The City of Brotherly Love is the quintessential American city. From its rich history as one of the country’s founding cities to its vibrant present-day culture that pulses with art, shopping, entertainment, and cuisine, you’ll find endless things to do in Philadelphia.
If you love art and history, you can walk in the footsteps of American legends like Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross, stop by Independence Hall, and admire the majesty of the Liberty Bell. The “Rocky Steps” and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are also must-sees.
For foodies, this Pennsylvania city is a paradise. We’re talking about a city that has specialties like cheesesteaks, hoagies, and Tastykake’s Butterscotch Krimpets – and that’s just the beginning. You can spend days eating and drinking your way through Philadelphia’s neighborhoods without even scratching the surface.
To burn off some of those extra calories, you can stroll down quaint streets, enjoy the scenery along the Schuylkill River, and even hike in the Wissahickon Gorge. Trust us: if you love nature and the great outdoors, Philly has plenty of tree-filled green spaces, lakes, and trails for you to explore. With so many things to see, do, and eat in this wonderful city, the hardest part is deciding where to begin!
To help you with planning your trip, we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Philadelphia for you. Stick to our fun and unique Philadelphia bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an unforgettable time exploring this amazing corner of the US!
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15 cool and unique things to do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1. Go Museum Hopping around Benjamin Franklin Parkway
First stop: the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This peaceful, tree-lined avenue is home to some of Philadelphia’s most iconic museums. Since they’re all so close to each other, you can easily visit several in one day.
Start at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the most renowned art museums in the country. This impressive art gallery features works from some of the world’s most famous artists, including Renoir, Picasso, and van Gogh.
If you’re feeling active, climb up the famous “Rocky Steps” to the museum’s entrance and pretend you’re running up the stairs like Rocky Balboa!
Next, head to the Rodin Museum to see the largest collection of Auguste Rodin’s works outside of Paris. Then, check out the Barnes Foundation, which houses an impressive art collection – including works by Renoir, Cézanne, and Matisse.
The Franklin Institute should also be part of your museum tour. It’s a science museum dedicated to Benjamin Franklin (one of Philadelphia’s most famous sons). You’ll learn all about electricity, try out interactive exhibits, and even walk through a giant heart!
Wrap up your museum tour with a visit to the nearby Mütter Museum, which has an extensive collection of medical oddities and artifacts. You’ll see everything from preserved organs to a display of 2,000 human skulls. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart but is still educational and one of the most unique things to do in Philadelphia!
2. Devour an Authentic Philly Cheesesteak
No list of things to do in Philadelphia would be complete without a mention of the iconic Philly cheesesteak. This hearty sandwich, consisting of thinly sliced steak and melted cheese on a hoagie roll, is practically synonymous with the city.
You’ll find cheesesteaks all over Philadelphia, but the best ones are at Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. These two legendary spots are located right next to each other on 9th Street in South Philly, and they’ve been duking it out for the title of “best cheesesteak in Philly” for years.
So, which one should you try? We say go to both and decide for yourself! Just be sure to order your cheesesteak “Whiz wit” – that’s with Cheez Whiz and grilled onions. Wash it down with a cold root beer and you’re all set!
Still hungry? Grab a water ice, another Philly favorite, for dessert. Like Italian ice, this refreshing drink comes in a variety of flavors and makes the perfect sweet treat on a hot summer day.
Other must-try local food and drinks are soft pretzels, hoagies, and Tastykake’s iconic Chocolate Cupcakes or Butterscotch Krimpets.
3. Tour the Historic Independence Hall
No visit to Philadelphia would be complete without a stop at Independence Hall. This is the building where the Founding Fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.
It’s awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time: imagine standing in the same room as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson!
Independence Hall is part of Independence National Historical Park, which also includes the Liberty Bell (another must-see in Philly!). The best way to see both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell is by taking a guided tour, which you can book in advance through the park’s website.
Entrance to the Liberty Bell is totally free. Just make sure to get there early because the lines can get very long.
4. Indulge Your Inner Foodie at Reading Terminal Market
Philly’s Reading Terminal Market is a food lover’s dream. This historic market, which has been operating since 1893, is home to over 80 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to gourmet cheese to handmade chocolates. We particularly love the Amish farmers selling locally grown produce, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the vendors in this bustling market.
Some of our favorite spots within Reading Terminal Market include Bassetts Ice Cream for a scoop or two, DiNic’s for their classic roast pork or beef sandwiches, and Miller’s Twist for egg-stuffed breakfast pretzels.
There are always new stalls and vendors popping up at Reading Terminal Market, so you never know what deliciousness you’ll find during your visit!
5. Stroll Through the Famous Longwood Gardens
Just a short drive from downtown Philadelphia is Longwood Gardens, one of the world’s premier botanical gardens.
Located on more than 1,000 acres of land and filled with 20 indoor and outdoor gardens, there’s something for every type of gardener to enjoy here – from formal French parterres to cactus-filled desert landscapes.
There are also more than 11,000 different types of plants on the property, so you’re sure to see something you’ve never seen before. And if you love flowers, you’ll be in heaven because Longwood Gardens is home to over 700 varieties of roses!
Even if you’re not a gardener, Longwood Gardens is worth a visit for the sheer beauty of the grounds. It’s truly a sight to behold, and you can easily spend a whole day exploring everything these world-class gardens have to offer.
6. Explore the Notorious Eastern State Penitentiary
If you’re into the strange and macabre, touring the Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most unique things to do in Philadelphia. This former prison was once one of the most famous and notorious prisons in the world, and it’s now a fascinating ruin that’s open to the public for tours.
On your tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary, you’ll learn about the prison’s history and see some of its grisly artifacts. You’ll see things like the gruesome prison hospital with its medieval-style surgical tools and an actual “hole,” where prisoners were kept in solitary confinement in complete darkness for weeks at a time.
We have to admit: we got the chills just going on the tour! But if you’re a history buff or just curious about what prison life was like back in the day, this is hands down one of the coolest Philadelphia attractions.
7. Catch a Phillies Baseball Game at Citizens Bank Park
Want to feel like a local? Head to Citizens Bank Park to watch a Phillies baseball game. Sitting in the stands with a cold beer in hand while cheering on the home team is such an electrifying experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re a baseball fan or not!
Citizens Bank Park itself is packed with some of the most fun things to do in Philadelphia. In addition to the main stadium, the park has a sports museum that’s perfect for kids and adults alike, a Hall of Fame walk with statues of Phillies legends, and a restaurant overlooking the field where you can enjoy an amazing meal while watching the game.
8. Treat Your Sweet Tooth at Shane Confectionery
It’s hard not to fall head over heels with Shane Confectionery, Philadelphia’s oldest operating candy shop.
Housed in a charming Victorian building that dates back to the late 1800s, this shop has all the classic candies you remember from your childhood (think saltwater taffy and gummy bears), as well as some modern twists on old-fashioned sweets.
Our personal favorite sweets at Shane Confectionery are the chocolate-covered pretzels, which are made fresh daily. But if you’re feeling adventurous, try one of their unique confections like earl grey tea marshmallows or lavender lemonade truffles.
You can also watch the candy makers in action through the glass windows that line the front of the store. It’s so fun to see them hand-rolling taffy and dipping chocolates. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that the smells wafting from the store are absolutely intoxicating!
9. Go Back in Time at Valley Forge National Historical Park
Exploring the Valley Forge National Historical Park is no doubt one of the best Philadelphia activities. This park is where George Washington and his troops camped during the Revolutionary War, and today it’s a beautiful spot for hiking, picnicking, and simply taking in the stunning views.
It’s a fantastic place to bring the entire family and truly gain a sense of what life was like during the Revolutionary War. For instance, you can visit the recreated soldiers’ huts and see how the troops lived during their time at Valley Forge.
You can also explore the interactive museum, which has exhibits on the historic battle as well as the people who fought it. We also suggest joining one of the ranger-led tours, which are offered throughout the day and are free of charge.
As for outdoor activities, the Valley Forge National Historical Park has a six-mile multi-use trail, 35 miles of designated hiking trails, 19 miles of biking trails, and 17 miles of horse trails.
No matter what time of year you visit, exploring the Valley Forge National Historical Park deserves a place on your Philadelphia bucket list.
10. Eat Your Way through The Italian Market
The Italian Market is set in one of Philadelphia’s most iconic and vibrant neighborhoods. And while the name might lead you to believe you’ll only find Italian joints here, this is one of the most diverse foodie destinations in the city!
The market itself is brimming with authentic Italian vendors selling everything from handmade pasta to imported olive oil, classic Italian cold cuts like soppressata and capocollo, and countless cheeses! Try the burrata, mozzarella di bufala, or just about any of the various types of fresh ricotta.
It’s not all about Italian food, though. Delve deeper and sample the huevos con mole at Mole Poblano, the Thai curries at Kalaya Thai Kitchen, or the fried chicken and waffles at Sabrina’s Café. From authentic Mexico City-style food to Turkish cuisine to real-deal Philly cheesesteaks at Pat’s and Geno’s, there’s something for everyone at The Italian Market.
The Italian Market is definitely one of the top things to do in Philadelphia, and we dare you not to fall in love with it as soon as you set foot on its cobblestone streets.
11. Have Some Waterfront Fun at Penn’s Landing
Philadelphia wouldn’t be Philadelphia without its iconic piers and waterfront. The entire city is located along the Delaware River, and it’s packed with exciting activities and attractions.
If you only have time for one waterfront destination, we suggest spending your time at Penn’s Landing. This popular spot is located in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia and offers endless activities for an unforgettable day by the water.
For a one-of-a-kind experience, take a ride on the Independence Seaport Museum‘s classic tall ship: the USS Olympia. This historic warship served in the Spanish American War and WWI, but today it’s docked at Penn’s Landing and is open for public tours.
Other fun things to do at Penn’s Landing include biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, or just laying on a blanket by the river and soaking up some rays!
If you have more time to spare, visit Philly’s other popular waterfront destinations like the seasonal Spruce Street Harbor Park or the Race Street Pier.
12. Get Outside at Delaware Canal State Park
Whether you’re looking for a scenic hike, a leisurely bike ride, or just want to go on a relaxing stroll, visiting the Delaware Canal State Park is the perfect activity when the weather is nice.
Located just 20 minutes from Center City, Philadelphia, this historic state park sits along the 60-mile-long Delaware Canal. This 19th-century canal now boasts a popular hiking and biking trail, perfect for all ages and fitness levels. If you’re feeling adventurous, bring your kayak or canoe to explore the canal by water!
The park also offers numerous historic exhibits and educational displays, including the Locktender’s House Museum. Another unique feature of the park is the restored 1832 New Hope Railroad Bridge, which is now open to pedestrians and cyclists.
Wildlife enthusiasts will love the park’s diverse array of bird species, including bald eagles, ospreys, and herons. The Delaware Canal State Park is one of the ultimate destinations for Philadelphia sightseeing, so be sure to visit this beautiful green space during your trip!
13. Sip Your Way Through the Philadelphia Distillery Trail
Philly is quickly becoming known for its craft beer and spirits scene, so be sure to add tasting some local brews and spirits to your list of things to do!
The Philadelphia Distillery Trail is the perfect way to sample some of the city’s best spirits. The trail includes eight different distilleries, all of which offer tours and tastings.
Located in Fishtown, this distillery is a premium craft producer of whiskeys and spirits, with their award-winning brands including Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Penn 1681 Vodka, and Thomas Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17-Year-Old Bourbon.
Everything is smooth, but at the top of our list is the distillery’s Bluecoat Barrel-Aged Gin, which is infused with a special blend of 11 botanicals and aged in new American oak barrels to create a full-bodied flavor profile!
Aside from tasting some world-class spirits, another highlight of the Philadelphia Distillery Trail is getting to see how everything is made.
It was so interesting to watch how the distillers transform raw ingredients like corn, rye, and barley into sensational whiskeys, bourbons, and gins. Plus, each tour ends with a complimentary tasting of various rotating spirits, so you can try the full line-up of products.
Whether you’re a beer lover, spirit connoisseur, or just enjoy trying new things, the Philadelphia Distillery Trail is a must!
14. Shop for Souvenirs at Peddler’s Village
If you’re a fan of quaint, old-fashioned shopping villages, then Peddler’s Village is the place for you. Located just outside of Philadelphia in Bucks County, this village is home to over 70 specialty shops, restaurants, and several galleries.
One of the coolest parts of Peddler’s Village is the historic buildings and architecture. Dating back to the late 1700s, Peddler’s Village was once a stop on the famous Old York Road stagecoach line.
Today, the village features a variety of historic buildings that were once part of a working dairy farm and gristmill. Pose for a photo in front of the iconic red-covered bridge, one of the most photographed landmarks in Bucks County!
When it comes to shopping, Peddler’s Village is a one-stop destination for all your souvenir needs.
Some of our favorite shops include The Carriage House for beautiful home decor and artisanal crafts, the Clay Cupboard for handmade pottery and gifts, and the Toy Shop for adorable toys for the little ones.
Finally, don’t miss the galleries. Peddler’s Village is home to several art galleries, including the Thomas Kinkade Lighthouse Gallery, the Artisans Gallery, the Lachman Gallery, and the RUTA European Art shop!
15. Check Out Philly’s Beloved Jazz Clubs
When you’re creating your list of what to do in Philadelphia, reserve a spot for some of the city’s jazz clubs. Jazz has a long and rich history in Philadelphia, dating back to the early 1900s when legendary street performers would play on South Street.
Today, Philly’s jazz scene is thriving, with several clubs offering live music every night of the week. The clubs also host open mic nights and a variety of other performances, including poetry readings and jam sessions.
For example, Time is a funky basement bar offering tasty bites, Ortlieb’s is a German beer hall, and the South Jazz Parlor is a swanky cocktail lounge. So dress up, grab a drink, and enjoy the smooth sounds of jazz in Philadelphia the next time you find yourself in the city!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Philadelphia. What’s your favorite thing to do in the City of Brotherly Love?
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