Free Things To Do in Philadelphia
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Opposite Independence Hall, you'll find the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park. Now residing in a huge glass gazebo, this 2,080-pound piece of history was once mounted in the belfry of Independence Hall. It was used to mark important historic events, most notably at the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Historians believe the first crack developed in the early 1840s. Metal workers were tasked with repairing the bell in anticipation of George Washington's birthday in 1846. The repair was unsuccessful and the bell ceased to chime ever again.
Despite the long lines, recent visitors called this attraction a must-see for all Americans. They also suggested planning your visit first thing in the morning during the week.
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If you're interested in history, you must visit this red-brick Georgian-style building (located in Independence National Historical Park in the Old City), where the Second Continental Congress met off and on from 1775 to 1783. More importantly, it was here that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated, drafted and signed by our forefathers. While touring Independence Hall, you'll have the chance to see the Assembly Room where George Washington was appointed the commander in chief of the Continental Army. You can also see surviving copies of the declaration, the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation, all displayed in the West Wing's Great Essentials Exhibit.
From March through December, you must obtain a ticket for a tour to visit Independence Hall (tickets are free, but there is a $1.50 ticket-handling fee). Many recent visitors recommend reserving tickets in advance to avoid waiting. They also say the guides, who are national park rangers, are great. You don't need a ticket to visit in January and February, but you must join a guided tour. A limited quantity of free tickets are available every day at the ranger's desk in the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market streets. This is the only place to obtain free, timed entry tickets. Several of the city's top walking tours also make a stop here.
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For a taste of local Philly produce, baked goods, coffee and more, head to Reading Terminal Market in the Market East District. This market is located beneath the Reading Railroad's 1891 train station (a National Historic Landmark) and harbors more than 80 different vendors. Here, you can sample food from around the world – including Greek, Thai, Mexican and Indian specialties – while perusing homemade crafts and jewelry.
Recent travelers love the variety of foods, saying there is something for everyone. While there is a central dining area, many of the food stalls also have their own seating. Some described the market experience as "overwhelming" because of the volume of vendors and visitors. If you're limited on time, consider reading about the market's various vendors beforehand on the market's website. Past visitors and critics praised the doughnuts at Beiler's Bakery, the apple dumplings at Dutch Eating Place, the roast pork sandwich at DiNic's and the po'boys at Beck’s Cajun Café. Several of the city's top food tours also make stops at the market; if you're looking for a little guidance when navigating the market, consider signing up for a tour.
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While it was once a grazing area for livestock, Rittenhouse Square is now one of the swankiest areas in the city. Named for David Rittenhouse, the first director of the United States Mint, this neighborhood – several blocks southeast of the Mütter Museum – now features plenty of top-notch restaurants, elegant stores and trendy nightlife venues. The park itself is a great place for a picnic or an outdoor stroll.
Recent visitors enjoyed taking a break from the city life and sitting back to relax in the area. Reviewers described it as "charming" and "lovely," though some also warned of panhandlers. The area is also a featured stop on many of the best Philadelphia tours.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Philadelphia0.2 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Whether you're in search of an Instagram-worthy photo or just want to rest your feet in between sightseeing, John F. Kennedy Plaza can't be missed. Also known as LOVE Park, this plaza, which was designed by city planner Edmond Bacon (father of actor Kevin Bacon), is where you'll find Robert Indiana's world-renowned LOVE statue. What's more, the plaza unveiled new facilities – including a water feature, a welcome center and green space – in May 2018.
Most visitors recommend heading to the plaza to see its famous statue, although some caution that there is almost always a line to snap pictures of it. Several travelers also suggest venturing to the adjacent Levy Park to check out the city's Holocaust memorial. And if you love holiday markets, time your visit around Christmas when the park hosts Philly's annual Christmas Village: The space is filled with Christmas-themed decor and vendors who sell European food, ornaments and more.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Philadelphia7.7 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND7.7 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The 1,800-acre Wissahickon Valley Park appeals to outdoorsy types keen on enjoying a breath of fresh air in the city. Located about 5 miles northwest of downtown, the park boasts more than 50 miles of hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails. Plus, visitors can go bird-watching, picnicking or fishing in the Wissahickon Creek.
Past travelers raved about Wissahickon Valley Park's serene setting. Many also appreciated the property's historical architecture, which includes a covered bridge built in 1737, North America's first paper mill and a man-made cave that once housed John Kelpius (a mystic cult leader who brought his followers to the site in 1694 anticipating an apocalypse). For some of the park's best panoramas, visitors suggest strolling along the vehicle-free Forbidden Drive trail.
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Home to one of the largest public collections of Rodin's work outside of Paris, the Rodin Museum, which opened in 1929, boasts almost 150 bronzes, marbles and plasters created by Auguste Rodin. The collection represents every phase of the illustrious artist's career. Highlights include The Kiss, Rodin's famous sculpture of two lovers.
The beaux-arts building itself is also a stunner, designed by French architect Paul Cret, while the formal French garden was designed by landscape designer Jacques Gréber. The lovely outdoor space features eight of Rodin's works, including The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. Recent visitors said the museum is beautiful inside and out and call the museum's collection excellent.
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In addition to visiting Reading Terminal Market and signing up for a Chew Philly Food Tours excursion, foodies will want to save time for shopping and dining at Philadelphia's Italian Market on South Ninth Street. One of the oldest open-air markets in the country, the Italian Market features a multitude of gourmet food vendors selling imported goods, fresh cheeses, homemade chocolates and more. Additionally, visitors have access to stores offering everything from sports gear to books to flowers, as well as bars and restaurants that specialize in Mexican, Italian and Middle Eastern fare, among other cuisines.
Although patrons provide mixed feedback about the market's prices – some say the venue's wares are overpriced, while others note that items sold here are cheaper than comparable goods at Reading Terminal Market – many rave about its old-world ambiance and friendly employees. To make the most of a visit, travelers can book a market tour with a local tour operator like Urban Adventures or Taste 4 Travel, which are featured in our list of the best Philadelphia tours. Tours start at $35 per person.
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