Plan A Trip to Philadelphia
Do you ever want to plan a trip to Philadelphia? You should! Philadelphia (or Philly) is an incredible city that I will always cherish, no matter where I live or travel to. I grew up only twenty minutes outside of Philadelphia, so, of course, cheesesteaks, Flyers games, and Ben Franklin stir a heavy dose of nostalgia inside of me.
It’s no secret that I love Philadelphia a lot. It’s da bomb!
Now I’m gonna be totally honest with you guys. I, uh, never really thought of Philadelphia as a travel destination. Probably because I lived so close to the city. Travel (to me) meant boarding a plane and exploring somewhere unfamiliar, far away, and have a new and fresh experience to tell family and friends. I think a lot of us have a hard time viewing places near our homes as travel destinations.
However, now that I’ve relocated to northern New Jersey, I have a deeper appreciation for all the sights Philly offers visitors, especially history buffs.
So I hope this beginners guide helps you plan a trip to Philadelphia! With a little thought, you can have a great time exploring “The City of Brotherly Love” and visit another American city that you had written on your ever-growing travel wishlist.
Why You Should Visit Philadelphia
As a New Jersey native, I’m used to a busy existence between Philadelphia and New York City. Now I love New York City. Believe me, it’s one of my favorite places in the world, so I’m not knocking the Big Apple. However, I always felt that New York’s presence overshadowed Philly, which is a cryin’ shame. Why can’t we enjoy both? We’re capable of it, aren’t we?
First of all, Philadelphia has so, so, so much history that it’s well worth a visit for the Revolutionary War-era sights alone. The historical significance alone is massive. And hey, the Liberty Bell is free. So think of your budget!
Philadelphia also has many incredible museums. I’m the type of person who can get easily lost in a museum for hours. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of my favorite places to visit, but Philadelphia has a wide variety of museums for visitors to enjoy and all of them are reasonably priced!
Finally, Philadelphia is a perfect stopping point on a East Coast road trip. The city is directly between New York City and Washington D.C. So your drive is nicely broken into manageable pieces.
Transportation to Philadelphia
For those of you traveling on a plane, international and domestic arrivals land in Philadelphia International Airport. This airport is not exactly downtown, but instead it’s located in southwest Philadelphia or roughly 12 miles outside of Center City. Fortunately, the SEPTA train is connected to the airport (via the Airport Line) so you can easily get to the city’s core without too much trouble. If you’re feeling sleepy or can’t be bothered navigating public transportation, then a cab is always an option for reaching Center City.
How about transportation in the city itself? Is that okay?
Unless you want to take day trips (see below), I wouldn’t bother renting a car in Philadelphia. Driving here is chaotic, and I personally don’t think sitting behind the wheel is worth the inevitable headache. Traffic is especially bad at rush hour (4:30-6:30), and parking can also be rather expensive.
You can walk to lot of Philadelphia’s sites in Center City and Old City, and you can use the SEPTA train to reach other neighborhoods like Fishtown. You should be fine using only public transportation.
Where Should You Stay?
Philadelphia is a very large city with over a million residents. However, as a tourist, you want to base yourself in either the Center City or Old City neighborhoods.
In Center City, you’ll be in the heart of Philadelphia’s bustling downtown. Meaning you’ll be in the midst of Philadelphia’s shopping district so prepare your wallet and credit card. Meanwhile, in the Old City, you will be located in the birthplace of American independence and near a lot of cool bars and restaurants. You can’t go wrong staying in either location.
Finally Philadelphia has many hotels to suit a variety of budgets! Be sure to book well in advance to find the best deals in the city. If you’re staying at busy time, like the week of the Flower Show, you may want to book months in advance.
As for specific recommendations, I’ve personally stayed at Sonesta Philadelphia Downtown which is perfectly situated for tourists. It’s right in the heart of Center City, which makes travel quick and easy. Another hotel that I’ve enjoyed is Sofitel Philadelphia, also located in Center City.
And, as always, AirBnb and Couchsurfing are both options.
Awesome Things to Do in Philadelphia
Betsy Ross House: This landmark is (supposedly) where Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. You can find the Betsy Ross House on 239 Arch Street.
Constitution Center: This iconic museum is a hands on experience that gives visitors a deep look at the American Constitution. You can find the Constitution Center on 525 Arch Street.
Franklin Institute: The most well known science museum in Philadelphia. I went on many school trips here! The museum is also home to the 20 foot high marble Benjamin Franklin Memorial. The Franklin Institute is located on 222 N. 20th Street.
Go to a Sporting Event: Yeah, I know Philadelphia sports fans have reputations for being vulgar, destructive, and aggressive. Honestly, I think a lot of the negative press is overhyped. The home stadium for the Eagles is Lincoln Financial Field, and for the Phillies, you can go to Citizens Bank Park.
Independence Hall: Welcome to the building where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed! Keep in mind that due to the nature of the site, you can only be admitted if you are part of a tour. Independence Hall is located on Chestnut Street, between 5th and 6th Streets.
Liberty Bell: When you think of Philadelphia, you probably think of the Liberty Bell or the famous bell with a big crack splitting down the middle. And lucky you, it is free for guests to see the Liberty Bell. However, you do need to go through a security line and depending on the number of visitors, you may have to wait a decent amount of time. You can also take pictures of the Liberty Bell, no problem.
One Liberty Observation Deck: Want to see Philadelphia’s lovely skyline including the famous Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges? Then take the elevator to the observation deck. You will have sweeping views of the city, but make sure you plan on visiting on a sunny day. You don’t want to deal with fog.
Philadelphia Flower Show: This amazing flower show has been happening since 1829, so you know it has to be a wonderfully special event! The Flower Show usually happens in March, and has a new theme every year, making it fresh for everyone. You can learn more about the Flower Show here.
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Don’t just run up the famous steps and pretend you are Rocky! You should actually go into the museum to enjoy the wonderful art. Philadelphia’s Art Museum isn’t as overwhelming as the Met or the Louvre, so you can easily squeeze a visit into a single afternoon. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
See a musical or performance: The Academy of Music is a very beautiful building where you can see a show. Sure, it may not be Broadway, but the quality of the performances are still quite high and worth your money.
South Street: One of Philadelphia’s most famous streets! Home to many shopping, dining, and entertainment options! South Street has more than 400 independent retail shops. So take a walk and see what unique treasures you discover on your journey.
Awesome Places to Eat in Philadelphia
Disclaimer, ya’ll. Philadelphia has many wonderful places to eat so this list isn’t exclusive. You’re more than welcome to add more suggestions in the comments! Seriously, this list could go on for pages and pages.
2nd Story Brewing Company: If you love to try different beers, come here! The atmosphere is a lot of fun and the staff is friendly! 2nd Story Brewing Company is located on 117 Chestnut Street.
Amada: Mmmm, feeling some Spanish cuisine? Amada is a quality choice. I love their tapas. Love. Amada is located on 217-219 Chestnut Street.
City Tavern: Probably one of the most historically significant restaurants in the entire city. It was built in 1773, and the Founding Fathers ate and drank here. City Tavern is located on 138 S 2nd Street.
Fado Irish Pub: Haha, this is a super fun place to come if you want to do a little dancing later in the night! The Irish fare is pretty yummy too! Fado Irish Pub is located on 1500 Locust Street.
Federal Donuts: This place sells only 3 things: Coffee, Fried Chicken, and Donuts. And the donuts are … legendary. I could seriously eat a whole box, which would do wonders for my cholesterol, haha. Federal Donuts is located on 701 N 7th Street.
Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse: I’m a big fan of Brazilian steakhouses, and this place doesn’t ever disappoint! Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse is located on 1337 Chestnut Street.
Italian Market: This classic Philly experience is located in Bella Vista. Come for the fresh food and vegetables, and the divine Italian bakeries. Mmm, yummy. Italian Market Visitor Center is located on 919 S 9th Street.
Jim’s Steaks South Street: You can’t come to Philadelphia and not eat a cheesesteak (unless your diet prohibits it, of course, no shade). When you visit South Street, swing by Jim’s for a bite to eat. You won’t regret it. Jim’s Steaks is located on 400 South Street.
John’s Roast Pork: Mmm, one of the best places to get a cheesesteak. Parking here is a pain in the butt, just to warn you, but oh my god, the sandwiches are worth the deliciousness. John’s Roast Pork is located on 14 East Snyder Avenue.
Monk’s Cafe: Itching for some authentic Belgian cuisine (like fries)? Look no further than Monk’s! You can find Monk’s Cafe on 264 S. 16th Street.
Moshulu: You can have a really unique meal here … on a 4-masted ship! Say what? You can find Moshulu on 401 S Christopher Columbus Boulevard.
Reading Terminal Market: Okay, Reading Terminal Market is one of my favorite places to eat. Favorite. I could go here every single day and not get tired of it. Vendors are plentiful, offering something for all taste palettes. I personally love DiNic’s, the Original Turkey, and Termini Brother’s Bakery. You can find Reading Terminal Market on 51 N 12th Street.
Tria Cafe: This swanky little wine bar is located in Center City, and is a great place for you to relax. You can find Tria Cafe on 123 S 18th Street.
Possible Day Trips from Philadelphia
Atlantic City: Wanna go to the casinos and try your luck? Atlantic City is roughly an hour drive from Philadelphia and makes for a relatively easy day trip if you have plenty of time to spare. Just be cautious. While the casinos are fun, parts of Atlantic City aren’t too safe at night.
Dutch Country: In Dutch Country, you can literally go back in time and experience authentic Lancaster County Amish. If you have a day or two to spare, especially in the beautiful fall months, then this may be a worthwhile excursion to take from nearby Philadelphia.
Longwood Gardens: If you looooooove flowers and horticulture, then Longwood Gardens is the place for you, my friend. Longwood Gardens consists of over 1,077 acres, so you could easily spend hours exploring the woodlands. Be warned, though. Longwood Gardens is a popular spot, and the crowds can feel overwhelming at times especially during the Christmas season.
The Mainline: A cluster of high-end towns settled along a train line. Hence the name. The small towns have a variety of brewery and shopping options, and can make for a lovely day trip if you have a car at your disposal.
Valley Forge: Valley Forge is a historical national park that covers over 3,500 acres. The British took over Philadelphia in September 1777. Thus General George Washington and his army were forced to spend the winter in Valley Forge. Located 18 miles outside of Philadelphia, Valley Forge is a great choice for Revolutionary War buffs.
Are you ready to plan a trip to Philadelphia? Have you ever visited Philadelphia? Share your thoughts in the comments. And don’t forget your guidebook!
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