I have wanted to visit Boston’s sister city, Philadelphia, for years and a few weeks ago I finally got a chance to spend two amazing days in the city of brotherly love. Philly is only a little over 5 hours from my house, so now I am scratching my head about why I had never gone there before.
The first thing I want to mention about my time in Philly is that the streets of Philadelphia are much easier to navigate than the streets of Boston are. The next thing I want to say is that as much as I love Boston, and I really do, I think I loved Philadelphia almost as much. It’s a city rich in culture and history – not to mention cheesesteaks. We had so much fun exploring Philly and if you are planning on going anytime soon, I have narrowed down a few things you just have to do while you’re there.
1. Climb the Rocky steps!
Running up the Rocky steps (AKA East Entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) is a must-do on your visit to Philadelphia. While we were there, we saw a bunch of people recreate the scene from the movie & since I was in flip-flops that day, I sent my boys to do it, too.
At the bottom of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you will find the bronze statue of Rocky Balboa. The statue was made for Rocky III and after filming for the movie completed, Sly Stallone donated the statue to the City of Philadelphia.
2. Take a trolley or bus tour of the city!
There are a few options as far as narrated city tours go, but we ended up taking a tour with the Big Bus Company for no other reason than that my boys wanted to sit up on the top of the double-decker bus.
Operated by Philadelphia Trolley Works, the Big Bus Sightseeing Tours are offered 7 days per week with frequent departures from the Northeast Corner of 5th & Market streets (right by the Liberty Bell).
We loved the Big Bus Company tour because we were able to hop on and off at any of the 27 stops along the way. On our journey, we saw so many of Philadelphia’s famous landmarks including Betsy Ross’s House, the United States Mint, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Chinatown.
Not to mention, along the tour we got to see some amazing views of the city!
I love tours like this because in addition to hearing fun stories & some history of the city, they are a great way to see a little bit of everything and we sure saw a lot of Philadelphia during our time on the Big Bus.
3. See the Liberty Bell!
You can’t go to Philly and not see the Liberty bell. Plus, it’s free, so go check out that famous cracked bell!
PS – you do have to go through a security screening to see it, but that’s a good thing, right?
4. Spend some time at the Franklin Institute.
Founded in honor of America’s first scientist, Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Institute is one of the oldest and premier centers of science education and development in the country.
The Institute offers 12 core exhibits that provide hands-on learning experiences for kids. My boys were entertained and engaged the entire time they were there.
Where else can you walk inside a giant, two-story human heart?
Or travel through a two-story tall neural network climbing structure with dynamic lighting and sound effects that are triggered by the kids own footsteps?
My boys love interactive museums like this and I really cannot say enough good things about The Franklin Institute. I would love to get my kids back there someday.
And if you are daring like my brave son, for just $3, you can ride the Sky Bike, which sits 28-feet high above the museum’s atrium.
The Franklin Institute is located at the intersection of 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
5. Tour The Eastern State Penitentiary.
The Eastern State Penitentiary was operational from 1829 until 1971. Today it stands in ruin. As you walk through the facility, you’ll see nothing but crumbling cell-blocks and empty guard towers. It was truly amazing to see and I actually wrote an article dedicated to my personal experience there, which you can read here if you like.
It was an awesome experience and everyone should get a chance to tour the facility. Eastern State is located at 2027 Fairmount Ave.
6. Visit the Philadelphia Zoo.
The Philadelphia Zoo is America’s first zoo. The Philadelphia Zoo sits on 42-acres of land and is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of them rare and/or endangered. With animals such as Cheetahs, hippos, giraffes and so many more, the Philadelphia Zoo is one of the leading family attractions in the city and it brought in over 1.35 million visitors last year alone.
I also wrote a dedicated article about our day at the zoo, which you can read here.
The Philadelphia Zoo is located at 3400 W Girard Ave.
7. See Benjamin Franklin’s final resting place.
Benjamin Franklin, his wife and approximately 1400 others are buried at Christ Church Burial Ground located at Arch Street between 4th & 5th.
Unlike all our Revolutionary era graveyards here in Boston, the Christ Church Burial Ground charges admission (boo!). It’s $1 for children and $2 for adults. You can see Ben Franklin’s grave from the street, though, so if you’re cheap like me, you won’t have to pay to see it.
8. Eat a Philly cheesesteak!!
You seriously can not leave Philadelphia without eating a Philly cheesesteak. In fact, I am pretty sure it’s against the law. Or at least it should be. While we were in Philly, we decided to make a stop at The Reading Terminal Market for our Philly cheesesteaks.
The Reading Terminal Market is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Not only that, When you visit the market, you can enjoy eating virtually every type of cuisine, from Asian and Middle Eastern dishes to authentic Philly Cheesesteaks and traditional Pennsylvania Dutch foods. Most of the stands there are family run.
There are over 100 merchants at the market who offer fresh produce, meats, cheeses, groceries, ice cream, flowers, baked goods, crafts, books, clothing, candy and all kinds of specialty foods. It’s foodie’s paradise!
We got our cheesesteaks from Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks and it was beyond delicious. We just don’t get cheesesteaks like that at home.
Reading Terminal Market is located at 51 North 12th Street.
Philadelphia is a great city to visit. It is full of the arts, culture, history, great restaurants, shopping and so much more. Chris and I are planning on visiting again in October (without kids this time) and I am looking forward to exploring more of this charming little city!
**Disclosure: My family and I received complimentary admissions thanks to generous folks at Visit Philly. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way.