Philadelphia is famous for the historic events that led to the forming of the United States of America. This is where the founding fathers declared independence and later signed the constitution. Many visitors come here to relive those momentous events and walk in the footsteps of giants.
But Philly is much more than a window on the past. Today’s Philadelphia offers a lot of food, culture and entertainment. A visit to this city is not complete without trying the variety of Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, visiting a museum or catching a symphonic performance.
In this article, I highlight the fun things you can do in Philly. You can also read more about the history here.
Philly is not only about the founding of this nation. It is a vibrant city with lots of attractions, art and entertainment.
You can walk to most of those destinations - located within a few blocks from each other. If you get tired from walking you can jump on a bus, a subway or hire an Uber. So, if you have a car, park it somewhere and forget about it for a while.
Its tower holding the statue of William Penn made it the tallest habitable building in the world for a long time. Although it lost its tallest building bragging rights later to Eifel Tower, Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh and One Liberty Place in Philadelphia, it is still considered the largest municipal building in the USA.
The observation deck is open to the public as part of a guided tour. From a height of 500 ft, you can get a very good 360-degree view of the city.
Tip: to take part in the observation deck tour you must buy timed tickets online ahead of time here.
During the holidays the outside façade of the building turns into a light and sound celebration and the grounds are turned into a Christmas Market.
Interesting Facts: William Penn’s Statue (the founder of Philadelphia) is still considered the tallest status in the World.
Reading Terminal Market
The market opened in 1893 right under the elevated platform of the Reading Railroad Company. The trains are long gone, but the market still lives on and provides a respite from the harsh weather outside. The rest of the building is now part of the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Interesting Facts: Philly is considered the Mural capital of the USA with more than 2000 outdoor murals and many indoor.
A visit to the city is not complete without trying the famous Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. You can find a variety of those delights in this market.
Some of the ethnic cuisine you can find here: Chinese, Thai, Dutch, Middle Eastern, Italian, Greek and Mexican.
You can visit the market any day of the week. Most vendors are open every day. The best way to experience this place is by joining a tour. Read about my experience with Taste of Philly here.
This little street has existed since 1702 and is a good example of early working-class Philadelphia homes and businesses. It is also considered the nation’s oldest residential street and is a National Historic Landmark.
Interesting Facts: The first organized protest against slavery was held in Philly.
To get a deeper glimpse into this era, visit the Elfreth's Alley Museum, which is located on the same street. The museum is located inside the restored home of 2 dressmakers and provides a window on life during the early days of this city.
This city center park greets the visitor with well-maintained gardens a reflection pool and many statues. It is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The area around the square is considered one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the USA with high-end apartments and great restaurants.
One Liberty Observation Deck
One Liberty Place is the tallest building in town and offers an unobstructed view of the city and surrounding area. You can clearly see Philly spread out between 2 rivers.
As you walk around inside the enclosed observation deck, you can gaze down at the interesting mix of historic buildings and ultra-modern skyscrapers. Very prominent between the tall building is City Hall with William Penn’s statue.
Tip: A free guided tour is included with your admission, but you need to plan ahead because these tours are only offered at specific times. Go to their website for tour times.
Chairs and couches are available so you just sit and enjoy the view. If you get the Sun & Stars ticket You can come back for a second visit, so you can experience the view in daylight and at night. During our visit, we enjoyed an amazing sunset and the twinkling city lights.
Once you are done with this breathtaking view, you can enjoy some shopping at the first-floor mall.
The Academy of Natural Sciences
It is a great way to spend several hours with the kids gazing at the huge dioramas depicting animals in their natural habitat – or the huge dinosaur skeletons.
In the butterfly garden, you can see and interact with live butterflies from many species. This enclosed exhibit is kept warm and humid to suit the inhabitants.
Some visiting exhibits require an extra ticket but they might be worth the additional expense. For example, the Xtreme Bugs exhibit displays 20 huge-colorful moving bugs. This one ends on January 21, 2019. Check the website for more visiting exhibits.
Philadelphia sits between two rivers so it is natural to want to enjoy the riverfront. At Penn’s Landing, you can find a lot of activities for any time of the year.
You can enjoy a stroll along the waterfront or spend some time at the Spruce Street Harbor Park. The park is only open in Spring and Fall but during those times you can relax in a hammock, watch a movie, dine on floating barges or have a drink at a Beer Garden.
Interesting Facts: The city collected many nicknames over the years: Philly, The Birthplace of America, The City that Loves you Back, The Quaker City, The Cradle of Liberty and The City of Brotherly Love.
At night the park turns into a dazzling show of light with colorful LED lights hanging from the trees and ships showing off their decorations.
Nearby you can take a Yoga class, enjoy a street performance or go roller skating (or Ice Skating in winter).
From Penn’s Landing, you can also take a river cruise on one of the ships moored here. During my visit, I went on a lunch cruise on the Spirit of Philadelphia. The lunch buffet was very good, but I especially enjoyed the views and the dance floor.
During the holidays Philadelphia turns into a magical place of celebration with lights, sounds and Christmas markets.
City Hall’s west façade turns into a dazzling display of light synchronized with festive music. The show starts at 5:30 PM and runs every hour after that. Before and in between shows enjoy the decorations and the Christmas market held on the grounds around the building.
At the Comcast Center lobby, enjoy another breathtaking holiday show on a giant super high-resolution LED screen. The show combines portions of the Nutcracker and sleigh ride over the city. There is always a crowd in the lobby enjoying the show.
Another great light show can be found at Franklin Square. This historic square is dressed up with 75,000 lights, a giant kite and a carousel with lots of food and music.