If you find yourself with a little independence and have the liberty to explore our fair city, there is a multitude of wonderful sights to see and places to go. Philadelphia has a history steeped in politics, culture, art, and invention, so be sure to visit some of these fine places and events. If it’s listed in bold you can even walk there from the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown or the Convention Center!
See the Sights
- One Liberty Observation Deck – This recently-opened observation deck on top of one of the tallest buildings in Philadelphia offers stunning views of the City of Brotherly Love. (See pictures and more from the opening.)
- The observation deck at City Hall – Nestled right under the legendary statue of William Penn atop Philadelphia’s City Hall, this vantage point offers wonderful views of the city as well.
Stroll Through The Museums
- Philadelphia Museum of Art – Philadelphia’s art museum is so much more than the “Rocky” steps, so it would be a shame if you stopped there and didn’t venture within. For those of you with a graphic design bent, there’s even a special Bruce Mau design exhibit currently being displayed.
- Barnes Foundation – Recently relocated to its Center City location, the Barnes Foundation is known for its collection’s depth and breadth, from furniture to sculpture to Cézanne, Degas, and Picasso.
- Rodin Museum – This legendary sculptor’s collected works are more than just The Thinker. Be sure to catch the outdoor sculpture garden.
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts – Located literally across the street from the Convention Center, PAFA contains a wonderful collection of art of all kinds. Be sure to get a look at The Gross Clinic.
- Penn Museum – Featuring an incredible collection of historical artifacts, the Penn Museum’s Egyptian section is particularly noteworthy.
Learn the History
- Independence Hall – This is where it all began. Plus, Nicholas Cage visited once. Tickets are free, but limited, so try to reserve ahead of time.
- Liberty Bell – Come see the symbol of a city and a revolution. (Again, tickets are free, but space is limited and lines can be long – although the lines tend to move quickly.)
- Independence Visitor Center – Catch a screening of a historical movie, get your tickets to Independence Hall, and make sure to take a selfie with the really creepy Rocky statue.
- Betsy Ross House – The house where Betsy Ross legendarily sewed the first true American flag
- Constitution Center – The National Constitution Center is the first and only museum dedicated to the history of the U.S. Constitution.
- Philadelphia Mint – Free and with a self-guided tour, you can watch the mint in action.
- Battleship New Jersey – Located on the Camden, NJ riverfront, tours of this historic Iowa-class battleship are a must for any World War II buffs. (This could be mere hearsay, but our tour guide once told us that the reason the deck of the USS New Jersey hasn’t been resurfaced is because there is no longer enough teak wood produced in the world to do so!)
- National Museum of Jewish American History – Located on Independence Mall, this museum is dedicated to the history of the American Jewish Community.
- African American Museum in Philadelphia – Founded in 1976, this museum is the first institution funded and built by a major municipality to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage of African Americans.
- Independence Seaport Museum – This museum gets little love, but if you are the seafaring type, or you just like submarines, you really ought to stop by for a visit.
You Know, For Kids
- Please Touch Museum – Located in beautiful Fairmount Park, the Please Touch Museum is one of the best children’s museums in the country.
- Franklin Institute – From space to trains to the brain, the Franklin Institute is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon with the kids. Be sure to see the giant heart.
- Academy of Natural Sciences – Dinosaurs, dinosaurs everywhere!
- Adventure Aquarium – Located right across the river in Camden, NJ, the Adventure Aquarium has undersea life of all kinds. Don’t miss the Scuba Santa appearances.
- The Philadelphia Zoo – The first zoo in the U.S. operates even over the winter months, with a special Zoo Noël exhibit in the month of December.
- Christmas Village in Love Park – A pop-up winter marketplace and lights festival in one of Philadelphia’s better-known outdoor locations. (This park may seem familiar if you’ve played your fair share of Tony Hawk games.)
- Ice-skating at Dilworth Park – Ice skating in the shadow of City Hall, mere blocks from the Convention Center.
- Franklin Square Holiday Festival – Light shows and mini golfing for the kids and beer and food trucks for the adults.
- Blue Cross Riverrink Winterfest – Ice skating, firepits, and food from the Franklin Fountain.
- Comcast Holiday Spectacular – This event has quickly become a yearly Philadelphia holiday tradition — at top of the hour, every hour, 10am to 8pm, the giant LCD screens in the Comcast building’s lobby display a holiday show and dancers, jugglers, and entertainers stroll through the assembled crowd.
- Wannamaker/Macy’s Christmas Light Show – The interior of the Wannamaker Building (now operated as a Macy’s location) is lit up each Christmas season. (The crowds can be large and boisterous, so be sure you’re ready to stand around for a bit before each performance.)
- Rittenhouse Square Christmas tree – Stroll through one of Philadelphia’s famous squares and check out what is almost always the city’s largest, finest Christmas tree.
Off the Beaten Path
- The Mütter Museum – Are you a fan of the weird, the macabre, the “hey didn’t I see that on an episode of The X-Files?” Then the Mütter Museum has what you’re looking for (especially if you want to see a wall of skulls or pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain).
- Eastern State Penitentiary – The Quakers meant to reform prisoners, though the isolation seems to have been a better bet for driving people mad. Known for once housing Al Capone and for its Halloween-related “ghost tours”, Eastern State is still an imposing edifice and an intriguing tour any time of the year.
- Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens – An outdoor sculpture garden and indoor gallery featuring intriguing modern art installations.
- ENIAC at the University of Pennsylvania – Come see a piece of computing history.
If You Brought the Griswoldmobile…
Some of these events are wonderful and fun, but require a bit of a drive. If you’re up to a bit of a hike, they’re worth the time spent.
- Longwood Gardens Christmas – Longwood Gardens is a drive off into the countryside and has Christmas greenery and lightshows that are an incredible sight to behold.
- Washington Crossing Park – Washington and his men surprised the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas Day and turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.
- Valley Forge – Washington’s army wintered here and withstood intense cold and hardships of all kinds. Valley Forge park is a wonderful driving tour and features a museum with many Revolutionary War artifacts.