Here are some ideas and websites to help decide what to do while visiting Philadelphia. In addition to cheesesteaks and pretzels, of course.
Old City/Independence Park/Society Hill:
- Independence Visitor Center - Information on ticketing and tours for various attractions, including trolley and bus tours. Sept. through July daily hours: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, 7-days-a-week. Daily Summer hours 8:30 am - 7:00 pm, 7-days-a-week from July through Sept. PHONE: 800-537-7676 or 215-965-7676.
- Independence Hall - Tickets are required to tour Independence Hall and can be ordered in advance. The call center can be reached at 1-800-967-2283 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily (Eastern Time). You may also reserve tickets through the website. Individuals may reserve up to six tickets each. Tickets are free, but if you order in advance, there is a $1.50 handling charge per ticket.
- Liberty Bell. The entrance to the Liberty Bell Center is located on Market Street between 5th and 6th Streets. The building is open year round, roughly 9 to 5 although hours may vary by season. The new Liberty Bell Center offers a video presentation and exhibits about the Liberty Bell, focusing on its origins and its modern day role as an international icon of freedom.
- National Constitution Center. Located across Market Street from the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center welcomes visitors every day (except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). The theater show that begins your visit runs twice each hour. Sunday - Friday: 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Saturday: 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
- Elfreth's Alley - America’s oldest continuously occupied residential street. With its cobblestones and 30 colonial and early-Federal period houses, Elfreth’s Alley is a must-see for those interested in Philly’s glorious past, just like Betsy Ross House, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Pavilion, which are all within walking distance. House numbers 124 and 126 are museums that are open to the public from March through December.
- Christ Church - George and Martha Washington, Ben Franklin and Abigail Adams among several signers of the Declaration of Independence all attended this church, now a national historical landmark. Originally a wood structure, built by the Anglicans of the Church of England in 1697, the new Georgian-styled, symmetrical structure was modeled after the work of Sir Christopher Wren.
- Betsy Ross House
- Arch Street Friends Meeting House - This is the oldest Friends Meeting House still in use in Philadelphia and the largest in the world. It was built in 1804 and enlarged in 1811. Benjamin Franklin and five signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried here.
- Carpenters Hall - This site was where the First Continental Congress convened in 1774 to address a declaration of rights and grievances to King George III. It is the oldest trade organization in the country.
- Bishop White House
- Powel House
- Todd House
- Physick House
- City Tavern - City Tavern, also called the Merchants' Coffee House, was the political, social, and business center of the new United States. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Paul Revere all ate here. The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution both owe much to the food and spirits consumed in this building. It's now a fun place to stop for lunch if you are spending a busy day sightseeing around Independence Hall.
Center City/Art Museum:
- The Philadelphia Museum of Art - Go ahead, run up the steps just like Rocky!
- Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts - A landmark building designed by uber-architect Frank Furness, the academy offers a permanent collection by some of the country's most celebrated artists. Contemporary heroes share wall space with the masters.
- Rodin Museum - My favorite museum in Philly. It's small, so easily combined with other attractions.
- City Hall - Smack dab in the middle of town - always a good reference point. Until 1986, no building could be taller than Billy Penn's hat.
- The Franklin Institute - I think it's a bit more for kids, but it does have the Tuttleman IMAX Theater.
- Academy of Natural Sciences
- Rittenhouse Square - The park was one of William Penn's original five parks -- originally known as the southwest square until it was named for astronomer-clockmaker David Rittenhouse in 1825. Today the park is still neatly landscaped with trees, flowers, a fountain, several sculptures and lots of comfortable benches. There are several nice restaurants and shops in the area.
- Civil War Museum - The Civil War Museum and Library includes a 12,000-volume library that makes Ken Burns’ PBS miniseries seem like a footnote.
- Mutter Museum - Not for the faint of heart.
Elsewhere in the City:
- Reading Terminal Market - Bustling indoor market famous for its amazing produce, Pennsylvania Dutch baked goods, candy, books, clothing, handmade crafts and fine foods. Great food court restaurants for breakfast or lunch.
- Chinatown - Chinatown extends from 9th to 12th Streets and stretches south from Vine to Arch Streets. Not nearly as large as Chinatowns in NYC or SF, but it's nice and convenient. Imperial Inn is a good restaurant. Chinatown is very close to Reading Terminal Market.
- Edgar Allen Poe National Historical Site. This is only a few blocks from The House.
- Mummer Museum -*ahem* As the site says, "More Graceland than Graceland"
- Fairmount Park - Fairmount Park is the largest urban park in the country, with 8,900 acres of land comprising 63 separate parks. Yes, even bigger than Central Park in NYC!
- Philadelphia Zoo - Oldest zoo in the country. Located in Fairmount Park.
- Valley Forge National Park - About 45 minutes west of the City.
- Longwood Gardens - About an hour south-west of the City. The world’s premier horticultural display garden. Longwood Gardens was created by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont and offers 1,050 acres (425 hectares) of gardens, woodlands, and meadows; 20 outdoor gardens; 20 indoor gardens within 4 acres (1.6 hectares) of heated greenhouses; 11,000 different types of plants; spectacular fountains. Longwood is open every day of the year and attracts more than 900,000 visitors annually.
- King of Prussia Mall - Enormous shopping mall about 30 minutes west of the City. Tres glam.
- Franklin Mills Mall - Huge outlet mall about 25 minutes north of the City.
- Battleship New Jersey - Just across the Delaware River in Camden - you can take the River Link boat across from Penn's Landing.
- New Jersey State Aquarium - Fortunately, it's closed right now. Unfortunately, they're planning to reopen in May 2005, but personally I don't think it's worth the effort or price.
Just in case you didn't find enough historical sites to quench your thirst, you can check out USHistory.org.