If you are planning a vacation with your family and friends, one of the hardest things to decide upon is which city you are going to visit.
However, once you have done that, you can begin to plan the different things that you want to do and see in your chosen destination.
When visiting Philadelphia, there are so many things that you can do or places to visit that planning your trip might become overwhelming.
Thankfully, in this article, we have put together a list of the top 25 attractions and things to do in the city that can help to pack your vacation and make the most of the time you have there (see also “Things To Do In Pennsylvania“).
Whether you are planning a short trip on a budget, or a longer, more extravagant trip, there are ideas below that will help you create fun and lasting memories with your loved ones.
Free Things To Do In Philadelphia
If you are planning a trip to Philly on a budget, or you just don’t want to go overboard with your spending, there are plenty of things that you can do in Philadelphia for free.
Below are some of the best attractions and things to do in the city free of charge.
1. Independence Hall And Congress Hall
If you are visiting Philly at the right time of the year, you can enter Independence hall and Congress hall free of charge. If you visit the city in January and February, you can enter the halls without a ticket.
Between March and December, tickets are required. The tickets for admission include a tour and cost a dollar. This means that the halls might be within budget even when tickets are required.
The Independence hall and Congress hall are great places to visit if you have an interest in history, or if you have an interest in how America was founded and became the country that it is today.
The tours of the halls are suitable for visitors of all ages and provide great insight into the role of the buildings in the foundation of the nation.
2. Visit The US Mint
To continue your tour of locations that are important to the country and how it is run and functions on a daily basis, a visit to the US Mint in Philadelphia is in order.
You can take a tour of the mint Monday through Friday all year round, excluding federal holidays. All of the tours are self-guided and can be completed in around 45 minutes.
The tours at the US mint are surprisingly suitable for visitors of all ages. Because they are self-guided, you can pace them to suit the members of your group.
You can also focus on the parts of the tour that show the intricate workings of the mint and the process of making money.
3. Climb The Rocky Steps
If you are a big fan of movies and enjoy visiting iconic sites from even more iconic movies, this is a place that you have to visit on your trip.
The famous Rocky steps are located outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You can run up the steps just like Rocky and get your friends or family members to take a picture or video of you as you act out your Rocky fantasies.
At the Rocky steps, there is also a statue of Rocky in his famous pose from the movie. This is another great spot to get a brilliant photograph for your vacation memories.
If you want to get a bit more exercise during your trip, it is possible to run the exact route that Rocky does in the first and second movies, although you will have to jump all over Philly to complete the exact montage.
4. Science History Institute
For those of you who want to add a little bit of education to your vacation, especially if you have young children in your group, the Science History Institute makes a great day out.
The institute is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and admission is free.
If you are a researcher and are interested in what the institute has to offer, it is possible to book an appointment for yourself at the Othmer research library.
Otherwise, you can spend the afternoon wandering around the exhibits in the institute. There are also events that are held throughout the year with special lectures and exhibitions.
5. Tour Edgar Allan Poe’s House
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most interesting writers of the 19th Century. His work has thrilled and inspired millions of readers over the years and has made people curious about his mind and the life that he lived while writing his mysterious and macabre stories.
During your visit to Philadelphia, you can spend an afternoon touring Edgar Allan Poe’s house to get more insight.
The house is open Friday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. All tours are free and you can choose from a self-guided tour or a ranger-led tour.
There is a sales center and the original, unfurnished home that can be explored. There is no need to make a reservation for this tour.
6. Take Philly Improv’s Intro Workshop
For anyone who wants to push themselves out of their comfort zone or who considers themselves to be a bit of a thespian, this is the activity for you.
During your trip to Philadelphia, you can take part in Philly Improv’s Intro Workshop. The workshops last for around 90 minutes and can be a great way to make some new friends in the city.
The best thing about Philly Improv’s intro workshop is that it is suitable for people of all ages and all abilities. The class is super fun and introduces you to some basic concepts of improv.
The best thing about learning some improv skills is that they can be incredibly useful in day-to-day life as well as in acting.
7. Visit The Barnes Foundation
If you are hoping to experience some art and culture during your trip to Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation is somewhere you have to visit. The Barnes Foundation is home to some of the finest french paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries.
In the foundation building you will find artworks by Renoir, Modigliani, Matisse, and Picasso. The Barnes Foundation is not always free to visit so this may require a little extra planning if you don’t want to have to pay the admission fee.
However, they often hold free family days on the first Sunday of every month. There are also some free tours and talks that you can attend too.
8. Visit A Story Telling Bench
Throughout Philly’s historic district, there are 13 wonderful storyteller benches.
These benches are often in use between 11 am and 4 pm. During these times, people from the Once Upon A Nation group tell a series of free, 3 to 5-minute stories and secret tales.
The stories that are told by professional storytellers delve deeper into commonly known stories about American history and reveal information that you may not have known before.
A great example of the types of stories that you can expect include the life of Betsy Ross.
Other than being the person who stitched the first American flag, she was also a three-time widow, an entrepreneur, and a munitions maker. This can be a fun way to learn more about history for free.
9. Watch A Free Outdoor Movie
Going to the cinema to watch a movie can be a fun activity to do while you are on vacation. However, going to the cinema can be quite expensive, especially if you are buying snacks and refreshments.
Thankfully, while you are in Philadelphia, you can watch a movie outdoors for free.
The Philadelphia parks and recreation group put on various outdoor movie nights in the city throughout the summer and fall seasons. All you need to bring to the movie night is a chair or a blanket and relax with your friends and family while watching a movie.
The movie nights are free and they begin between 8 pm and 8:30 pm. There is a schedule of movies available online to see what movies are available, when, and where.
10. Self-Guided Walking Mural Tour
If you have a love for art but aren’t interested in seeing paintings hanging in a stuffy building, there is plenty of street art around Philly for you to explore.
Because there is so much street art around Philadelphia, a self-guided walking mural tour has been organized by Mural Arts of Philadelphia.
The walking tour is self-guided which means that you download a map of the different murals that are included. Because you guide yourself, you can go at your own pace and even spread the tour out across a few days during your trip.
Because of the amount of street art in the city, you might even come across other works of art that aren’t included.
11. Play Disc Golf At Sedgley Woods
If you are looking for something active to do with your friends and family during your vacation, disc golf at Sedgley Woods. Sedgley Woods is one of the oldest permanent disc golf courses in the world.
The course is open from sunrise to sunset all year round which makes it a super easy option to fit into your schedule during your vacation.
If you want a memento from your trip, you can purchase Sedgley Woods branded discs from the shop on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
You can also rent discs if you need them to play on the course. Renting discs costs a suggested donation of a couple of dollars. When you purchase discs from the shop, the proceeds go back into maintaining the course.
12. Visit The Liberty Bell Center
Another great free attraction in Philadelphia is the Liberty Bell Center.
The best thing is that there is no need to reserve a ticket to see the Liberty Bell, however, if you are visiting during a peak tourism season, you may have to wait in line for a while to see the bell.
If you are able to stand the wait in line during the busy summer months, this can be a great activity for the entire family to get involved in. Seeing the Liberty bell in the flesh can be a great way to bring the history of America to life for people of all ages.
Paid Admission Attractions In Philadelphia
If you are traveling on less of a tight budget and are looking for activities to do and attractions to visit that have paid admission, these are the places for you.
All of the attractions below have paid admission ranging from affordable to high-end. The activities are varied and there is something for everyone on the rest of this list.
13. Reading Terminal Market
The Reading Terminal Market is a great place to indulge in a little bit of retail therapy. There are so many interesting things to buy and delicious foods to eat when you are in the Reading Terminal Market.
The market is open Monday through Sunday 8 am to 6 pm. Any Pennsylvania Dutch vendors are not open on Sundays.
The market also holds events from time to time including Lunar New Year celebrations and parties to celebrate significant milestone birthdays for the market.
During these events, the market will be extra decorated with some special features to explore. While there is no admission fee, it is difficult to not spend any money while you are in the market.
14. Please Touch Museum
If you have young children on your vacation, the Please Touch Museum needs to be at the top of your list of places to visit. There are so many things to do and see in the museum that you could easily spend an entire day here and never get bored.
There are things for your little ones to explore, things to play with, and plenty to learn. Everything in the Please Touch Museum is designed to both entertain your child and help them to learn about the world around them.
All of the exhibits are completely hands-on and immersive to help inspire the little ones and spark their imagination and curiosity. In order to visit the Please Touch Museum, it is required that you make a reservation in advance.
15. Philadelphia Zoo
A classic attraction for any vacation is a local city zoo. Philadelphia Zoo is a great place to visit with friends or as a family. There are so many interesting and beautiful animals that call Philadelphia Zoo home.
If you want to visit the zoo during your vacation, it is necessary to book an advanced timed entry reservation.
Philadelphia Zoo has a wide range of animals, from large predators to small amphibians, there is something for everyone to learn about.
The zoo also does a lot in terms of conservation work for the animals that still live in their natural habitat. This can be a great place to learn about animals and spark an interest in your young children.
16. Rodin Museum
If you want to ensure that you experience as much culture and art as possible during your trip to Philly, a visit to the Rodin Museum has to make it into your itinerary.
The Rodin is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of work. It is also in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.
The museum is open Friday through Monday from 10 am to 5 pm. The admission fee to access the museum is incredibly reasonable for the amount of artwork that you get to see.
If you want to really take your time to take in the wonders that exist inside the museum, it is possible to purchase a two-day ticket to allow you double the amount of time that a standard ticket offers.
17. Eastern State Penitentiary
One of the most interesting places that you can visit during your time in Philadelphia is the Eastern State Penitentiary. This is the most historic prison in America.
Once one of the most famous and expensive prisons in the country, it now stands in ruin, a testament to the past.
The prison is said to be incredibly haunted both by ex-prison guards and some of the country’s most horrific and infamous criminals.
The penitentiary is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm for tours. You can book your tickets online in advance or simply purchase them at the door on the day.
18. Visit City Hall
The city hall in Philadelphia is one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole city and is something that shouldn’t be missed on your trip. It is possible to admire the architectural beauty of Philadelphia City Hall for free from a distance.
However, the inside of the building is just as beautiful and is not to be missed.
There are also plenty of events that are held in City Hall and in the grounds of City Hall throughout the year. One of the best events to be regularly held at Philadelphia City Hall is the outdoor ice rink.
This can provide a great activity to do with your friends and family if you visit at the right time of the year.
19. Rivers Casino
If you are looking for something to do during your trip to Philly that is suitable for adults only, the Rivers Casino is the place that you need to be.
The casino is obviously a great place to indulge in some responsible gambling with table games. However, it is also a great place to catch some incredible entertainment.
The best place to catch some live entertainment at Rivers Casino is in Jack’s Bar which is home to amazing live music performances from artists from all genres.
There are also plenty of sports events that you can attend at Rivers Casino such as football games and fight nights.
20. Peddler’s Village
Peddler’s Village is the perfect place to spend a packed day out during your trip to Philadelphia.
There are so many different things that you can do at Peddler’s Village and the buildings surrounding you are stunning to look at. You will feel like you have stepped into a storybook world when you enter the village.
The colonial-style buildings are super sweet and there are places to shop, places to eat, and places to stay overnight. You can even visit Giggleberry fair for fun with the whole family.
There are even some amazing annual festivals and events that you can join in with while you are there.
21. Longwood Gardens
If you are someone who adores nature and being surrounded by plants and flowers, Longwood Gardens is the place for you in Philly.
No matter what time of the year you are visiting Philadelphia, there are always beautiful displays of flowers and plants at Longwood Gardens.
In addition to the stunning natural sights that you can see at the gardens, there are also plenty of events and performances that take place here that you can enjoy during your visit.
There is a full calendar of events available on the Longwood Gardens website for you to check before your trip.
22. The Franklin Institute
For a stimulating and educational day out during your vacation, a trip to the Franklin Institute is a great idea.
This science museum is packed with interactive exhibits that are sure to intrigue your mind and provide you with a clearer or deeper understanding of how our world works and why.
The museum is suitable for visitors of all ages. The planetarium can be a great place to take a moment to learn about the stars in our night sky.
The sensory-friendly exhibits can help you to manage how stimulated you or your loved ones are becoming in order to help make the trip as fun and comfortable as possible. The museum often has special, temporary exhibitions available too.
23. Elmwood Park Zoo
If you are able to travel a little bit outside of the city center, a visit to Elmwood Park Zoo makes for a great day out.
This is a super interactive zoo that allows you to get as close as possible to the wonderful and beautiful animals that they have. Best of all, the zoo is dog-friendly which makes it perfect for all members of your family.
At Elmwood Park Zoo, you are able to book tickets that allow you to feed certain animals during your trip. This can be the perfect activity for animal lovers and budding zoo keepers.
You can also take part in some Elmwood Encounters which can allow you to get up close and personal with some of the zoo’s residents.
24. Museum Of The American Revolution
This is one of the newest museums in the city, but it is packed with some of the most interesting artifacts relating to American history.
The Museum of the American Revolution is somewhere that you have to visit during your trip to Philadelphia if you have an interest in the history of the country.
There are exhibitions and displays that are suitable for visitors of all ages. There are even some attractions in the museum that are specifically designed for children.
This can be a great place to introduce the smaller members of your family to the history of their own country.
25. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
One of the most incredible attractions in the city is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. This is another experience that is centered around some of the incredible artwork and artists that make this city so beautiful and unique.
The Magic Gardens are open Wednesday through Monday from 11 am to 6 pm.
There are guided tours of the gardens that are open to the public. Tickets for these tours need to be purchased online in advance of your visit.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens have the main goal of inspiring creativity and engagement in the community by educating the public about folk art and mosaics. This is a great way to pass an afternoon immersed in incredible artwork.
How To Get Around In Philadelphia
Technically, the best way to get around in Philadelphia is on foot. This is perfect if you are not in a hurry and the weather is tolerable.
When you explore the city on foot, you are much more likely to stumble across some of the best hidden gems the city has to offer.
However, if walking isn’t an option for you and your group, the next best option is to use the public transportation systems in the city. Not only is this an efficient way to get around the city but it is also cost effective too.
Hop-on hop-off sightseeing tours can be a great way to see a lot of the main sites and attractions in the city in a single day. Similarly, renting some bikes can be a great way to see the city and get around quickly and cheaply.
There are so many amazing things to do and see when you visit Philadelphia. If you are a fan of American history, art, and culture, this is the best place for your next vacation.
It is super easy to entertain people of all ages in the city, and best of all, you won’t break the bank doing so.
Frequently Asked Questions
Despite all of the incredible art and culture that exists in the city, Philadelphia is a moderately inexpensive city to visit.
It is cheap to get around the city and it doesn’t cost too much for comfortable lodgings and delicious food.
Even the attractions and things to do aren’t likely to break the bank. Some of the most expensive places to visit in Philly cost less than $50 per adult.
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