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There are so many fun things to do in Philadelphia. From exploring the city’s rich history to relaxing in the parks, eating your way through the neighborhoods, and checking out the world-class museums, there’s enough here to make you want to visit Philly again and again.
As locals, we love the classic Philadelphia attractions, and discovering the newest offerings is always fun. Here’s a look at some of our favorite unique things to see and do in the city.
Sample your way through Reading Terminal Market
In Center City, Reading Terminal Market is not just a place to eat—it’s a slice of history. Opened in 1893, it’s the home of over 100 vendors who feed Philly locals and tourists every day.
You can find cuisines from all over the world, Pennsylvania Dutch specialties, flowers, produce, and more. Our favorite spots are Miller’s Twist for their buttery pretzels, Kismet Bialys for their onion-topped pastry, and Termini Brothers Bakery for pretty much everything. Truthfully, the list of vendors worth visiting is nearly endless.
See Christ Church and its Burial Ground
Founded in 1695, Christ Church welcomed presidents and signers of the Declaration of Independence among its worshipers. The building, which is located at 2nd and Church, is open for tours. You’ll see the pews where the Penn family, Betsy Ross, and many other significant figures sat, along with other historical items.
One of the main draws of Christ Church is its burial ground a couple of blocks away at 5th and Arch. The burial ground is the final resting place of many Revolutionary War figures and early leaders and is the site of Benjamin Franklin’s grave. If you don’t want to pay to enter, you can see Franklin’s grave through a cut out in the wall.
Tour Independence Hall
Visiting Independence Hall is one of the top things to do in Philadelphia. The building where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were adopted has been restored to its 1776 appearance, so walking through it feels like the founding fathers just left.
The exterior of Independence Hall is impressive, but the 20-minute guided tour is what brings the building and the history that was made there to life. There are artifacts from the Constitutional Convention and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Tickets are just $1 and can be booked in advance. In busy periods, make sure to leave plenty of time for the security screening before the tour.
See the Liberty Bell
Nothing symbolizes the city more than the Liberty Bell. Year-round, people line up to see this cracked symbol of liberty, which is one of the free places to see in Old City. If you don’t want to wait in line, the bell is visible from outside the building 24/7 and is lit at night.
Try a scoop at Franklin Fountain
A stop at Franklin Fountain is one of the most popular Philadelphia activities, no matter the season. On summer weekends, the line at its Old City location can stretch around the block. In the off-season, the crowds let up a little, but they keep people coming through the door with seasonal ice cream and soda flavors.
At Franklin Fountain, the ice cream comes in over 2 dozen flavors, including vanilla bean, peanut butter, and rocky road. Many flavors have an historic or local tie, such as their apple butter ice cream that includes local apples and apple butter from a Pennsylvania company founded in 1892. We’re big fans of everything here but particularly love their root beer float.
Wander Elfreth’s Alley
Elfreth’s Alley is one of the most colorful places to visit in Philadelphia. Even though it’s only one block long, we always find ourselves wandering up and down multiple times looking at its brightly painted doors. There are often seasonal decorations, too, so there’s something new to see, even if you’ve visited before
The oldest residential street in the US, Elfreth’s Alley is still an active neighborhood. The 32 houses here now were built between 1728 and 1836. When you visit, stop by the museum that occupies 124-126. It’s been restored to its Colonial-era appearance and tells the history of the street and the tradesmen who lived here when it was first built. Even if you only have one day in Philadelphia, Elfreth’s Alley is worth a stop.
Take a photo in LOVE Park
LOVE Park is one of the most iconic Philadelphia sites and is a symbol of the city. Named for the red LOVE statue by Robert Indiana, the park is a popular photo spot for tourists and a place where locals stop at the afternoon food trucks. Throughout the year, there are markets, pop-ups, and special events here, including the city Christmas market.
Visit the Museum of the American Revolution
From the conflict’s origins in the 1760s through the final years of the war, the Museum of the American Revolution takes visitors on a storytelling journey of how America came to be. Thousands of artifacts, weapons, and original documents help bring the historic events to life.
The exhibits are designed to make the stories engaging for visitors of all ages and to examine points of view that have often been overlooked, including those of Native and Black Americans and women. A dedicated theater houses the most magnificent artifact in the museum—George Washington’s original headquarters tent.
Stop by a local distillery
There are lots of fun craft distilleries to visit. Check out Philadelphia Distilling’s modern tasting room in Fishtown or pull up a stool at New Liberty Distilling in nearby Olde Kensington. Several suburban distilleries like Bluebird Distilling and Manatawny Still Works also have outposts in the city.
Hang out at Washington Square Park
First established in 1682, Washington Square Park is a tree-filled park just one block from Independence Hall. In the middle of the park, the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier monument includes a soldier’s remains, an eternal flame, and a statue of George Washington after whom the park was named.
There is lots of seating to enjoy nice weather, and Washington Square Park often has different performances and pop-up events, so you never know what you might find.
See a show at the Mann Center
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Fairmount Park is one of the unique places to go in Philadelphia to see a performance. In the warmer months, the Mann Center offers both a covered pavilion and a sprawling lawn, making it the ideal place to enjoy a live show on a nice day.
The Mann hosts concerts from artists of every genre from Bob Dylan to Jill Scott. Plus, it is the summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which plays traditional concerts as well as special events like playing the live score to movies like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Explore Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
The Shofuso Japanese House and Garden is an oasis. Just a few miles from Center City, the Japanese house, peaceful garden, and pond could not be a more relaxing place to spend time.
You can walk inside the traditional-style Japanese house and learn about homes in Japan—both their art and function—and how the Japanese live. When you’ve seen the inside, take time to explore the outside. The garden, koi pond, and 75-year-old weeping cherry tree are some of the prettiest things to see in Philadelphia.
Shofuso is enormously popular during cherry blossom season because of the blooming trees on the property and right outside its walls. They host a festival featuring food, dancers, and celebrations of Japanese culture.
See the art at Barnes Foundation
One of the greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings in the world resides at the Barnes Foundation. The works of renowned artists such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Seurat, and many more grace the Foundation’s walls.
The masterpieces at the Barnes are displayed just as they were by the original collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes, who turned his home in Merion into an impeccable gallery. That means you’ll see the eclectic nature of his thinking in “ensembles” that are likely to position a Matisse painting next to a piece of Pennsylvania German furniture, a 14th-century French chicken sculpture, and a spatula, for instance. It’s fascinating to see.
It’s worth prioritizing a visit to the Garden Restaurant for lunch or brunch when you visit the museum. The tuna and watermelon crudo and grilled chicken salad BLT are particularly delightful.
Walk through mosaics at Magic Gardens
Located on South Street, Magic Gardens is a one-of-a-kind experience. Artist Isaiah Zagar has crated an environment decorated with fantastical mosaics and reclaimed items that combine to create one of the coolest places to visit in the city.
Once you’ve finished at Magic Gardens, take a walk around the streets of South Philly where you’re sure to see other remarkable Zagar creations.
Relax in Rittenhouse Square Park
Fun fact: Rittenhouse Square was one of the five original squares created by William Penn in the 17th century. Today, it is a tree-filled park surrounded by luxury apartments, shops, and restaurants. Its year-round Saturday outdoor farmers market and many special events such as the Rittenhouse Square Spring Festival are highlights. Take a little time to enjoy the neighborhood while you’re in the area or grab an outside seat at Parc and enjoy the people-watching.
Try a classic Philadelphia food
There’s DiNic’s Roast Pork sandwich—an oven-roasted pork shoulder layered with provolone cheese and sautéed broccoli rabe—and the Schmitter from McNally’s tavern, stacks of roast beef, grilled salami, cheese, tomato, and onion on a Kaiser roll. Also not to be missed are the fried chicken and donuts from Federal Donuts, water ice, Philly Soft Pretzels, and many more.
Tour the African American Museum in Philadelphia
The African American Museum in Philadelphia is the first museum in a major US city focused on the heritage and culture of Black Americans. Exhibits cover everything from the contributions of African Americans in the early history of the US to the Civil Rights movement, the Negro baseball league, and art.
Sink into a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park
With colorful hammocks, floating gardens, and lots of food options, Spruce Street Harbor Park is one of our favorite places to go in Philly in the spring and summer and makes a perfect date night.
In the Marina at Penn’s Landing, the park has floating gardens and nets that let you hang out above the Delaware River. Throw in some crab fries, local craft brews, and water ice, and you have the makings for a great time.
The seasonal park has great views along the river and is fun during the day. At night, thousands of LED lights brighten up the trees.
Go on a rooftop bar crawl
Everyone loves a good rooftop bar. Fortunately, Philly has an excellent selection when it comes to great places to have a cocktail or beer with a view.
We love Assembly on the roof of the Logan Hotel overlooking Logan Circle and Continental Midtown, which has an indoor/outdoor bar that’s open year-round. The Stratus Rooftop Lounge at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is also a winner along with El Techo, also in Center City.
Get hands-on at the Franklin Institute
Pennsylvania’s most visited museum, The Franklin Institute is full of hands-on science exhibits and learning opportunities. From how the body works to the mechanics of playing sports and flying airplanes, the Institute introduces visitors to lots of engaging concepts. You’ll also find artifacts related to Benjamin Franklin himself, including part of a 270-year-old lightning rod he designed.
It’s a great place to take kids but is engaging for adults as well, particularly if you attend one of their Science After Hours events, which includes cocktails and entertainment.
See an exhibit at Carpenters’ Hall
Carpenters’ Hall was the home of the First Continental Congress in 1774 where colonial delegates voted to take a stand against the King of England. Patrick Henry and other passionate patriots gathered here to debate the future of the colonies and the path to independence. The delegates’ chairs and the original banner from the 1788 Constitutional parade are displayed along with rotating exhibits.
Stop by the Pizza Brain museum
Pizza Brain is the world’s first pizza museum and a restaurant serving some of the city’s best pizza rolled into one. This Fishtown mainstay has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the largest collection of pizza memorabilia in the world.
See the street art of the Mural Arts program
This city is full of street art. There are places in downtown Philadelphia where it feels like there is a mural nearly every other block. That’s because we have the nation’s largest public arts program—Mural Arts Philadelphia.
In its 35-year history, Mural Arts has created over 3000 murals, and they add more than 60 public art projects each year. Check out their tours to dig into the city’s street art culture.
Catch a show at World Cafe Live
World Cafe Live is one of the best places to visit in Philadelphia for live music. With two listening venues and a restaurant and bar, it welcomes nationally known acts and up-and-comers. World Cafe Live is also home to WXPN’s radio studios and the national radio show “World Cafe.”
In addition to the concerts, World Cafe hosts open mic nights, trivia games, and other special celebrations. Even if there’s no music, stop by the upper level for a bite to eat or something to drink near the University of Pennsylvania and 30th Street Station.
Get outside at Parks on Tap
In the warmer months, Parks on Tap is a traveling beer garden that visits different parks to introduce residents and visitors to the beautiful outdoor spaces throughout the city. Each pop-up event offers food and adult beverages in a relaxed, family- and pet-friendly environment. Check out their schedule to see where they are this week.
Visit the Mummers Museum
Mummers, who dress in unique, colorful costumes and entertain the city during their famous New Year’s Day parade, are the keepers of one of Philadelphia’s most storied traditions. The Mummers Museum teaches visitors about the roots of the celebration and even lets you dress up as a Mummer.
In northeast Philadelphia, Otherworld is a playground for the imagination. This colorful, fanciful place occupies over 50 rooms filled with interactive elements and creatures from a different universe. The entire space is packed with unexpected sights and visual tricks. As you make your way through, keep an eye out for secret passageways and clues to unlock more information.
Enjoy Cherry Street Pier
Cherry Street Pier is an ideal place to go when the weather is nice. The repurposed space is home to artists’ workshops and special events, including lots of craft and food markets throughout the year. The pier offers a spectacular view of the Delaware River and hosts a seasonal beer garden with food vendors.
Go bowling at North Bowl
A Northern Liberties favorite, North Bowl has 17 bowling lanes and two full bars to enjoy. With video games, couches for lounging, and a pool table, there are lots of things to do here. It’s a local favorite spot to grab a drink, enjoy a casual meal and hang out with friends any night of the week, even if you don’t bowl.
Walk through the monuments at Laurel Hill Cemetery
It might seem odd to put visiting a cemetery on a list of what to do in Philadelphia, but Laurel Hill is an uncommon cemetery. When it opened in 1836, it was designed as a scenic spot overlooking the Schuylkill River where visitors could enjoy the scenery.
There are more than 30,000 monuments to peruse, some of which are featured on special, expert-led tours of the grounds. You’ll see graves and monuments for city leaders, pioneers across industries and social movements, and even a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It’s a must see.
See the gardens at Morris Arboretum
Morris Arboretum & Gardens of the University of Pennsylvania is a 92-acre garden in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Thousands of native, rare, and majestic plants fill the grounds. There are manicured gardens, sculpture gardens, and the unique Out on a Limb exhibit that takes visitors 50 feet up into the treetops without climbing.
The arboretum is a great spot for natural beauty year-round, but it’s particularly glorious for cherry blossoms in the spring and fall leaves, when you’ll also see scarecrows around the grounds. In the winter, the Holiday Garden Railway is a popular attraction that regularly sells out.
We’re members of the arboretum, so it’s always on our list of recommendations when people are looking to explore beyond downtown.
Tour the Penn Museum
With remarkable objects from around the world, the Penn Museum traces the history of humanity from the earliest cities to today. You’ll find everything from the largest Egyptian Sphinx in the Western hemisphere to a bull-shaped lyre made of gold and lapis from Ancient Mesopotamia. The collections are fascinating and many are interactive, encouraging visitors to imagine themselves within the cultural context of the exhibits.
Visit the Johnson House Historic Site
The Johnson House Historic Site in Germantown is one of the most fascinating Black history sites in the city. Its owners were devout Quakers who offered their home as a station along the Underground Railroad, a pivotal spot for formerly enslaved people making their way north. Tours of the house include information about the Johnson family, the Quakers and the anti-slavery movement, those who sought freedom here, and the people who risked their lives to help.
See Graffiti Pier
An abandoned pier has been transformed into an informal, urban open air gallery at Graffiti Pier. Depending on when you visit, you might find artists at work, people perusing the murals, or bands filming music videos. Or maybe all three—it’s just that kind of place.
Sip your way through craft breweries
Philadelphia has been called one of the best beer cities in the world. There are dozens of craft breweries to choose from, including some of the top breweries in the country like Yards and Evil Genius. Try one of the signature pizzas and a beer at Dock Street South, cozy up with a house brew at Bar Hygge, grab a sidewalk table at Brewery ARS to enjoy an imperial stout, or try one of the many other options around the city.
Stenton is one of the most historic buildings in the city. Built in the 1720s, it was the home of James Logan who was the city’s colonial mayor, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and William Penn’s right-hand man. The house stayed in the family for nearly 200 years.
Today, the home in North Philadelphia is an historic house museum with furnishings and exhibits that tell the story of life in the city before and after the Revolution. Visitors can tour the house and wander through the incredible garden. (Note that the museum is by appointment only January through March.)
Learn the history of Mother Bethel AME
Mother Bethel AME Church in Old City is the mother church of the first Black denomination in America. Dating to 1787, it was built on the oldest piece of land in the country that has been continuously owned by African Americans.
An important part of Black history in the city, Mother Bethel was a stop on the Underground Railroad and welcomed abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and Lucretia Mott. Visit to see its beautiful stained-glass windows and the tomb and artifacts related to Rev. Richard Allen, the church’s founding minister.
Take in the view from Bok Bar
If you’re looking for an unparalleled view of the city skyline alongside good food and drinks, head to Bok Bar. This unusual space is at the top of the former Bok Vocational High School, which was completed in 1938. The building retains many of the features you’d expect in such a setting, like lockers and a gymnasium, which makes it even more fun to explore.
Spending an afternoon or evening here is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia in the summer and early fall, and we make it as often as possible. If you have a chance, check out their special events, which include drag brunches, rooftop yoga, and music.
Shop at the Headhouse Farmers Market
The Headhouse Farmers Market is one of the most charming places to go in Philadelphia. It is held in a building whose history dates to 1745, and the Sunday market draws farmers and producers of artisanal products from across the region. Visitors will find flowers, an abundance of produce, bread, cheeses, prepared foods, and more.
Relax at Rail Park
A section of overgrown, unused rail lines has been revitalized into the free, pet-friendly Rail Park. Stroll, swing, and enjoy the open space.
See wildlife at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
The largest freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is a natural retreat from the city. The 1200-acre refuge has walking trails, boardwalks for wildlife observation, and opportunities for canoeing and fishing in the sunlit Darby Creek.
Visit historic Cliveden
The Cliveden estate began as a country house for attorney Benjamin Chew and his family in 1767. Just 10 years later, it became famous when the Revolutionary War arrived on its doorstep in the form of the Battle of Germantown.
Visitors can tour the house and learn the story of the seven generations of the Chew family that lived here. On the first Saturday in October, the estate hosts a battle reenactment on the property, which is a site to behold. Cliveden and many of the sites in historic Germantown are open that day.
See the plants at Bartram’s Garden
Bartram’s Garden is the oldest botanical garden in North America. Founded in 1728, it was filled by its owner John Bartram with an astonishing collection of plants from around the continent.
The original garden and early-18th-century home can still be visited. Descriptions throughout the grounds provide insights into the various plants and their uses in Colonial America. It’s the perfect place to spend a few hours wandering and enjoying nature.
Wander through The Woodlands
The historic Woodlands Cemetery and Mansion sits on 54 acres in University City. It features an 18th-century Neoclassic mansion surrounded by the graves and monuments of over 32,000 souls. Across the grounds are over 700 historic trees and plants that date from the earliest days of America.
The Woodlands is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year, and it’s one of the best places to see fall foliage in Philadelphia. The organization that runs the property aims to ensure that it is a community hub rather than only an historic site. As a result, there are often fun things happening–check their events calendar for their regular markets and craft fairs, happy hours, and musical performances.
See Rittenhouse Town
In a spot right off Lincoln Drive is Historic Rittenhouse Town, the remains of a community that included the first paper mill in North America built in 1690. Today, six historic buildings remain, including facilities that host cooking demonstrations and paper-making workshops.
Tour the Edgar Allan Poe House
Author Edgar Allen Poe lived in Philadelphia for six years, but this rowhome in Northern Liberties is the only one of his residences that still stands. Part of the National Historical Park, it’s free to visit.
The three-story home is believed to be the location that inspired Poe to write The Black Cat. Though the Poe House is unfurnished, there is lots of information about how Poe, his wife, and his mother-in-law likely used the home when they lived here and about the author’s prolific career.
Stop by Cira Green
One of the more unique things to do is to spend an afternoon at Cira Green, the city’s rooftop park. The sprawling space offers skyline views 12 stories above University City. It feels like you’re practically at eye-level with some of the tallest buildings around.
During much of the year, the park hosts special events, often projecting movies and sports on its massive screen. Visitors can also enjoy the offerings of Sunset Social while hanging out at the park. The fast-casual menu at the rooftop restaurant and bar includes salads, sandwiches, cocktails, and other drinks.
Enjoy FDR Park
FDR Park along the Delaware River is a great place for almost anything you want to do outdoors. There are walking paths and picnic and recreation areas as well as a skate park. There are also wetlands and waterways that have led the Audubon Society of Pennsylvania to say the park is one of the best places to go in Philadelphia for bird watching.
One of the park’s most popular attractions is the Southeast Asian Market that takes place weekends from April through October. Over 70 vendors sell food and items from Cambodia, Vietnam, and beyond. The food is incredible, and the atmosphere makes it a must-visit.
Tour Grumblethorpe house
For 160 years, the historic house known as Grumblethorpe was home to the Wister family. Built in 1744, British General James Agnew set up residence here during the Revolutionary War. He was later shot and died in the front parlor, landing Grumblethorpe on the list of haunted spots in the city.
The house is now a museum, part of the Historic Germantown district. Its garden—built on fertile soil in the Schuylkill Valley—was a working farm from the time the house was built. Today, it supplies produce for the Grumblethorpe Youth Farmstand, which sells its bounty at the house every weekend in the summer.
Explore Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary housed thousands of inmates in its 140-year history. The site, which is now a preserved ruin, was the model for 300 prisons on five continents in its early days.
Closed in 1970, Eastern State went 20 years without maintenance, leading to crumbling walls, fractured concrete, and cellblocks that are open to the elements and plants. The penitentiary has since become a museum but was kept in its ruined state. Exhibits and an audiotour tell the history of the building, the controversies around incarceration, and the stories of many former prisoners.
Visit The Rosenbach
The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia houses an astounding collection of rare manuscripts and books. From Lewis Carroll’s own copy of Alice in Wonderland to a handwritten manuscript for Ulysses by James Joyce, there are many outstanding works here.
Located in a 19th-century townhouse that was owned by the Rosenbach brothers, The Rosenbach also displays the brothers’ fine collection of statues, jewelry, artwork and artifacts collected from around the world.
Walk through Miracle on 13th Street
Miracle on 13th Street is one of the most fun things to see at Christmas. Every year, the residents in the 1600 block of South 13th Street transform this block into a festival of lights, decorations, and all things holiday kitsch.
If you’re in town in the winter, visiting Miracle on 13th Street should certainly be on your list. Going during the week is best if you’d like to avoid crowds. Expect parking to be a challenge.
Shop at Christmas Village
Each year between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve, the Christmas Village pops up in LOVE Park. The groups of merchants feature decorations, gifts, and food in an environment designed to make Center City feel like a German Christmas market. Grab a sausage and some mulled wine or try the popular raclette while you shop. Just across the street in Dilworth Park, you’ll find even more artisan vendors at the Made in Philadelphia Market.