Although Philadelphia is the sixth biggest city in the U.S., it often seems much smaller than that. Despite its size, it is a little city known for being the cradle of life, Liberty, and the American dream.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best things to do in Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love. We’ve included our favorite attractions for families, history buffs, adults, kids, and everyone else!
27 Best Things to Do in Philadelphia in 2023
What sets Philadelphia apart and makes it so unforgettable is the unique combination of events that must be experienced firsthand. No other city can compare to the charm Philadelphia has to offer its citizens and tourists.
It’s packed with many distinctive city attractions that have captivated people for decades. Discover 400 years of historical significance, lovely neighborhoods, amazing museum collections, and numerous shopping opportunities throughout the day.
With outstanding performing arts, incredible food, and a thriving nightlife, the city comes alive once the sunsets.
If you haven’t visited Philadelphia yet, you may be surprised by the city’s still-growing diversified culinary scene, revitalized public spaces, and tenacious and vibrant small businesses transforming the city and beyond.
Below are some of the best things to do in Philadelphia that you should check out. We promise — there’s something on this list for everyone!
The Barnes Foundation, set on 4.5 acres of beautiful gardens, has an extraordinary collection, including 69 Cézannes, 181 Renoirs, and innovative African art. Degas, Manet, Titian, Seurat, Prendergrast, and Picasso are among the artists represented.
In addition to permanent exhibits, the Barnes Foundation offers pioneering temporary exhibitions. A significant display of paintings by painter Berthe Morisot and an installation by revolutionary video artist Bill Viola have been among the highlights.
2. Betsy Ross House
Betsy Ross’s narrative of stitching the first Stars and Stripes is woven into the vivid fabric of rich American history. The Betsy Ross House, where the American flag was born, is vibrant with 18th-century splendor.
After seeing the home, stay a little longer to discover more about Betsy and her fascinating life and times via their interactive, historical programs. On President’s Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Betsy Ross House will be open.
3. Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, first opened in 1864, is the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Mother Church since it holds the Archbishop’s chair.
The Basilica, Pennsylvania’s biggest Catholic church, was based after Rome’s Lombard Church of St. Charles and is the sole cathedral erected in the U.S. using Roman-Corinthian architecture.
The Basilica is Philadelphia’s biggest stone construction, with enormous stone columns and a well-known great dome.
4. Citizens Bank Park
Citizens Bank Park, which has been the headquarters of the Philadelphia Phillies since 2004, is a 43,500-seat stadium with stunning grass and panoramic views of the Philadelphia cityscape.
The in-stadium event space, Ashburn Alley, named for Phillies legend Richie Ashburn, includes a Phillies Memory Lane and batting and throwing activities.
Food Network awarded the park the distinction of “Best Ballpark Eats.” It’s also one of the country’s most family-friendly ballparks.
5. Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary, which operated between 1829 and 1971, was formerly the country’s biggest and most costly public institution. It once housed notable criminals such as:
- Willie Sutton
- Freda Frost
- Victor Andreoli
- Alphonse Capone
Crime and documentaries enthusiasts can now visit the terrifying structure with the shape of a wagon wheel in all of its timeless glory. They can gaze at art pieces and listen to Steve Buscemi’s audio tour.
6. Elfreth’s Alley Museum
Elfreth’s Alley was home to 18th-century artists and tradespeople who provided the foundation of Colonial Philadelphia. It was named after a blacksmith and Jeremiah Elfreth – a property owner.
The ancient 32 cottages that line the street are still nice and warm properties almost 300 years later, and this little cobblestone lane is a registered National Historic Landmark.
Built in 1755, two neighboring homes currently serve as museums and souvenir stores. Visitors may go on their own or take a 45-minute quick tour of the ancient passageway.
7. Independence National Historical Park
The Independence National Historical Park is comprised of the Liberty Bell, the Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, Congress Hall, and the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
The majority of them are open to the public for free exploration. A quick tour of this ancient district isn’t to be missed in Philadelphia for history buffs.
8. Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell doesn’t make a sound, but its message is simple: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
One of the reasons the shattered but sturdy Bell became a symbol for civil rights activists, suffragists, and other democratic throughout the globe is because of its inscription.
People go from all over the globe to take pictures in front of the Bell and its majestic background, Independence Hall. These venues are open year-round and need no tickets. However, capacity is restricted to 62 persons per visit as of January 2022.
9. Love Park
Robert Indiana’s renowned LOVE monument has been in Philadelphia’s famed John F. Kennedy Plaza, or the LOVE Park — nearly constantly since 1976.
However, that important piece of Philadelphia public art is only one of many attractions at this Center City West location, including green spaces, a fountain, walking routes, sitting spots, and the LOVE Park Visitor Center.
The park is advantageously positioned near City Hall, providing views of the historical gem as well as the activities that occur under its shadow.
10. Magic Gardens
Visiting this curatorial sculpture garden is like stepping into the thoughts of Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia’s famed mosaic artist: His works are stunning and often bizarre landscapes.
The work spans three city lots and is a fascinating mix of mirror pieces, mosaics, and found materials like glass bottles and bike wheels.
It doesn’t take long to wander around the spaces in Magic Gardens, and there are lots for youngsters to explore, making it a great weekend stop for families touring the city.
If you can’t afford the $15 admission fee, you may still look into the park from the South Street entrance and go about the area looking for Zagar-painted walls.
11. Masonic Temple
The Masonic Temple is an architectural gem in Philadelphia and a National Historic Landmark. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s headquarters is situated at 1 North Broad Street and looks like a structure from another era.
It draws people from all around the globe because of its size and elaborate design. However, few people in the Philadelphia region have ever visited.
Masonry, commonly known as Freemasonry, is said to be the world’s oldest fraternal organization, traced to early historic stonemasons.
People including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jesse Jackson, Richard Pryor, Shaquille O’Neal, and Nat King Cole have all been members.
12. Morris Arboretum
Take a walk around the traditional English architectural buildings and sculptural landscapes at Morris Arboretum, which is a 92-acre Victorian arboretum in Philadelphia’s Northwestern corner, if you need to get away from the city for a day.
The Arboretum, which is connected to the adjacent University of Pennsylvania, is a multidisciplinary facility that merges science, art, and the humanities.
Many unique and beautiful woodland plants flourish here, including several of the oldest, rarest, and most majestic trees in Philadelphia.
13. Museum of the American Revolution
Through its unparalleled collection of groundbreaking weaponry, personal artifacts, records, and pieces of art, the Museum of the American Revolution tells the thrilling and astonishing narrative of the American Revolution.
Captivating galleries, spectacular theatrical experiences, and immersive online technologies bring to life the varied group of individuals who overcame enormous obstacles to build a new country.
Visitors acquire a better understanding of how the country came to be and are motivated to explore their part in the American Revolution’s continuing promise.
The museum, which is only steps from Independence Hall, acts as a gateway to the region’s numerous Revolutionary War landmarks, igniting curiosity, offering context, and promoting discovery.
14. Mütter Museum
This museum, housed in The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, is among the best in the country for medical history. The Mütter Museum is a 19th-century cabinet museum with medical items like as anatomical exhibits and surgical tools on display.
Before he died in 1859, Philadelphia physician Thomas Mütter gave the College of Physicians of Philadelphia a $30,000 donation.
And his 1,700-item personal museum of plaster casts, bones, medical drawings, and other pathological relics was utilized to build the museum’s initial iteration in 1863.
Since then, the Institution has continuously added to the collection, including over 20,000 medical-related artifacts.
15. One Liberty Observation Deck
The One Liberty Observation Deck offers a spectacular view of the historic Philadelphia cityscape from a unique vantage position. One Liberty is a terrific site to start your adventure around Philadelphia and one of the city’s greatest places to capture photography.
You can see the entire city from above and learn about Philadelphia’s rich history and culture, featuring engaging touchscreens and guided tours.
16. Penn Museum
The Penn Museum is now accessible for global exploration! Timed tickets, as well as live virtual tours, workshops, and events, are currently available.
The Penn Museum, which is open to the public, houses fascinating items and compelling tales resulting from its incredible travels across the globe.
Discover fascinating tales of humanity, from the first Middle Eastern settlements to the monarchs of ancient Egypt: from the lively Mediterranean civilizations to the lifestyles of today’s Native American populations.
Discover the past mysteries, develop a better knowledge of our common humanity, and discover your own position in human history.
17. Philadelphia Museum of Art
Experience Philadelphia’s cultural center, which is full of surprises around every turn. The Museum’s iconic structure holds one of the country’s most impressive collections, including some of the finest European, Asian, and American art pieces.
Sunflowers by Van Gogh, the world’s biggest Marcel Duchamp, and the Rodin Museum may all be found here. Whether it’s your first or tenth visit, there’s always something fresh to see.
See a world-renowned exhibition or learn about the treasures on display at the Museum’s over 200 galleries, which include several spectacular exhibition spaces and period chambers, all year long.
18. Philadelphia Zoo
Zoo360, a first-in-the-world system of paths running through trees, crossing over walkways, and linking habitats, allows animals like spectacular big cats, gorgeous monkeys, and fascinating meerkats to roam and explore as they’ve never been at Philadelphia Zoo.
At America’s first Zoo, see Amur tigers, young gorillas, hippos, giraffes, polar bears, zebras, white rhinos, red pandas, and more.
Read Next: The Best Zoos in the United States in 2023
19. Please Touch Museum
Please Touch Museum has been the Children’s Museum of Philadelphia since 1976. It has evolved into one of the nation’s finest children’s museums by becoming specialists in play over 30 years, catering to over two million visitors.
The Museum aims to improve children’s lives by providing educational experiences through play, setting the groundwork for lifelong hands-on training and cultural knowledge.
Ride the beautifully rebuilt 1908 Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel, originally constructed in Philadelphia and returned to its birthplace in its glass pavilion with an area of 9,000 square feet on the eastern edge of Memorial Hall after over 40 years in storage.
20. Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market was founded in 1893 and is one of the country’s oldest and biggest public marketplaces. It is now regarded as one of the country’s most important public marketplaces.
Guests may experience a broad range of cuisines, including amazing soul food, fine Asian and Middle Eastern delicacies, real Philadelphian cheesesteaks, and classic Pennsylvania Dutch fare, all of which are served by mostly locally independent, family-run businesses.
21. Rodin Museum
The Rodin Museum’s remarkable collection of approximately 140 bronzes, plasters, and marbles, including “The Thinker,” illustrates every period of Auguste Rodin’s work.
The exquisite Beaux-Arts–style structure and park, located on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway, provide an engaging experience and the biggest display of Rodin’s artwork outside of Paris.
A bronze cast of The Thinker and the Gates of Hell are among the treasures housed in the collection of Auguste Rodin outside of Paris. There are almost 120 sculptures by the French artist here and a remarkable collection of sketches, paintings, and research.
Rodin’s usage and re-use of the same stances, or even parts of the body, throughout his work may be compared and contrasted due to a wide range of works on display.
22. Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia has one of the world’s most extensive collections of racing sports automobiles. It highlights the history and growth of these beautiful vehicles via their narrative, “The Spirit of Competition.”
More than 65 iconic automobiles, including Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Bugatti, Jaguar, Mercedes, Corvette, Porsche, Ford, and many more, have been assembled throughout 50 years by eminent neurosurgeon Dr. Simeone.
23. The Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute, named after America’s founding scientist, Benjamin Franklin, is one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious scientific education institutions.
Blockbuster displays, a plethora of continuing interactive displays, and one-of-a-kind theatrical shows are all hallmarks of the Museum.
Currently, the Institute is committed to educating the public and instilling a love of science by providing fresh and interesting access to research and technology in ways that would astound and excite its namesake.
At The Franklin Institute, families can learn something new while exploring the playful side of science via twelve cutting-edge exhibits and practical learning.
24. The Italian Market
Philadelphians often refer to their city as “a city of neighborhoods.” The Italian Market and the surrounding neighborhood are excellent examples.
The beating heart of South Philadelphia is this market, which has been operational since the 18th century. Vietnamese and Mexican immigrants have lately settled in this largely Italian neighborhood.
The market, which stretches the length of the S. 9th St., is buzzing with shops and outdoor vendors displaying the best of the area.
Don’t skip the long-standing supply shops like DiBruno’s, Talluto’s, and Claudio’s—the fresh mozzarella is to die for—and if you’re hungry, try the newest additions to the region, including Pho 75.
25. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania was originally established in 1740 and looked like the textbook description of an Ivy League school, with enough ornate Gothic architecture and verdant gardens to make you want to crawl into the closest library.
The campus, especially Locust Walk, running through it, provides a welcome relief from the city’s hustle, and on sunny days, it even functions as a picnic spot for tourists and residents.
26. Wissahickon Valley Park
Within a short range of downtown Philadelphia, the lush Wissahickon Valley Park provides a delightful respite of thick greenery, waterfalls, waterways, and animals. However, the region used to be filled with the sounds of logging operations.
Wissahickon Valley Park was founded in 1868 as a park to protect the city’s water supply. It is a National Natural Landmark, and the National Audubon Society declared Wissahickon Gorge as a critical birding area.
27. 30th Street Station
The primary train station in Philadelphia, William H. Gray III 30th Street Station, opened in 1933 and is a significant stopover on Amtrak’s Northeast and Keystone Corridors. It’s one of America’s densest intercity rail stations.
Several West Philadelphia attractions, including the CHOP, University of Pennsylvania, University City Science Center, and Drexel University, are all within walking distance.
Things to Consider
Before packing your things to discover the centuries-old history, culture, buildings, restaurants, and shops, here are some things you need to consider.
While Philadelphia is a terrific location to visit all year, the summer is the time the city truly comes alive. This is the greatest time to walk around its historic districts and outdoor attractions, such as Philadelphia Zoo and Rittenhouse Square.
There are also a plethora of festivals during this time. Getting around the city, the SEPTA, or Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, operates a great public transportation system that includes buses, fast transit, commuter railways, and even trolleys.
For details on routes, timings, and where to get Independence Passes, which give you unlimited travel in the city for a specified duration, visit the SEPTA website.
The downtown area is quite walkable, and the historical sites in this region make for a lovely promenade. If you’re feeling energetic, pick up a historical map at the visitor’s center and go on a walk.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling to Philadelphia:
How long do you need to spend to see Philadelphia?
Two to three days in Philadelphia are ideal if you want to absorb some history, enjoy wonderful cuisine, and see beautiful attractions like the Liberty Bell Center, the Betsy Ross House, and the Independence Hall.
When is the best time to see Philadelphia?
The answer is between March and May, when the city warms up from the chilly winter and hotel costs are at their lowest. Plus, the city will be ablaze with gorgeous cherry blossoms in the spring.
What months are the most inconvenient to visiting Philadelphia?
Not only June to August is the densest period, but also the most costly to visit Philadelphia. Also, November to January may be very unpleasant and is considered a poor season for tourists.
Is Philadelphia expensive to visit?
Even though Philadelphia is expanding and renewing at the same rate as any other American metropolis, it is much more inexpensive than many others its size. Denver, Boston, and Seattle have all gotten uncomfortably costly in recent years. Though visiting Philadelphia is still reasonably priced.
How to get around Philadelphia?
Philadelphia’s tiny Center City is one of its greatest assets. The communities are so accessible that you won’t even need a car. Once you arrive, you may easily navigate Center City and most of Philadelphia’s varied districts on foot, via taxi, or public transit.
Things to Do in Philadelphia: Final Thoughts
Now you know the best things to do in Philadelphia. Museums, historic sites, riverside shopping, and outdoor activities are all popular in the City of Brotherly Love.
Overall, the top things to do in Philadelphia are diverse. Consider joining a guided tour if you only have a small window of time in the city and want to see all of the prominent sights.