Benjamin Franklin once said that lost time is never found again. With so much to experience in Philadelphia, you won’t have to worry about lost time. Of course, the promise of walking in the steps of our Founding Fathers lures many a history enthusiast to the Cradle of Independence. While you could spend your entire visit among the cobblestones in Old City reliving the revolution, there are so many other wonderful things to do in Philadelphia —like tasting the perfect pretzel or sipping a proper pint.
More a city of neighborhoods than a massive metropolis, each street offers a taste of today’s Philadelphia mixed with a healthy dose of yesteryear. With untouched urban woodlands, riverfront promenades, quaint rowhomes, and majestic modern monoliths, the City of Brotherly Love begs to be not merely visited, but befriended.
City founder, William Penn, understood the value of public parks and famously incorporated five such spaces into the city’s street grid. Some of the best places to stay in Philadelphia are located on or around three of them: Logan Circle, Rittenhouse Square, and Washington Square. If your urban adventure leaves you yearning for more greenery with your scenery, venture out of center city along the Schuykill River where you’ll find the manicured and maintained Fairmount Park. From the park’s Belmont Plateau, you’ll have an expansive, photo-worthy view of the cityscape. After all, you appreciate pausing to see the big picture from time to time. A little further upstream lies Wissahickon Creek—technically a part of the greater Fairmount Park, but a world away from the rest of the city. Here you can find solitude among a web of hiking trails before heading back downtown for dinner. Old Ben claims that fatigue makes the best pillow; a day spent outdoors in Philadelphia’s parks can soften even the firmest hotel bedding.
Eats & Drinks
When planning where to stay in Philadelphia, Center City should be on the top of your list. Not only will you find a number of impressive accommodations, you’ll also be close to some of the finest restaurants, eclectic eateries, and welcoming watering-holes this side of the Atlantic. The Old City neighborhood of Center City offers you a choice of upscale dining, gastro-pubs, and street-corner food carts. Follow your hunger west from Old City to the Reading Terminal Market. The renovated train station is now a farmers market, food court, and beer garden that has a temptation for every taste. Be sure to grab a Pennsylvania Dutch treat like chicken potpie or one of the city’s famous soft pretzels. Of course, any trip to Philly wouldn’t be complete without an obligatory cheesesteak. And, if beer is proof that God loves you and wants you to be happy, be sure to make a few stops along the way for a lager from Yuengling—America’s oldest brewery.
Culture & History
Beauty and folly are old companions; nowhere is that contrast on display more than in the worlds of art and politics. It almost goes without saying that a visit to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the National Constitution Center is in order when traveling to our nation’s first capitol. After you have covered the living history book of the two city blocks that gave birth to our democracy, you may want to see the First Amendment in action with a stroll along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the museums that serve as bastions of free speech that flank the broad boulevard. For a city steeped in history, Philadelphia provides the culture-starved wanderer in you more than enough opportunities to explore the refined and the whimsy. Starting at Logan Circle, the Academy of Natural Sciences serves as the perfect transition from political history to popular culture. Further out the parkway, the Rodin Museum awaits with replicas of the artist’s seminal works including The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. The final stop on your culture quest is the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art (or the Art Museum as the locals call it). After you give into the urge to climb the Rocky steps, enter the museum to discover works by Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Jasper Johns. Whether your intent is to lose yourself in the works of the masters or find inspiration in them, you’ll find ample supply on display.
When to Visit
With more than enough open green spaces and indoor exhibits, there is not an inopportune time to visit the city. Given its historical significance, it isn’t surprising to learn the Welcome America festival in the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July is one of the best times to be in the city. Not only is the weather sublime, hotel rooms in Philadelphia roll out the red, white, and blue carpet to tourists and history buffs, alike. You’ll find block parties, parades, and free concerts taking place across the city, culminating in an explosive fireworks display on the steps of the Art Museum. Stand arm-in-arm with 100,000 of your closest friends as you celebrate our nation’s independence.
If the chance of heat during the summer months gives you pause, perhaps a new year’s day trip is in order. After ringing in the new year, spend the first of the next 365 days along Two Street in South Philly at the Mummer’s Parade. The oldest folk festival in the United States is better experienced than described. Equal parts neighborhood social clubs, sequined umbrellas, and adult beverages highlight the day—even George Washington hoisted a pint on the city streets during his seven years in the President’s House.
Off the Beaten Path
Philadelphia’s side streets offer an alternative to the pageantry, politics, and pop culture that the typical vacation on the banks of the Delaware River provides. Go back in time with a saunter down Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest residential street. On a quiet day, you can almost hear the fife and drum of days past. For the truly absurd—if not grotesque—head west on Walnut Street to the Mutter Museum where medical oddities await the not-so-faint-of-heart. A taste of the criminal side of the city awaits you in the bottom of a pint glass at the Khyber Pass Pub on Second Street. While McGillin’s Olde Ale House may have the oldest liquor license in the city, the Khyber is the longest opened establishment, having been a speakeasy during the prohibition era. Enjoy a craft beer and have the bartender show you the false façade that gave the saloon the appearance of a rowhome.
From South Philly to the Great Northeast, Philadelphia is so much more than its significant role in American history. If Ben Franklin were around today, he’d encourage you to let Travelocity help you find a great deal so you can come and discover the city for yourself. That penny saved is truly a penny earned.