Sandwiched between the metropolises of New York City and Washington D.C., Philadelphia is the gritty city that elbows its way into your heart. Philly packs a hearty punch full of American history, excellent food, and modern city culture. Philly’s grid system makes for easy navigation by car or on foot but be warned: streets and alleys can get narrow fast. The city center is dense, which makes it easy to see, eat, and do a lot while you’re visiting. Show up with an empty stomach ready for plenty of Philly cheesesteaks and take a look at all the great spots the City of Brotherly Love has to offer.
Science fans with a strong stomach will love to gaze at the extensive halls of medical specimens and oddities, which include a seven-foot six-inch skeleton aptly named “The American Giant”, as well as microscope slides of Albert Einstein’s actual brain (for real)! Anyone with even a slightly morbid fascination with the human body won’t want to miss this world-class museum. Need another dose of something grim? Swing by the Eastern State Penitentiary for a different flavor of macabre. The historic prison is famously haunted and offers moonlit tours among the shuttered cells and creepy hallways.
Pretty much every cheesesteak spot in Philly is going to say they have “the best Philly cheesesteak” or “the #1” cheesesteak. In all honesty, they’re all pretty good. But Geno’s is definitely worth a stop. Folks line up 24/7 outside this historic institution of bread, meat, and cheese. The menu is simple, but there’s just enough variation to keep you coming back for more. Everything is done right, thinly sliced ribeye, fresh bread, perfectly grilled onions, and gooey cheese oozing slowly over the sides. Want to make it a tour? Check out these other Philly cheesesteak greats:
No trip to Philadelphia would be complete without at least a peek inside Independence Hall, where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. It’s located directly across the street from the Liberty Bell in a scenic American park just a few blocks away from the Delaware River. Be sure to allow for long lines as this is a major landmark on any traveler’s map.
Need a changeup from Philly cheesesteaks? Swing on by the Oyster House on Samson Street near City Hall. This slightly sophisticated seafood spot serves up some of the freshest seafood on the east coast, from raw oysters to a critically-acclaimed lobster roll. Local tip: oyster are best during “oyster season” from September through April when oysters are fatter and not devoting their energy to reproducing.
Walk off the post-meal slough at this serene Riverwalk northwest of the city. Check out Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens, historic mansions and cemeteries, horticulture center, as well as great views of the city skyline from a distance. The park is of course free, but landmarks within it may carry an entrance fee and are subject to closures.
Since we know you’re wondering: the Rocky steps are at the southeastern tip of Fairmount park leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While running up the steps is a well-trod trope at this point, it’s certainly one of the top free things to do in Philadelphia.
Many visitors underestimate the diverse array of things to do in Philadelphia. But like a brash relative who is always the first to fix your car or help you move, Philly will earn a special spot in your heart. The city’s raw character can only be experienced first-hand while strolling the historic cobblestone streets, wiping melted cheese off your face, or hearing Philadelphians shout and cheer during a Flyers, Eagles, or 76ers game.
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