There is a bit of tension I think between Boston and Philadelphia because each city played such a formative role in the creation of the United States. We in Boston like to think of our city as the Birthplace of America, but so too do the folks in Philly. So when I went to visit Philadelphia for the first time since I was a little kid, I had some bias that it wouldn’t live up to how cool Boston is. But I have to hand it to Philadelphia, I really loved it! Philadelphia has a way of incorporating their historic identity with their contemporary music-driven character in a way that is completely unique and charming. I found that I love Philadelphia, but in a different way than Boston. And actually this should not be a surprise because I love everywhere that I visit, since each destination has such a uniquely beautiful way of being just the way it is! If you want to learn to love Philadelphia too, you should definitely go visit. And these are some of the amazing things I think you should do there to learn to love it like I do! Here’s your Philadelphia Bucket List.
Philadelphia Bucket List
Ring the Liberty Bell
Okay you can’t actually ring it, but you can get a good look at the Liberty Bell! This iconic symbol of American independence bears the inscription, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Since its commissioning in 1752, it was originally used for summoning lawmakers to legislative sessions, and was later rung at the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Try the $100 Philly Cheesesteak
Philadelphia is famous for its philly cheesesteak sandwich. It’s a hoagie roll filled with shredded meat and onions, covered in gooey cheese. You can get one at just about any restaurant in the city but you can only get the $100 philly cheesesteak at Barclay Prime. They use Kobe Beef, foie gras, and truffled cheese, and then pair it with top-shelf champagne. It’s completely indulgent and one-of-a-kind, so give it a try but maybe split it with a few friends.
Walk the Spruce Street Harbor Park
Overlooking the waterfront, the Spruce Street Harbor Park makes for a great place to walk on a nice day. This urban beach features a boardwalk, complete with pop-up vendors, a beer garden, outdoor games like bocce and shuffleboard, and hammocks to lounge in.
Stalk the newest murals
Follow @muralarts on Instagram and you’ll know about all the newest and best murals created around the city. Then you can take a day and track down some of your favorites and see them in person.
Visit Ben Franklin’s Home
Ben Franklin’s home in Philadelphia may no longer be standing, but you can visit the location of his home, where an outline of the house now stands. You can see where this iconic Founding Father lived during his most formative years, and learn more about his life and work at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
Socialize like the Old Italians
The Palizzi Social Club is the last remaining Italian social club of its kind, though the city of Philadelphia was at one time chock full of these Italian culture outcroppings. 98 years later, the Palizzi is a members only local gathering point for friends, and is totally worth the hassle of gaining membership.
Tour Independence Hall
You may remember Phiadelphia’s Independence Hall from history class, or from the National Treasure movie. This was where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were drafted! Step back in time and connect to the country’s history here in the center of Philly.
Party with the Mummers
It’s been a New Year’s tradition for the past 120 years, that the Mummers march from City Hall to Washington Avenue playing a fanfare of fun music. This massive celebration features over 10,000 parade-walkers in totally over-the-top costumes that fall into five categories: Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands, and the Fancy Brigades!
Have a rooftop drink
On top of Hotel Monaco is the Stratus rooftop bar that gives you a vantage point over the most historic part of the city. Sit back with a drink after a long day of sight-seeing and enjoy the views over the city.
Dine at Zahav
Anytime there is a 60-day waiting period for a table at a restaurant, I get the feeling it’s going to be really really good. You’ll have to plan ahead if you want to have an Israeli-style dinner at Zahav, but if you have the patience and forethought to do so, it’s totally worth it!
Tour the Jewish Museum
The National Museum of American Jewish History is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum that offers a retrospective look at the Jewish culture in America from the 1600s to present time. Both educational and eye-opening, it counts among the best museums in this historic city.
Have a drink at Independence Beer Garden
I’m sensing a pattern here in Philadelphia, of tying everything back to the notion of independence. I’m not opposed to it, and when it brings a beer garden into downtown then I’m an even bigger fan. Enjoy a beer outside at the Independence Beer Garden on a nice day, as a rest from your touring around the historic monuments in town.
Do the Broad Street Run
The Broad Street Run is the largest 10k run in the country, and it draws nearly 40,000 runners to the course each May. Join the crowds and run for a good cause!
Eat at the Night Market
Night Market is the local’s favorite street food festival set to the tune of live music. With good eats from the food trucks, live music from local bands, and a beer garden, the Night Market transforms the city block into a pop-up party. And everyone’s invited!
Visit the Gayborhood
On 12th and 13th street you’ll find the city’s most concentrated gay population and all the trendy shops and restaurants that have developed there. The Gayborhood is one of the city’s best restaurant areas, so definitely check it out while you’re in town!
Museum of the American Revolution
This is a new museum in Philadelphia, which just goes to show there is no shortage of ways to represent history or retell its story. The Museum of the American Revolution is a world-class museum featuring stories and first-hand accounts of this important part of American history.
Second Story Brewing Co.
If you only tour the museums, you only hear the story of the political history of Philadelphia. Take a tour of Second Story Brewing Co. and learn about the history and process of brewing. Best enjoyed with a glass of beer!
Brunch at The Dutch
Maybe it’s the traveler in me, but I love walking into a restaurant and not recognizing what’s on the menu. You know you’ll get something unique and special that way! At The Dutch in South Philly you’ll find such unique dishes as Uitsmijter and Dutch Baby.
Find some new music
Philadelphia is notorious for it’s thriving music scene! The key is to find the new upcoming bands and the fun and unique venues. Some of the best shows can be found here.
Try the Original Philly Cheesesteak
There are several restaurants that claim to serve the original Philly Cheesesteak, so check out these spots for a tasty authentic sub! No matter where you go, the Philly Cheesesteaks in this town are super delicious.
Parks on Tap
The only thing I like better than a beer garden is a beer garden that comes straight to my neighborhood! The Parks on Tap program is a rotating beer garden that pops up in parks around the city. Check the schedule to find where it will be and take this chance to explore a new part of town.
Visit the Italian Market
Akin to a Little Italy, Philadelphia’s Italian Market is a lineup of small Italian food grocers that each offer their own specialty. Except this is also America’s oldest outdoor market! This is much like the style of shopping in Italy, where you go to the butcher for your meat, the cheese shop for cheese, the bakery for bread, etc. Consider this your Italian cultural experience for the week.