I recently had to travel to Washington D.C. for a family wedding, so I decided to split up my trip by flying to see my friend Kerri (who lives in Wilmington, DE) for a few days before driving down to DC. I realized I could cross off a few of the remaining US states I have yet to visit, all in the same trip. We decided to take a quick day trip into Philadelphia since it’s only about 40 miles from Wilmington. Okay, so technically this post should be titled “Fun Things To Do With Like 12 Hours in Philadelphia”, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it.
With only a day to spend, we had to choose wisely what we were going to do & boy did we maximize our time there!
There is so much beautiful history in this city! Turning every corner I felt like I could have been stepping back in time; between all the historic buildings, the architecture, and the cobblestone streets, at times it feels like you’re in a painting. I mean, where else can you walk on the oldest street in America? Or stand in the same room where a nation was birthed? I highly recommend everyone visit Philadelphia at least once, just try to avoid it in September because, lucky me, I visited when it was 95º and 50%+ humidity (kill me). To prep for this trip, I dug deep into Pinterest & talked with a few friends I knew were from the area, so I combined everything into this list for y’all!
We started off our day with Dunkin Donuts before making our way to our first stop!
WHAT TO DO:
With the bulk of it the decor the same as when it was built, it’s hard not to feel like Nicholas Cage in “National Treasure” when you enter this building. Admission is free but you do need a ticket! You can book a time in advance here, but be sure to arrive 20-30 minutes early to pick up your ticket at the visitors center down the street or they’ll move you to the next available slot! The visitors center opens at 8:30 am, there’s a great gift shop inside if you’re looking for some US history-themed souvenirs!
Right across the street from Independence Hall you can see where freedom first rang! The museum opens at 9 am every day and admission is free. You can walk through and learn about how the Liberty Bell was seen as a symbol of hope for slaves, the women’s suffrage movement, and countless others.try to get there early so you can take your time not to mention get a picture with the bell before the crowds show up.
Our nations oldest residential street stands as a constant reminder of the roots of Philadelphia and shockingly the homes are still occupied by residents to this day! We weren’t able to take part in the tour because they only do it on Friday – Sunday, but between the Union Jack and Don’t Tread On Me flags, you just feel the energy of times past walking down these cobblestone streets. On our way to Elfreth’s, we passed a few pretty cool historic spots!
Benjamin Franklins Burial – we didn’t go inside the cemetery but you can view the final resting place of Benjamin & his wife Deborah, through the side gate of Christ Church Burial Ground. Like others before us, we paid our respects (literally) by leaving a penny on his grave.
Betsy Ross’ House – we all know Betsy as the woman who first sewed our nations first flag, and therefore stitched her way into American history. We didn’t have time to go inside, but I’ve heard great things about the tour!
This is a vibrantly immersive art installation started by local artist Isaiah Zagar who hopes to inspire “creativity and community engagement by educating the public about folk, mosaic, and visionary art”. This display covers about half a block, is filled with gorgeous mosaic tiles, bicycle wheels, glass bottles, dishware, and goodness knows what else. Tickets are $10, they are open every day of the week except Tuesday but also be sure to call ahead and make sure they aren’t closed or booked out for a private event. This place was beyond magical, I felt like a fairy walking around watching the sun shine through in different colors!
One of America’s largest and oldest public markets, this is a great place to find the widest variety of restaurants under one roof! It’s housed in a National Historic Landmark building and is full of local vendors, “exotic produce, locally sourced meats, and poultry, plus the finest seafood, cheeses, baked goods, and confections.”
Located in John F Kennedy Plaza but better known as “Love Park”, resides the iconic Robert Indiana LOVE statue. What better place than the City of Brotherly Love!
SPOILER – it’s a lot smaller than most people think haha.
Even if you don’t get the chance to go inside, it’s hard to miss the largest municipal building in the country! Topped with a giant statue of William Penn, the exterior of this building alone is awe-inspiring, but if you go on a guided tour you can experience the observation deck which gives you a panoramic view of the city!
Philadelphia is definitely one of the most walkable cities I’ve ever visited. Once we parked, we actually only moved our car once during the day! I’m a little bummed that we walked everywhere and I didn’t wear some sort of fitness tracker. Thankfully Kerri had her apple watch & according to her we took over 18,000 steps!
While we loved walking around Philly, sweating and chafing miserably, we also know that it could have been just as easy to get a Lyft to any of the places we needed to go. It does get pretty busy starting around 3 pm & based on what I saw, traffic can definitely back up quickly so be sure to plan accordingly!
If you don’t enjoy walking but want to still get exercise, there are plenty of bike options in the city. I saw dedicated bike lanes in almost every area of the city and the drivers seemed to respect cyclist etiquette. There are also plenty of options for public transportation. Look into SEPTA or the Philly PHLASH if you’re wanting a low-cost option. No matter what you should have no problem making your way around the city!
We had so little time here and spent most of it slowly melting in the heat. There were definitely a few things I’ll be back for (preferably in cooler weather)
- Eastern State Penitentiary
- Benjamin Franklin Bridge
- Rocky Steps/Art Museum
- Friendship Gate
- South Street
- The Franklin Bar
- The United States Mint
- Mural Mile
Thanks so much for reading! What are some of your favorite Philly sights?!