We planned a trip back in January of 2014 to Philadelphia, as a way to celebrate our engagement two years earlier. Philadelphia is a city that is rich with history beginning in 1682 when William Penn and his fellow Quakers founded Pennsylvania. Penn decided to plan the area to be more country than city, with large roads, frequent squares, and an attempt to discourage fire outbreaks and overpopulation.
During the American Revolution, Philadelphia was the seat of the United States government, where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were written.
Philadelphia had played a major role in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves find freedom from as early as the birth of the nation.
The city has a rich history and many attractions for you to see to
Before heading out on any excursions, check out CityPass, which has great deals for attractions. We do this for every city we visit
I recommend calculating the cost of the attractions you want to see and then compare it with CityPass. There are times these types of passes aren’t worth it, but if you really want to hit the major attractions, they are generally a no-brainer.
We found the CityPass extremely useful with the Big Bus tours. You’re able to hop on and off without having to use our own car. On our trip, our first driver extended our bus pass an extra day, a wonderful surprise!
Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park contains 18 sites centered around events and people of the Revolutionary War. This park itself could take an entire visit! Below are some of the must-see attractions at the park.
Pro Tip: Going to visit in January and February can get you into a lot of these sites with lower crowds!
Independence Hall is the place where our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the US Constitution into existence. It is also where they officialized the design of the American Flag.
When touring Independence Hall, you must have a ticket with a specific time to go on your tour. Visit the official government site for details on tickets.
Liberty Bell Center
The Liberty Bell Center sits in the middle of the Independence Mall. Housed inside is the Liberty Bell itself.
The Bell was used during the time of the American Revolution as it sat atop Independence Hall. It rang on July 8th, 1776, during the reading of the Declaration.
Washington Square/Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier
The Tomb of the Unkown Revolutionary War Soldier is one of the most sacred places in American history
It was in Washington Square that Thousands of soldiers were buried during the war. A majority of them dying in hospitals around Philadelphia from wounds or disease.
National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is a museum that has exhibits and articles related to the history of our country.
Our favorite exhibit here was Signers Hall, where you can sign the declaration with the 42 life-size founding fathers.
Reading Terminal is the iconic shopping center in Philly. The terminal is home to a lot of small businesses where you can taste and buy local foods and crafts.
Reading Terminal is very close to downtown, and is a great place to revisit several times during your trip.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State is a unique prison with a rich history. The prison grew from a 16 cell “Penitentiary house” to a maximum security prison that housed hundreds of inmates.
Known for its wagon wheel model, Eastern State became the model for hundreds of other prisons across the globe. Despite it being maximum security, some inmates were able to work the system. One of the most notable examples of that is Al Capone.
Christ Church was founded in 1695 and has been active since then. It was the tallest building in the country between 1754-1810. the church was home to the continental congress and other people of influence during the Revolutionary War.
Christ Church has tours of both the building and the burial grounds. You will see the pews where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, and many others once sat.
Elfreth’s Alley is the nations oldest residential street, originally created in 1706 as a wagon cart path to get to the harbor.
The alley is home to a museum you can visit on the weekends
Betsy Ross House
The Betsy Ross House is another quaint little stop when touring the city, it was here that American Flag was born.
The house offers both audio and self-guided tours along with an upholstery shop that is active throughout the day.
Battleship New Jersey
Although technically not in Philadelphia, the Battleship New Jersey is anchored at Camden, NJ. The New Jersey was active in WWII (mostly Pacific), Korea, and Vietnam. It is the most decorated battleship in U.S. history.
You’ll tour most of the battleship, and will be able to read plenty of information about
For you big movie buffs out there, you can also run the infamous Rocky steps at any point of your trip. You’ll have to ascend them if you want to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The List Keeps Going…
Philadelphia has plenty of attractions waiting for you to visit. We intend to go back someday to visit some of these, and we encourage you to do the same!
- Valley Forge – Visit the iconic camp that the continental army stayed for at winter.
- Benjamin Franklin Parkway – which houses many museums.
- South Market – A great area known for some of the best restaurants in the city.
- Museum of the American Revolution
- Philadelphia Zoo
- Adventure Aquarium
- Please Touch Museum
- The Franklin Institute
There’s still plenty of other places to go, but this should help you get a nice start. I would also encourage you to check out the Visit Philly website, which has a plethora of information on things to do, places to see, and where to stay.