Aug 232015

8 Things You Must do When You're in Philadelphia

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.

franklin institute

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.

Um, yeah…..


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.

  124 Responses to “8 Things You Must Do When You’re in Philadelphia #VisitPhilly”

  1. I haven’t been to Philadelphia since I was a kid, but seeing all you did while you visited makes me hope to get there very soon with my family now 😉

  2. I haven’t been back to Philly in years, but would love to go as an adult! I got to travel there for DIV III track championships in college, but didn’t get to see any of the history while I was there. I’d LOVE to see the Liberty Bell and The Eastern State Penitentiary and of course, have one of those world famous cheeseteaks!

  3. I’d definitely go see the bell too. You just have to do that!

  4. I have never been to Philadelphia. Looks like lots of great things to do there, if I ever go I will have to check this out.

  5. I’ve been meaning to plan a family trip to Philadelphia. You post just makes me want to visit even more.

  6. Jason went a few years back and made everyone stop for a cheesesteak. I want to go so I can recreate the Rocky scene. I did name my dogs after that film, ya know 😉

    • I have been wanting to try a real cheesesteak for a while now! I guess I’ll need to recreate the Rocky scene too to burn off the calories lol.

  7. I’ve to google about cheesesteaks. I’ve never heard of them before!!! And oh my goodness, the Sky Bike ride sounds pretty scary. Your boy is so brave!

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  8. I really want to visit and do it all. But especially the Rocky steps and Liberty Bell. And Reading Terminal. Because FOOD.

  9. Thank you for this wonderful travel blog about philadelphia. I love to experience to be on top of the bus but probably I won’t be listening to the tourist guide coz I’m busy taking pictures of the place and selfies. lol.

  10. Awesome sights to see and visit! I would love to see the Liberty Bell first, well, after I have had my fill of a Philly cheese steak!

  11. Great List! I got to do all of these except the picture with the Rocky Balboa statue, I have a story about visiting Ben Franklin’s grave, except I don’t think I should share it here! LOL 🙂

  12. Oh my goodness. The cheesesteak made my mouth water. All the more reason to visit Philly. I can spend hours exploring that market.

  13. I loved your post today as have been in Philly many times and have such fond memories! of course I just HAD to do the Rocky climb and the Liberty Bell always takes my breath away!

  14. Seeing you and your family having so much fun, I want to go visit Philly. I have lived in Boston for many years, but never had a chance to visit it’s sister city. Hopefully soon!

  15. Wow what a great list of activities. Count me in on the next trip there.

  16. I’ve always wanted to see Philadelphia. The first thing I would do is go see the Liberty Bell.

  17. Weird questions.. but is that the bell “Barney” licked in “How I met your mother?”
    The sky bike looks a little un-nerving if you ask me. I wouldn’t be brave enough to get up there!

  18. Such a beautiful places to visit! I want to go to the Franklin Institute and the Zoo. Thanks! 😀

  19. Philadelphia looks like a great place to visit. The Franklin Institute looks amazing.

  20. I’ve never really spent time in Philly but I know I’ve seen the Liberty Bell. Clearly time for a trip back! I love your list. Seems great for adults and kids.

  21. I’ve always heard great things about this city. I still have yet to visit, but thanks for the great tips. It looks like a great place.

  22. I grew up a little bit outside Philly. I have since moved all around the country, and you really and truly cannot eat the way you can there anywhere else! Most people don’t think of it as a culinary city but it really is. Next time you will have to get a cheesesteak from Pat’s. Looks like a great trip!

  23. I have always wanted to check out Reading Terminal. I was in Philly a long time ago, but never had the chance to go there! You all always go to the most interesting places.

  24. I live right outside of Philly, and I totally agree with your list! Good to see you went to the Reading Terminal Market… such an experience. I haven’t been to the penitentiary yet… seems creepy.

  25. We just moved and this is so much closer to us. I see a road trip in our future!

  26. I really wanted to go see the Liberty Bell when I lived in North Carolina. But I never got the chance. I’m kinda bummed because now I am super far away from it now. Maybe one day.

  27. I bet all those steps would make for some killer exercise! I am excited to visit Philly now!

  28. The sky bike ride looks pretty cool, but I would be too afraid of the height. Definitely lots to do in Philly!

  29. Am I the only one who has not been to PHilly? We have 2 weeks left b4 school, I wonder If I can make it. This was a great review!

  30. How’s Philly during Thanksgiving? We’re torn between travelling London > NY for Macy’s parade etc (Brits are allowed to join in, right?) or trying something completely different

  31. I would love to see that cracked bell when I visit Philly. The cheesesteak looks delicious.

  32. I would love to see the Rocky steps. I used to love the Rocky movies.

  33. We’re planning on taking a trip to Philadelphia with the kids next year. Thanks so much for the awesome tips 🙂

  34. You are like the coolest mom ever :). I’ve been there a couple of times. What I remember the most are the pretzels sold by the street vendors. They were so cheap and good (a while ago anyway)

  35. It looks like they have a lot to see and do. My husband and I like the history parts, but the boys always need fun things to break up the time.

  36. I’d make sure a visit to Philly included the penitentiary visit, a Phillies game and at least two (maybe three) cheesesteaks. Maybe four.

  37. I really do need to take my kids to some exciting places. I want to ride the sky bike!! I think I’d be scared but I’d force myself to do it anyway! I haven’t really gotten to travel much, so I might as well do so and take the kids as well!

  38. I definitely want to take the kids here someday. So much rich history, love it!

  39. Yes please I would love to do all of these of things, it would be great to visit Philadelphia 🙂 x

  40. Bring back memory of cheesesteak hoagies and the reading terminal market …Lots of food for all taste buds. Seem like you and the kids had a good time I was there with you.

  41. OMG, what a wonderful trip you had!! I would LOVE to visit Philadelphia! This blog put me on a tour that made me want to go right now. So I turned to Pamela and said,”Do you want to go to Philadelphia?” and she said “when?” and I said “RIGHT NOW”!! Thanks so much!

  42. The Franklin Institute is the coolest place ever!!! When I was like in 3rd grade I went on an overnight school trip there. So neat!

  43. As a Philly Girl i agree with your list. I need to revisit skme of these places myself.

  44. I LOVE philadelphia! Such a beautiful city with SO much to do!

  45. What a great list of things to do. I want to visit someday with the kids.

  46. Philly is a great city! I love the food and coffee scene. Last year I went to Elixr and La Colombe. Next time I will check out your suggestions!

  47. I want to go here so bad! It is totally on my bucket list, someday I will make it.

  48. Philadelphia looks and sounds like an amazing city. I will make sure I remember this for when I get there next.

  49. I have never been to Phili before. Looks like it’s somewhere I should visit.

  50. DEFINITELY want to climb those Rocky steps, put on a grey hoody and race up. They’re much bigger than I thought they would with your kids in them!

  51. I have never been to Phili before, but it is somewhere DH has always wanted to go!! His favourite movie in the entire world is ROCKY! so that is a place we would go for sure!

  52. I do intend on going there. I want to see the bell.

  53. Looks like you guys had a great time! I don’t expect that I will ever go to Philadelphia, but when I do travel to different cities I always look to see if they offer a Big Bus Sightseeing Tour. Love those!

  54. Of course you must climb the Rocky steps, but I would be exhausted! My husband would eat a few Philly cheesesteaks !

  55. Heard and read so much about this city that I must add to my bucket list!

  56. I would love to go there. There is so much history there! And good food!

  57. I went to Philly a few weeks ago and loved it!! I saw the Liberty Bell and did a hop on hop off tour, best way to get around!!

  58. This is so awesome. So much to see and do. I’d love to visit Philly. Hopefully I’ll get the chance at some point!

  59. I have seen the Liberty Bell, but it was SO long ago! I would love to take the Trolley Tour!

  60. OOOO!!! A sky bike. That’d be my first stop!! 🙂

  61. I hve never been but have friends there. I would love to see some of the breweries and the bell!

  62. Wow! Now you’ve made me want to visit Philadelphia! I would definitely love to visit that food market! I’m such a foodie.

  63. Philly sounds like a great place .. I would have loved to climb those Rocky Steps and eat a Philly Cheese-steaks

  64. I would love to visit Philadelphia. Looks like you had lots of fun.

  65. One other thing we did in Philly is run with the dog near the Rocky Balboa steps 😉

  66. My husband and I were actually talking about visiting PE soon, and now we have a great list to check off while we’re there!

  67. Love this list. I wil def have to do some of these next time I am in Philly!

  68. Love the idea of taking a trolley or bus around town. I’ve always wanted to visit Philly!

  69. I have never been to the east coast. I know my husband would love to visit Philly.

  70. I am the biggest Rocky fan on the planet (Okay… tiny exaggeration but..) and I have the Rocky Steps on my bucket list!

  71. The franklin institute looks right up my alley. Definitely need to check out Philly!

  72. You’ve got to see the Liberty Bell. But I can’t think of the Liberty Bell without having How I Met Your Mother flashbacks from when they went to lick it.

  73. I have always wanted to go to Philadelphia. There are so many great things to do there with your family. I would love to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

  74. What an amazing trip your family had. I would love to do all of those – the Rocky Stairs have been on my list since I was a kid.

  75. There is a hospital in philly that helps 22q kids like Bella and I was so close to going there once. I would love to travel to philly.

  76. Wow that looks like a bunch of great things to do. My husband would go just for the cheese steaks. I am in NY so will bookmark this. Thanks for the ideas.

  77. We visited Philly a long time ago and did a few of those things ourselves! I agree it’s pretty much the law to get a cheesesteak while you’re there!

  78. I would love to visit Philadelphia one day. I love history and Philadelphia certainly has that. It
    looks like you packed a lot into your trip. The kids look like they had a great time.

  79. I’ve been to Philly, but some of this stuff I didn’t do. I guess I need to go back!

  80. I’d like to go to the Franklin Institute. I’d def. want to see the bell. And yes, security is a good thing. Love your pics!

  81. I’ve always wanted to climb the Rocky steps and see the Liberty bell. I’ve been through Philadelphia but have never taken the time to visit and explore the sites. I need to remedy that.

  82. Literally lots of things to do in Philly! Love all the awesome views in there. Truly great to see them!

  83. I didn’t know there were this much to do in Philly. I’d love to get myself on that tour and eat as much Philly Cheese Steak as I can while I’m there. Lol.

  84. Sounds like a great trip. So much rich history in that city. I have been wanting to visit Philly for a long time. Have driven through PA several times but never took the time to see Philly. I might just have to do that now.

  85. My son is a wishing of seeing the Rocky Balboa statue, he is a big fan of the movie. This would be a treat for him.

  86. I need to make it a point to do these when I’m in Philly next! Which could be anytime since Im so close. And yet I’ve done none of these… I’m terrible. lol.

  87. That really sounds like an awesome vacation spot.

  88. I haven’t been in Philadelphia but it seems it was a fun place to visit, my kids would surely love to go there, they will be enjoying for sure. i add this on our bucket list

  89. I would love to take the trolley bus tour and of course, eat a Philly Cheesesteak. I think a visit to Philly is not complete without sampling the famous Cheesesteak. 😉

  90. Really want to travel next year and I’m hoping to visit your beautiful country. Keeping this post as a bookmark for future reference.

  91. Looks like you guys had a great time! Liberty bell has our name on it!

  92. Such a great list of activities and sights to see. I really hope we can plan a visit someday. Thanks!

  93. I live 20mins from Philly and yet, you did things we have not done! I saved your list to do some of the things we have not tried! Thank you for sharing!

  94. Eastern State Penn. has been on my list of places to visit for ages. I can’t wait to plan a PA trip.

  95. We did a LOT of these when we visited on our senior class trip YEARS ago. It was a trip I’ll never forget as long as I live.

  96. Sounds like awesome things to do! You must eat a cheesesteak while in Philly!

  97. I haven’t been to Philly in years. This is a great list of things to do!

  98. I’ve never been there but these all look like fun things to do. The Sky Bike looks like a mini adrenaline rush 🙂

  99. What a great list! I would love to visit Philly some day!

  100. I’ve never been there it that place looks peaceful. Im glad that you had fun adventure.

  101. I need to go back to Philly and do #4,5 and 6 on your list! What an awesome city to visit!

  102. I have to admit I have never been to Philly but you made me want to go more. There is so much history there that I would so love to see and share with my kids who are young men now. The bell and rocky stair with the statue are a couple of places I would love to see. Thanks so much for sharing.

  103. Would you believe I have never been to Philly? We might just have to make a trip there to see all this awesome stuff!

  104. The Eastern State Penitentiary looks a bit creepy, but that is a good picture! I have never been to Philadelphia before. Maybe someday, though!

  105. I have never been to Philadelphia, but it is in my bucket list for long. And these are some great information on what can be done there during a visit. I would love to take my kids to Philadelphia Zoo & personally I would love to spend some time at Franklin Institute.

  106. Looks like you had an amazing time! Just look at the smile on your boys’ faces, priceless! I’d love to visit Philadelphia one of these days.

  107. next labour day I would love to go hereee…and thanks for your tips, Robin 🙂

  108. I remember going to Philly many years ago. I absolutely loved the city and agree with all the places you’ve outlined here.

  109. I think it would be amazing to visit philly. There is nothing to do around here because all of the towns in my area are small. Those Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks look amazing.

  110. Of course one must eat a Philly Cheese Steak! That would probably be my husband’s first stop!

  111. Wow you jammed a lot of fun into two days. I would want to see the Rocky Statue myself.

  112. I love all the pictures! I haven’t been to Philadelphia in a while so I’m definitely overdue for a trip. I’ll have to check these out whenever I make it back.

  113. love love love this city. Especially the shops. I love the south Philly shopping area. So rich with history.

  114. I haven’t been in this place, this place looks something I need to visit. I love all your photos.

  115. I’ve driven through Philly countless times, next time I’ll stop and do these 8 things 🙂

  116. We were just talking about planning a trip to Philadelphia! I will definitely remember to do these 8 things! Thank you for sharing.

  117. That prison tour looks creepy, therefore it would be right up my alley! I love old places that are deserted, there’s almost a weird beauty about them.

  118. That is so good to know. Have never been there, but hope to make it one day

  119. Of course you have to eat a Philly cheesesteak!!! Looks like you had a ball any city I go to I want to do a bus tour!

  120. Another place on my list to take the boys 🙂