Philadelphia
Philadelphia

Philadelphia Tours & Attractions


Philadelphia was once considered the most influential city in the nation and had the largest population in the United States. Due to Philly’s importance in the development of our nation, it has several interesting and significant attractions worth seeing. Perhaps the most famous attraction is the Liberty Bell Pavilion, which houses the 2,080 lb. bell. Another unique piece of history still preserved in Philadelphia is the Betsy Ross House. She is said to have sewn the first United States flag that was presented to George Washington. Philly isn’t all historical buildings and artifacts though. The Philadelphia Zoo was the first zoo in the U.S. and is currently home to over 1,300 animals. The Please Touch Museum caters to younger audiences and offers the kids a chance to explore hands-on exhibits. For something completely different, try a trip to Hersheypark just outside of Philadelphia. This huge amusement park has over 60 rides and attractions, complete with a water park. Philadelphia is one of the best cities for both leisure and historical attractions.
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African American Museum

701 Arch St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Tel. 215.574.0380
Opened in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia was the first major museum in the United States devoted specifically to African American history and traditions. The Philadelphia museum primarily shows artwork from African Americans but has also hosted the art of continental Africans. Founded as a celebration of the nation’s Bicentennial, the museum educates those who walk through its doors about the culture and heritage of African Americans through permanent and traveling exhibitions as well as special events. The African American Museum tells the story of African Americans through a retrospective of the Civil Rights Movement, art, family life and into entertainment, sports, religion and more. Several different themes, one focusing on the Philadelphia story, make up this poignant museum.

Barnes Collection

300 N. Latches Lane, Merion Station, Philadelphia PA; Tel. 610.667.0290
At the turn-of-the-century, the forward thinking Dr. Albert Barnes amassed one of the country's (in fact, one of the world's) greatest private collection of Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Fauvist art. He also stipulated in his will that the art, curated by him, in his home outside Philadelphia remain as it did at his death. Rooms are crowded with Matisses and Picassos. It's a swirl of color and chaos that will please the art lover as well as the eccentric.

Betsy Ross House

239 Arch St., Philadelphia PA; Tel. 215.686.1252
She sewed a flag. The rest is history -- literally, at this museum where crafts and decorations of the period are preserved, and served alongside a healthy dose of information on the original Miss Ross.

Chestnut Hill and The Main Line

These two suburbs, about 15 minutes apart, exemplify the moneyed glory of old Philadelphia. Chestnut Hill is a surprisingly integrated neighborhood with Philadelphia's best in arts and crafts. Many of the old manse houses have been converted into apartments or multi-family dwellings, but that does nothing to take away from the majestic grandeur of the Colonial style. On Philadelphia's Main Line, old money maintains historic mansions and sprawling estates. The setting for the classic Hepburn/Grant/Stewart film "The Philadelphia Story," the Main Line smacks of Boodles Martinis and freshly pressed schoolboy blazers. Still, both neighborhoods are absolutely breathtaking in their grandiosity and stone beauty.

City Hall

Broad and Market Streets, Philadelphia PA; Tel. 215.686.2840
This Beaux-Arts and Victorian building centers Philadelphia geographically and spiritually. It also is the largest building in the world that does not rely on steel support, made completely of concrete and stone. No matter which way you go in Philly, City Hall never seems to be far away. Stately and regal, the classically executed building is one of the proudest tributes to Philadelphia history and style.

Eastern State Penitentiary

22nd St. and Fairmount Ave. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Tel: 215.236.3300
As early as the 19th century the Eastern State Penitentiary was a tourist destination for Americans wanting to see infamous prisoners. The Philadelphia penitentiary operated from 1829 until 1971 and for most of those years was used to keep inmates in solitary confinement. The Philadelphia attraction is kept in a state of “preserved ruin,” meaning that there have been no attempts at restoration but this also allows visitors a better look at what prisoners of the Eastern State Penitentiary had to deal with. The gloomy surroundings and long history of the penitentiary have made it a prime location for many shows on paranormal activity as well an ideal place for risk takers to enjoy the annual "Terror Behind the Walls" haunted house for Halloween. Philadelphia tourists can visit the attraction for guided tours, self-guided tours with a headset or be brave and take the twilight tour.

Elfreth's Alley

Near Arch St., btw Second and Front Sts., Philadelphia PA
The oldest continuously residential block in the country, with some houses dating back to the early 18th century. See gorgeous facades and gaggles of tourists.

Franklin Institute of Science Museum

222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Tel. 215.448.1200
Visitors to the Franklin Institute of Science Museum have the opportunity to see special traveling exhibits, permanent exhibits or maybe even find out what its like to be a professional athlete in the 5,500 square foot sports stadium. Families in and visiting Philadelphia will be pleased with the wide array of exciting permanent exhibits that cater to a younger set such as Sir Issac’s Loft, the Giant Heart and even the chance to see something out of this world in the Joel N. Bloom Observatory. An IMAX theater and planetarium gives weary museum viewers the chance to take in some science while sitting down before heading to more exhibits in the Franklin Institute of Science Museum. This Philadelphia attraction will keep little kids—and their big kid parents—entertained for hours with hands on activities. Be sure to check out the Space Command exhibition to complete an out of this world experience right in Philadelphia.

Hersheypark

100 W. Hersheypark Dr., Hershey, Pennsylvania; Tel. 1.800.HERSHEY
Originally opened in 1907 as a leisure park for employees of the Hershey Chocolate Company, Hersheypark has become an enormous amusement and water park just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With over 60 rides and attractions, 10 of which are roller coasters, Hersheypark attracts locals and tourists to experience the thrill of rides along with down home cooking, and of course, chocolate. The adjacent Zoo America’s admission is included in the Hersheypark ticket price if visitors are interested in taking a break from rides. Also right outside the gates is Chocolate World, a theme village with restaurants and stores that doesn’t require a ticket for admission. The newest addition to Hersheypark is a New England beach-themed area called The Boardwalk that consists of several water rides, so don’t forget a bathing suit. This attraction is worth the drive from Philadelphia to get your thrills and some delicious Hershey chocolate.

Independence Hall

Chestnut St., btw 5th and 6th Sts., Philadelphia PA; Tel. 800.967.2283
Philadelphia is known for its historical buildings from the founding of the United States and the historical attraction that stands out in the minds of many is Independence Hall. The national landmark in Philadelphia is best known for being the location that the Declaration of Independence was constructed and adopted. The Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution were also signed in the Independence Hall and demonstrate the instrumental role Philadelphia had in creating the government of the US. Now the Liberty Bell sits in the Liberty Bell Center across the street, but it was first hung in the bell tower of Independence Hall to let freedom ring. All these attractions together make up Independence Historical Park and attract visitors from near and far to Philadelphia.

Liberty Bell Pavilion

Market St. btw 5th and 6th Sts., Philadelphia PA
Crowds line up for hours to get a glimpse of this 2,080 lb. bronze percussion instrument located in a glass pavilion, crack and all. No touching, no ringing but plenty of history. As a recognized symbol of nationhood, independence, the abolition of slavery and freedom it’s appropriate that the Liberty Bell is located right in the heart of Philadelphia's Independence National Park. The Liberty Bell was rung at several important events throughout history, but is most prominently associated with the American Revolutionary War. Because the Liberty Bell used to occupy the bell tower of Independence Hall—the building it is now across the street from—it was rung in 1776 to gather Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. Almost a century later the Liberty Bell was adopted as a symbol of the abolitionist movement. Today the bell is no longer rung, not only because it’s a historical attraction, but because there is a famous crack that would threaten to fully split the bell upon further use. However, the Liberty Bell in its Independence National Historical Park home still attracts Philadelphia school children, locals and tourists from around the world.

National Constitution Center

Independence Mall, 525 Arch St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Tel. 215.409.6600
Located in the heart of National Historic Park and just two blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center is a perfect attraction for history enthusiasts. The Philadelphia museum is the only one in the nation dedicated entirely to the U.S. Constitution. Visitors can listen to multimedia presentations and enjoy interactive exhibits while exploring the building and travelers can relish in the fact the National Constitution Center is open seven days a week.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

26th St. and Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia PA; Tel. 215.763.8100
Founded in 1876, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is most recognizable for its neo-classical exterior, the steps of which Sylvester Stallone sprinted so famously in Rocky. One of the biggest in the nation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art may take days to fully see all the exhibits. Although only the most avid art fans may take the time to see everything in the Philadelphia museum, tourists will enjoy the attraction’s art, with Van Gogh's "Sunflowers," a large collection of Medieval and Renaissance art (including a fantastic collection of armor), its large array of works by Marcel Duchamp and works by local boys made good, like Thomas Eakins, who used the nearby Schuylkill River for many of his studies. Patrons can enjoy daily guided tours or take advantage of the museum’s “multimedia guide” that allows visitors to listen to a tour on a headset while they explore the Philadelphia Museum of Art on their own. Programs are offered throughout the year to add more education to art. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is enjoyable time after time so visitors and locals know to put it on their must-see list.

Please Touch Museum

210 N. 21st St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Tel. 215.963.0667
Designed especially for children, the Please Touch Museum offers youngsters a chance to explore and learn through hands-on activities, exhibitions and interactive performances. The Philadelphia children’s museum offers several permanent exhibits that include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland where children can play croquet with the Queen of Hearts, Barnyard Babies where little ones can play in the garden and Move It, an exhibition that puts kids in the driver’s seat. With so much to do, this attraction is as kid-friendly as they come in terms of museums. The Please Touch Museum’s new location will include all of the exhibits in Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park.

Reading Terminal Market

12th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Reading Terminal Market has a history almost as complex as the other historical attractions in Philadelphia. In the 1890s the market was established conveniently under a railroad station that allowed products to reach about 60 suburban towns and seaside resorts on the New Jersey shore. Built during the Industrial Revolution, the Reading Terminal Market was considered state of the art with 52 separate rooms that allowed each to be cooled based on what was being sold in each room. Over the years, this Philadelphia attraction not only survived the Great Depression, but also the hard years during World War II. Although there was a period of time in which the organization running the Reading Terminal Market neglected the businesses, in recent years it has been revitalized and become an attraction for visitors as well as a staple for locals. Not only is there a long historical background, but the Reading Terminal Market is open all week for exploration of culinary delights and products from local Pennsylvania vendors.

Rittenhouse Square

The Central Park of Philadelphia's five-park based municipal development, Rittenhouse Square is home to statuesque blondes and burnished copper statues of our nation's founders. Well-laid walkways sensibly ring the park, which drips with mid-Atlantic foliage.

Rodin Museum

Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. at 22nd St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Tel. 215.763.8100
With one of the largest collections outside Paris of sculptor Auguste Rodin’s work, the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia is a premiere art museum in Pennsylvania. Rodin’s best known sculpture, “The Thinker,” is on display outside the museum and gardens, which are artwork themselves having been designed by French artists and opened in 1929. The collection of Rodin’s work also includes bronze castings, plaster studies, drawings, prints, letters and books. This attraction is an excellent choice for novice and seasoned art lovers who are interested in Rodin’s work and find themselves in Philadelphia.

The Mutter Museum

19 S. 22nd St., Philadelphia PA; Tel. 215.563.5757
Part of the larger College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mutter Museum houses the remains of medical oddities, including a plaster cast of the Siamese twin-sation of Cheng and Eng, the bones of a 7'6" giant next to the erect skeleton of a dwarf and a presidential tumor. Originally founded to educate doctors about anatomy, the Mutter Museum houses all types of medical marvels for the curious visitor. Visitors can examine pathological specimens, medical instruments and a sliced section of the human head. The Mutters Museums is not for the squeamish, but a must for the morbidly curious.

The Philadelphia Zoo

34th St. and Girard Ave., Philadelphia PA; Tel. 215.243.1100
Opened in 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo was the first zoo in the United States and has become one of the top facilities in the world for breeding animals found difficult to breed in captivity. The attraction of seeing endangered species brings in visitors from around the world to see the zoo’s more than 1,300 animals. In addition to the Philadelphia Zoos’ animal exhibits, the park has a petting zoo, paddleboat lake and a balloon ride providing views of the Schuylkill River, the Philadelphia Center City skyline and of course the zoo. The Dodge Rare Animal Conservation Center is unique to the Philadelphia Zoo and provides up-close looks at some of the world’s most endangered species. Beautiful landscapes recreating the animal’s natural habitats and educational exhibits make a stop at the Philadelphia Zoo interesting for all ages.
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--Capsules by Alanna Lee & Michael Stabile