Best Sightseeing in Philadelphia

Super Sightseeing Spots Not to Miss in Philadelphia

Visiting the city of Philadelphia has many things to offer visitors. From wonderful historical sights such as The National Constitution Center to Independence National Historical Park, this city has no shortage of great places to revisiting the beginning of our great nation. Should you be looking for a more outdoorsy experience, there are sights that can meet those needs a swell. Wander over to lovely Fairmount Park to walk in the sunshine, play a game of frisbee or let the kids burn off some energy. There's also the oldest zoo in the country at your disposal, offering up a lovely opportunity to decompress and enjoy the animals that's perfect no matter what ages make up your crowd. If you're looking for museums, they're on the list as well, and these choices have won awards for their ability to entertain, educate, impress and introduce great ideas to visitors both young and old. Treat yourself to a few of the options we suggest, or discover a venue that speaks to you in another area of the city. What you won't feel gypped on is choices. From great historical buildings to parks and recreational options to museums and artistic options and even a few odd selections just to shake things up. See which of these great Philadelphia sightseeing activities strikes and interest in your group and head out to create memories of your own. 


Boathouse Row
Photo courtesy of Sharon Nolan

Boathouse Row is a historic site located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, just north of the Fairmount Water Works and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It consists of a row of 15 boathouses housing social and rowing clubs and their racing shells. Each of the boathouses has its own history, and all have addresses on both Boathouse Row and Kelly Drive (named after famous Philadelphia oarsman John B. Kelly, Jr.). Boathouses #2 through #14 are part of a group known as the Schuylkill Navy, which encompasses several other boathouses along the river. Boathouse #1 is Lloyd Hall and is the only public boathouse facility on the Row.[2] Boathouse #15 houses the Sedgeley Club, which operates the Turtle Rock Lighthouse. The boathouses are all at least a century old, and some were built over 150 years ago.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Boathouse Row is pretty, simple, located right in Center City and offers visitors the opportunity to get outdoors for a quick view.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to check this sight out at night when the lights viewed from the Schuylkill Expressway seem simply magical.

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Museum District & Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park
Photo courtesy of J. Fusco for Visit Philly

When looking for the perfect romantic thing to do in Fairmount Park, nothing beats the Whispering Benches at the Smith Civil War Memorial Arch near Memorial Hall. A unique phenomenon, it works like this: simply sit at one end of the long, curved, stone bench and whisper something. The person at the other end of the wall should be able to clearly hear what has been said, making it the perfect spot to whisper sweet nothings to that special someone. The site is pretty, and makes for a lovely place to sit and relax or picnic nearby. After exchanging confidences, feel free to stroll hand-in-hand along the scenic paths. Fairmount Park is also great to bike ride, walk, jog or take pictures. Depending on the interests of the individuals that come here, there's sure to be an activity that suits the day.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Spending some quality time outdoors surrounded by beautiful scenery is a wonderful way to get a look at the other side of Philly.

Sharon's expert tip: The Japanese Tea House or one of the beautiful mansions in the park are great for sightseeing, or simply take time for a stroll.

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Franklin Square
Photo courtesy of J. Fusco for Visit Philly

One of Philadelphia's five original squares, Franklin Square is certainly one of the best for kids. Children can take a ride on the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel that's located here before heading to the playground for a more active adventure. The park's 18-hole mini golf course is Philadelphia-themed, and all will enjoy guiding their ball through traditional city landmarks like Elfreth's Alley, the LOVE statue and the crack in the Liberty Bell. Afterward, a bite to eat at SquareBurger is the perfect way to refresh. There are also great light shows during the holiday season, which are wonderful for families to view together.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Pretty and usually active with special events or great outdoor activities, it's a nice break from the usual.

Sharon's expert tip: If you're here during the holidays, do not miss the lights show which is new to this square, as it is entertaining and magical. Special events are also on deck for other times of the year, so keep an eye out for them.

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Independence National Historical Park
Photo courtesy of Sharon Rigney

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 Sightseeing because: With all of the wonderful historical sights in the city, this location covers so many in one shot.

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.

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Museum District & Fairmount Park
Academy of Natural Sciences
Photo courtesy of J. Fusco/Visit Philly

This internationally-renowned museum dates back to 1812 and serves as a public forum for environmental research and education. Numerous interactive exhibits are particularly fun for children, and include live animals, dinosaurs, and insects. Greeting visitors when they enter are huge dinosaur skeletons, which are showstopping in their reconstructed size. Throughout the rest of the four floors of the building are exhibits and displays and interactive opportunities for kids to discover and learn about animals. Many are featured at times as part of live demonstrations so that children can see and hear and often touch the creatures that are being talked about.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Little ones will be amazed at all there is to see and learn at this incredible museum right in Center City.

Sharon's expert tip: This museum is great for creature-loving kids. The butterfly exhibit room is especially cool, and don't miss the hissing cockroach.

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

A visit to the National Constitution Center starts with a powerful multi-media theater presentation that describes the main points of our country's most important document. After the presentation,visitors are free to roam about the building exploring the hows and whys of the Constitution. As a family-oriented museum, the set-up is not heavy on reading plaques and boards. Instead, 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 tickets in advance, which is recommended during busy seasons.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: This incredible venue can teach folks of all ages a thing or two, and it is interesting, too!

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.

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

The Philadelphia Museum of Art 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 international art and artifacts, including Thomas Eakins's "Collection in the Country" furniture. A on-site restaurant and a cafe offer hungry guests sustenance and the gift shop is a great place to pick up a souvenir to remember your visit. Sunday is pay what you wish day. Check their website for featured guest artists and displays.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: For may folks, this sight is equivalent to a visit to Philadelphia with many great works of art as well as the Rocky Statue.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to leave time to enjoy the azalea gardens behind the museum if you're there on a sunny day.

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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 Sightseeing because: Learning and exploring science can be fun? Yes, and this place is the king of that kind of experience.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to check out the new Brain exhibit located here for a super educational and fun visit.

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

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's storied cellblocks and yards. Take a camera, as the building is incredibly photogenic. Walk through and listen to the stories of the inmates, and imagine the past come to life as you stroll the halls. The hospital section is especially interesting. What must have gone on there...

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Nothing beats this iconic and haunting building for an incredible and offbeat experience.

Sharon's expert tip: Remember that the prison is cooler, so head here with that in mind, and be sure to check this place out at Halloween when they host one of the scariest walk-throughs in the nation.

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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 travel 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 – 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 Sightseeing because: When it comes to enjoyable outdoor activities that are great for all ages, this place fits the bill.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to check out the new Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trails for a truly unique and interactive animal experience.

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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