Things to Do in Philadelphia - page 3
In American history, the Delaware River is best known for the brave crossing made by George Washington around Trenton, NJ, when he directed a surprise attack during the Revolutionary War. However, today the Delaware River is home to a vibrant modern waterfront as it winds past Philadelphia, where locals and visitors alike can find great food, music, shopping and summer festivals. Among the many attractions along the riverfront, you can explore Olympia, the country’s oldest floating steel warship, at the Independence Seaport Museum, head to Morgan’s Pier to enjoy craft beer and live music overlooking the river, and climb aboard the RiverLink Ferry to explore the city from the water.
This much-loved memorial honoring Vietnam veterans from the city of Philadelphia was born in the 1980s and exists—most appropriately—above the busy Veterans Highway (I-95). Travelers to this somber and patriotic site will find the names of more than 600 soldiers from the City of Brotherly Love etched into black granite slabs. Visitors who wander along the historic waterfront will likely find themselves at this beautiful reminder of sacrifice and honor. Local guides will share details about the list of names from the monument in Washington, D.C. that exists inside one of the stones and travelers looking for a full war memorial experience can also head to the nearby Korean Veterans Memorial that’s adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Famed for its atmospheric cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and tree-lined green spaces, Society Hill is one of Philadelphia’s most upscale residential neighborhoods—first settled in the 1680s, it’s also one of the oldest. Non-residents are also drawn here for its eclectic mix of restaurants, stores, and historic attractions.
Explore an urban art landscape at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG). Multicolor glass bottles, unique ‘found’ objects and hand-forged tiles envelop visitors in a truly unique and creative art environment. Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork, PMG spans half a block on South Street. The gardens are a nod to historical figures and influential artists, as well as the local community. Some of the art installations have been in creation for more than 14 years! A popular destination for culture seekers and nontraditional art lovers, PMG hosts workshops, concerts, and hands-on experiences. Tours are available so visitors can experience all aspects of the outdoor exhibition and indoor gallery.
Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum is one of the top anthropology and archaeology museums in the world. With a rich history of scientific expeditions around the globe, the museum holds nearly a million art objects and artifacts that showcase the development and achievements of humanity.
The Avenue of the Arts is a swath of central Philadelphia where most of the city’s major performing arts venues are located, and the name Avenue of the Arts was designated in the early 1990s. This 4.5-mile-long stretch of Broad Street is the perfect place for a highbrow night on the town. You can catch a show at the recently opened Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra. Visit America’s oldest art school, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Or see the Pennsylvania Ballet at the historic Academy of Music, the oldest opera house in the country. There’s also plenty of fine-dining and upscale nightlife nearby to create a full and fun evening rubbing shoulders with Philadelphia’s finest.
Philadelphia is home to the largest Quaker Friends Meeting House in the world—the Arch Street Meeting House. It's also the city's oldest.
William Penn, founder of Philadelphia and a Quaker, set aside land at the corner of Arch Street and 4th Street in the city center in 1701 for the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The land was originally used for Quaker burials, and in 1803 the first parts of the current Meeting House were built. The Arch Street Friends Meeting House has been in continuous use since it was first built.
The Arch Street Meeting House is the site of Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meetings, and it's also open to visitors as a National Historic Landmark. One section of the building features dioramas of William Penn's life, as well as the 18th century diary of a local Quaker.
The Dolley Todd House is the former home of First Lady Dolley Madison and is a classic example of an 18th-century middle class Georgian house in Philadelphia. Part of the Independence National Historical Park, free, timed tickets are required for admittance and available at the Independence Visitor Center.
Dolley’s abolitionist father moved his Quaker family from Virginia to Philadelphia, where the young, feisty woman met John Todd, a fellow Quaker and a lawyer with a bright future. The couple married in 1790 and moved into Todd House, but three years later, John and one of their sons died here during a citywide epidemic of yellow fever.
A year later, Aaron Burr is said to have introduced the 26-year-old widow (with one small child) to 43-year-old James Madison in the parlor of Todd House. The non-Quaker Madison, then a congressional delegate, would within six years become Secretary of State and eventually, the Fourth (and Fifth) President of the United States.
When the Madisons married in late 1794, Dolley moved from Todd House. The house today has been preserved as it purportedly looked during its brief time as the Todd’s residence, replete with a reproduction of John Todd’s law office.
Home to the USA’s oldest learned society, the American Philosophical Society (APS) Museum lies in Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, close to its sister institution, the APS Library. Housing the APS’ collection of manuscripts and artifacts; it works to spotlight American history from the 18th century to today.
Since 1998 the Hard Rock Café Philadelphia has been offering travelers a true taste of classic Americana in the City of Brotherly Love. Visitors can tuck into juicy burgers and sip on chocolaty milkshakes in an lively environment that pays homage to tons of musical greats. Relax in a cozy booth and gaze out at memorabilia from Elton John, The Beatles and Jim Morrison. It’s almost like dining with the stars!
Travelers can get an up close look at Hard Rock items like Van Halen’s guitar, a mic stand from Guns N ‘ Roses and even one of Elvis Presley’s colorful capes. Sip on craft cocktails and take in a show at the restaurant’s live venue, or continue a night of music and fun with a post-dinner trip to the nearby Electric Factory—another Philadelphia entertainment hot spot.
More Things to Do in Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s larger-than-life memorial to Benjamin Franklin sits on a white marble pedestal in the rotunda of The Franklin Institute. Crafted between 1906 and 1911, the 20-foot-high (6-meter-high) statue is the centerpiece of the famed Memorial Hall. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about Philadelphia’s favorite founding father.
Enjoy the view from the top at Philadelphia's One Liberty Observation Deck. Located on the 57th floor of One Liberty Place, the observation deck features sweeping 360-degree views of the city from 883 feet (269 meters) above street level. Interactive touch screen technology lets you zoom in for a closer look at the city below.
The only museum of its kind in Philadelphia, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum has been designated the best car collection in the world. Built up over 50 years, the collection contains more than 75 historically significant cars including Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Mercedes, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche, Aston Martin, and Corvette.
This popular museum showcases the captivating stories of freedom fighters, movement leaders, and politicians through interactive exhibits and contemporary art pieces. One of the museum’s main mediums is glass—a reminder that freedom is as fragile as this delicate material. It’s a theme that’s woven throughout the entire museum.
Travelers can explore the numerous galleries, which include Liberty Hall, Heroes from Around the World, Coming to America and the Inspiration Exhibit. Interactive displays and colorful works of art convey the stories of famous fighters and encourage civic responsibility, leadership and integrity in all those who visit. The National Liberty Museum is an ideal stop for history lovers and travelers with families and children, since many of the exhibits cater to the younger set.
Visitors can explore the comprehensive and expansive museum on its own, or enjoy it in conjunction with other nearby attractions like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
Philadelphia was once home to some of the Mid-Atlantic’s most wealthy and influential elite. Travelers who make their way to the Powel House will venture back in time as they wander the elegant and ornate halls where Elizabeth and Samuel Powel once lived.
Close friends of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, the Powels were one of the original power couples in the City of Brotherly Love. Visitors can check out the historic home that’s furnished with all of their personal effects, including Powel portraits, handmade clocks and other family heirlooms. There’s even a letter sent by George Washington himself.
Travelers can see the Powel House on its own, or include it as a stop in a historic walking tour of Philadelphia. Whether it’s a once-off exploration or part of a history-themed trip, the Powel House is worth a stop for history lovers and families.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is a still-functioning historic church in the Society Hill area of downtown Philadelphia. First built around 1760, the building itself is on the National Register of Historic Places, and its unique design has the altar on the one end and an elevated pulpit on the other, so there’s is no front or back to the church. The church was built as an expansion to the nearby Christ Church, and many founding fathers worshipped in both locations, including George and Martha Washington.
Built between 1929 and 1933, this incredible eight-story structure designed by Alfred Shaw was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Its massive halls, Art Deco interior and 71-foot-tall Corinthian columns have made it an iconic piece or architecture in the City of Brotherly Love. Unlike most North American terminals, trains arrive at 30th Street Station from all directions: north, south, east and west.
Visitors can surely catch a train from this Philadelphia travel hub, but recent additions of public art, like a giant relief titled “The Spirit of Transportation” or a sculpture of an angel raising a dead soldier to the sky crafted by Walker Hancock, makes this terminal worthy of a visit even if you don’t have a train ticket in hand.
The University of Pennsylvania is one of the United States’ most historically significant universities. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation’s Founding Fathers, between 1740 and 1750, it was one of the nine original colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence.
Founded in 1891 by financier and philanthropist Anthon J. Drexel, Drexel University is a private research university with three campuses in Philadelphia, as well as another one in Sacramento. It is most famous for offering cooperative education program and is regularly ranked as one of the top co-op programs in the United States. The university is also known for its impressive online efforts.
In terms of tourist attractions, Drexel University is home to the Academy of Natural Sciences (which hosts a sought-after and complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil), as well as the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. The university is also regularly referenced to in popular culture, such as in General Hospital and All My Children. Additionally, nearby Drexel Park offers fantastic views of downtown Philadelphia.
A verdant tract of land popular for walking and cycling, Valley Forge is a Philadelphia-area escape. Located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Center City, the National Historical Park housed George Washington’s Continental Army during the winter of 1777–1778. See Revolutionary War–era log cabins, cannons, memorials, and more.
The Schuylkill River Trail is a riverfront path for joggers, walkers and bikers that runs more than 26 miles, from downtown Philadelphia and through the Valley Forge Historical Park to the town of Phoenixville. This stretch of scenic path offers a perfect way to get outdoors and enjoy the riverfront when the weather is nice. And along the city center section of the trail, the newly built Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk is an extension to the trail that includes four scenic overlooks that offer great views of the city. The trail is also a great option for visitors interested in alternative transportation as they sightsee—you can rent a bicycle to explore along the river from the Rocky Statue and the Art Museum to the cafes of Manayunk.
The country’s only amusement park dedicated toSesame Street, Sesame Place is one of the Philadelphia area’s top family-friendly attractions. Located in Langhorne, Penn.—roughly 20 miles (33 kilometers) northeast of Center City—its offerings including water rides, meet-and-greets with popular characters such as Elmo, and more.
For visitors looking beyond the historical attractions of downtown Philadelphia, the hip and vibrant Manayunk neighborhood is a must-visit. Situated along the Schuylkill River and the Manayunk Canal, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, this formerly industrial area is now a trendy neighborhood packed with waterfront bars, cafés and art galleries. One of the biggest draws to Manayunk is the Philly Cycling Classic, an internationally renowned bike race that winds through the neighborhoods notoriously hilly streets, including the Manayunk Wall, a stretch of Levering Street with a challenging incline. As you explore the area, you can stop in at Orbit Gallery, which features local artists, or join a kayaking trip.
Give enough time between visits to Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), and no two will be the same. The edgy and contemplative museum located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania is one of the few in the country without permanent collections. Rotating installations of everything from improvisational performance art to experimental music to miniatures have recently populated its cavernous blank space.
Visiting and local art-lovers will appreciate the museum's reputation as a magnet for the creative and its ability to identify emerging artists. Home to Andy Warhol's first solo showing in 1965, the museum continues to house popular installations, and can be easily visited on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour around the city.
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