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How Many Days Do You Need to Visit Philadelphia?
Things to do Philadelphia?
After all, I was under the impression that Philly was only about soft pretzels, cheesesteak sandwiches, and a historic cracked bell. As a matter of fact, visiting Philadelphia almost got skipped on the way to Winchester, Va for a house sitting house sitting assignment. Undoubtedly, something had eluded me about Philly. Read on to get the Philadelphia landmarks, free things to do and the top tourist attractions to see in this epic historic city.
This post is aimed to offer a guide of activities to enjoy in Philadelphia during a 2-3 day escapade. My time in Philly was from early Friday afternoon, heading out Sunday after lunch.
Here’s what you will get from this post
Table of contents
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If you’re as thrifty a traveler as I am, you’ll enjoy the many money-saving opportunities throughout the many things to do in Philadelphia.
In the land of the free and the home of the brave, few other American cities have played such an important part in the revolution against Great Britain.
The rebellious attitude of this stronghold can still be felt in the city of brotherly love, the actual place where the Declaration of Independence was signed. As you start exploring Philadelphia’s old town, it doesn’t take long to realize that you are in the centre of the birthplace of the United States of America.
First Day of your 3 Days in Philadelphia
If you happen to choose to lodge in the historic district, you’ll be right in the thick of it, ready to explore many of the surrounding Philadelphia landmarks and attractions, while still, only a stone’s throw away from Penn’s Landing. The historical part of the city provides visitors with a wealth of information about what took place in Independence Hall back on July 4, 1776. Does that ring a bell?
Independence Hall & Liberty Bell / Elfreth’s Alley
When you’re done taking pictures, head over to Market Street, the central avenue of the old city, you’ll find many restaurant options to grab some lunch and hopefully enjoy a pint of Yards Ale while you’re at it, a tasty local brew we tried.
Continue a few streets northwards to the Independence National Historic Park. Begin with a free visit to the State House Bell, which was later renamed the Liberty Bell by the abolitionists, an emblem which was also adopted by the suffragettes as their symbol of empowerment. Hopefully, the lines won’t be too long as once inside, you can expect to spend about 45-60 minutes touring the exhibits and then taking your picture next to the famed bell.
Across the street, you can also explore Independence Hall for free, to witness where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both signed. The ranger-guided tours run every 15 minutes or so, which is always a great option.
If you’d prefer a guided approach, there are a number of tours that can be booked as well. The two hour Founding Fathers Tour of Philadelphia History Tour lets you view the Liberty Bell and see George Washington’s home, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Betsy Ross House, Christ Church, Old City Hall, Franklin Court and more…
Museum of the American Revolution
Many well-appointed exhibits, some of which could compete with Madame Tussauds most elaborate wax figures, give in-depth information about the lands controlled and claimed by the British, including the taxation system set forth with stamps.
If you have some additional time for more history on your first day, cross the street to the nearby Benjamin Franklin Museum, yet another affordable museum with a low $5 entry fee. Once inside, you’ll connect and learn about this great inventor and philosopher, one of the nation’s most illustrious founding fathers. Philadelphia is truly a historic epicenter!
Spruce Street Harbour Park / Riverfront
Photo Credit ~ Visit Philadelphia®
Second of 3 Days in Philadelphia
Getting Around in Philly
For travellers flying in or those wanting to leave their vehicle parked while in town, getting around in Philadelphia is easy peasy. The city grid is laid out from North/South by numbered streets and East/West with older streets bearing a “Tree” name configuration which makes it a breeze to navigate. Chestnut Street here we come… You can thank William Penn for helping you get your bearings, he’s the founding father of the city who also happens to stand tall facing Northeast atop City Hall.
Even though Philly is voted as one of the top 5 most walkable cities in the nation, you’ll find many local transportation options available to you. The local SEPTA buses offer a $12 / 1-day ticket – which includes their buses, trolleys, subways, and even the commuter regional rail system.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest in the country is located at #10 stop. A few more stops will bring you on the other side of this renovated Frank Gehry building, to the seventy-two steps made famous in the Rocky movie franchise.
Art Museum Area & Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation’s discreet entrance
This visit is a must do if you enjoy Impressionists as much as we do. In the mood for some three-dimensional art after your gallery tour… Gaze at the outstanding outside sculptures on displays at the Rodin Museum. It is the most comprehensive collection of Rodin’s works outside of Paris, which also happens to be just across the street from the Barnes.
City Hall & Love Park
Can you spot the William Penn 37ft bronze statue atop the City Hall tower?
Continuing southward, back towards the Centre City – the name of Philly’s Downtown area – get off to explore City Hall, the worlds largest all-masonry municipal building. We wanted to catch a 360° view with the City Hall Tower Tour, but they were sold out when we got there. Tickets are scheduled, permitting only 4 visitors at a time. Another option if you want to catch one of the best views of the city is to visit the One Liberty Observation Deck – Get your tickets here…
Lucky for you lovers, City Hall happens to be in the vicinity of the Love Park where Philadelphia’s Love & Amor sculpture awaits for you to take another iconic Philly picture. We were lucky enough to witness a marriage proposal on the spot, the gent on his knees with a ring in hand… Two mini-bottles of Champagne, ready to toast his new fiancé. Bystander Jos, of Love Now Media Lovenowmedia.com, informed us that this seemed to be a trend in the making, as this was the second proposal of that day, Philadelphia is truly the city of love.
Reading Terminal Market
Admiral’s Tavern / Independence Seaport Museum
Drinking age permitting, this entry also grants you access to the Admiral Tavern atop the USS Olympia, an actual US Navy flagship steel cruiser from 1885 to 1922. After your tour of both ships, enjoy a cocktail while taking in the view of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the riverfront which should be getting into gear for the night.
Dinner options on a Saturday evening are plentiful… You could contemplate heading over to the iconic Jim’s, Pat or Geno’s for a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich or do what we did, and opt for a light supper at a Farmicia, a cosy mid-range restaurant in the historic district. The Mediterranean fare on the menu, featuring generous salads was exactly what we needed after having spent, yet another spectacular day of eating and exploring Philadelphia.
Last Day of 3 Days in Philadelphia
Credits ~ Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
South Philly / Magic Gardens
It’s also well worth noting that the East Passyunk Avenue area is well-known for its Italian roots and dining scene. Home to Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steak, making it THE place to indulge in the city’s emblematic sandwich… The Philly Cheesesteak.
A fun way to visit the area and get to eat at Geno’s is on this Segway tour, yet another fabulous way of getting around!
Where to Stay in Philadelphia
The Spruce Street Harbour Park with the Hilton Penn’s Landing on the edge of the riverfront
I loved my stay at Hilton Penn’s Landing and highly recommend it for your weekend getaway in Philadelphia. View the rates for the Hilton Penn’s Landing.
Here are few other recommendations with great reviews in the vicinity of the Old City.
The Morris House: A National Historic Landmark built in 1787, the Morris House Hotel is located across the street from Washington Square, just outside of the Historic District. A true respite from busy city life, the European-style bed and breakfast including a library, a celebrated fine-dining restaurant and a nestled-away outdoor courtyard. View the rates for the Morris House
The Sheraton Society Hill: Very close to Independence Hall. The hotel’s amenities include an indoor pool and a restaurant, which serves contemporary dishes. View the rates for Sheraton Society Hill
This concludes a wonderful weekend getaway in Philadelphia. I certainly recommend this historic city to travellers looking for a fun place to go and what happens to be quite the cultural destination. I can’t wait to come back, as there are so many things we still need to see, taste and explore in Philadelphia.
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I kindly thank the Visit Philly Bureau for hosting us to facilitate this article. As always all opinions are my own.