The birth of the United States pervades the appearance and the feeling of Philadelphia. This city offers plenty of unique and fun events for you to experience with friends, family and other visitors to the metropolis. You cannot feel alone when you are in the middle of so much history and activity bustling throughout the main streets. There are many cool things to do in Philadelphia for both adults and children. And, you will love to hear that many of them are free, or very affordable.
The beautiful neighborhoods surround historical landmarks and architecture, and you will find culinary, artistic and family-friendly opportunities around every turn. No matter your interests and tastes, you will find something you will like on this list of top Philadelphia activities, attractions and landmarks.
1. Run Up the Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Since these 72 steps first appeared in the Rocky films, visitors from all over the world have been scaling them in order to pump their fists in the air at the top. Start with a photo at the bottom of the steps with the original bronze statue of Rocky. The third film of the franchise features this statue. Then jog up the stairs to enjoy the view of the Philadelphia from your perch at the top. This is one of the top free things to do in Philadelphia.
For the true Rocky experience, you need chilly weather to run up the steps. However, you can make the climb at any time of the year. While you are just outside the doors, this is an excellent time to enter the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For an admission price of just $20 per adult, you can see cubist Marcel Duchamp’s famous “Nude Descending a Staircase” and Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, as well as some impressive works by Cezanne, Matisse, Monet and Renoir. The impressive art works that you can see here make a visit to this Museum one of the best things to do in Philadelphia, suitable for every age, from teenagers to senior citizens.
2. Snap a Picture with the Liberty Bell
Originally erected to call to order Pennsylvania Assemblies, many different groups have used the Liberty Bell over the years, including suffragists, abolitionists and Civil Rights advocates. In fact, it is said that the bell was tolled on July 8, 1776, as the announcement of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The infamous crack in the shape was probably formed from existing fractures becoming more pronounced around 1846.
Now a symbol of freedom, you can visit and snap a picture with the Liberty Bell for free throughout the year. The Liberty Bell Center, the name of the entire area around the bell, is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the fall, winter and spring and until 7:00 p.m. during the busy summer months. Get in line before 9:00 a.m. to avoid the long lines of tourists and school groups. This is one of the best free things to do in Philadelphia.
3. Browse the Reading Terminal Market
The oldest farmers’ market in the country, the Reading Terminal Market began in 1892, and has been operating continuously ever since. You will find any kind of food you could possibly want at the market, including authentic Philly cheesesteaks and Pennsylvania Dutch food, from mostly family-run stands. The market devotes the northwest corner of its space to Amish merchants from Lancaster County, who bring their unique dishes and farm-fresh produce.
The Reading Terminal Market is open every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. This is one of the free things to do in Philadelphia, but be sure to bring money, so you can sample from the more than 80 different merchants who set up shop there. Make a special stop at DiNic’s Roast Pork and Beef where you can order the Travel Channel’s “Best Sandwich in America”. This is one of the top things to do in Philadelphia.
4. Explore the Philadelphia Zoo
Wander among the tree-lined walks and ornate iron cages of the 42-acre Victorian garden of the Philadelphia Zoo. As the first zoo chartered in the United States in 1859, this preserve is known as much for its historic architecture as for its menagerie. Enjoy the new exploration trail experience, called Zoo360, as it winds and you peer through mesh that gives you better views of the animals in their natural habitats. The Big Cat Crossing exhibit has also been named one of the best exhibits in the country.
The Philadelphia Zoo is open year-round from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except for national holidays. Between November 1 and February 28, the zoo closes at 4:00 p.m. Children and adults enter for the same price of $17 each, and parking is an additional $16 that must be prepaid. You can consider the Zoo as one of the best things to do in Philadelphia with kids or on a weekend.
5. Explore the Franklin Square
Open from March to December each year, Franklin Square is one of the five original public squares detailed by William Penn in his plans for creating Philadelphia. You will find 8 acres of green space in this square that includes family-friendly attractions. If you visit Franklin Square, be sure to investigate these activities:
- Philly Mini Golf to play 18 holes decorated with Philadelphia icons.
- Parx Liberty Carousel to ride horses named for hometown derby winners.
- Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Bench to learn more about the history of the square.
- Fountain to gaze at the marble masterpiece built in 1838.
- SquareBurger to indulge in summer staples like sweet potato fries and BBQ pulled pork.
In addition to spending time at these activities, you can also rent space in Franklin Square for birthday parties, weddings and other events.
6. Take Your Kids to the Please Touch Museum
Designed for visitors under 7 years old, the Please Touch Museum has grown to be one of the premier children’s museums in the nation. You will find the landmark in historic Memorial Hall, and your kids will have lots of fun in the six interactive exhibit zones covering 157,000 square feet of museum space. The mission of the museum is to provide a totally hands-on experience to its visitors. You and your family can also enjoy sipping tea with the Mad Hatter, or the live theater experience of the Please Touch Playhouse.
Visit between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. for a price of $19 each for ages one and up. Because it is indoors, the Please Touch Museum is busy on rainy days. Mornings are especially hectic with school groups, so afternoons are a good bet for a family visit. Likewise, groups are not scheduled on Mondays, making that a good day for a trip to the museum as well. The first Wednesday of every month features extended hours from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. for an additional $2 per person. This lovely museum is another great option if you are looking for top things to do in Philadelphia with toddlers and kids.
7. Visit the LOVE Sculpture
Because it is the City of Brotherly Love, you cannot visit Philadelphia without checking out the LOVE sculpture created by Robert Indiana. Located in the appropriately named Love Park (John F. Kennedy Plaza), the sculpture’s big, red letters has been standing out against the gray city landscape since 1976.
Visiting the park is free at all times, but you will get the best pictures with the form during the daytime hours when you will see the most contrast in colors. Philadelphia has recently been updating the surrounding park, adding green space, a new water feature and concession areas to make your time there even more enjoyable. This can be one of the most romantic things to do in Philadelphia.
8. Tour the Eastern State Penitentiary
When it opened in 1829, the grand architecture and the radical philosophy of reforming criminals through isolation made Eastern State Penitentiary truly revolutionary. The 11-acre prison housed many infamous criminals, including Al Capone, during its tenure. The penitentiary closed to inmates in 1971, and it became a National Historic Landmark.
Eastern State is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The adult ticket is $14, and the child entrance is $10. Be sure to pay for the multimedia tour of the prison, which includes audio clips and exceptional photographs of the prison throughout its use. During the Halloween season, you can visit the penitentiary as a haunted house, but regular tours are run year-round. There is even a scavenger hunt activity guide for children ages 7-12.
Philadelphia is a diverse and exciting city that offers a combination of historic and modern sights and activities. There are so many cool things to do in Philadelphia. You can visit a landmark of United States history like the Liberty Bell in the morning and finish your day with a Philly cheesesteak at the Reading Terminal Market. After spending some time in this comfortable metropolis, you will understand why it is known as both the Birthplace of America and the City of Brotherly Love.