Things to Do in Philadelphia
Few places in the United States offer as much historical and cultural legacy as the Philadelphia Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Located across the street from one another, the two landmarks serve as the most potent symbols of the American revolution and the birth of the young nation.
Independence Historical National Park is the home to both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. While the Bell was rung at several key moments of the American independence movement, today it is more famous for its symbolic message of universal liberty than its functional purpose.
In addition to the two main attractions, Independence National Historical Park is also the home of several other sites associated with the American Revolution. This 45-acre park comprises much of the historic downtown area of Philadelphia.
This may or may not be where patriotic upholsterer Betsy Ross lived when she made the original Stars & Stripes, but it’s certainly one of the most visited attractions in Philadelphia. Set just a few blocks west of Independence Hall near Franklin Square, the house is the site of a local Flag Day celebration held each year on June 14.
Built in 1740 in the Pennsylvania Colonial Style, this humble home was rescued by a local radio personality in the late 1930s and both renovated and expanded, using Colonial-period materials. Self-guided and audio tours are available here ($5 and $7, respectively), and out in the added-on courtyard, a costumed Betsy Ross re-enactor tells stories with flag in hand.
Throughout the summer and early fall on Friday nights, movies are shown in the courtyard on a big outdoor screen; bring a blanket or chair, and the $5 fee includes a tour of the house. It’s open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Known as “America’s Church,” this 1744 city landmark was the first Protestant Episcopal congregation, the post-Revolution version of a Royalist, Anglican church founded in 1695. Early parishioners included George Washington and Betsy Ross, and its cemetery hosts the remains of several signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, including Benjamin Franklin.One of the most-visited sites in Philadelphia, the church is chock full of historic objects, including communion silver commissioned by England’s Queen Anne and mahogany cabinetry by some of the city’s most renowned woodworkers. Topped by a 200-foot-tall steeple, it was once the tallest building in America.
With 14 ½ acres of floor space, this is the largest municipal building in the United States. Built on one of five squares designated by founding father William Penn as Center Square, its Old City site once marked the geographic center of Philadelphia.
Begun in 1871, this imposing Second Empire masterpiece, with its 22-foot-thick exterior walls, granite floors, marble columns and 548-foot masonry clock tower, took 30 years to complete. Hired by architect John MacArthur, Jr., Scottish-born sculptor Alexander Milne Calder spent 20 years creating 250 bronze and marble sculptures for City Hall, the greatest achievement of his career.
More Things to Do in Philadelphia
Spanning 55 acres and bridging two neighborhoods -- Old City and Society Hill – this national park is often called “America’s most historic square mile” for encompassing many of Philadelphia’s most famous historical landmarks. These include Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Liberty Bell Center; Franklin Court; the First and Second Banks of the United States; and the National Constitution Center, among many others. Visitors should plan to spend one to two days in the park in order to visit several of these sites and explore the extensive grounds.By the time City Hall was completed in 1901, Old City – a couple of miles to the east -- began to lose its importance as a cultural center. Between 1915 and the late 1940s, a park was proposed as a means of salvaging and promoting what leaders of both the city and the state saw as vital to Philadelphia’s place in American history.
Perfect for those with kids looking for a break from historical sites, the Philadelphia Zoo is a great and easy place to spend an afternoon. Over 1,300 different animals, many of them rare and endangered, call this zoo home. The Philadelphia Zoo is recognized world wide for successfully breeding animals that are difficult to breed in captivity.
Whether you take the kids to check out Carnivore Kingdom, The Reptile and Amphibian House, Big Cat Falls, or the Rare Animal Conservation Center, the Philadelphia Zoo offers you rare glimpses of animals you wouldn't be able to see anywhere else. And seeing as it is in Philadelphia, the zoo of course has some historical significance as well- it was the nation's first zoo.
One of the best places in the United States to visit if you want a sense of the nation's roots, Old City is a neighborhood in Central City Philadelphia known for its antiquated charm and many historic sites. Wander down the narrow cobblestone streets and you'll feel like you're stepping through a time warp into 18th century colonial America.
Perhaps the most popular destination in Old City is Elfreth's Alley, one of the oldest continuously inhabited residential streets in the country. Owners of the historic homes along this alley take pride in the old-fashioned exteriors of their homes, some of which are nearly 300 years old. Also worth checking out is The Betsy Ross house, supposedly the site where the first American flag was stitched.
Once the most famous prison in the world, Eastern State was initially renowned for its Enlightenment-inspired efforts to reform inmates rather than merely punish them. Eventually, this system was abandoned in favor of solitary confinement and a Death Row block. But the once-genteel penitentiary allowed one of its most notorious inmates, Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone, to keep a private cell with fine antiques and oriental carpets.
When Eastern State’s unique wagon-wheel-shaped building was completed in 1829, it was the most expensive public structure ever built. It was a tourist attraction from the start, and remains so today. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and closed in 1971, the building and its many art installations are consistently being restored and preserved by a variety of architects and artists.
Things to do near Philadelphia
- Things to do in Pennsylvania
- Things to do in Amboseli National Park
- Things to do in Newark
- Things to do in New York City
- Things to do in Brooklyn
- Things to do in Long Island
- Things to do in Washington DC
- Things to do in Pittsburgh
- Things to do in Boston
- Things to do in Buffalo
- Things to do in Niagara Falls & Around
- Things to do in Toronto
- Things to do in Ottawa
- Things to do in New Jersey
- Things to do in New York