There are thousands of things to do in Philadelphia, so your first trip is sure to be memorable whether you’re strolling through the snowflakes or enjoying summer sunshine. From history to art, architecture to food and more, as you uncover its treasures you’ll be inspired to return again and again. But for your very first trip to Philadelphia, check out our 5 can’t-miss spots below:
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Independence Hall witnessed the birth of the nation. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed within these walls. Admission is always free; no tickets are required in January and February and on certain days throughout the year, but you must obtain a free ticket for a tour from March through December.
While you’re in Old City Philadelphia, you’ll also be able to see the Liberty Bell and exhibits about its history. Stop by 2nd Story Brewing for a local pint (stick with the theme of the day by sipping a Declaration IPA) and some of the best poutine this side of Canada.
This world-class art museum in Philadelphia is one of the oldest in the country. Various guided tours are included with your admission; Highlights of the Museum is a great way to cover a lot of art ground quickly, or choose a tour dedicated to your particular favorite interests.
Art lovers could easily spend a couple of days exploring everything this museum has to offer, which goes far beyond the main building (don’t miss photos on the Rocky steps at the east entrance). You’ll also have access to the sculpture garden, the Rodin Museum, the historic houses at Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant, and the Perelman Building, which showcases contemporary art, photography, and fashion.
Louisiana has gumbo, Chicago has pizza, and Philadelphia has the cheesesteak. It’s a must-taste if you’re in the area, and there’s no shortage of places to do it. It’s hard to pick a favorite! Serious eaters: map out a plan to try several so you can form your own opinion.
The rivalry between Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, which are located on the same block in south Philly, is legendary. But they’re far from the only options:
Dalessandro’s is another local favorite that prides itself on the freshest ingredients and Blackbird Pizzeria in Northern Liberties even offers a completely vegan version!
Open since 1893, the Reading Terminal Market is one of the oldest and biggest indoor farmers markets in the country. It’s the perfect spot for people watching—as well as browsing fresh produce, meat, cheese, candies, baked goods, books, linens, flowers, and so much more. The market is open every day from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and is closed on certain holidays.
Not all merchants are there every day; check their schedule on the market website if there’s a merchant you don’t want to miss. Visit Beiler’s Bakery for a doughnut or Downtown Cheese for samples of artisanal cheese and charcuterie. You could always just take a look—but you probably won’t leave without a taste and a treasure or two.
The waterfront along the Delaware, on the east side of Philadelphia features a wide range of restaurants, stores, and entertainment options. There’s also a busy calendar of events all year long, with something for families, couples, friends, and individuals. Specific areas of the waterfront have their own vibe and personality.
Cherry Street Pier is home to artists and special exhibitions, while the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest features free ice skating, a Kids Lodge with arcade, fire pits, and various places to grab a meal, a treat, or a cocktail. Though Winterfest ends in March, Summerfest, with its cotton candy and mini golf, isn’t far behind.
Spruce Street Harbor Park also comes alive in the summer—there’s nothing like lounging in a hammock on a warm night while snacking on local eats, and this is the place to do it. Go a little early to stake out your favorite spot!
There you have it–the best things to do in Philadelphia for first-time visitors. Spending longer than a weekend in the city, or coming back for a second (or third) trip? Explore a new neighborhood like University City, or enjoy a day-long attraction like the Philadelphia Zoo.