Best Things to Do in Philadelphia, According to a Local

  • While in Philadelphia, see the Liberty Bell and visit “America’s Most Historic Square Mile.”
  • Stroll through “Museum Mile” and see one of the most famous museums, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Go on a self-guided tour of thousands of public-art works with Mural Arts.

The Franklin Institute is a historic science museum known for its giant model of a human heart

Founded in 1824 and inspired by the innovations of its Founding Father namesake, the Franklin Institute is one of the oldest science education centers in the US.

This family-friendly museum is famous for its giant model of a human heart and a state-of-the-art planetarium, in addition to exhibitions that combine science and pop culture, from Marvel superheroes to Crayola crayons.

The Franklin Institute recommends purchasing tickets in advance. General admission tickets cost $23 for guests 12 and older. Tickets for children ages 3 to 11 cost $19.

Tip: The museum regularly has rotating exhibits that can require a more expensive admission ticket, so be sure to check the website first.

Experience Philly’s vibrant public paintings on a tour with Mural Arts

 
You can go on a self-guided tour of the murals.

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Public art enlivens the streets of any city, but it’s hard to beat Philly’s record of 3,600 murals.

Overseen by the nonprofit Mural Arts Philadelphia, these eye-catching works depict subjects as diverse as the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters civil-rights group, autumn trees, and muses embodying the city’s creative spirit. One of the newest murals is an untitled painting of a young woman by Amy Sherald, who created Michelle Obama’s official portrait.

Tip: It’s possible to embark on a self-guided tour of Philly’s murals, and Mural Arts has themed walking tours that cost about $24 a ticket.

See the Liberty Bell and learn about American democracy at Independence Mall

 
Visit Bourse Food Hall for a quick snack or meal.

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Learn about the origins of democracy in the US at Independence Mall.

Referred to as “America’s Most Historic Square Mile,” this area comprises Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed; the Liberty Bell, one of Philly’s most recognizable symbols; and the National Constitution Center, an immersive museum for visitors of all ages.

Visitors to Independence Hall must purchase timed tickets in advance. Timed tickets are encouraged, but not required, at the National Constitution Center. Entrance to the Liberty Bell is not ticketed and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tip: If you want to grab a snack nearby before or after sightseeing, the Bourse food hall is a one-stop shop for coffee, grilled cheese, dumplings, and more.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the most famous museums in the city

Philly’s major museums are situated along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a thoroughfare dubbed “Museum Mile.”

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, characterized by its neoclassical architecture and a newly renovated interior designed by lauded architect Frank Gehry, sits at the top of the Parkway.

Fans of the “Rocky” film series often pay homage to the fictional boxer by ascending the museum’s steps and posing with a statue of Sylvester Stallone.

Timed tickets are required to gain entry to the museum. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $14 for students, and $23 for seniors. Visitors 18 and under get in for free.

Tip: You can also use your ticket to access the Rodin Museum, which contains about 150 bronze, marble, and plaster pieces by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

South Street is home to the whimsical Magic Gardens, a popular cheesesteak spot, and boho businesses

 
Stroll through South Street.

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Designed by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, the Magic Gardens are a whimsical urban oasis tucked away on South Street, a famously avant-garde corridor known for spots like cheesesteak joint Jim’s Steaks and the Theatre of the Living Arts, a music venue currently in use as a vaccination site.

Zagar’s mosaics, which also adorn the sides of buildings in the area, creatively meld materials including handmade tiles, glass bottles, and bicycle wheels.

Tickets must be purchased online in advance and cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $8 for children ages 6 to 12. Entry is free for kids 5 and under.

The Barnes Foundation displays impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern art

For a more intimate museum experience, check out the Barnes Foundation, which showcases impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern works of art that belonged to collector Albert C. Barnes. Walking around the Barnes’ galleries feels like wandering around a house whose walls are covered in paintings from top to bottom.

Tickets cost $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, and $5 for guests ages 13-18. Kids under 13 get in free.

Tip: To reduce its visitor capacity, the place recommends booking tickets online or by phone.

Elfreth’s Alley is a scenic street that preserves 18th-century history

 
Walk through one of the oldest streets in the United States.

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The oldest continuously inhabited residential street in the US is Elfreth’s Alley, in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood.

Elfreth’s Alley takes its name from an 18th-century blacksmith named Jeremiah Elfreth. It’s a free, non-ticketed attraction, and an audio tour is available online.

Tip: After visiting Elfreth’s Alley, you can enjoy a stroll around Old City, where you’ll find art galleries and independent businesses, such as The Book Trader (a well-stocked used bookstore) and Omoi Zakka Shop (a Japanese gift and stationery store).

Medical history is the focus of the Mütter Museum

The Mütter Museum is a must for the morbidly curious and those interested in medical history.

Located at the College of Physicians, also known as the “Birthplace of American Medicine,” this unusual museum’s permanent collections contain more than a hundred human skulls, parts of Albert Einstein’s brain, and the tallest skeleton in North America.

Reserved tickets are required to visit the Mütter Museum. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $15 for students and youth (ages 6-17). Entry is free for kids 5 and under.

Tip: Visitors also have the option of purchasing a dual admission ticket for the Mütter and the Penn Museum, an institution at the University of Pennsylvania dedicated to anthropology and archaeology.

The Neon Museum celebrates electric signs

Established in 1983, the Neon Museum celebrates the bold, kitschy world of electric logos. Its collection contains more than 150 vintage and art signs.

Admission is limited, so purchase a ticket online to ensure you get into the museum. Tickets cost $10. Children ages 7-12 get in free. Kids under 7 are not allowed inside.

Tip: The Neon Museum is just a 10-minute walk from Evil Genius Beer Company, one of Philly’s numerous breweries.

Passyunk Avenue is a bustling dining and retail destination

 
Visit Urban Jungle.

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The eastern portion of Passyunk Avenue in South Philly is a bustling dining and retail destination. Passyunk is most famous for its rival cheesesteak spots, Geno’s and Pat’s.

Those looking for upscale dining can visit Laurel, a French-American restaurant owned by “Top Chef” season-11 winner Nicholas Elmi, and Noord, a Dutch bistro.

As for shopping, you can buy colorful Philly-themed apparel from South Fellini, find a new house plant at Urban Jungle, and pick up a book at A Novel Idea.

Tip: If you want a quick snack, grab the famous babka from Essen, a Jewish Bakery, and pair it with a coffee from Rival Bros. You can enjoy your pastry by the Singing Fountain, a landmark surrounded by benches.

Browse the historic Italian Market

Located on S. 9th Street, the Italian Market is one of the oldest outdoor markets in the US.

Browse produce stalls and check out shops like Anthony’s, a coffee house that sells homemade chocolate and gelato, and Molly’s Books and Records. Though not located on S. 9th, Isgro Pasticceria is another neighborhood staple. It’s a must if you like cannoli.

Tip: While you’re in the area, you can also dine at Ralph’s, an Italian restaurant established in 1900.

Wissahickon Valley Park spans 1800 acres

Nature fans can hike or bike in Wissahickon Valley Park, an 1,800-acre park containing more than 50 miles of trails. Home to over 200 avian species, it has been designated an Audubon Important Bird Area.

Tip: To access Wissahickon Valley Park via public transit, you can take the SEPTA 27 bus. The west side of the park can be accessed from most stations on SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West Line, while the south entrance is accessible from Wissahickon Station on the Manayunk/Norristown line.

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