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A First-Timer's Guide To Philadelphia
Iconic Sites & Bites Give Visitors An Experience That’s Distinctly Philly
While Philadelphia offers a variety of authentic and top-notch attractions, exploring this vibrant city takes some planning—especially for first-time visitors. With so much to see, do and taste, it’s challenging for a novice to know where to begin. From the historic Liberty Bell to the deliciously indulgent cheesesteak, here’s a look at Philly 101:
- Independence Hall – While historical attractions abound in Philly, Independence Hall has particular significance to the development of the nation. In this building in 1776, the Founding Fathers came together to sign the Declaration of Independence. Eleven years later, representatives from a dozen states met here to lay the framework for the U.S. Constitution. Today, the building is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park, and guided tours are available to visitors year-round. Free, timed tickets are required and can be picked up at the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets. Tours can sell out before noon, so visitors are encouraged to plan accordingly. 520 Chestnut Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
- Liberty Bell – Moved to its current location across from Independence Hall in 2003, the bell that was later named the Liberty Bell was originally cast in Great Britain and recast in 1753 in Philadelphia to adorn the State House. Used to call the Pennsylvania Assembly to meetings, it was soon adopted by abolitionists, suffragists, Civil Rights advocates, Native Americans, immigrants, war protestors and others as their symbol. The 44-pound clapper caused the Bell’s crack on its first use, and though it has been recast twice, the imperfection remains today. Visitors can tour the Liberty Bell Center year-round. 526 Market Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
- Valley Forge – In the winter of 1777-1778, Valley Forge was the encampment headquarters of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Today, a national park on this site honors the sacrifice and strength of those who helped secure freedom for the United States. Valley Forge National Historical Park offers a variety of programming throughout the year, including ranger programs, guided tours and living history demonstrations. 1400 N. Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, (610) 783-1000, nps.gov/vafo
- Philadelphia Museum of Art and the “Rocky Steps” – The Philadelphia Museum of Art was forever immortalized in the classic Rocky film franchise. While the “Rocky Steps” draw a slew of visitors who want to reenact Stallone’s on-screen training regimen, the museum is even more impressive inside. The astounding art collection, spanning more than 2,000 years, comprises works in media, including sculpture, paintings, textiles, arms and armor, photography, prints and drawings. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
- Barnes Foundation – While its Philadelphia home opened in May 2012, the Barnes Foundation dates back to 1922 when Albert Barnes established it to promote education and appreciation of fine arts and horticulture. The Barnes boasts the world’s most important collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, as well as Old Master works, Native American jewelry, antiquities and African sculpture. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 278-7000, barnesfoundation.org
- Mural Arts Program – In Philadelphia, every wall is a potential blank canvas, and stunning murals adorn building exteriors all over the city. Begun in 1984 to help eradicate graffiti, the renowned City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program enables professional artists and young Philadelphians to showcase their artistic talent in a constructive way. To date, the program has produced more than 3,800 murals. Interested visitors can view several of these works on a variety of walking, trolley and Segway tours. Private tours and interactive options are available for groups. Tours leave from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Hamilton Building. 128 N. Broad Street, (215) 925-3633, muralarts.org
- The Philadelphia Orchestra – As one of the preeminent orchestras in the world, The Philadelphia Orchestra maintains a rich tradition of the highest level of artistic quality. Today, music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the group, whose main season runs from September through May. The orchestra performs in venues around the world, but its main home is the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. 1 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1999, philorch.org
- Curtis Institute of Music – Founded in 1924, the Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains gifted performers to attain careers in the arts. Musicians of all ages and backgrounds travel from around the world to attend this prestigious school. Students perform solo and chamber works most Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings during the school year as part of the free recital series. 1726 Locust Street, (215) 893-5261, curtis.edu/studentrecitals
- Boathouse Row – This National Historic Landmark consists of 10 charming boathouses that sit on the banks of the Schuylkill River. These structures have been associated with rowing since the 19th century, and the boat clubs that occupy them have produced many Olympic champions. At night, the glittering lights that frame the buildings on Boathouse Row make for idyllic scenery as they reflect off of the river’s surface. #4 Kelly Drive, boathouserow.org
- City Hall – Located at the intersection of Market and Broad Streets, City Hall has been Philadelphia’s government headquarters for more than 100 years, and it’s the largest municipal building in the country. For a bird’s-eye view of the city, visitors head to the observation deck, which sits just below the 37’ bronze statue of William Penn that tops the building’s clock tower. The building is open to the public from Monday to Friday, and visitors can take either a four-person tower tour that leaves every 15 minutes between 9:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. or a 12:30 p.m. two-hour public tour that highlights the art, architecture, the tower and history of the building. Tickets are sold first come first served. Reservations can be made on the day of the tour. Broad & Market Streets, (215) 686-2840, phila.gov/virtualch
- Fairmount Park – As Philadelphia’s largest green space, the Fairmount Park system encompasses more than 10,300 acres of parks, gardens, trails, native woodlands and the Parkway museums. Open from sunrise to sunset, the park is home to the Philadelphia Zoo, America’s largest authentic historic mansions collection, the Japanese House and Gardens, the iconic Love sculpture and the beloved Rocky steps and sculpture. Summer means concerts at The Dell Music Center and the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. phila.gov/parksandrecreation
- Longwood Gardens – This mega gardens attracts visitors from around the globe to its 1,077 acres filled with 20 outdoor gardens, 20 indoor gardens, 11,000 different types of plants, spectacular fountains and picturesque meadows and woodlands. The horticultural haven also hosts 400 events each year, including flower shows, gardening demonstrations, educational programs, children’s activities, concerts and musical theater. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000, longwoodgardens.org
- Philly Cheesesteaks – The Philly cheesesteak is inarguably the city’s most famous food. These savory sandwiches consist of chopped (or thinly sliced) steak and a choice of cheeses and/or fried onions on a hoagie roll. Those in the know know to order their cheesesteak with two words only: cheese selection (provolone, American or Whiz) and “wit” or “without” onions. The debate about which local spot cooks up the best sandwich may never end, but for an iconic Philly experience, locals visit the corner of South 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, where rivals Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks feed the masses. Geno’s, 1219 S. 9th Street, (215) 389-0659, genosteaks.com; Pat’s, 1237 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 468-1546, patskingofsteaks.com
- Soft Pretzels – Always delicious, the Philly soft pretzel is a staple of any local’s diet. These chewy, salty treats buck the traditional pretzel shape and instead take the form of a figure eight. Often enjoyed with yellow mustard, Philly soft pretzels are perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime in between and are commonly purchased from street vendors.
- BYOBs – Short for “bring your own bottle,” BYOB restaurants pack the city’s culinary landscape. Customers are invited to provide their own alcohol to accompany their meals at these eateries, which range from high-end establishments to local neighborhood haunts.
- Reading Terminal Market – This indoor foodie paradise is a one-stop shop for everything from local produce and meats to artisanal cheeses and desserts. The public space also provides open seating where customers can enjoy meals from more than 30 restaurants. While the market is open seven days a week, the Amish vendors, a huge draw for visitors and locals, sell their goods Tuesday through Saturday. 12th & Arch Streets, (215) 922-2317, readingterminalmarket.org
- South 9th Street Italian Market – Dating back to the 1880s, the South 9th Street Italian Market is the nation’s oldest, continuous outdoor market. The iconic curb stands line South 9th Street, showcasing fresh fruit and vegetables from fourth- and fifth-generation merchants. While Italian immigrants originally dominated this shopping district, many of today’s vendors hail from all parts of the world. S. 9th Street between Wharton & Fitzwater Streets. italianmarketphilly.org
- Mummers Parade – A beloved Philadelphia New Year’s Day tradition, the Mummers Parade is best described as the city’s version of Mardi Gras. The oldest folk parade in the country, some say that the festivities can be traced back to 400 B.C. The first city-sanctioned Mummers Parade took place on January 1, 1901. Clubs throughout the city work on their costumes and routines all year long and compete for prizes in categories, including the String Band Division, Fancy Brigades, Comics and Wenches. mummers.com
- PHS Philadelphia Flower Show – Every March, the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show transforms the Pennsylvania Convention Center into an awe-inspiring landscape of plants and floral design. The largest flower show in the United States, the PHS production dates back more than 186 years. Over the course of nine days, gardening enthusiasts enjoy flower-arranging competitions, demonstrations, special events and a massive indoor marketplace. theflowershow.com
- Philly Sports – The Philly Phanatic is far from the only diehard sports fan in this city. Whether they’re rooting for the Phillies (baseball), Eagles (football), Flyers (hockey) or 76ers (basketball), residents here take immense pride in their local teams. Home games are played just a few miles from Center City in a sports complex that includes the Wells Fargo Center, Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park. When a local team wins a championship, a massive parade takes place on Broad Street.
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.
On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.
- Donna Schorr, (215) 599-0782
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Logan Square’s personality defies a single definition. What’s there? Corporate and municipal office buildings; the museum-packed Benjamin Franklin Parkway; and green spaces, including the square that gives the area its name. Once called Northwest Square, Logan Square—one of the city’s original five squares—was renamed to honor 18th-century mayor James Logan.
City Hall is a natural focal point of the Logan Square neighborhood. Its elaborate architecture and ornamentation makes people stop and take notice—and photos. The sprawling building is adorned with carvings of allegorical figures and is capped off with a massive statue of William Penn, all of which was designed...
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Chestnut Hill (via the Chestnut Hill East/West train lines or the #23 Bus):
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Fact Sheet: 31 Top Philadelphia Region Attractions
* Note: Most attractions were listed in the Philadelphia Business Journal Book of Lists 2015. Those that were not are marked with an asterisk.
Historical Sites & Attractions:
- The African American Museum in Philadelphia*, founded in 1976, is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage and culture of African-Americans. The museum takes a fresh and bold look at the stories of African-Americans and their role in the founding of the nation through the core exhibit Audacious Freedom. Other exhibits and programs explore the history, stories and cultures of those of African
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Here’s how the Historic District buzzes with activity long after the clock strikes 5 p.m.:
End-of-day play at Franklin Square includes an award-winning playground, eclectic carousel and 18-hole mini-golf course with scale versions of iconic Philadelphia landmarks (open until 9 or 10
Iconic Landmarks Recount Philadelphia's Political History
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Directly south of Old City and Society...
Fact Sheet: Family Fun In Philadelphia
Historical Sites & Attractions:
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