Philadelphia's Best Attractions: Eat, Explore and Be Entertained

When you're visiting a new locale, it's not so much about the location but rather, it's the attractions that make you decide to go, or get you excited about your trip there. While you might not be able to cram all of these activities into one visit to Philadelphia, these are the places here that may excite you enough to plan a trip back here to experience them all. From incredible historic sights with roots that date back to the beginning of our country's history (like Independence National Historical Park), to places that house great works of art (such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art), to incredible food venues, and gardens that will have you talking about their beauty for a long time afterwards, this city is loaded with incredible attractions. Start with these iconic venues and then work your way around the city, concentrating on perhaps a little bit of everything? Or narrow your focus down to art or history or food venues, or whatever may be of interest to you and yours. There's no shortage of great places to feed your curiosity, so go forth and explore to your heart's content. You'll love the fact that there are a variety of options, and the fact that many places are nearby each other, or easily reached via public transportation. Get excited and get going on your own Philadelphia adventure.

Love Park
If you're searching for the perfect photo op or spot to pop the question, stop by Love Park, also called JFK Plaza. You can strike the perfect romantic or silly pose in front of the iconic Robert Indiana statue then stick your toes in the fountain behind it. This postage stamp park also features a striking view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is an international mecca for skateboarders. During the holidays, it transforms into a lovely Christmas Market, modeled after those in Germany, and welcomes shoppers to come eat, shop and bask in the warmth and fun of the holiday season. ((215) 683-0246)

Longwood Gardens
This incredible venue located outside the city limits, houses 11,000 different types of plants, which makes Longwood Gardens one of the world's largest and most grandiose public displays of nature. With 40 indoor and outdoor gardens, the most pioneering examples of sustainability, a children's conservatory, magnificent fountain shows and live performances by some of the most popular names in music -- all spread across more than 1000 acres half-an-hour west of Philadelphia -- even the most horticulture-adverse will surely be impressed. Make it a point to add this site to your list of day trips for a welcome break and for one of the most incredible horticultural experiences of your life. (610-388-1000)

Eastern State Penitentiary
When it opened it doors in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence among convicts. Today, the massive structure stands in ruins as one of Philadelphia's most historic sites. Visitors can tour this haunting building that once held America's most notorious criminals, including gangster Al Capone. Narrated by actor Steve Buscemi, the audio tour offers an intimate and informative look at Eastern State's storied cellblocks and yards. Take the tour, explore the buildings, view the crumbling cells, see where prisoners tried to escape through incredible means, and imagine all that may have gone on within those walls. (215-236-3300, 215-236-5111)

Mutter Museum
Though it's officially called The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Mutter Museum, it's best known by its nicknames, the Mutter Museum or just the Museum of Medical Oddities. Whatever you choose to call it, this is not an attraction for the faint-of-stomach. Unborn fetuses in jars, petrified body parts, conjoined twins and, as part of an exhibition, Albert Einstein's brain, are just a few of the artifacts that chronicle the fascinating and sometimes gruesome story of medicine through the ages. Visit this incredible museum for an experience like no other, for a break from the humdrum, or for an appreciation of the medical profession and all that goes in to it. (215-563-3737)

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
With one of the best archeology and anthropology collections in the United States, this wonderful Philadelphia museum contains over 30 galleries displaying items from around the world -- many collected during museum-sponsored excavations. Galleries range from Egyptian mummies to Greek coins, from African musical instruments to Native American totem poles. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, and there's a museum shop just for kids so they can pick up a great souvenir of their visit here. Many school groups host field trips to visit this top museum, and they pride themselves in being very kid-friendly. Young or old, bring a sense of curiosity and see what you can discover here. (215-898-4000, 215-898-4890)

Philadelphia Museum of Art
This most world-class of art museums offers a stellar collection of art pieces from incredible artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Pissarro, Picasso, and Rodin. Surrealist art is well represented by Dali, De Chirico, Max Ernst, and Magritte, with pre-modernist work from the likes of Canaletto and Guardi. Numerous theme rooms display a vast collection of textiles and ancient artifacts, including 8000-year old Asian pieces, in rooms that surround visitors with the appropriate architecture and décor. The first Sunday of every month, as well as Wednesdays after 5 are pay-what-you-wish. Concessions are courtesy of celebrity restaurateur Stephen Starr. Even if you do not go inside this wonderful building, stop by to appreciate the outside, run up the front steps Rocky Balboa style, or visit the famed Rocky Statue nearby for a great photo opportunity. (215-763-8100, 215-684-7500)

Barnes Foundation
Since its controversial move to downtown Philadelphia from the western suburbs where it got its start, this iconic art museum can be enjoyed in the nation's first LEED-gold certified institution of its kind. Now that it's just a short distance from other wonderful Philadelphia sights, getting here and being able to appreciate the incredible collection within its walls is even easier than before. Curators have managed to arrange all of the late Dr. Alfred Barnes' Impressionist-era paintings and African masks and sculptures in the exact same position as he had them in the mansion that formerly housed his landmark collection. Even better - now there's plenty more space for education, events, exhibitions and relaxation. (610-667-0290)

The Reading Terminal Market
This is an incredible indoor city market full of foods of all kinds, shares, sizes and tastes. Pulling from vendors from all over the Philadelphia area, this is the venue to sample and bring home delicious foods that will tantalize your taste buds and round out your Philadelphia experience. After undergoing a thorough renovation, amenities here are more modern, and a public classroom gives culinary experts a space to host events. But the eclectic shops and old-time charm remain at the circa-1892 indoor market. Several restaurants serve a full sit-down meal, but if your appetite is for something lighter, there are numerous bakeries, sandwich shops and organic produce vendors, as well as a beer garden. If shopping is your thing, you'll love all the books, specialty foods, Pennsylvania Dutch products, Irish gifts, plants, and housewares on offer. (215-922-2317)

Independence National Historical Park
Learn about Colonial America's most important political city and the founding of the nation by exploring some of the 20 city blocks that comprise Independence National Historical Park. While a walk along its cobblestoned streets reveals dozens of the colonies' first institutions of education, religion, culture and service, if you're in a rush head straight to Independence Mall, which houses the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall, where the founding fathers debated and signed the U.S. Constitution. If you've got a little more time, stroll through Independence Square, where the Declaration of Independence was read publicly for the first time, and be sure to tour Ben Franklin's post office and printing shop. Start at Independence Visitors Center for a reference point and required timed tickets to some of the (free) attractions. (215-965-2305, 215-597-8787)

National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center was created to allow people to explore all that the Constitution is, how it shaped and molded our country (and continues to do so), and why its so important to our history and our future. A visit to the National Constitution Center starts with an incredible multi-media theater presentation that describes the main points of our country's most important document. As a family-oriented museum, many of the exhibits are interactive, as guests may vote for their favorite president, or even take the presidential oath of office. Though it's possible to purchase walk-in tickets, you may also purchase timed-in-advance tickets for a better gauge of your day. (215-409-6600, 866-917-1787)

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Maps and Directions

Love Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Parks, Romantic, Sightseeing
Neighborhood: Center City
Longwood Gardens 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art & Culture, Day Trips, Editor's Picks, Family Friendly, Gardens, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Activities - Summer, Outdoor Activities - Winter, Parks, Relaxing, Romantic
Neighborhood: Outside the city
Eastern State Penitentiary 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, Family Friendly, Historic Sites, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: Museum District & Fairmount Park
Mutter Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: City, Classes or Instruction, Editor's Picks, Gardens, History Museums, Local Picks, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: Rittenhouse Square
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 10Best List Arrow
Type: Architecture, History Museums, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: University City
Philadelphia Museum of Art 10Best List Arrow
Type: Architecture, Art & Culture, Art Museums, Classes or Instruction, Editor's Picks, Family Friendly, Museums
Barnes Foundation 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: ST. JOSEPH'S
The Reading Terminal Market 10Best List Arrow
Type: Food & Wine, Public Spaces
Independence National Historical Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Historic Sites, Sightseeing, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: Old City
National Constitution Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Classes or Instruction, Editor's Picks, Family Friendly, History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Old City
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