Philadelphia is a hot city right now – we’ve received shoutouts from The Huffington Post and The New York Times, and most recently, our beloved Eagles became first-time Superbowl champions. What can we say: it’s pretty awesome to be a Philadelphian right now.
Not everyone knows the ins and outs of birthplace of our nation like we do at Phillyfunguide: so we put our heads together and crafted a list of Philly’s must-see attractions, neighborhoods and parks.
We’re here to offer you an inside view of Philadelphia: beyond your typical tourist visits to the Rocky Statue and the Liberty Bell and instead taking you to places real Philadelphians visit. So whether you’re visiting Philadelphia for the first time, or are a born and bred Philadelphian, this list has something on it for you:
The Franklin Institute: The groundbreaking science museum named after America’s first scientist, Benjamin Franklin, is known for its exciting exhibits, an out-of-this-world planetarium, and beloved attractions like a giant Heart and a new Brain exhibit. The Franklin Institute is open daily, but recurring events like the Philadelphia Science Festival (usually held in April) and a monthly Science After Dark series (a 21+ science party) make it easy to fall in love with one of the city’s most popular museums.
Eastern State Penitentiary: The world’s first true penitentiary and former home of infamous gangster Al Capone, Eastern State Penitentiary is one of Philly’s true historic gems. Once the most expensive and famous prison in the world, the Penitentiary is now a museum, home to interactive walking tours, Terror Behind the Walls, America’s largest haunted house, and its new Prisons Today exhibit on contemporary correctional facilities. The Penitentiary also throws an annual Bastille Day celebration where guests enjoy Tastykakes (whose cakes are native to Philly) thrown at them by French royalty–a fun twist on the infamous ‘Let the eat cake!’.
Mutter Museum: If you have an affinity for the macabre, then the Mutter Museum is the place for you. Located at 22nd and Market Street, the museum of medical history has perfectly preserved collections straight from a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” book. Some of the featured collections include Einstein’s brain, a plaster cast of conjoined twins Chang & Eng, the tallest skeleton on display in North America and more jaw-dropping medical oddities.
Schuylkill River Trail: Philly was recently voted the 5th Most Walkable City in the U.S., and the Schuylkill River Trail is the perfect setting for a leisurely afternoon stroll. The 60-mile long trail will ultimately reach 130 miles, and was recently expanded with a 2,000-foot-long boardwalk that extends the Schuylkill River Trail from Locust Street to South Street. The scenic boardwalk allows pedestrians, runners and cyclists to literally walk or ride over the river to some of the best skyline views around.
Chinatown: Stretching from Arch to Vine Street and 11th to 8th Street, this vibrant cultural enclave is easily one of Philly’s shining stars. Settled in the mid-19th century by Cantonese immigrants, this neighborhood is home to authentic business and restaurants that represent Hong Kong, Cantonese, Fujianese, Northern Sichuan and Taiwanese culture as well as Korean, Thai and Vietnamese influences. Chinatown is also home to The Trocadero, a 19th century Victorian vaudeville theater turned music venue.
Reading Terminal Market: You haven’t truly experienced Philly until you’ve visited the historic Reading Terminal Market. One of America’s oldest and largest public markets, Reading Terminal is home to 80 vendors selling local produce, fresh meat and seafood, fresh baked Amish goods and more. It’s also home to the Pennsylvania General Store, where you can pick up a Philly souvenir.
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Sure, the “Rocky Steps” draw plenty of visitors–but there’s way more to see at the Philadelphia Museum of Art than just the steps. The museum houses more than 240,000 objects in more than 200 galleries spanning 2,000 years. It’s one of the largest art museums in the world, and hosts myriad weekly activities, from yoga to pay-what-you-wish Wednesday nights.
Midtown Village/Gayborhood: If you’re looking for something to do in Center City, look no further than Midtown Village. Located between Broad and 11th Streets and Market and Spruce Streets, this tiny slice of city life has no shortage of fun things to do. Home to the LGBT-friendly Philly Gayborhood (you’ll know you’re there when you see the rainbow street signs), Midtown Village is an eclectic mix of nightlife, top notch restaurants and charm. Make sure you visit for the the annual PrideDay LGBT Parade and Festival in June and Midtown Village Fall Festival and OutFest in October.
Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival: The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival is a celebration of light and culture that features artisans from China and the Philadelphia region. From May 1-June 30, Franklin Square glows with more than 25 larger-than-life illuminated displays of giant flowers, a three-story pagoda, the newly rebuilt Chinese dragon and much more, created using traditional Chinese methods with thousands of LED lights in brilliant colors. Festival-goers will enjoy daily performances, culinary exploration, crafts by working artists, and still be able to play Philly Mini Golf, ride the Parx Liberty Carousel, and enjoy Center City’s premier play place during the duration of the festival.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens: Founded by local artist Isaiah Zagar and his wife Julia in the 1960s, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a beautiful testament to the quirky nature of the city. The art installation turned museum is located on 1020 South Street, but Zagar’s mosaics can be found across the all of South Street. Aside from the beauty of the mosaics, the museum also offers fun and diverse public programming and family-friendly days.
Penn’s Landing: The crown jewel of the Delaware River Waterfront, Penn’s Landing perfectly bookends the city while overlooking the Delaware River and the Camden Waterfront. Named after our founder William Penn, Penn’s Landing stretches from Front Street to the Delaware river and from Washington Avenue to Spring Garden Street. Catch a concert at Festival Pier, visit the Independence Seaport Museum, or just spend a relaxing afternoon by the river.
Spruce Street Harbor Park: Since its inception in the summer of 2014, the Spruce Street Harbor Park has quickly become a Philly summer favorite. Crowned one of the best urban beaches in the U.S., the seasonal park offers bars, a variety of food, hammocks for all-day lounging and an incomparable view of the Delaware waterfront. If you’re visiting Philadelphia in the summertime, you owe it to yourself to visit the Harbor Park at least once.
Wawa: If you’re not near a Wawa, are you really in Philly? If you’re lucky enough to be in a state with a Wawa (shoutout to Florida, Jersey, D.C., Maryland & Delaware!), then you know that the beloved local chain needs no explanation. If you’re experiencing the joy that is Wawa for the first time, make sure you come for Hoagiefest – that’s all we can tell you.
Fairmount Park: Fairmount Park is the largest municipal park in the city, totaling more than 2,000 acres of green space. Split into East Park and West Park, Fairmount Park is home to many popular attractions, including Fairmount Water Works and Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, historic houses like Sedgley Mansion and Strawberry Mansion and much more.
Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts: Curated by the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts is a celebration of international arts in Philly. The Festival boasts over 50 performances of varied disciplines, interactive performance art, and caps with a giant, six-block long Street Fair that’s completely free and open to the public. In 2018, it’s being held from May 31-June 10, with the street fair on June 9.