What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Philadelphia? Rocky? Liberty Bell, National Treasure movie? Or all of the above. How do you decide what to do when you visit Philly? Lucky for you I spent a week in Philly and figured out the best ones to not miss. Here are the top 10 activities to do in Philadelphia.
The Liberty Bell Center is across from Independence Visitor Center on Market & 6th Streets and is free to visit. It opens at 9 am, and I recommend being there before it opens to make sure you are one of the first people in line. We walked by during the day, and the line was out the building’s cues and around the corner down the street. We were the first ones to see the bell and get photos with nobody else in them. Plus, you can be in and out within 15 minutes if you have lots of other places to visit that day.
Betsy Ross House
If you have the Philadelphia City Pass, this self-guided tour will be free. Audio does cost extra but, you can hear about her life and the Revolutionary War. The house is surprisingly small with tight stairwells. Betsy Ross is an amazing woman that outlived three husbands and sewed the American Flag in secret.
Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest continuously residential street in the country since 1713. A picturesque alley with a cobbled street and brightly colored Federal and Georgian house fronts. The only thing that Kayla and I mentioned was how odd to live in these houses with tours coming through daily and people wandering and taking pictures of their houses. You wouldn’t be able to look out your front windows or have your curtains open ever. But, the street is very photogenic and in 1966 was named a National Historic Landmark.
Christ Church Graveyard
Benjamin Franklin is buried here. As you can see Kayla is tossing a penny onto his tombstone for good luck. The tossing of pennies is a tradition that has netted Benjamin Franklin $3000/year. “A penny saved is a penny earned” even after death he is still saving his pennies.
Eating at Reading Terminal Market
There are so many choices that you couldn’t possibly go hungry here. The Reading Terminal Market – pronounced “Redding” is an indoor farmer’s restaurant since 1892. Over 80 vendors provide fresh fish, meat, fruits, pastries, and local Philly cuisine daily. It is loud with the constant flow of people. One of the vendors I tried is Hunger Burger where each burger sold feeds a child. Love that mission statement. Plus, the burger was delicious!
Kayla and I spent hours at the Franklin Institute. This is a great museum for families. The interactive displays explaining engineering, technology, and science are well done. They have separate areas focusing on trains, space, and energy so, you can choose what interests you. The highlight is you can walk through a giant heart and all the surrounding organs. After exploring all the rooms, we saved the best for last, the 360-degree Planetarium. We watched a great show “The Sky Tonight” showcasing our stars and planets. Truly wonderful time spent here! Free admission with the City Pass.
Spruce Street Harbor
Spruce Street Harbor is a great place to relax by the water and rest your feet from walking around the city. The hammocks are scattered around the park and are a hot commodity. You might have to wait a bit for one to free up. There are vendors nearby for food and adult beverages. Kayla and I relaxed for an hour by the banks of the Delaware River. So peaceful!
Philadelphia is by far the center for the arts, and the Magic Gardens is their crown jewel. Magic Gardens cover a half a block with an outdoor display and indoor galleries. Every where you turn you can see beautiful displays of folk art statues, colorful glass bottles, pottery tiles, mirrors, and everyday items combined into breathtaking visions of art. Plus, there are numerous displays throughout the city in alley ways and sides of buildings. Keep your eyes out for them! Admission to Magic Gardens is $10.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Definitely the most creepy place in Philadelphia. There is a self-audio tour with Steve Buscemi narrating which adds to the creepiness factor. Eastern State was designed to create penitence in the hearts & minds of the inmates by using sensory deprivation. The prisoners were in solitary confinement the majority of each day. When they were allowed to leave their cell, they had a hood placed over their head. The prison is now a haunting image of the past with crumbling cells and empty guard towers, and I’m sure more than a couple of ghosts. Free admission with the City Pass.
Grimm Philly Ghost Tour
The Grimm Philly Ghost Tour is a fun and irreverent tour. We traipsed all around the city while hearing about the sordid past of the city. One particular spot unnerved me is Washington Square Park. This is the resting place of 11,000 souls buried in mass graves beneath a beautiful landscape. How can something so beautiful (see pics of hydrangeas) bloom right above all this death of colonial soldiers, yellow fever victims, and Philadelphians murdered by the British?
There is a mixture of fun activities to do in Philadelphia. Whatever your interests lie, history, adventure, art, there is something for everyone here. Do you have other places you have visited in Philadelphia that deserve to be on this list?