Philadelphia tends to have a bad reputation: The locals are rude, the freeways are always congested, and the sports fans are too passionate. But under this rough exterior, there’s something special about “The City of Brotherly Love” that keeps people coming back for more. After all, it’s the birthplace of America. Take on Philly like a true local (that means pronouncing “water” as “wooder”) and uncover why this city of conflicting identities has a spot for everyone.
For the History Buffs
What better way to learn about the U.S. than by visiting the place it was founded? Stroll through Old City, a historic district that’s best known for its Colonial-era sites. Visit Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed, and then cross the street to see the Liberty Bell. You can explore more at the National Constitution Center, the country’s most hands-on history museum, just two blocks away.
Locals call downtown Philadelphia “Center City.” It blends historic sites and modern skyscrapers and is home to some of the country’s most revered museums. If you have kiddos in tow, head to The Franklin Institute, a kid-friendly science museum and one of the country’s oldest centers of science education and development. They can crawl through a larger-than-life artery at the 5,000-square-foot Giant Heart exhibition, touch a real meteorite in the Space Command exhibition, solve puzzles in two themed escape rooms, and much more.
For the Instagrammers
Philly is the perfect backdrop for your social media feed. First, head south to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, an immersive mixed-media art gallery with indoor and outdoor spaces that are completely covered with mosaics. We suggest visiting in the afternoon to see the mosaics sparkle in the sunlight.
Next, follow in Rocky Balboa’s famous footsteps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s basically a rite of passage. Pose for a picture with the iconic movie character’s statue before climbing the 72 famous “Rocky Steps.” The best view of the city is waiting at the top.
Finish your picture perfect tour by snapping a few shots at Graffiti Pier. Decorated by local graffiti artists, the abandoned cement pier is covered in vibrant tags. Stroll through the spray painted columns and add some color to your Instagram profile.
For the Foodies
You can’t visit Philadelphia without trying its namesake cheesesteak. Skip the tourist traps of Pat’s and Geno’s and instead visit Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies, where tender slices of beefsteak are piled on a long hoagie roll and smothered in Cheez Whiz. If onions are your thing, order your cheesesteak “wit.” Not an onion fan? Order it “witout.”
If meat covered in Cheez Whiz grosses you out, don’t fret; Philadelphia is packed with plenty of other eccentric eateries. Find the city’s widest variety of restaurants (26, to be exact) under one roof at the Reading Terminal Market, one of the country’s oldest and largest public markets that’s housed in a National Historic Landmark building. Plus, more than 80 merchants offer a vast selection of locally grown produce, meats, seafood, cheeses, baked goods, sweets, and ethnic fare. Grab your meal to go and explore Philly’s outdoor spaces by picnicking at Washington Square park—it’ll feel like you’re right at home.
Side Trip: Explore the Jersey Shore
Thanks to MTV, the Jersey Shore, like Philadelphia, has a not-so-great reputation. But contrary to popular belief, the shore offers a calm and quiet retreat from the bustling city. Hop on the Atlantic City Expressway and head to Ocean City to enjoy surfing, boardwalk strolls, local restaurants, and the comforting sound of crashing waves. Get there early to take a sunrise bike ride before indulging in housemade doughnuts and breakfast at Browns Restaurant. Located alongside the boardwalk, the eatery offers a beautiful view of the ocean and is just steps from the beach. Trust us, this shore town is the perfect drama-free place to unwind from your east coast trip.