If you like great history, art, culture, architecture, and food then you will love reading about the best places to see in Philadelphia, PA. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania so I’m excited to share these tips about my home state with you!
History of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I know you’re excited to read about all the fun things to do in Philadelphia, but there’s some interesting history and facts you might want to know about too.
What is Philadelphia known for?
Philadelphia is a very well-known destination of our founding fathers in United States history. It is where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where the U.S. Constitution was written.
Did you know that Philadelphia is commonly referred to as "Philly"?
Why is Philadelphia called "the city of brotherly love"?
If you’ve ever been to Philly… it doesn’t feel very “loving”. Honestly, it is a bit rough around the edges. (It’s NOT at ALL like the “Virginia is for lovers” slogan.)
William Penn named the city “Philadelphia,” which is Greek for “brotherly love“. Penn experienced religious persecution and he wanted his colony to be a place where people could freely worship. That was his inspiration for the name “Philadelphia”.
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Visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When is the best time to visit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?
Winters in PA are cold. Temperatures range from 27-45 degrees. In the summer months, the city can be pretty hot and humid. Temperatures range from 67-89 degrees.
The best time to visit Philadelphia is March through May. The temperatures are mild, hotel rates are moderately priced, and the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Is it safe to visit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?
Although Philadelphia has a higher-than-average crime rate, it is relatively safe in the popular tourist areas. I’ve never had an issue in Philly, but to keep you safe I ALWAYS recommend taking group tours from a reputable company when you’re in busy cities. They are FUN and they are MUCH SAFER than traveling alone!
FUN FACT: The Philly Cheesesteak was born in Philadelphia by a hotdog vendor who decided to switch things up.
Best Places to See in Philadelphia, PA
Best Places to See in Philadelphia with the Go City Pass
I’m going to share a lot of fun things to do in Philadelphia, but first I want to tell you about the Go City Pass options. I took advantage of this pass when I visited because it is the BEST VALUE if you want to see several popular tourist attractions.
The all-inclusive Go City pass has ALL of the best things to do in Philadelphia. There are over 30 attractions included in the pass.
Here’s how it works: You have the choice of EITHER getting a pass with a limited number of attractions OR getting unlimited attractions for a specific number of days.
Your selection will depend on how long you will be visiting and how many attractions you want to see while you are there.
There are tons of sites to see in Philadelphia beyond what I’m sharing in this post. When you see this orange QR CODE next to one of the fun things to do in Philadelphia, that means it’s included in the GO CITY PASS.
What's Included in the Philadelphia Go City Pass?
PRO TIP: If you're going to be in Philly for a few days get the Go City Pass!
- Hop-on, Hop-off Big Bus Philadelphia Tour
- Eastern State Penitentiary
- Franklin Institute Science Museum
- Philadelphia Museum of Art
- National Constitution Center
- Betsy Ross House
- Adventure Aquarium
- Philadelphia Zoo
- LEGOLAND Discovery Center Philadelphia
- Barnes Foundation
- Academy of Natural Science
- Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial
- Ghost Tour of Philadelphia
- Independence Seaport Museum
- Christ Church Burial Ground Tour
- City Hall Tower and Observation Deck
- National Museum of American Jewish History
- Dark Philly Adult Night Tour
- National Liberty Museum/We the People
- Longwood Gardens
- African American Museum
- Rodin Museum
- Revolution and Founding Father’s Tour
- Penn Museum
- RiverLink Ferry
- Brandywine River Museum of Art
- The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
- Independence Walking Tour
- Murder by Gaslight – A Walking Tour Mystery
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
Philadelphia is a fairly walkable city. Several of the major tourist attractions are in close proximity. Philly also has a public bus transit system called SEPTA for you to get around.
PRO TIP: Use the hop-on hop-off bus to get to MOST of the attractions in this post.
As I mentioned in my post about Nashville, TN utilizing a hop-on hop-off bus is a great way to get around a city while learning about some of the history of the area. My favorite hop-on hop-off bus in Philly is the City Sightseeing bus, which is included in the Go City Pass. There are 2 routes for the bus. The red route and the blue route. Make sure you take a look at the map ahead of time to familiarize yourself with where you want to go.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Location: 2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
When you think of touring historical buildings, you probably don’t think of touring a prison. As one of the most famous prisons in the world, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a very unique place to tour. This is a self-guided audio tour so you can go at your own pace.
This tour was one of my favorite things to do in Philly. It won the Travelers’ Choice award and is ranked #6 out of 478 things to do in Philadelphia, PA.
Of course, since my last name is Capone I had to check out the jail cell for Al Capone! You can see his cell in the picture below. It was MUCH different from all of the other cells in the prison.
If you want a little bit of a spooky element in your tour then try the Eastern State Penitentiary Night Tour. When the evening tour is over you can purchase a beer from the outdoor beer garden.
Whether you decide to visit during the day or at night time, you should set aside 2-3 hours to tour the entire prison.
Philadelphia has several world-class museums for you to visit! There are tons of options ranging from children’s interactive museums, art museums, science museums, and museums centered around American history. A museum is one of the best places to visit when it’s too hot/cold, or rainy to explore outside.
Franklin Institute Science Museum
Location: 222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Franklin Institute Science Museum is the oldest science museum in the United States and one of the top tourist attractions in Philadelphia. It has so many interactive exhibits, which make learning a fun experience!
You should set aside 2-3 hours to explore the entire space. When you enter you will see the 20-foot marble statue of the Ben Franklin National Memorial.
Then you can explore 3 floors of hands-on exhibits centered around science and technology.
A few of the interactive exhibits you can expect to explore are about trains, space, medical, and sports exhibits. When I was there we watched a live demonstration of a cow eyeball dissection to better understand how the eye works. It was so creepy for me, but the children around me were engrossed in the procedure. The planetarium show is also a really cool opportunity to learn about the stars.
This museum is a MUST-SEE!
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Location: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The Philadelphia Museum of Art became famous when Sylvester Stallone played the famous role of a boxer named Rocky Balboa. It was at that time that the front steps of the art museum became famous.
Visiting the “Rocky Steps” is one of the top things that tourists like to do in Philly. You can also see the Rocky Statue outside of the museum.
If you make it past all of the exterior excitement with Rocky, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is actually an AMAZING art museum! The architecture is incredible and you can enjoy artwork from world-famous artists like Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Degas.
You should plan to set aside 1-2 hours to visit the 200+ galleries inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
PRO TIP: The museum has free admission on the first Sunday of the month and every Friday night from 5:00–8:45 pm.
Location: 2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
When I approached the Rodin Museum it took me back to my time in Paris. The Rodin Museum is dedicated to the work of sculptor Auguste Rodin. Set aside less than 1 hour to visit the museum, but I’d plan to bring lunch and eat in the stunning gardens of the French-themed green space outside.
The Barnes Foundation
Location: 2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The Barnes Foundation is just a short walk from the Rodin Museum so if you got the Go City Pass then you should plan on visiting them both at the same time.
This is an art museum with paintings by famous people like Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, and Van Gogh.
The cool thing about The Barnes Foundation is they have a mobile gallery app that allows you to scan any of the paintings or artwork with your smartphone and then see information about that piece.
You should set aside more than 3 hours to see all of the artwork in this museum.
Independence Seaport Museum
Location: 211 South Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The Independence Seaport Museum is a really cool hands-on maritime museum. Tickets to the Independence Seaport Museum and USS Olympia include a self-guided tour, access to Cruiser Olympia, which is the oldest floating steel warship in the world, and the Seaport Boat Shop. You should set aside approximately 1 hour to complete your tour.
Penn's Landing and Delaware River Waterfront
Location: 101 North Columbus Blvd. Philadelphia , PA 19106
Penn’s Landing is the famous spot where William Penn landed in 1682. If you like live music and concerts, athletic special events, amazing restaurants, and cool nightlife then you’re in the right place!
Penn’s Landing is actually one of my favorite places to visit in Philly.
You can relax in one of the many hammocks, or stroll on the boardwalk and get some fantastic food from the food trucks or onboard the Moshulu Ship Restaurant. It’s a perfect spot to get a famous Philly cheesesteak and watch the fireworks over the Ben Franklin Bridge at night!
There are lots of cute photo opportunities in this area. Penn’s Landing is one of the best free things to do in Philadelphia. You will have a great time exploring this fun area!
PRO TIP: Bring a fast-charge power bank when you travel.
You are going to be out taking pictures and videos all day. Make sure you bring a fast-charge power bank so your phone doesn’t die on you! When I use my GPS to navigate it uses up a ton of battery. This is the one I take EVERYWHERE I go!
Location: 1 Riverside Dr, Camden, NJ 08103
Okay so Adventure Aquarium is NOT actually in Philadelphia, but it is only a few minutes away and it’s a very popular tourist attraction when you are in that area so I wanted to include it in this post. It is also included in the Go City Pass.
Adventure Aquarium was a favorite spot to take my children when they were young.
You should set aside 2-3 hours to see the entire aquarium.
Location: 3400 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Did you know that the Philadelphia Zoo was the first actual zoo in the United States? It is one of the most renowned zoos in the world with over 1,700 animals.
Visiting the zoo is one of my children’s favorite things to do. Here you will find many rare and endangered animals because they participate in education and conservation programs.
Aside from seeing the amazing variety of animals, you can also explore the 42-acre Victorian garden. It’s a good idea to set aside 2-3 hours to see the entire zoo.
PRO TIP: It's best to visit the zoo early in the morning before the crowds and school trips arrive.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center
Location: Plymouth Meeting Mall, 1055 500 W Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
LEGOLAND Discovery Center is located approximately 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia’s city center and it’s also included in the Go City Pass so I had to make sure I told you a little bit about it.
The LEGOLAND Discovery Center is an ideal place to take children and Lego lovers but it’s fun for adults too!
This is a perfect inside activity when it is too hot/cold outside. Of course, it’s filled with hands-on building fun as well as LEGO-themed rides and LEGO characters in the 4D cinema. This is a really fun way to spend 2-3 hours of your day in Philadelphia.
Location: 1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348
Longwood Gardens isn’t located in Philadelphia but this guided tour provides transportation from Philly to the gardens. Longwood Gardens is about 1 hour outside of Philadelphia. It’s a great trip to take if you want a break from the busy city.
In the midst of the van ride from Philly to the gardens, your tour guide will give you some information about the history of the area. At the gardens, you can explore the exquisite exhibits, fountains, and the conservatory.
During this 4.5-hour guided tour with transportation, you will discover why Longwood Gardens is considered to be one of the best gardens in the country. My Aunt Virginia is a season pass holder at the gardens. She took these beautiful pictures below!
Location: 520 Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets, Philadelphia, PA
History buffs know that Independence Hall is one of the most famous historic buildings in Philadelphia. When you tour Independence Hall you can see the room where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed.
Tickets to enter are only $1.00 and are not required between 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm during the extended summer hours.
If you get the Go City pass you can see Independence Hall on the Independence Walking Tour or see the outside of it on the Dark Philly Night Tour.
PRO TIP: Plan to wait about 30 minutes in line to go through security.
Location: 526 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The Liberty Bell is a national historic landmark located in front of Independence Hall. You don’t need tickets to get your eyes on the Liberty Bell and see the famous crack.
In addition to learning about the Liberty Bell, you can also view other exhibits and watch a short movie at the Liberty Bell Center. If you get the Go City pass you will see the Liberty Bell on the Independence Walking Tour or the Dark Philly Night Tour.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Location: 217-231 W Washington Square, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located at Washington Square, which is a FREE public park. It is located 1 block away from Independence Hall.
Washington Square was used as a mass burial ground for strangers, poor people, soldiers, and more. The tomb of the unknown soldier has a small flame that never goes out.
The words, “Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington’s army who died to give you liberty” are displayed below a statue of George Washington.
If you participate in the Dark Philly Night Tour you will stop and see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That’s how I learned more about the dark and disturbing events that took place in that location.
Historic Overview Guided Walking Tours
If you want to see more famous historical colonial sites, take the 2- 2.5 hour small guided Colonial Philadelphia Walking Tour. In addition to Independence Hall, the tour will take you to see other historic sights like where Ben Franklin lived, Christ’s Church to see where famous people were buried, and Carpenter’s Hall.
Another option is to take the 2-hour Revolution and The Founders History Guided Tour. In addition to seeing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, you will also see the homes of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin. This tour is led by a historian who tells you details all about the American Revolution!
If guided tours aren’t your thing and you’d rather see the sites on your own terms then try a Historic Self-Guided Tour. I love doing self-guided tours when I have time constraints because I can move at my own pace!
You simply download an app that provides the audio tour and map for you to follow. It doesn’t expire so you can start and stop at your convenience and you only need one download per group so it’s a very economical option!
Location: 1723 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul has incredible architectural detail. It is the largest Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. If you read my post about the Most Famous Churches in the World, you know how amazing it is to see all the design details of Catholic Churches. This church is stunning on the outside and on the inside so check it out.
PRO TIP: The Cathedral Basilica is one of the stops on the Hop-on Hop-off Bus.
Street Art and Mural Walking Tours
I’ve previously mentioned that one of my favorite street art walking tours was in Virginia Beach. It’s a great way to explore an area if you visit on a holiday when most of the main attractions are closed.
Get Your Guide has three different walking art tours for you to pick from. If you want to do your own self-guided walking mural tour without all of the information and history, then check out this cool FREE self-guided mural mile tour.
Museum Without Walls
Museum Without Walls is a really cool FREE self-guided audio tour that you can take advantage of to learn more about the artwork around Philadelphia. You can access it with your cellphone or you can download the free app. The website is very easy to navigate.
There are 87 stops on the audio tour so pick the ones you want to hear more about and just click to listen for FREE!
Swann Memorial Fountain
Location: 19th Street & Logan Square Philadelphia, PA 19103
If you are looking for a cool photo opportunity then check out the Swann Memorial Fountain.
It’s a beautiful fountain to check out when you are in the area visiting the museums. It’s actually one of the stops in the Museum Without Walls program I just mentioned.
The fresh water in this fountain is safe to drink so if you have a water bottle, feel free to fill it up directly from the fountain’s spout! Although you are not supposed to play and swim in the fountain, you will notice that children do anyway.
Fun Things to do in Philadelphia at Night
I don’t recommend exploring Philadelphia alone at night. Fortunately, there are a few safe guided tour options you can take in the evening! I already mentioned checking out the Philadelphia Waterfront and the Eastern State Penitentiary Night Tour so here are a few other options.
Dark Philly Adult Night Walking Tour
I took the 2-hour Grim, Dark, and Twisted History Tour and it was pretty cool! It is the only nighttime tour that’s included in the Go City Pass so I decided to check it out. Our tour guide, Britnee, has a Master’s Degree in American History. Not only was she a lot of fun, but she had a TON of knowledge to share with our group.
I DEFINITELY recommend taking this 2-hour nighttime tour because it’s safe and fun! The 8:00 pm tour is geared towards adults so I don’t suggest bringing children. Make sure you reserve your tickets in advance because they are likely to sell out!
Historic Night Driving Tour
Take this 3-hour Small Group Night Tour with Liberty Bell and more to see the top sights in Philadelphia in the comfort of a van.
You will pass by popular sites like Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and Ben Franklin’s Home. You will also make stops at the Eastern State Penitentiary, Rocky Steps, and Washington Monument Fountain.
Want to know the best part?! You get an authentic Philly Cheesesteak included in the tour experience.
Pick up and drop off are available from downtown Philly hotels.
NOTE: This tour is limited to 7 people so make sure you reserve your tickets in advance.
Open-Top Bus Night Tour
See Philadelphia all lit up at night in this fun 75-minute Open Top Bus Night Tour. You will get to see incredible views of the skyline on the top deck of an open-air double-decker bus. This non-stop tour will show you popular landmarks like the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, the Bellevue Hotel, and The Kimmel Center. This is a really safe and fun way to see Philly at nighttime and learn about some popular tourist attractions.
PRO TIP: Don't forget to pack personal safety items, especially when you're visiting a busy city.
I hope I’ve been able to help you plan your visit after seeing all the best things to do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s crazy to think that this is really just a tiny list of what Philly has to offer.
My favorite parts about making a purchase from Get Your Guide and Viator are you can reserve now and pay later and you can cancel for FREE if your plans change. Make sure you get your Go City Pass and make the most of your trip!
If you liked Best Places to See in Philadelphia, PA, then you might also want to read The Best Fall Destination in the Pocono Mountains, PA.
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