Philadelphia is the perfect destination for tourists looking for an urban escape with some history. In fact, 39.7 million people visited Greater Philadelphia in 2014.The fifth most populated city in the U.S., Philly is home to over 6.1 million people. The city is a mix of old and new- the oldest residential street in the nation is in Philly’s Old City, while the skyline includes the nation’s first modern skyscraper. Home to many historic sites like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, tourists can spend days learning about the past. Located at the intersection of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, the city has hot, muggy summers and mild springs and falls. The most popular months to travel are May and September. Read on for Philly locals’ list of things to do in Philadelphia!
THE LOCALS: Katie and Pat
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST THEM: Katie was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia, and Pat is originally from Michigan but has lived in Philly for 12 years. The couple met while attending Villanova, and married after college in downtown Philly. They’ve explored the city as children, teenagers, college students and now as young professionals, and continue to find something new to love about their city. Having guided countless visitors over the years, you can trust them to help you plan your trip to the City of Brotherly Love.
1. Favorite Street to Wander in Philadelphia? There are so many great streets! A few we love-
- West River Drive- The city shuts this street down on the weekends for pedestrians and bikers. Rent a bike through Wheel Fun Rentals.
- South Street– This famous street is known as a melting pot of cultures, featuring popular restaurants, bars, galleries and shops. Great for eclectic people-watching. At the end of the walk you’ll hit Headhouse District.
- Boathouse Row on Kelly Drive- Just as it sounds. The 15 historic boathouses along this path are all over 100 years old. Just a short walk North from the Art Museum (about 10 minutes).
2. Must-Try Food or Drink?
Obviously, you have to get a cheesesteak! Pat’s and Geno’s are the touristy spots, but we like Jim’s on South Street. You also gotta try a soft pretzel from Philly Pretzel Factory. Wash it down with a Yuengling, our beer of choice.
3. Best Area to Shop?
One of biggest malls in the US is about 30 minutes from the city, called King of Prussia. If you’re looking for unique, local shopping, we’d suggest Chestnut Street. Or, if you’re more into a small town feel, take the train to Manayunk and shop along their charming Main Street.
4. Favorite Watering Hole?
For a beer, McGillin’s, the oldest bar in the city, is a must For a cocktail, we recommend the rooftop at The Continental Mid-town in Center City. In fact, all of Philadelphia restauranteur Stephen Starr’s spots are excellent and very popular. Call ahead. Yards Brewery Tour is also fun, and they have a great bar at the end of the tour.
5. Most Essential Philadelphia Tip?
Philly has many unique, interesting neighborhoods. Hit as many as possible! To name a few: Headhouse Square, Rittenhouse Square, Queen Village, Society Hill… Northern Liberties is also an up-and-coming area. If you’re there, go to Frankford Hall for an awesome beer garden experience. We’d recommend wandering through neighborhoods during the day, going to a gastropub for happy hour, and then heading to one of Philly’s many BYOB spots for dinner. Most of the city is quite safe, but it’s best not to go further west than 47th Street. Our public transportation is not bad, but it’s always easy to hail a cab in the city. We also have Uber and Lyft if you prefer ride-sharing.
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP THINGS TO DO IN PHILADELPHIA
1. Philadelphia Museum of Art– Thumbs Up.
2. The Barnes Foundation– Thumbs Up.
3. Segway Tours– Thumbs Down.
We prefer walking the city. If your heart is set on a guided tour, there’s a few great Walking Tours in the Old City. You’ll see the typical attractions like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but they’ll also point out many of the historic buildings as you walk, which you probably wouldn’t notice if you were on your own.
4. Eastern State Penitentiary– Thumbs Up, but we’re surprised this is so high on the list.
We’d put Independence Hall on the top five instead, or even the UPenn campus. The campus has beautiful architecture, lots of great restaurants, and a fun vibe. If you’re visiting in January or February, you have to go to a Big 5 (Penn, Temple, Lasalle, Villanova & St. Joe’s) basketball game at the Palestra. Or, if you’re visiting in the Fall, we’d recommend going to a college football game.
5. Reading Terminal Market– Definite Thumbs Up.
In fact, this should be number one! In Center City, this is former railroad station that’s been converted to a public marketplace. You’ll find lots of vendors selling local products, handmade items, exotic foods and other interesting wares.
What are your favorite things to do in Philadelphia? Tell us about them in the comments below!