Wanderlust Tips | Philadelphia: A day tour around The Birthplace of America

Philadelphia: The Birthplace of America

Famous as the birthplace of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Philadelphia has a ton of awesome things to do no matter what time of year you want to visit.

The city of Philadelphia is one of the most important historic cities in America. This national cultural, educational, and historical center was founded in 1682, and was the first capital of the United States (from 1790 to 1800).

Philadelphia (colloquially known as Philly) is considered the Birthplace of America or the City of Brotherly Love since many important historical events of the United States derived from here. Cultural, culinary, artistic and multicultural treasures abound in this city and its surrounding countryside, making it much more attractive to those who want to discover the culture and history of the world.

What makes Philadelphia so memorable is its unique blend of experiences that must be discovered in person. By day, explore four centuries of history and architecture, beautiful neighborhoods, remarkable museum collections and endless shopping. After the sun sets, the city heats up with acclaimed performing arts, amazing dining and vibrant nightlife.

Check out the article below for 10 hand-picked highlights of fun things to do this season in the Birthplace of America.

  1. Independent Hall

While historical attractions abound in Philly, Independence Hall holds monumental significance to the development of the nation. On July 4, 1776, the United States was officially born when the Declaration of Independence was signed in the building’s Assembly Room, ending over a decade of the colonial rule of the British Empire. 

Just 11 years later, in the summer of 1787, representatives from a dozen states met here to lay the framework for the U.S. Constitution. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park, and guided tours are available year-round.

If you want a more enjoyable experience of a bygone era when wandering around Philadelphia, hop on one of the horse-drawn carriages right on Independence Hall. Or you can also take a walk on the ancient paved streets that still remain almost intact to this day.

2. The Liberty Bell

Opposite the Independence Hall is the iconic Liberty Bell of the city. In 1776 the bronze bell was tolled to call the residents of Philadelphia to the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence then tolled again for the official end of the country’s slavery.

Today, it’s only used for display but the Liberty Bell’s message rings loud and clear: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” This inscription on the cracked but mighty bell is one reason it became a symbol to abolitionists, suffragists and other freedom-seekers around the world. 

The bell draws people from around the nation to snag a photo in front of the soaring glass walls overlooking Independence Hall. This American icon is free to visit year-round with no tickets required, though is limited to 60 people at a time as of June 2021.

3. City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall is the largest town hall in the United States with over 14.5 acres of floor space. Built on a foundation of solid granite and topped with an iconic statue of Philadelphia founder, William Penn, this 548-foot tower is the tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame. 

The building’s exterior is covered with intricate sculptures representing the seasons and continents, as well as allegorical figures, heads and masks. All of the sculptures were designed by Alexander Milne Calder, including the 27-ton statue of William Penn atop the tower. Right under his feet is an observatory that offers visitors panoramic views of the city, as well as the green park below. Tickets for guided tours are required for both City Hall and the observation deck.

4. LOVE sculpture

No Philly experience is complete without snapping a photo in front of one of The City of Brotherly Love’s best-known landmarks: LOVE itself (or LOVE Park as it’s referred to by many). The famous Robert Indiana sculpture is in John F. Kennedy Plaza – just northwest of City Hall. Installed in 1976, LOVE was briefly removed in 1978, but popular demand brought it back where it belongs.

In conjunction with the renovation of John F. Kennedy Plaza, the sculpture was restored and repainted in 2018, and the park was entirely redesigned to add more green areas and a high-tech water feature. Just a short walk from LOVE Park is the AMOR sculpture – a Spanish edition of the LOVE sculpture – on display at Sister Cities Park.

Don’t miss your chance to snag one of the quintessential images of Philadelphia in front of the sculpture, with the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (or, if it’s on, the fountain) in the background.

5. Fairmount Park

This lovely park along the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek is home to the Philadelphia Zoo, the Rodin Museums, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Japanese House and Garden, among other attractions and things to do. There are also gardens, football fields, swimming pools, tennis courts, hiking trails, picnic areas and playgrounds.

The park is a National Historic Landmark, and was one of the first in the nation to be created to serve as both a public green space and a watershed protection area. This is an ideal place to take a stroll, head out for an afternoon of softball, or enjoy a relaxing family picnic.

6. Philadelphia Museum of Art

A visit to Philadelphia Museum of Art is a great opportunity for the whole family to enjoy some of the world’s most beautiful and impressive works of art. The museum is home to one of the largest art collections in the United States located in a neoclassical building and surrounded by an extensive set of stairs. 

At the most beautiful section of the museum is the number of medieval art galleries in which photographs of Rogier van der Weyden and the van Eyck brothers are on display. In other rooms are Renaissance, Baroque works and other art works of the 18th and 19th centuries, a collection of 20th-century European art along with American art by Philadelphia artists. 

 

In addition, there are also excellent collections of Asian art, with oriental porcelain, jade and carpets. Don’t forget to visit the museum’s upper floor, an amalgamation of distant societies represented in 80 period rooms showcasing cultures from Indian temples to medieval churches.

7. Rodin Museum

Head down the Parkway to the Rodin Museum’s elegant Beaux-Arts–style building and tranquil garden. Located on Benjamin Franklin Avenue, Rodin Museum displays one of the greatest collections of works by Auguste Rodin, the father of modern sculpture. 

On view are nearly 150 bronze, marble, and plaster sculptures representing every phase of Rodin’s career. In the outdoor sculpture garden, visitors can view some of his most famous masterpieces, including Rodin’s Thinker and Work and Hell’s Gate. Rodin’s career is notable for his unconventional training and his philosophy that sculpture should be true to natural form.

8. Reading Terminal Market

The Reading Market Terminal has been a National Historic Landmark since 1995, and is a deeply rooted Philadelphia market. It has been in operation since 1893 when the Reading Railroad Company built this market under their new terminal to serve farmers and butchers decades earlier. The old market has undergone renovation, but it still retains its unique atmosphere and many of the original features of the structure. 

Come to the market, you’ll be able to find more than 80 merchants, 75 of which are small independent businesses. This is a preferable place of both locals and tourists to come to buy local products of all kinds: free meat, canned food, freshly baked Amish bread, handmade crafts including clothing, jewelry and gifts.

 

9. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

At once a celebrated museum and a prolific learning institution, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has served as one of Philadelphia’s most important artistic hubs since 1805. The permanent collection spans a range of media, including paintings, sculpture and works on paper, which together tell the story of American art in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A rare jewel nestled in the heart of Center City, PAFA boasts an impressive collection by local and national luminaries such as Charles Willson Peale (founder of the Academy), Thomas Eakins (who taught here), and Violet Oakley.

The museum is part of the Academy of Fine Arts, its exhibits and archives are an important resource for the school. In addition to contemporary and historical art exhibitions, the museum also displays works by the academy’s students. Each spring, PAFA students showcase their work in the museum’s galleries, and members of the public can buy pieces created by the art scene’s next crop of rising stars. 

10. Please Touch museum

The Please Touch Museum is probably every kid’s dream – a place where they can actually touch the exhibits with their own hands! This fully interactive museum encourages children of all ages to learn through play, giving them the opportunity to explore history, fantasy, space, and the larger world around them. 

Exhibits like the kid-sized city models provide costumes for kids to wear while playing role-playing with different professions. Likewise, the River Adventures exhibit encourages children to learn about science and physics by playing with the models of dams, water wheels, levers, locks, and other water-manipulating devices. Children also have the chance to explore the garden, where the museum’s cafe grows its own ingredients. 

The museum’s mission to enhance children’s cultural awareness and hands-on learning has become a delight for children of all ages with four areas specially designed for children three years old and under. What a perfect spot to take your kids there!

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