Don’t get us wrong, 5-star resorts and Michelin star dining are great. But if you’re on a budget and looking for a vacation that won’t break the bank, Philadelphia is a great option this summer. Whether you’re a single explorer or a family of four, there’s plenty of inexpensive or free things to do in Philadelphia. Check out our recommendations below for all the best to do, see, and eat!
Hang out at Spruce Street Harbor Park and explore Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest: Situated within walking distance of one another at Penn’s Landing, these two outdoor spaces are can’t-miss highlights of the summer in Philadelphia. Spruce Street Harbor Park offers hammocks for lounging, floating gardens, tasty craft beer, and food from popular Philly restaurants. If you’re feeling less like lounging and more like moving, Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest offers Philadelphia’s only outdoor roller skating rink. The best part: entrance to the park is free and open to the public. Roller skating, mini-golf, games, rides, and concessions are pay-as-you-go.
Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art and run the Rocky Steps: This is the spot where high culture and pop culture meet in a way that’s uniquely Philadelphia. Any first-time visitor to the city should make their way to the Art Museum. First, grab a photo with the Rocky Statue at the base of the steps (you’ll spot folks queuing up most days). Then, do your best to jog up the 72 stone steps to reenact some Rocky glory of your own. Both activities are completely free. Of course, the Museum itself should not be missed–and luckily, admission is Pay What You Wish from 5:00 to 8:45 p.m every Wednesday and all day on the first Sunday every month.
Take a seat (and a listen) at Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches: During the Spring and Summer, uniformed storytellers staff 13 charming benches scattered around Historic Philadelphia. Stories are told continuously during Independence National Historical Park’s operating hours, and each story is about 5 minutes long. Print the map on their website and collect a star at each bench–if you visit all 13 benches, you’ll receive a free Parx Liberty Carousel ride in Franklin Square!
Treat your inner child at Franklin Square: Franklin Square offers a ton of fun, from Center City’s only carousel, to Philly-themed mini golf, to the recently-renovated fountain show with lights, music, and dancing water. There’s no cost to enjoy the 8-acre park grounds, and activity costs are reasonable: mini-golf is $10 for adults and $8 for kids, while the carousel is $3 per rider. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, chow down on burgers, fries, and shakes from SquareBurger.
Feel the LOVE at JFK Plaza (LOVE Park): LOVE Park gets its nickname from Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE statue, which has resided in the space almost continuously since 1976. The new LOVE Park will also feature new activities, programs and amenities. Weekdays from 11am-3pm, a rotating line-up of five food trucks will set up shop for “Lunch in LOVE,” creating a delicious and fun outdoor food court. Café tables and chairs will be available adjacent to the trucks to accommodate the lunchtime visitors.
Take in cutting-edge art at the Institute of Contemporary Art: The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania is located in University City, just blocks from 30th Street Station. The ICA’s motto is “Free For All” — admission is free, and the museum takes accessibility and community engagement seriously. Art lovers shouldn’t miss the institution that New York Times art critic Roberta Smith declared “among the most adventuresome showcases in the country where art since 1970 is concerned…”
See history at Independence National Historical Park: When visitors think of Philadelphia, this park is what comes to mind. Home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Museum and much more, Independence National Historical Park is the home of history in Philadelphia. Admission to most park sites is free. Timed entry tickets are required to enter Independence Hall from March through December, but these are free if you get them at the Independence Visitor Center on the morning of your visit. The Benjamin Franklin Museum charges an interpretive fee and the National Constitution Center, a partner of the park, charges an admission fee.
Enjoy art and fresh air at Philly’s Museum Without Walls: Philadelphia is the country’s number one city for public art. Take advantage of our commitment to accessible art via the Association for Public Art (aPA) Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program. These audio tours, featuring unique stories about art located throughout Center City and Fairmount park, are completely free and available via mobile app or by phone. Dialing instructions for accessing the program by cell phone are attached to the signage at numerous stops for sculptures throughout Fairmount Park and Center City–explore the map on the Museum Without Walls website for specific locations.
Browse the stalls at Reading Terminal Market: Housed since 1893 in a National Historic Landmark building, the Market offers an overwhelming selection of local produce, meats, seafood, and a variety of restaurants under one roof. Whether you’re in the mood for a cheesesteak, a soft pretzel, or Peking duck, Reading Terminal Market has you covered. There are more than 80 unique vendors in the market–it’s safe to say you could eat your way through this amazing market for your entire visit to Philadelphia!
Take a bite out of a Philly Cheesesteak: Visitors to Philadelphia are always asking about where they can find the “best” cheesesteak in Philly. (FYI only tourists call the staple sandwich a “Philly” cheesesteak. It’s pretty much understood.) To be perfectly honest cheesesteak preference is often times territorial. Luckily for you, we’ve tried them all and compiled a list of the Top 10 Best Cheesesteaks–no matter where in the city you roam, you won’t be far from one of these delicious (and affordable) sandwiches!
Explore the South 9th Street Italian Market: When the weather is good, make your way down to south Philadelphia to wander the curbside stalls of America’s oldest continuously operating outdoor market. The Italian Market is a collection of nearly 200 individual businesses situated between 2 Public Parks & 2 beautiful Churches. And while its roots may be Italian, the market today is home to everything from Italian, to Middle Eastern, to Mexican eateries all with delicious meals at reasonable prices.
Of course, no vacation is complete without a hotel to call home. This summer, Hilton is offering an awesome deal that lets you stay with us for less! Weekend like a local in Philadelphia and enjoy up to 50% off your Sunday night stay*, plus exclusive local offers on museums, dining, and more.
*You must be a Hilton Honors member to receive 50% off Sunday; non-Honors members receive 40% off.