Philadelphia's Best Attractions, Explore Art and History

When you're visiting a new locale, it's not so much about the location but rather, it's the attractions, attractions, attractions that typically make you decide to go. While you might not be able to cram all of these activities into one visit to Philly, these are the places that will make you decide to come back and back until you've experienced them all.

10 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. ((215) 683-0246)

9 Longwood Gardens
11,000 different types of plants make 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. (610-388-1000)

8 Eastern State Penitentiary
Opened 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. (215-236-3300, 215-236-5111)

7 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. (215-563-3737)

6 University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
With one of the best archeology and anthropology collections in the United States, this 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. (215-898-4000, 215-898-4890)

5 Philadelphia Museum of Art
This most world-class of art museums offers a stellar collection from 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 d├ęcor. First Sunday of every month and Wednesdays after 5 are pay what you wish. Concessions are courtesy of celebrity restaurateur Stephen Starr. (215-763-8100, 215-684-7500)

4 Barnes Foundation
Since its controversial move to downtown Philadelphia, the iconic art museum can be enjoyed in the nation's first LEED-gold certified institution of its kind -- without a drive to the suburbs. 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 did in the mansion that formerly housed his landmark collection, and now there's plenty more space for education, events, exhibitions and relaxation. (610-667-0290)

3 Explore the Reading Terminal Market
After undergoing a thorough renovation, amenities 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)

2 Independence National Historical Park
Learn about the 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)

1 National Constitution Center
A visit to the National Constitution Center starts with a 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. (215-409-6600, 866-917-1787)


Tara Nurin is a veteran freelance journalist based just outside  Philadelphia. The former TV reporter specializes in craft beer, dining and destination coverage and writes regularly about her three passions -- Philly, food, drink -- for local and national pubs.  Tara, who grew up speaking Spanish and French, spent childhood holidays on a Puerto Rican beach and bummed around Paris for her junior year of college. She’s lived in more than a dozen American cities and still travels globally in search of a plate of local food, an artisanal beer and a hearty laugh with the countrymen.

Read more about Tara Nurin here.

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Maps and Directions

1
Love Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Parks, Romantic, Sightseeing
Neighborhood: Center City
2
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
3
Eastern State Penitentiary 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, Family Friendly, Historic Sites, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: Museum District & Fairmount Park
4
Mutter Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: City, Classes or Instruction, Editor's Picks, Gardens, History Museums, Local Picks, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: Rittenhouse Square
5
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 10Best List Arrow
Type: Architecture, History Museums, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: University City
6
Philadelphia Museum of Art 10Best List Arrow
Type: Architecture, Art & Culture, Art Museums, Classes or Instruction, Editor's Picks, Family Friendly, Museums
7
Barnes Foundation 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: ST. JOSEPH'S
8
9
Independence National Historical Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Historic Sites, Sightseeing, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: Old City
10
National Constitution Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Classes or Instruction, Editor's Picks, Family Friendly, History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Old City