Things to do in Philadelphia
Known as the Cradle of Liberty, Philadelphia is where modern American democracy was formed. Explore the Most Historic Mile in America and discover things you never knew about the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, and the Liberty Bell. But the City of Brotherly Love is more than history. Admire the city’s thousands of murals, shop local designs at a hip boutique, or enjoy world-class cuisine around every corner of Philly.
We have compiled a list of the best things to do in Philadelphia. From American history to outdoor movies, there’s something for everyone in Philly.
Things to go in Philadelphia
The Most Historic Mile in America
Known as the Cradle of Liberty, America’s founding fathers used Philly as the headquarters for the Revolution. Both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted here.
Philadelphia is home to the Most Historic Mile in America. In this one square mile you can find some of the most important sites of American history. Here are the best historical things to do in Philadelphia:
- The President’s House, where both George Washington and John Adams served their presidencies
- National Museum of American Jewish History
- African American Museum in Philadelphia
- The National Constitution Center
- Carpenter’s Hall, the meeting place of the First Continental Congress in 1774
- Franklin Court, the Philadelphia home of Benjamin Franklin — statesman, author, printer, inventor, postmaster, activist and more
- The Liberty Bell, a symbol of American freedom
Swing by the Independence Visitor Center for tickets, maps, and event information. From there, explore Philly’s history!
Wander Around Rittenhouse Square and Walnut Street
Walnut Street is jam-packed with high-end boutiques and popular stores. This is the perfect ‘hood to taste test local cuisine. Kick back and relax at Rittenhouse Square, a popular park among locals. Farmers markets and festivals often occupy the park, but even on a quiet Sunday afternoon it’s the best place to relax in the shade. For shoppers, this is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Elfreth’s Alley’s first residents moved in. Since then, this tiny street in Philadelphia has been continuously occupied. This is the oldest continuously inhabited street in America. The historic street is beautiful (especially in summer), and was once home to Philly’s most famous resident— Benjamin Franklin. The oldest houses on the street were built between 1725 and 1727. Elfreth’s Alley residents usually open their homes and gardens to the public the first weekend in June.
Indulge at Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market is a foodie’s dream and a dieter’s nightmare. The maze-like building is home to over 100 merchants selling any and all kinds of delicious delicacies. The market can be hectic on weekends, but carefully wind through aisle after aisle of vendors. Admire the fares, or sip and sample your way through the urban food paradise.
Reading Terminal Market is the perfect spot to kill a couple hours around lunchtime. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices at hand, stop by DiNic’s to sink your teeth into the roast pork sandwich— recently named one of America’s best sandwiches. Still have room for dessert? Try a cannoli from Termini Brothers.
Go on a Brewery Tour
Philadelphia has a reputation for great beer and fun bars. There are dozens of incredible bars to explore across the city, but the next time you visit Philly take a brewery tour. While you learn a little bit about the science of hops and malts, sip on the city’s finest brews. Take a free tour at Philadelphia Brewing Co., or hop on over to Earth Bread + Brewery. This spot has a small selection of draft beers and healthy-ish snacks. For anyone who loves craft beer, a brewery tour is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia.
Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Logan Circle
Logan Circle is a massive traffic circle turned green space on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. There are events and festivals here year round (Philadelphia Marathon, Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Made In America music festival), but this is always a great spot to admire Philly’s cultural offerings. Along the parkway you’ll spy various historical, educational, and art institutions, including the Franklin Institute, the Barnes Foundation, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Check out Museums
Every city block in Philadelphia seems to be crawling with history. The city has a roster full of world-class museums, and there are a number worth checking out while exploring Philly. Learn more about some of the best museums in Philadelphia:
The Franklin Institute
One of the oldest centers for science education in the US, the Franklin Institute was founded in honor of America’s first scientist, Benjamin Franklin. The Institute’s unique exhibitions appeal to all visitors, from exploring the ancient civilization of Egypt to learning about the technology and process behind popular Pixar films.
The Mütter Museum
Dedicated to medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its collections in a 19th-century “cabinet museum” setting, adding to its strange, historical charm. The museum focuses on the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease. Some of the more interesting— and strange — exhibits are slides from Albert Einstein’s brain and the Soap Lady.
The Barnes Foundation
This famous art collection was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes Foundation includes works by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, as well as African sculpture, antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia, and Native American ceramics, and textiles.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the Philadelphia art scene’s crowning jewel. This museum houses an extraordinary collection of world-renowned art. Its architecture is also the pride of the city. You may recognize its front steps from the movie Rocky. Which leads us to our next point…
Run the Rocky steps
Sure, this is a super touristy thing to do, but running the steps is 1) a great workout and 2) offers amazing views of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Philly skyline. Mimic the Rocky training montage, snap a souvenir photo, and then head back down the stairs to check out the larger-than-life statue of Rocky Balboa, the famous Philly boxer. For movie buffs, running the Rocky steps is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s city hall is the largest in the U.S. This beautiful, elaborate building is covered in sculptures to represent different seasons and continents. Various heads and masks adorn the building, and the topper on this impressive cake is a 27-ton statue of William Penn, Pennsylvania’s namesake. Head up to the observation deck to take in breath-taking views of the city.
Tour the City’s Murals
In 1984, Philly launched the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program as a way to encourage local artists to beautify the city. In the three decades since the program launched, Philadelphia’s artists have transformed blank walls into canvases. Almost 4,000 murals dot the city, and there are plenty of tours and guides that explore the colorful creations. A mural tour is one of the best and most artistic things to do in Philadelphia. Get your camera ready and make sure to post the snaps on social media!
Philadelphia has a rich Italian heritage. Philly has the second largest Italian population in the U.S. and you can taste the Italian influence in the city’s food. Explore the Italian Market on South 9th Street. This is one of the oldest and largest open-air markets in the country. Although its specialty is Italian, this market also offers cuisine and ingredients from around the globe. For lovers of international cuisine, this is one of the most delicious things to do in Philadelphia.
Nosh on Chickie’s & Pete’s Crab Fries at any of the Philly pro team games
Chickie’s and Pete’s Crab Fries are a local favorite and a staple snack at any of the city’s professional sports arenas. The hands-down delicious Crab Fries are one reason to head to a game, the other is to see infamous Philly sports fans in action. This should be at the top of any sports fan’s list of things to do in Philadelphia.
Get Locked up at the Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary once jailed notorious American criminals, such as Al Capone. The prison is shaped like a wagon wheel, and was the largest and most expensive public building in its time. The prison has been empty for decades and is now a museum and an incredibly spooky Halloween destination. In October, this is one of the scariest things to do in Philadelphia.
Eat a cheesesteak
Cheesesteak and Philadelphia go hand in hand. The sandwich has its roots in Philadelphia is taken very seriously by locals. Grilled steak is jammed into a roll and topped with peppers, onions, and cheese. There are variations on this, and Philly residents all have a favorite. The most famous Philly cheesesteaks are from Pat’s and Geno’s (two competing cheesesteak slingers), but for an interesting twist on the classic head to South Philly and snag a sandwich at John’s Roast Pork. Or check out what’s been called the most underrated steaks in the city at George’s Sandwich Shop in Bella Vista.
Seasonal Things to do in Philadelphia
Celebrate Local Tradition at the Mummers Parade
The Mummers Parade has been held annually in Philly since 1901 (it’s thought to be the oldest folk parade in the U.S.). The tradition can be traced back to 17th-century Europe, and since its beginning the parade has celebrated local immigrant communities. Each year local clubs don elaborate costumes and prepare floats to compete in categorized contest. The parade is held on New Year’s Day and a huge after party follows.
Watch the Oldest Thanksgiving Parade in the Country
The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade is the oldest in the country. Get up off the couch and watch history in action in Center City.
See an outdoor movie
Screening movies outdoors has become a quintessential Philly summertime activity. There are dozens of opportunities to watch flicks under the stars, find a complete list at VisitPhilly.com. Best of all, most of these starry cinema events are totally free!
Drink at a beer garden
Outdoor beer gardens are extremely popular during summer months in Philadelphia. Enjoy the waterfront from a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor in Penn’s Landing. Or admire Independence Hall from the Independence Beer Garden. This Old City spot boasts 40 taps of crafts beers and a mouthwatering food selection.
Enjoy your Boston tour!
Philadelphia Tour Benefits
- Curated Sites
- Audio Tours
- Offline Map