What To See and
Do In Philadelphia
Welcome to the Cradle of Liberty! You can download a map of the Official Historic Philadelphia Trail here http://www.visitphilly.com/historic-philadelphia-district/#sm.000046kg2y1233eijzyoale0gygzt or simply make up your itinerary. Here are some of the don’t-miss sites:
Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
During the summer of 1776, 56 men gathered in the West Wing of the Pennsylvania State House to sign a document declaring American independence from Britain. They called it the Declaration of Independence. The original inkstand used to sign the Declaration of Independence is still on display in what is now Independence Hall, where the US Constitution was signed 11 years later. Walk-up tickets are available starting at 8:30 AM but often are gone by 1 PM. You can buy timed tickets in advance for $1.50 each either online or by phone. https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm
Independence Visitor Center
The Visitor Center, in the heart of Independence Mall, is the exclusive location to pick up free, timed tickets to tour Independence Hall. It provides a walkway from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell to the National Constitution Center.
The Liberty Bell, Liberty Bell Center, 6th and Market Streets
What was once the State House Bell, ordered from Whitechapel Foundry in England, cracked on its first test ring. Two local metal workers melted it down and created a new bell that rang to call lawmakers to meetings and residents to hear the news. This remade bell also cracked in 1840, after years of hard use. The slight crack was widened to prevent it from spreading to restore the bell’s tone. The bell’s inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” became a rallying cry for abolitionists, women’s suffragists, and civil rights activists through the years. No tickets are required to see the bell. The Center also contains a film and exhibits about the bell.
President’s House Site, 6th and Market Streets
This open-air exhibit sits near the site of one of three original President’s Houses in Philadelphia, when the city was the capital of the new nation. In 2000, during excavation for the new Liberty Bell Center, workmen uncovered the foundations of the house, which had been demolished in part in 1832 and later completely in the 1950s. Since the Center was going to be just five feet from the site of Washington’s slave quarters, Independence National Historical Park included material about the nine slaves Washington kept at the house and the history of US slavery as part of the exhibit. The remaining foundations of the building are visible.
Carpenters Hall, 320 Chestnut Street
The Carpenters’ Company, founded in Philadelphia in 1724, helped share information on the art of building and architecture, set rules and prices, and provided help to indigent craftsmen, much like European guilds. The building that housed the group was finished in 1774, when it was tapped to host the First Continental Congress, attended by George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry. Independence Hall, then known as the State House, was bypassed because it was thought to be hotbed of Tory sympathizers. Inside the Hall today, there is a display of eight Windsor chairs used by the members of the Congress. At one time, Benjamin Franklin’s Library Company was located here, as were the First and Second Banks of the US. In fact, the first bank robbery in the country occurred at Carpenter’s Hall. The building is an example of Georgian architecture.
National Constitution Center, Independence Mall
In 2007, President George H. W. Bush and U2 front man Bono shared a stage at the National Constitution Center when Bono was given the National Liberty Medal for his work in Africa. Bush was the previous year’s recipient, with President Bill Clinton. The Medal was established in 1988, shortly before the center’s opening in 2000, to recognize leadership in pursuit of freedom. It’s just one initiative of the Center which was set up by Congress to explain this critical document in American history via exhibits, interactive displays, and artifacts, including one of the original copies of the Constitution. You can add your name to the Constitution in Signers’ Hall, where you can see lifelike bronze statues of 42 of the Founding Fathers.
Elfreth’s Alley, between North 2nd and North Front Street
If you want a glimpse into the 18th century, walk the brick cobbles of this narrow street, the oldest continuously inhabited street in America, named for Jeremiah Elfreth, a blacksmith who built and rented out many homes in 18th century Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin once lived here, though it’s not clear which house was his. The Mantua Maker’s Museum House at 126 (a mantua was a popular cape at the time) is open to the public, as are two homes in Bladen’s Court, itself an alley, near Front Street. The homes are examples of Trinity houses, called locally “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” houses because there is only one room on each of their three stories. During the 19th century, the alley became the neighborhood of recently arrived immigrant workers from Germany, Ireland, and Europe. http://www.elfrethsalley.org/museum/
Christ Church, 2nd and Market Streets
In 1776, the eight bells in Christ Church steeple rang out to announce and celebrate the Declaration of Independence and, unlike the Liberty Bell, those bells still ring today. Historian David McCullough once said that no other church “has played a more significant role in our nation’s birth.” Founded in 1695, the church’s current building was erected in 1744. Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross were parishioners (she was married to the son of the assistant rector); George Washington and John Adams attended services. Fifteen signers of the Declaration of Independence were also part of the congregation. Brass plaques mark the pews where they worshipped. What started as an Anglican Church left the Church of England and became the first Episcopal Church in the US. The baptismal font where William Penn was baptized in England is still in use in the church. Not far from the church, at 20 N. American Street, is the Christ Church Burial Ground where Benjamin Franklin and his wife and five signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried. It’s a local tradition to toss pennies on Franklin’s grave, which is visible through the iron fence at 5th and Arch when the cemetery is closed.
Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street
Set in one of the five original squares laid out by William Penn, this eight-acre park is not where you go when you want a moment of solitude in the city. It’s a family friendly destination with a fountain that dates back to Penn’s day, an 18-hole miniature golf course, Center City’s only carousel, a playground, a memorial to the city’s fallen firefighters and police officers, and a burger joint.
Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street
Seamstress Betsy Ross is best known for purportedly sewing the first American flag in this house she shared with her husband, John Ross, and where they ran their upholstery business. The house was built in 1740 and the Rosses rented it. It’s an excellent example of the 18th century colonial home, with its tiny rooms and tight staircases and is the only example of an 18th century upholstery shop in the country. Audio tours are available. Tickets are $7 for adults, $6 for children, the military, and seniors.
Washington Square, between Washington and Sixth
Washington Square, like Franklin’s Square, is one of the city’s five public squares laid out by William Penn in his original plan for the city. Located in the historic district, it has been a park for more than 200 years, so it’s likely that you will be strolling in the footsteps of some of the Founding Fathers. This 6.4 acre former potter’s field and pasture houses the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier and was once the center of Philadelphia’s publishing industry. The “moon tree,” a sycamore, planted in 1975, was grown from seeds carried to the moon on the Apollo 14 mission.
Headhouse Square, Second and Lombard Streets
Ignore the cars and you can see old Philadelphia on Headhouse Square in Society Hill. There are cobblestone streets flanked by original late 18th- and early 19th-century buildings. It’s home to Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market, the oldest farmers’ market in Philadelphia, held every Sunday May through December underneath “the Shambles,” a shed erected in 1745 to shelter merchants selling their wares. http://thefoodtrust.org/farmers-markets/market/headhouse At one end of the square is the Head House, which was once a firehouse.
Delaware River Waterfront, Columbus Boulevard and Delaware Avenue
Penn’s Landing is the focal point of the Delaware River Waterfront, where festivals are held and pop-up parks emerge and films are shown under starlight in the summer. The Independence Seaport Museum at water’s edge tells Philadelphia’s maritime history. You can board the Olympia, berthed outside, the oldest floating steel warship most famous for being Admiral Perry’s flagship during the Spanish-American War. You can also tour the Becuna, a submarine. Take a stroll along the Race Street Pier in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Penn Treaty Park at N. Delaware Avenue and Beach Street marks the reputed spot where William Penn signed a peace treaty with the Lenape tribe in 1683. There are a number of restaurants along the waterfront area. You can also see Philadelphia’s own Tall Ship, the Gazela and dine aboard the Moshulu, the world’s oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat, docked permanently as a restaurant at 401 S. Coumbus Blvd.
How To See Philly From Above
City Hall Tower Observation Deck, 1401 JFK Boulevard
Get 360-degrees of Philly from just underneath the statue of William Penn at the top of City Hall Tower, 548 feet above the city. Timed tickets are $6 and can be purchased at the Tour Information Center in the East Portal of City Hall, Room 121. The tower is open to the public from noon to 4:15 pm. For information, call 215-686-2840
One Liberty Observation Deck, 1 Liberty Place, 1625 Chestnut Street
Head to the 57th floor of one of the city’s tallest buildings. Open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM, admission is $19 general, $14, youth. For information, call 215-561-3325
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Do a Rocky run up the steps after posing for photos with the Rocky statue at the bottom. But also go in. The museum is the legacy of the great Centennial Exhibition of 1876 held in Fairmount Park. It contains more than 227,000 objects of American, European, and Asian origin, from the works of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and August Rodin (whose works are also housed in the Rodin Museum not far away on the Parkway) to a vast armor collection to the inside of a Japanese teahouse. It’s open Tuesday though Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM, and Wednesday and Friday evenings till 8:45 PM. Admission is $20 for adults; $18 for seniors, $14 for students with valid ID, $14 for youths 12-18; children 12 and under are free. http://www.philamuseum.org
The Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The newest building on the Champs d’Elysee-inspired Benjamin Franklin Parkway appropriately contains one of the largest and finest collections of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world. It’s been described as “a gallery in a garden and a garden in a gallery.” It houses the collection of Albert Barnes, an American physician, chemist, and businessman who collected so many artworks it takes a 12,000 square foot gallery just to contain them all. The Barnes is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 AM to 5 PM, and 6-9 PM every First Friday and on select Friday nights. Guided tours are available. Admission is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, free to $10 for students with ID, $10 for youth 6-18, free for children five and under, and free to educators on Sundays. http://www.barnesfoundation.org
Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th Street (12th and Arch Streets)
America’s oldest farmers’ market offers everything from tabbouleh to Pennsylvania Dutch fare, cookbooks to cut flowers, cannolis from Termini Brothers to cheesesteaks from Carmen’s Famous. In fact, there are more than two dozens restaurants in the market, plus dozens of merchants who will sell you the makings of an amazing meal you can cook yourself. There are also “Taste of Philadelphia: Market Tours” you can take on Wednesday and Saturday. http://www.readingterminalmarket.org
Land Buoy, Washington Avenue Green, Columbus Boulevard and Washington Avenue
This 55-foot tall sculpture at the site of the place that many immigrants first landed in Philadelphia pays tribute to those immigrants, many of them Irish. By Jody Pinto, the sculpture at Washington Avenue Pier is part beacon and viewing platform. Climb the spiral staircase that encases a land buoy and gaze up and down the Delaware River.
Philadelphia Magic Gardens, 1020 South Street
Artist Isaiah Zagar constructed this twist of paths with mosaics made from broken ceramics, glass, mirrors, and other found objects. Go to the Magic Gardens website to find an interactive map of Zagar’s other spectacular mosaics around the city. The garden is open Wednesday through Monday 11 AM to 6 PM. There are guided tours at 2 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission: $10 for adults, $8 for students with ID, military and seniors, $5 for ages 6-12, and free for children 5 and under. Most of the exhibit is wheelchair accessible.
The LOVE Sculpture, N. 15th and JFK Plaza
This is where you want to take your selfie, with the iconic Robert Indiana sculpture and the Art Museum at the end of the Parkway as your backdrop. You’re also only a short walk to several of Center City’s best Irish pubs: Tir na nOg, at 16th and Arch; Con Murphy’s Irish Pub at 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the Windsor Suites, and McGillin’s Olde Ale House, at 1310 Drury Lane in the shadow of City Hall, which was founded the year Abraham Lincoln became president.
You can see Philly by trolley, bus, horse or even Duck. Here’s how:
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Philadelphia’s Independence National Historic Park, Society Hill, and Old City with an experienced guide who will navigate you through historic Philadelphia while regaling you with stories of the city’s history.
You can buy tickets for the ’76 Carriage Company tours at the Independence Visitor Center or online at http://www.phlvisitorcenter.com/tour/76-carriage-company
Price: $40 for 1-4 adults for 15-20 minutes
$50 for 1-4 adults for 30-35 innutes
$100 for 1-4 adults for one hour
Location: 599 Market Street
Like London, Philly has double decker buses that allow you to see the sights, hopping off at any of the 20 stops—and hopping back on when you want to. Knowledgeable guides will give you the grand tour.
Buy tickets online for the Big Bus at https://www.phillytour.com/products-tours.php
Price: $30 a day for adults for a 90-minute tour
Seniors, $28; children ages 4-12, $10.
Location: Northeast corner of 5th and Market Streets
You’ll be looking for Judy Garland on the Philadelphia Trolley Works burgundy and green Victorian style open air trolleys that allows you to hop on and off at 27 locations throughout the city, including Chinatown, the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Philadelphia Zoo, as well as all the historic areas.
Buy tickets on line at https://www.phillytour.com/philadelphia-trolley-works-hop-on-hop-off-sightseeing-trolley-tour/p5
Price: Tickets range from $30 for adults for one day; $28 for seniors, and $10 for children 4-12.
Location: Northeast corner of 5th and Market Streets
The Ride the Ducks’ amphibious vehicle offers you an 80-minute tour of Philly’s historic district and its museum district—and a cool splashdown in the Delaware River. You can also buy tickets for the tour and a visit to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. http://philadelphia.ridetheducks.com
Order tickets online at https://tickets.phillyducks.com
Price: $31 for adults 13-61
$29 for seniors (62+)
$20 for children 4-12
$5 for infant 0-3
Location: 6th Street at the corner of Chestnut Street across from the Liberty Bell