, “Axe Master General” at Urban Axes, dreams that the sport can catch on like shuffleboard has.
This one is for all the true pizza lovers out there. Pizza is one of the most enjoyable fast foods available, especially when the maker knows how to make it right. What do you get when you cross delicious, unique pizza making with a genuine love for the delicacy? The result is Philadelphia’s own Pizza Brain.
Pizza Brain was established in 2012 by three friends, for whom pizza was more than just a meal. It was a cultural phenomenon with a story to tell. Not only can you feel the love with every bite, but you can also use Pizza Brain as a place of learning whenever you visit. The business is both a restaurant (Pizza Brain), and a museum dedicated to pizza knowledge (Museum of Pizza Culture).
The owners believe that there’s no price for said knowledge and, therefore, browsing the collection is free. The only time you pay is when you are ready to grab a bite. Speaking of grabbing a bite, the menu ranges from the run in the mill pizza items such as plain pepperoni pizza, to more unique items such as the “Kira Tierston.” The “Kira Tierston” is one of Pizza Brain’s special offerings, and it is made with mozzarella cheese, red onion, oven-roasted brussels sprouts, smoked bacon, and a tad of brown sugar.
The location opens at 11 AM Monday through Saturday, and at 12 PM on Sundays. From Sundays to Thursdays, closing time is 9 PM, while on Fridays and Saturdays, Pizza Brain closes at 10 PM.
5Reading Terminal Market
Located at 51 N. 12th Street, there’s no better place to experience Philly’s produce than the Market East District’s very own Reading Terminal Market. You can find it under the Reading Railroad’s 1891 train station, which is a national landmark. The market has been operating since 1893, and it offers a variety of baked products, produce, and more. Diversity is the name of the game in this market as there is a range of flavors and people.
Over 80 vendors are present, and for the foodies out there, you can have a taste of different cultures during your visit. Indian, Mexican, Thai, Greek, and other cuisine options are available for taste testing. Note that it’s not all about food though, as there are numerous craft and jewelry items available.
Finding a comfortable spot to chow down is no issue, as there is a designated central dining area. For added convenience, however, many of the food stalls have dedicated seating. While there are great offerings throughout the entire market, special mentions go to Belier’s Bakery’s doughnuts, Dutch Eating Place’s apple dumplings, DiNic’s roast pork, and Beck’s Cajun Café’s po’boys.
The market is open everyday between the hours of 8AM and 6PM. Note that the designated parking areas can be a bit pricey, so it is recommended that you use public transportation, riding the subway, or that you consider walking to save yourself some cash. You may also order groceries online and have them delivered, however, this means you miss out on the full experience.
4Wissahickon Valley Park
Some people enjoy the pleasant outdoor vibe that is synonymous with browsing nature’s elements. If you fall into that category, Philadelphia has Wissahickon Valley Park to offer you. The landmark boasts 2,042 acres of parkland, and it is located along Valley Green Road, which is about five miles to the northwest of downtown.
Hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking are some of the most popular outdoor activities, and if they interest you, this park has you covered as it boasts over 50 miles of trails dedicated to these activities. Additionally, there are bird watching and fishing options available at the venue. If you’re traveling alone, with your family, or as a couple, the environment is a perfect setting for assembling and enjoying a relaxing picnic. There is a serene air about the park, which is one of the main things that reviewers rave about.
While the park area is open 24 hours daily and is free for use, licenses are required for fishing, and permits are required for horseback riding and biking. These licenses and permits are sold on the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission website, and on the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation website respectively.
Apart from the trails and the various wonders of nature present, the property also features an inn, a café, an environmental center that offers various educational programs, and stables that are used for providing horseback riding lessons. Travelers have consistently positively reviewed the venue, and it has been labelled as a “must see” by many.
There was a time when this was no more than a livestock grazing area. However, it is now one of the most luxurious places in Philadelphia. Many travelers want to get them a full city experience when they visit a location, and there’s no better place to get said experience than Rittenhouse Square, which is located in Center City. It is currently maintained by a non-profit group named The Friends of Rittenhouse Square.
The area is named after David Rittenhouse, who was the inaugural United States Mint director. The square has a neighborhood vibe, but it is a huge draw for travelers because of the numerous businesses and offerings that are present. Not only is there a magnificent selection of luxury stores, but there are also top of the line restaurants, and a variety of nightlife locations. The neighborhood ranks among the highest earning urban neighborhoods in the USA.
There is a park situated in the area that is great for either a relaxing walk or for an enjoyable picnic. Diversity is the reason why the square is so attractive. Many places are either fast paced, or they have a relaxing air. Rittenhouse Square is one of the few places that offer both in an almost perfect balance. Rittenhouse Square can be reached via the Walnut Locust or the City Hall metro stops. You can also get there via SEPTA Regional Rail, or by using the PATCO Speedline. As it is a city square, it is accessible around the clock.
2Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
If you are amused by the mystique of illusions and art, then there is nowhere better for you to visit than Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. The quirky attraction was in the works since the late 1960s, but it opened its doors to the public in 2008. It is a media art museum at heart, however, there is an intriguing mix of elements that it’s comprised of. It boasts a beautiful sculpture garden, a couple of indoor galleries, and much more.
The museum’s creator, Isaiah Zagar, dedicated himself to the beautification of the South Street neighborhood in which the facility is located. He, along with his wife Julia, contributed greatly to this as they renovated numerous dilapidated buildings.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens pays homage to Zagar as there are several elements that symbolize various times and milestones in his life. These include folk art pieces, mirrors, bottles, handmade tiles, and bicycle wheels. Reviews of the facility are very positive as words such as “masterpiece” are thrown around. There is quite a lot to see as Isaiah spent over five decades creating artistic pieces as he helped in South Street’s renovation. Guided tours are available; however, it is recommended that tickets are purchased in advance.
The facility opens Wednesdays through Mondays from 11 AM until 6 PM. If you are driven to the venue, there is ample parking available. You may also get to the museum by using the SEPTA Broad Street Line, which takes you to the Lombard-South station. This station is only four blocks west of the facility.
1Liberty Bell Center
The final entry on the list is almost universally accepted as being the one place in Philadelphia you must visit above all others. This is none other than arguably Philly’s top tourist attraction, the Liberty Bell Center. The attraction is in the Independence National Historical Park, which is located at 526 Market Street. The bell, which now sits in a glass gazebo, weighs an impressive 2080 pounds.
It used to be mounted in the Independence Hall’s belfry, and it was used to signal the occurrence of important events. The most significant of these occurrences was the Declaration of Independence’s first ever public reading. While it is unconfirmed, historians believe that during the early 1840s, the bell developed its first crack. For George Washington’s birthday in 1846, metal workers were assigned the task of repairing it. Unfortunately, the repairs did not go well, and the bell subsequently never chimed again.
The historical significance of the attraction is the main reason it is so popular. There are almost always long lines to see the piece of history, however, those who do brave the lines have said it is worth it. Once you have had an awe-inspiring look at the bell, you can check out The Liberty Bell Center’s informative videos on its history. The center is free to visit, and it is typically open all year round from 9 AM to 5 PM. Note that there are sometimes adjustments to the opening schedule. Ensure you check out the center’s site linked above for the most current operational hours.
As Pennsylvania’s largest and most economically sound city, Philadelphia is home to many of the United States’ best attractions. There is no shortage of activities available for travelers and locals to partake in. Many of these are conducive to individuals, couples, or entire families.
There’s no need to expect the run in the mill water-based attractions, as Philly has diverse locations with all sorts of fun and unique activities. One of these is the Liberty Bell Center, which has great historical significance to not only Philadelphia, but also to the whole country. If you can only visit one place in the city, this is the one you should aim for, especially since admission is free.
Apart from cultural phenomenon, Philly is home to incredible cuisine that has both local and international roots. Do you fancy an outdoor vibe? If so, there’s something for you as well in the form of one of the largest parks in the country. Imagine 50 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Philadelphia also allows you to experience luxurious city life, unusual sports such as axe throwing, and some of the greatest artistic marvels created in the past five decades.
You may not have been sure what to do in the city, or you may not have been considering Philly as your travel destination at all. However, it is a highly recommended location, especially considering that the attractions outlined here are just 10 of many. Treat yourself to an unforgettable experience in the hottest part of Pennsylvania.