Growing up outside of Pittsburgh, I knew Philadelphia as a city rich with American history and home to rival sports teams (#GoSteelers!).
It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I started spending weekends in Philadelphia, first for races and then because I enjoyed the city so much I wanted to explore more of it.
Every time I head to Philly, I have such a blast. The city itself is fascinating- in some ways, it’s like stepping back in time, yet, in other ways, it feels like a modern, big city.
There’s no shortage of things to do during a weekend visit. Whether you’re near Philadelphia or traveling from across the country, there’s enough to see to ensure a visit packed with fun and adventure.
10 Reasons to Spend a Weekend in Philadelphia
The Liberty Bell
How could you not visit the Liberty Bell? The symbol of freedom and love is a popular attraction, so come early when it opens at 9 am if you want to experience it without the crowds.
While you’re at the Liberty Bell, check out nearby Independence Hall, where the bell once hung and where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Entrance to Independence Hall is free, but you’ll need to get a ticket to enter from the Independence Visitor Center near the Liberty Bell.
City Hall & The Reading Terminal Market
Philadelphia’s City Hall is the largest municipal building in the US. It’s located downtown near the LOVE Sculpture and Reading Terminal Market. If you want to grab a great shot of it, head to the middle of Broad Street, near Union League.
And while you’re in the area, pop in the Reading Terminal Market for dozens of food and drink vendors serving up everything from oysters to fresh fried doughnuts to alligator to chocolate covered bananas. With some many options, it’s hard not to be tempted to grab something to eat, so come hungry.
Located in Old City, Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest residential street in America. It’s so darling- you’ll enjoy strolling up and down the alley, paying homage to America’s early days. Current residents take a lot of pride in keeping the fronts of their homes beautiful, so be sure to snag a few picture-perfect shots for Insta.
Another slice of history nearby, The Betsy Ross House, is where flag-maker Betsy Ross lived when she sewed the American Flag.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
It’s easy to spend a morning or afternoon at the museum, there’s always something new to see, and it’s rated as one of the best in the US. Personally, I love the Impressionist art collection.
And, if you’re Rocky fan, this is where he ran up the famed 72 stone steps.
Even though I’m a Pirates fan, coming to this stadium for a game on one of my visits to Philly was a lot of fun. The views from the stadium are beautiful, especially at sunset.
The stadium was also voted “best ballpark eats” by the Food Network and is known for great vegetarian options. If you’re going there to see a game, make sure you grab some of the famed eats- highly reco Chickie & Pete’s Crabfries, the 5-layer chocolate cake from Harry the K’s, and shakes from Turkey Hill Creamery. And, if you’re a cheesesteak fan, you can try two other city favorites here- Tony Luke’s and Campos.
Philadelphia Magic Gardens
Hands down, one of my favorite things I’ve done in Philadelphia. If you’ve never been to the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia, it may be hard to envision an outdoor art installation that’s as spectacular as a mosaic sculpture that spans a half block. The space, designed by local artist Isaiah Zagar, is constructed out of glass tiles, wine bottles, ceramics and hundreds of knick-knacks.
Walking into the garden is like entering a painting, it’s truly a stunning epitomization of this quote: “Art is making something out of nothing.”
The gardens span three city lots, which is completely covered in mosaic art. The experience is definitely worth the entry fee, but reserve your tickets in advance if you don’t want to wait to get in.
Known as one of Philadelphia’s most eclectic, cultural and lively neighborhoods, South Street is packed with shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.
PS. While you’re wandering South Street, you’ll notice the mosaics from the Magic Gardens pop up in different parts of the area.
Just west of the art museum, you’ll find a row of 19th-century boathouses. Many of the races I’ve run include Boathouse Row on their course, and I’ve gotta say- it’s a great place for a late morning or afternoon stroll. Scenic, and a nice short break from the city.
Whenever I visit a new city, I love checking out the local street art vibes. I’ll admit I was surprised by some of Philadelphia’s urban art, seeing it so near perfectly preserved parts of history and cobblestone streets is an awesome juxtaposition.
If you have time on your visit, do a self-guided walking tour of Mural Mile.
Eastern State Penitentiary
For the same reasons I thought visiting Alcatraz would be interesting, I wanted to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary. The audio guide does a great job of explaining the penitentiary’s haunting history. And, at $14 a ticket, it’s a pretty affordable way to spend an afternoon.
Pro-tip: The penitentiary offers haunted tours during Halloween season, and while I haven’t been to Terror Behind the Walls, the reviews are great.
Bonus: Ben Franklin Bridge
In my opinion, the bridge is the best place to watch a sunset. On one side, you’ve got Philadelphia and on the other side, New Jersey. If you haven’t rented a car, I’d recommend taking an Uber across the bridge to Jersey and walking back across the bridge into the city.
Favorite Places to Eat & Drink In Philly
- Spread Bagelry (Center City): Chewy and dense bagels topped with creamy spread
- Green Eggs Cafe (Multiple Locations): I can’t say enough good things about this place, it’s one of the best brunches I’ve had. The red velvet pancakes are incredible, the french toast variations are phenom, and the 3-egg omelets are chock full of ingredients. If you come with several people, you can easily share a few dishes- the portion sizes are huuuuge. Be prepared for a wait if you come during prime brunch time. If you’re in a rush, you can also ask to take-out- we did this once and the food was just as good as eating in the restaurant
- Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat (Multiple Locations): Another super solid brunch option. It’s BYOB, but they have fresh OJ in case you’re in the mood for mimosas. Everything I’ve had here has been great, but my go-to’s are usually: vegetable omelet and homefries, breakfast bomb burrito, seasonal french toast, and the mac ‘n cheese pancake. The mac ‘n cheese pancake isn’t always on the menu per se, but if you ask nicely, they’ll likely make it for you 🙂
- Federal Donuts (Multiple Locations): Does it get any better than fresh hot doughnuts? When you come, try a combination of the special ones and hot sugar ones (big fan of the strawberry and lavendar ones). Federal is also known for their fried chicken, and although I’m a vegetarian, I’ve heard ordering a hot donut and their fried chicken is life-changing
- Bud & Marilyn’s (Washington Square West): Y’all. The cheese curds here are the best I’ve had outside of the midwest, do not miss out on ordering them. Also, the three-layer funfetti cake is a must if you’ve got a sweet tooth
- honeygrow (Multiple Locations): If you’re familiar with the sweetgreen chain, you’ll be hooked on honeygrow. Awesome salads and stir-fry, a great healthy on-the-go option for lunch in the city
- Jones (Center City): Classic comfort food. Would reco the grilled cheese and tomato soup
- V. Street (Center City): Sister restaurant to Vedge, it’s a vegetarian dream come true. Even if you’re a carnivore, you won’t be disappointed. And, the menu changes seasonally, so there’s always something new to try
- Noord (East Pussyunk): I have a soft spot for Nordic cuisine, so when I heard a new Northern European restaurant opened in Philly, I was instantly intrigued. Great food and great service, always one of the places I send people if they’re visiting Philadelphia for the weekend
- Blackbird Pizzeria (Washington Square West): Vegetarian and vegan pizza. #PraiseHands
- Butcher and Singer (Center City West): Dinner here my be a splurge, but it’s well worth it. It’s your typical steakhouse fare done really well. Standouts: the crab cake, stuffed potato, Caesar salad with shrimp, baked Alaska and Manhattan. & If you eat steak, definitely order that as well 😉
- Geno’s Steaks & Pat’s Kings of Steaks: Unless you’re a vegetarian like me, you can’t go to Philly without trying a cheesesteak, and these places are two of the most popular
- Franklin Fountain (Center City): Known for their homemade ice cream and giant sundaes, it’s easy to see why this place has been ranked one of the best ice cream shops in America. The ice cream flavors are delicious, and they’re generous with toppings
- Big Gay Ice Cream (Avenue of the Arts): So happy my favorite NY soft serve place has made it to Philly. Their cones are simple, yet elevated- the Salty Pimp will always have a soft spot in my heart
- Philadelphia Brewing Company (North Philadelphia): Free tours and tastings on Saturdays from 12-3, a good activity if you want to extend brunch fun into the afternoon
- The Franklin Bar (City Center): Speakeasy-esque, the cocktail menu covers a wide range of drinks with classics and unique offerings
- Ranstead Room (City Center): Another speakeasy with great drinks, music and vibes
- Morgan’s Pier (Northern Liberties): A late spring-early fall necessity, enjoy great views of the water and Ben Franklin bridge while relaxing with a drink
- The Plough & The Stars (Center City): Traditional Irish pub fare and a lively scene late at night
- Good Dog Bar & Restaurant (Rittenhouse Square): One of my happy hour go-to’s whenever I’m in the city, reasonably priced drinks and a solid tap list
- Locust Rendevous (Avenue of the Arts): Quintessential dive bar. Cheap drinks, including a new beer & shot special every week
- Elixr Coffee (Rittenhouse Square): My favorite coffee shop in Philly, the cold brew is solid and the work space is warm and inviting (plus, free wifi and plenty of outlets!)
- La Colombe (Multiple Locations): The best coffee in Philadelphia, hands down. La Colombe is one of my favorite places to go for a pick-me-up in New York, I’m a huge fan of the cold brew and draft lattes. Order a black and tan (half cold brew and half draft latte) for a special treat
- Bluestone Lane Cafe (Rittenhouse Square): Another one of my NYC faves I’m glad to see in Philly. Start your day in the city here with an avocado smash and iced coffee
- Menangerie Coffee (Center City): Stellar cold brew
- Plenty Cafe (Rittenhouse Square): Awesome coffee and tasty sandwiches. Great for a late morning meal, especially if you need an outlet to plug into for work
- Good Karma (Washington Square West): Bottomless coffee for $3 and free wifi, what more do you need?
EXTRA KNOW BEFORE YOU GO INFO
- Where to Stay: I usually stay with friends when I’m visiting Philadelphia, but there are a bunch of hotels downtown, making it easy to walk to most of the major attractions. If you’re looking for a deal, I’d use a site like Hipmunk (or Hotel Tonight if your visit is an impromptu one) to score a deal
- How to Get Around: The city is very walkable- just wear comfortable shoes. If you’re tired of walking and don’t feel like taking SEPTA (subway) or a bus, Uber/Uber Pool is another great option