Best Things to Do in Philadelphia

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

When you're visiting a new locale, it's not so much about the location, 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 in order to be able 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 afterward, 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, with many places near each other, or easily reached via public transportation. Get excited and get going on your own Philadelphia adventure!


Dilworth Park
Photo courtesy of E. Frizzelle/Visit Philly

Philadelphia's newest green space, this park is a lovely addition to the City Hall area. Filled with plenty of greenery and places to relax and sit, eat, work, enjoy a book or just people-watch, the space is host to a number of special events and fun family gatherings throughout the year. During the warmer months, bring your lunch and enjoy the atmosphere or simply get a breath of fresh air at one of the small brightly-colored tables here. Kids, as well as kids-at-heart, will enjoy cooling off in the sprinklers in the summer months. Movie screenings and other special events are scheduled here during evening hours in nicer weather, a hay maze is offered in the fall, and ice skating takes center stage in the winter.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This space has been completely transformed in recent years and offers residents and visitors a wonderful, park-like experience and special activities any time of year.

Sharon's expert tip: There are wonderful outdoor, family-friendly activities here all year long. Also, take some time to visit the huge clothespin structure while you're here, which is just across the street.

Read more about Dilworth Park →

Museum District & Fairmount Park

America's first zoo and one of the region's foremost conservation organizations, Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. Cheetahs, hippos, giraffes and much more make the Zoo Philadelphia's leading family destination, welcoming over 1.2 million visitors a year. Philadelphia Zoo offers a revolutionary, first-in-the-world animal journey and exploration system, called Zoo360, which promises the most majestic of creatures more room to roam utilizing a campus-wide network of see-through trails. Monkeys, orangutans and big cats, like lions and tigers, are on the move â€" traveling overhead through the treetops in the first three pathways of Zoo360, Treetop Trail, Great Ape Trail and Big Cat Crossing. Award-winning exhibits like First Niagara Big Cat Falls, PECO Primate Reserve, McNeil Avian Center and KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children's Zoo & Faris Family Education Center make Philadelphia Zoo an obvious choice for those visiting Philadelphia with kids.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The versatility of this park, its ease of access and its wonderful simplicity make it a great venue all year long.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to check out the Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trails for a truly unique and interactive animal experience. The seasonal beer garden is also a nice touch.

Read more about Philadelphia Zoo →

Mutter Museum
Photo courtesy of J. Fusco/Visit Philly

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 into it.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: As far as museums, this one dedicated to medical oddities, incredible experiences, and graphic happenings is truly an experience for the non-faint-of-heart.

Sharon's expert tip: If you need a break, step outside for a stroll through the Medicinal garden, which contains more than 50 different types of medicinal herbs and their corresponding historical and medicinal descriptions.

Read more about Mutter Museum →

Museum District & Fairmount Park

Offering more than a dozen interactive exhibits, the Franklin Institute Science Museum is a favorite for both the young and young at heart. Children especially love walking through the world's largest artificial heart and learning about energy transfer via the Giant Newton's Cradle and Ball Launcher. Guests also discover the nation's second-oldest planetarium, Fels Planetarium, and on the top floor, an observatory where they can view the Sun, Moon and Jupiter. Have fun with electricity, wind, gravity, learn about medicine and health, sports and space. It's great for all ages and perfect for morning or afternoon exploration that'll keep kids talking about the place for long after you've headed home.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Who knew Philadelphia had such a rich collection of artifacts from so many other places? This museum is a fun way to see them.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to check out the new exhibits located here for a super educational and fun visit. This science museum is wonderful for a summer day trip or rainy day activity for both kids and adults.

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St. Joseph's
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.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: A smaller venue than the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this building houses an impressive collection worthy of a visit.

Sharon's expert tip: Though the current space is far larger than the original one, museum staff still strongly recommend reserving timed tickets in advance.

Read more about Barnes Foundation →

Museum District & Fairmount Park
Eastern State Penitentiary
Photo courtesy of Sharon Nolan

When it opened its 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.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The history and the incredible architecture of this building are a wonder in and of itself, and totally worthy of a visit.

Sharon's expert tip: The Terror Behind the Walls Halloween haunted house gets all the press but there are plenty of activities year-round, including the annual Bastille Day reenactment and festival, artist installations and hands-on experiences.

Read more about Eastern State Penitentiary →

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Elevated Angles/Visit Philly

This most world-class of art museums offer 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. 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.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Many people visit this museum simply to run up the steps or visit the Rocky Statue nearby, although it houses truly incredible works of art.

Sharon's expert tip: On Friday afternoons, Art After Five turns the museum into a cocktail party with late hours, live music, and hors d'oeuvres and beverages for purchase.

Read more about Philadelphia Museum of Art →

The Reading Terminal Market
Photo courtesy of Sharon Nolan

This is an incredible indoor city market full of foods of all kinds, shapes, 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.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Who doesn't love food? And with fresh, local unique and delicious options offered at this market, you'll wonder why you don't eat here every day.

Sharon's expert tip: Visit Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8-3 or Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 9-5 when Amish vendors come from Lancaster County to sell the products they grow and make on their farms.

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Independence National Historical Park
Photo courtesy of Sharon Nolan

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.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: See where colonists created the nation they believed in and experience the most historic square mile in the country.

Sharon's expert tip: Nighttime visits to this park often feature interesting displays of light that make it quite a different experience than during the daytime.

Read more about Independence National Historical Park →

National Constitution Center
Photo courtesy of J. Fusco/Visit Philly

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 it's 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.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Think you know about the Constitution, what it means and how it works? Visit this great new center and see for yourself.

Sharon's expert tip: The Constitution Center hosts some of the most prominent political and media-related speakers and public events in the world; check the website to coordinate your visit with one of these educational events as well as incredible new and upcoming exhibits.

Read more about National Constitution Center →


Meet Sharon Nolan

Sharon is a native to the Philadelphia area, but loves to wander from its familiar borders. She has traveled to more than 30 countries, trekked five continents, ventured out with family,...  More About Sharon