5 Penn’s Landing
This waterfront complex on the Delaware River is near one of several sites where William Penn, and his ship Welcome docked in the late 1600s. These days it is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, museums and special events. In the summer you can pedal a swan boat, kayak or catch concerts at Penn’s Landing; in the winter you can skate at the seasonal ice rink. If you don’t feel like being that physically active, you can chill and enjoy the views of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the waterfront. There are several historic boats docked at the Landing, too. If you’re interested in visiting the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, just across the river, this is where you catch the ferry.
4 Liberty Bell
At first glance — and well, at the second, too — this might seem to be one of those overrated sightseeing stops. You have to navigate a long security gauntlet just to see… well… a bell. A very handsome, albeit cracked, bell. However, it is the Liberty Bell, and since you’re probably going to be in the neighborhood at either the Visitor’s Center or Independence Hall anyway, and since it’s a symbol of Philadelphia, you might as well pay the old girl a visit. The bell is housed in a small pavilion with exhibits that explain its history and display artifacts from its past. It’s worth seeing.
3 Philadelphia Museum of Art
Whether you’re into art or you just want to do that iconic Rocky run up the steps, this should be a stop on your itinerary. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has formidable collections of European and American art, rooms from real temples and palaces transplanted from Asia, and other wonders strewn about its esteemed marble corridors.
2 Reading Terminal Market
First: it’s pronounced “REDD-ing,” not “READ-ing.” Second, it’s located in part of the old Reading Railroad (just like the one on your Monopoly board!) terminal. It’s now chock-full of stalls, shops and counters selling exquisite produce, meat, fish, spices, bread, locally-produced crafts, and other goodies. If you’ve had a hankering for Bassett’s ice cream (and you should, it’s delicious), there’s an outpost here. If you want to try Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) food, such as shoo-fly pie, you can buy it here, too. There’s a reason this place is always busy, and once you discover how amazing it is, you’ll be happy to jump right into the fray.
1 Independence Hall
A number of cities up and down the Eastern seaboard have rivalries going, and if you visit each of them, you’ll be informed that “America began here.” Regardless of the merits of the other cities’ claims, the fact is, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were both signed right here, in this building. Your visit to Independence Hall will consist of a lecture from an NPS ranger and visits to two historic rooms, including the Committee of Assembly Chamber where the documents were signed. It’s fascinating stuff. Independence Hall is located in Independence National Historic Park. There are a number of other interesting historic buildings clustered around the square, such as the Carpenter’s Hall, and exhibits are offered intermittently. You’ll need a free, albeit timed, ticket to visit Independence Hall; you can get one across the street at the Independence Visitor’s Center. The Visitors’ Center can also point you toward numerous free or low cost walking tours of the area.