3-day Itinerary in Philadelphia
Explore the best things to do in Philadelphia in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.
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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.5 minute walk
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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.15-20 minute walk
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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.10-20 minutes by car
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Whether you're actually interested in the exhibits or just looking to re-enact that timeless scene from "Rocky," the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must-see. Modeled after the ancient Greek temples, this notable attraction is one of the leading museums in the country. After you've made it to the top of the stairs, take a moment to appreciate the Mr. Balboa's statue before diving into the museum's impressive of works by Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, Cézanne and many others. You'll also find entire structures from around the world, including a 16th-century Indian temple hall, a 17th-century Chinese Palace hall and a Japanese teahouse. Of note, there are ongoing renovations in the Main Building, resulting in a few galleries being closed until 2019.
The museum also includes the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building (just a short walk from the main building on Pennsylvania Avenue), which houses an impressive collection of photography, costumes and contemporary works.
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The castle-like Eastern State Penitentiary is one of Philadelphia's most important historic sites. Having opened in 1829, this Quaker-inspired prison sought to reform prisoners using isolation and reflection rather than capital punishment and physical abuse. Although it was shut down in the 1970s, the Eastern State Penitentiary led the way to reform in the judicial system. Today, you are welcome to tour the facility; the highlight for many is Al Capone's cell.
Bear in mind that this attraction may not be appropriate for younger children due to its rather frightening nature. Recent visitors said the site is intriguing, yet disturbing, if not downright creepy. To embrace the terror, visit around Halloween when the prison turns into a haunted house with six different attractions. If you do decide to bring the kids, the Eastern State Penitentiary offers family-friendly tour options with a more PG retelling of the events that took place behind its thick stone walls.10-15 minute walk; 5-10 minutes by car
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Unlike the Please Touch Museum, The Franklin Institute is sure to appeal to kids of all ages, not to mention the young-at-heart. Interactive displays help you and your kids learn about everything from physics to astronomy. While you're here, don't miss the SportsZone, which explains the science behind sports like surfing and rock climbing with the help of simulators. Or explore space without ever leaving earth at the Fels Planetarium. You can also take in a movie at the IMAX theater or test your wits in the museum's escape rooms. If you're interested in history, make sure to save time for the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, which features a 30-ton statue of Franklin as well as a collection of his belongings.
Most visitors agree that spending a day in The Franklin Institute is a great way to kill some time, especially if you have little ones in tow. However, some reviewers were disappointed that certain exhibitions cost extra.10-15 minute walk
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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.10-15 minute walk
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Many say this children's museum is one of the best in the country, offering dozens of hands-on displays related to everything from gardening to construction zones. You and your kids can travel to Wonderland with the Mad Hatter's tea party, practice your reading skills in Wordsworth's Cottage and learn about the properties of water in the River Adventures exhibit. The museum also hosts weekly events, ranging from story time to science experiments. And when tummies begin to rumble, the Please Touch Museum Café serves plenty of healthy snacks that both you and your little ones will love.
According to recent visitors, this museum definitely caters more to the younger set. The exhibits may be most suitable for children ages 5 and younger (the miniature grocery store was a particular favorite for recent visitors). Also, note it costs an extra $3 on top of the admission price to ride the museum's popular historic carousel (or $5 for unlimited rides).5 minutes by car
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Having opened way back in 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo is the first and oldest zoo in the country, but this 42-acre facility does a great job hiding its age. With nearly 1,300 animals residing here, there is plenty to keep you and your kids entertained for the entire day. Swing by the PECO Primate Reserve and check out the gorillas and the orangutans or come face to face with lions, tigers and jaguars at the KeyBank Big Cat Falls. Other top sites include the Tortoise Trail, the African Plains and Bear Country. In 2018, the zoo opened two new exhibits, Penguin Point and Water is Life, where you can see otters, red pandas and more. There are plenty of indoor and outdoor concessions, but you're also welcome to bring your own picnic.
While this zoo receives high praise from most travelers (especially those traveling with kids), others feel that there is room for improvement and ticket prices are rather expensive. Reviewers were especially impressed with one of the zoo's newest features, Zoo360. This property-wide network of mesh trails allows the animals to wander around and above the grounds.10 to 15 minutes by car
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Constructed in the late 19th century and decorated by artist George Herzog, this sturdy stone temple is one of the largest of its kind and was once the meeting place of one of history's more legendary organizations. Tour the temple's seven meeting rooms, each of them dedicated to ideal forms of architecture: Oriental, Gothic, Egyptian, Renaissance, Ionic, Corinthian and Norman. Or attempt to uncover the mysteries behind the masons (members of which include Ben Franklin and George Washington).
Recent travelers called the attraction a hidden gem and a must-see and rave about the architecture, but recommend timing your visit with the tours in mind because patrons are not allowed to wander around freely. Some said the tour experience can vary depending on the knowledge level of your guide, but most called the tour a "fascinating."10 minutes by train
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The National Museum of American Jewish History aims to connect Jews to their heritage and inspire people of all backgrounds to appreciate the diversity of the Jewish experience. More than 30,000 artifacts illustrate immigration, worship, hard work, community and family life. The first floor features the "Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame," which showcases the accomplishments of 18 well-known Jewish Americans. The other three floors cover Jewish history dating back to 1654.
Recent visitors highly recommend a stop here, and appreciated the fact that the museum focuses on the entire history of Jews, rather than just the Holocaust.
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