Updated: May 21, 2015
Trip to Philadelphia - What to do on vacationPhiladelphia is known as the city of brotherly love, but it is also one of the key founding cities of the United States, the city where the founding fathers and delegates from the colonies met to write the Constitution and the Delcaration of Independence. It's the city where Ben Franklin used to walk its streets. It's home to the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies baseball team, and the 76ers NBA basketball team. While Philadelphia has faded in importance and influence compared to its neighbor to the northeast, New York City, it is still a worthwhile spot to visit for a day if you find yourself in the vicinity (it is the fifth largest city in the USA), whether on vacation, a business trip, or visiting relatives. Check out the tips and suggestions below for things to do in Philadelphia, Philadelphia tours, Philadelphia lodging and accomodations, sightseeing, and more.
Arriving in Philadelphia - Philadelphia Airport Map, Driving MapsIf you are flying into Philadelphia, your first stop will be the Philadelphia Airport. The airport is located 7 miles south of the city near the Deleware River. Interstate 95 runs right past the airport, making it easy to get to central Philly. The Philadephia airport code for booking tickets online is PHL. There is also a high speed rail line that connect to the city center, cost is $5.50 each way. A map of the Philadelphia Airport is here.
Philadelphia HistoryPhiladelphia was founded in 1681 by William Penn as a Quaker colony, on the location of a prior Swedish settlement. Home to Ben Franklin, the city found itself at the center of the revolutionary movement in the late 1700's, hosting George Washington and other delegates from around the colonies for the Continental Congresses (1774 and 1775-1776) and the Constitutional Convention (1787). Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence here, and the famed Liberty Bell, though long cracked and silent) still hangs here for visitors from around the world to see a symbol of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Philadelphia Tours - SightseeingWhat things should you do and see on your vacation to Philadelphia? Well, let's start with the most famous and obvious. Your first stop should be the historic downtown section between 5th and 6th Streets, near Chestnut and Market. Where is the Liberty Bell? It is housed in a center across the street from Independence Hall. Independence Hall, where the Constitution and the Delcaration of Independence were written and approved, will be our second stop. There is a special security screen for the Liberty Bell - the entrance is off 6th Street near Chestnut. Once inside, you can wander through the pavillion, read about the history of the Liberty Bell, and of course view the Liberty Bell. There is no entrance fee and no tickets required for viewing the bell, though keep in mind that crowds of school children always appear in the summer months - opt for an earlier visit if you can. Photos, video, and flash photography ARE ALLOWED of the Liberty Bell. There is a separate tour for Independence Hall, which requires tickets (free), and a separate security screening area (gosh, we feel so safe!).Tickets for Independence Hall can be obtained at the Independence Visitor Center, just across Market Street (one more block AWAY from Independence Hall) from the Liberty Bell Center. You MUST have a ticket to go on the tour - you can reserve them in advance for a small fee from the National Park Service website (http://www.nps.gov/inde/) or get them on the day of your visit. You will be assigned a specific tour time (tours last 20 minutes) and you must be cleared through security and ready to go by that time. Photos, video, and flash photography ARE ALSO ALLOWED in Independence Hall. The tour is brief - you will see the two main rooms of the old Philadelphia State House and hear about the history of what took place there. If you have your tickets in advance, you can easily see both these exhibits in less than 90 minutes.
Other things to see in Philadelphia include the Philadelphia Zoo (http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/), Longwood Gardens (http://www.longwoodgardens.org/), the Franklin Institute Science Museum (great for kids, http://sln.fi.edu/). If you are a gardening fan, or just enjoy walking the magnificent grounds of a grand estate, don't miss Longwood Gardens. It was created by Pierre du Pont and includes over 1000 acres of beautifully planned and maintained flowers, shrubs, trees, hedges. You can find hours and admission rates on their website. Depending on your walking speed, you can see both the indoor and outdoor gardens in 90 minutes to 4 hours. It is located about 30 miles west of Philadelphia on Route 1. Right in the city is the famous amphibious Duck Tours. With tickets and boarding right near Independence Hall, tickets are $24 for adults and $14 for kids. What is a Duck Tour? Well, this boat on wheels will give you a guided driving tour of the city, then plunge into the Deleware River and keep right on going, turning into a 20 minute boat tour from the water. This is a delightful experience for kids in Philadelphia (also in Boston). The Philadelphia Art Museum (Rocky ran up its steps in the famous movie scene) (http://www.philamuseum.org/) is also worth a visit, home to over 225,000 works of art. Museum hours are 10-5 daily, except for Mondays when it is closed. It is also open late on Friday evenings until 8:45. Adult tickets are $12, kids under 12 free. Sunday is donation day, pay whatever price you like and enjoy a lazy weekend in the museum! The Art Museum is located just blocks from downtown and is easily accessible (see map http://www.philamuseum.org/doc_downloads/map_art.pdf).