Free Things to do in Philadelphia

Philadelphia on a Weekend Getaway

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Get to know Philadelphia on a Weekend

Check out our Philly Weekend go to Guide

A weekend getaway to Philadelphia is always a good idea. Whether you are going all by yourself, with your partner or with the whole family, there are lots of things to do during a weekend out. From historical attractions to outdoor activities or local restaurants, the city has so many things to offer to its visitors.

However, for only three days, it is kind of impossible to see everything. As such, we have selected our favorite spots in Philly you can see during your stay here.

Places to Visit in Philadelphia

Don’t know much about Philly and what the city has to offer? Then keep scrolling down and read our easy, yet helpful guide through the main attractions in the city.

All the Best Museums

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Philadelphia on a weekend

Also named PAFA, this museum is based on Broad Street and it is very easy to recognize. When you spot a 51-foot-high inverted paintbrush, as well as a crashed fighter jet stuck in the pavement, it’s crystal clear you have reached the right place.

The museum has an elegant Victorian-era look, and it was opened in 1805. This museum is like a chronological tour of American art. You will have the chance to see some works of prestigious artists, such as Thomas Eakins, Benjamin West, Mary Cassatt, or Frank Stella.

Mütter Museum

Philadelphia on a weekend, Mütter Museum

Placed in the Center City West, this museum is a must when you come to Philly. If you like weird things to see, well, this museum will arouse your imagination. You will see deformed organs floating in bizarre jars, anatomical specimens, and wax models, and many other medical oddities, you thought you will see only in thriller movies. 

Benjamin Franklin Museum

Philadelphia on a weekend, Benjamin Franklin Museum

This museum is offering its visitors the chance to explore Benjamin’s Franklin life and personal character. This museum is very interactive, due to nice displays, artifacts, and other computer animations.

Independence Hall

Philadelphia on a weekend

For those who are passionate about history and what to see with their eyes some important pieces of our past, the Independence Hall offers the chance to see the U.S. Constitution (1787), as well as the Declaration of Independence (1776).

The Penn Museum

Philadelphia on a weekend, The Penn Museum

The Penn Museum is the largest university museum in the U.S., and also the perfect place to be if you love archaeology and anthropology.

Outdoor Activities to do in Philly

If you are going to Philadelphia by summer or you are just lucky to enjoy warm weather, you can do lots of outdoor activities. Here are some suggestions:

Kelly Drive

Philadelphia on a weekend, Kelly Drive

This area is the perfect place to be if you want to go for a walk, ride the bike, canoeing, and much more active occupation. The view is spectacular, and you will see the greenery and the river, as well as the picnic areas and other parking lots.

Fairmount Park

Philadelphia on a weekend, Fairmount Park

The parks are the perfect place to be for nice relaxation. The Fairmount Park includes the Strawberry Mansion Bridge as well, from where you can have a nice view over the boathouses, and at the Art Museum, which is a huge building. Enjoy the sunny days and have a picnic with an amazing view.

Reading Terminal Market

Philadelphia on a weekend, Reading Terminal Market

This is a historic market to visit, and it dates from 1892. This market is often visited by the locals, and it is the perfect destination for grocery shopping, even for lunch or a nice walk during the day. If you are looking for some gifts, go to the Pennsylvania General Store.

At the Reading Terminal Market, you will find over 70 businesses that sell lots of fresh foods, from cookies to seafood, ice cream, or meat. You can try the Mexican Cuisine or the grilled-cheese sandwiches, maybe a tasty doughnut with the kids. In order to avoid the crowded hours, go to the Reading Terminal Market early in the morning. 

Rittenhouse Square

Philadelphia on a weekend, Rittenhouse Square

One of the five main public squares in Philly, the Rittenhouse Square was planned by Willian Penn himself. Although now it is a popular square, in the past this was a livestock pasture and then, a public space right in the center of the city.

Here you can see one of the most luxurious hotels in town, as well as some historic mansions, the finest boutiques, and some appreciated restaurants. During spring to fall, the Rittenhouse Square hosts many events, from the weekly farmers’ market to the Fine Art Show or other musical events. As such, this is a hot point in the city you cannot miss.

A Step Back in History

Elfreth's Alley

Free Things to do in Philadelphia

If you are passionate about history, then pay for a trip back in time and go to Elfreth’s Alley. Check the old routines of people, their stories, and homes of people of the early Philadelphia people.

The Elfreth’s Alley is best known as one of the oldest still inhabited residential streets in the country, a street that is revealing the lives of early residents. It’s true, most of the houses here are private ones, but there are some, like the 124 and 126 numbered ones that have been preserved as public museums.

You can take one of the private tours of the Alley and Museum House, as they are available all year round.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penetentiary

If you are not necessarily interested in the historical part, maybe you will be eager to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary because Al Capone and Bruce Willis were both here. Of course, Willis was not an inmate, but he did shoot here the most important scenes from the 12 Monkeys movie.

The penitentiary was used from 1829 to 1971. After closing, the estate developers started raising money for the crumbling interior, removed the trees (!!!) that were growing inside the cells, and then made it possible to visit. Once going here, you can learn about the great history of this unique site and also about the personalities who have been here, such as Capone.

Museum of the American Revolution

Philadelphia on a weekend

The Museum of the American Revolution is right in the Old City and has lots of high-tech exhibitions, a more modern way of spending some time through the historic attractions. You can go with your family and kids to the Museum of American Revolution, as it is placed right in the middle of the city.

This educational place is an interactive one, as it has interactive experiences, as well as weaponry displays and other artifacts that date from the colonial era. Visitors can even admire the tent George Washington used during the 1770s.

A National Museum of American Jewish History

Philadelphia on a weekend

This historical museum is dedicated to American Jewish History. The place is situated on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, and it is actually the only museum dedicated to exploring and understanding the American Jewish experience.

Art Attractions

The Barnes Foundation

Free Things to do in Philadelphia

Although the building looks sleek and modern at the exterior, inside you will have the chance to see one of the world’s largest art collections of Postimpressionist, Impressionist, and also early-Modernist paintings.

This place is unique, as it includes even more paintings by Renoir that you could ever see in the entire world and more Cezanne artworks than in Paris. Visitors will have the chance to see art pieces by van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, so the place is fantastic and mandatory to see. We would recommend you to take around three hours to explore the entire gallery.

To make sure, do some reservations first and purchase your tickets online.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia on a weekend, Philadelphia Museum of Art

If there is one to-list for a weekend in Philly, well, the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes lots of fine pieces of art that you must see.

For instance, the bronze Rocky statue, which is commissioned by Silver Stallone in Rocky III, or the Rocky-inspired run and walk steps are just some of the main attractions of this museum.

Of course, you have to take the inside visit as well, as you will have the chance to see one of the most impressive art collections ever. You can admire some art pieces from the medieval period to the present, as well as sculpture works of art dating even from the Renaissance.

Moreover, as it is an American museum, where there are one of the finest collections of American art in the entire country. Of course, there are many other interesting galleries to see, such as Asian works, photography exhibitions, or costumes, and textiles.

You can see the arms-and-armors rooms, which are amazing, especially because it is the second-largest collection in the U.S. Don’t miss the sculpture garden either. Don’t you want to spend a fortune on entering the museum? Well, each first Sunday of the month has free admission.

Music Line UP

Passionate about music? Philly has some nice places and events with good music.

Penn's Landing

Philadelphia on a weekend

If you are going to Philadelphia by summer, don’t miss the Penn’s Landing waterfront area, which is all along the Delaware River. Always full of people and busy with activity, you can participate in the free festivals on the Great Plaza. Go with your friends or families to the free summer concerts, movie series, or impressive fireworks.

There are many other attractions too, despite the music ones, so once you are at Penn’s Landing, you can see the Independence Seaport Museum, take a kayak or a swan boat to go all along the river. There are also lots of historic ships to see too, including the Mosholu, which is a 1904 four-masted steel sailing vessel.

Electric Factory

Day Trip to Philadelphia

Are you a fan of indoor concerts? Then you must go to the Electric Factory. The room capacity is 3,000, so there are lots of popular names that are coming here to perform great music. You have bars here to buy some nice beverages while listening to the great names in the music industry.

The Mann Center

Philadelphia on a weekend

The Mann Center is placed right in Fairmount Park, and it is the ideal place for watching a live show, especially if you are going there in the summer days or warmer months. This venue has a special atmosphere, so you will feel like going to a musical festival, without paying the same price for this experience.

GA admission means that everyone who comes to the park can have a seat in front, or also bring their blankets and find the best place in the garden. The acoustics are pretty good for an indoor space, and you also have a great overlook over the city’s skyline in the distance.

Best Instagram Spots in Philadelphia

There is nothing better than having some great pictures from your vacay, in the most interesting spots in the city. As such, whether you are going during the golden hours or by night, here are the most Instagrammable places in Philly you can enjoy during your stay.

Electric Light Mural in South Philly

Philadelphia on a weekend

Enjoy the beautiful light show, created by local artists David Guinn and Sarah Anton. The neon-lit Electric Street mural is the best spot for artistic photos, and it is one of the most interesting ways to illuminate the dark South Philly Alley.

The location is very close to equally luminous Pat’s and Geno’s, so you can have a cheesesteak or some nice cheese fries while walking in here.

Cheesesteak Vegas at Geno’s Steaks

Geno's Cheesesteak's, Philadelphia

Who thought that a food point could be a great Instagrammable place? Well, Geno’s Steaks is a great trip to this lit-up corner. It’s impossible not to see the flashy brand of this place, especially if you will go by night. We recommend you to have a head-on shot while going here and capture this great effect in your shots.

A view of Philly’s sunset from Bok Bar

Philadelphia on a weekend

One of the best places to take great shots is the Bok Bar, which has one of the greatest rooftop views in Philly. Located in the Southeast Philadelphia neighborhood, this bar is open only during the summer months and early fall, so don’t miss it out if you are coming in town during these times.

Once reaching this point, take a panorama photo over the city, right from West Philly to Ben Franklin Bridge.

The Magic Gardens

Things to do in Philadelphia with Kids

It’s hard to capture the beauty of the magic Gardens, however, you cannot miss this art space created by mural artist Isaiah Zagar. Located at the quiet South Street in Philly’s Center City, the Magic Gardens are a great magical mosaic environment.

We would recommend anyone to take the self-guided tour of this ever-expanding project. You can decide whether to take a self-guided tour or a guided one and see the hand painted tiles, but also the indoor galleries.

Where to Eat in Philadelphia

Shane Confectionery

Philadelphia on a weekend

Do you love sweets? Then you should go to this candy store, which is located in a building which dates from 1863. The owners of this place are master confectioners, and they also have the Franklin Fountain ice cream parlor, some doors away.

Even if you don’t like candies and sweets so much (which is hard to believe for a human being), you need to visit the store just to see the fairy Victorian interior. Once stepping inside the store, it’s like going back in the past, to the vintage glass-topped cabinets which were full of chocolates and many other artistic sweets.

Italian Market

Philadelphia on a weekend

The Italian spirit is present in Philly too. This Italian Market is right in the mid-to-late 1880s, and it has lots of stores, eateries, and eating points all along the Ninth Street in Philadelphia.

A trip here is very complex, and it involves lots of sounds, colors, smells of spices, coffee, as well as freshly-baked bread. You can buy vegetables, meats, tasty cheese, and pastries, as well as delicious ice creams, chocolates, and tea. The market is quite big, and it includes a 10-block market area, with a variety of restaurants.

Federal Donuts

Philadelphia on a weekend

Who doesn’t love donuts? Tasty, succulent, and colorful, the donuts from Federal Donuts and handmade, and you can have some good coffee next to them too. If you are going with kids in Philadelphia, or you just want to eat a great dessert, go to the Federal Donuts.

Zahav

Philadelphia on a weekend

What about trying a more modern Israeli cuisine during your stay in Philly? Zahav stands for “gold”, which is reflected in the amazon golden decor of the restaurant. Of course, the menu includes the most iconic dishes, such as hummus, halloumi with peas and strawberries, even the signature cocktail, which is very refreshing.

You cannot miss the dessert, so we recommend you to take the coffee custard, which is amazing. The bar is very popular as well, so you can have some tasty beverages.

Alma de Cuba

Philadelphia on a weekend

The Alma de Cuba is a famous restaurant in Philadelphia, and it belongs to restaurateur Stephen Starr and chef Douglas Rodriguez. The atmosphere here is kind of unique, with a multilevel restaurant which serves Latin-fusion cuisine dishes.

Don’t forget to try the beloved tapas, next to some of the most refreshing beverages, such as the best mojitos this side of Cuba. The kitchen is popular for the lechón Asado (roast pork), but also for the guacamole tapas or the smoked hazelnut.

Manayunk Brewery

Philadelphia on a weekend

If you want to enjoy a good, craft beer while also staying in an idyllic setting, then go to Manayunk Brewery. There are lots of great places in Philly to drink a good beer, but this one is located in a trendy riverfront neighborhood.

During the warm weather days, we recommend Manayunk Brewery, as it has both great food and craft beer. The place is housed in a unique point in a former textile mill, all along the Manayunk Canal. Now you know where the name came from.

Moreover, the restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating and one of the best beers in Philly. The beer choice is very wide, and you can purchase them from cans or growlers to go. If you are not a beer fan, Manayunk has a diverse wine and cocktails menu, so everyone has something to enjoy to drink.

Philly Cheesesteaks

Philadelphia on a weekend

You cannot go to Philadelphia and not eat the classic, local dish, which is also a classic American cultural culinary icon. What are we talking about? Well, the cheesesteak. The neighborhood that offers the best option for authentic steak sandwiches is South Philly.

Here you can find also the best cheesesteaks, which are served at some important locals to note: John’s Roast Pork, Tony Luke’s, Jim’s Steaks, and many other places. Many visitors choose to go to Geno’s or Pat’s King of Steaks as well. It’s a matter of choice, so make some good research first.

Primo Hoagies

Philadelphia on a weekend

Have you ever heard about hoagies or the submarine sandwiches? If not, you should try them. They are tasty and a new signature food for Philadelphia.

Ask a local about where you can find the tastiest hoagies in town, or go straight to our recommendation: the Primo Hoagies, who have locals all around the town. The menu is very extended, and it features sandwiches of all sizes.

What can you find? Well, you can go for the creative meatless options, with eggplants, broccoli rabe, hot peppers, and so on. Don’t forget to try the olive salad as well, you won’t

Places to Stay in Philadelphia

Stay in a luxurious room on lovely Rittenhouse Square

Philadelphia on a weekend

If money is not a problem and you are looking for a luxurious experience, then go to Rittenhouse House, which is one of the highest-rated hotels, and also a luxurious one. All the visitors will have the chance to get a room with a great view of the historic Rittenhouse Square.

The entire experience here is high-end, so you will enjoy the attentive staff, the luxury services, and amenities. The Rittenhouse is pet-friendly and also family-friendly, so it provides special rooms for families with kids. You also have a health club, steam room, sauna, and also an indoor pool. The hotel offers 24-hour room service, four dining venues, and 24-hour concierge.

Wm. Mulherin's Sons Hotel

Philadelphia on a weekend

If you want to live like a local, you can go to Mulherin’s Sons Hotel. If you want to forgo amenities like bellhops and elevators, in favor of living Philly’s lifestyle, this hotel is perfect.

The hotel is quite a little one, and it has only four rooms, each of them being decorated in an industrial style. You will enjoy the concrete floors, the exposed brick walls, also the neutral color palette.

The rooms are decorated with Persian rugs as well. But the star of this hotel is the restaurant, which has an excellent restaurant, seasonally-driven, and a bar as nice as the restaurant.

The hotel is a very intimate one, and the food is great. The culinary experience in the hotel’s restaurant is quite unique for a city in the U.S., so you can order the porcini cavatelli with fontina and taleggio fondue, or maybe the mushroom vinaigrette.

As such, don’t miss this hotel on your list when coming to Philly.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia

Philadelphia on a weekend

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco is a special accommodation to stay, as it is placed in the former Lafayette Building. From the outside, the aspect of this hotel is amazing, and it looks like a Greek Revival building.

But once you step inside, the hotel looks like eighteenth century-inspired wainscoting. As such, this hotel’s design combines the new and old, a confluence that can be seen even in the room’s design. Luckily, the hotel features new and modern amenities, such as evening yoga classes, custom-designed bikes, and in-room yoga mats.

Hotel Suites at The Touraine

Philadelphia on a weekend

The Hotel Suites at The Touraine is not quite a hotel, but a residential building, right on the quiet Spruce Street in Center City. This building is separated into two units, a studio apartment, and a one-bedroom apartment.

Each of these two rooms has a very chic design, with a mix of contemporary and mid-century-modern-inspired furnishings. Moreover, the experience feels very luxurious, due to the aromatherapy and crystals in the bathroom. You have daily newspaper delivery each morning, coffee in the kitchen, little things that make this hotel feel like home.

Sonder — Sixteen Hundred

Day Trip to Philadelphia

Right in the Philadelphia City Center, Sonder is an affordable accommodation to stay at. Only 700 meters from the Barnes Foundation, the Sonder- Sixteen Hundred offers nice, clean accommodation, with free WiFi, air conditioning, as well as a fully equipped kitchen if you want to cook during your stay here.

You have a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, as well as free toiletries and hairdryer. All in all, if you don’t want to spend a fortune for a couple of nights in Philly, don’t forget to check the availability of this hotel.

A weekend in Philly is a bliss

Now that we are right at the end of our article, it is safe to say that there are so many things to do in Philadelphia city during a city break or a weekend in town. From museums to outdoor activities and Instagrammable places to see, try to not miss anything in this list.

 

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Things to do, Places to go, Fun in Philadelphia

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