While New York, Boston and Washington DC all occupy prominent places in American history, it is in Philadelphia where America was born. With the congress of this emerging nation being formed here, it was here ultimately where the Declaration of Independence was drafted, voted on and passed, thereby bringing the United States of America into existence.
In the years since, Philadelphia has remained a city central of the identity of this country, fostering writers, scientists, captains of commerce and industry, and immigrants that brought a bit of their own cultural background in the giant melting pot that is America. Whether you are here to trace the roots of this nation to its source, learn more about the great citizens that called this city home, pretend to be the fictional Rocky Balboa, or just to get your mouth around an authentic Philly Cheesesteak (dangerously addictive, but so bloody good), your time in the City of Brotherly Love will be eventful indeed.
The one attraction that any serious traveler should see in Philadelphia before departing should be the Independence National Historical Park, a 55 acre park in the center of the city that encompasses the major buildings and landmarks surrounding the path to independence that America took in the mid to late 1700’s.
At Independence Hall, the Declaration of Independence and the initial version of the Constitution of the United States was drafted, debated, and adopted, which not only created the United States as a sovereign nation in the world, but also gave it its philosophical backbone that would guide its development in the centuries to come.
Across the street from this historic structure is a bell that came to symbolize the freedom and democracy that this new nation represented to the world. The Liberty Bell originally hung from a belfry in Independence Hall, and was rung to alert the public of important votes and announcements. Being the third version of the bell, it cracked while being rung in the early 1800’s, and soon after, it ended up being put on display, serving as a beloved landmark ever since.
In order to gain a better understanding of the principles that America was founded upon, visit the National Constitution Center, which is a museum dedicated to helping visitors understand this vaunted document better. While it is not home to the original copy of the Constitution (you’ll need to go to Washington DC for that), exhibits and interactive activities will aid you in your quest to fully understand the rights and obligations of an American citizen. If you are fortunate enough to be passing through during an election campaign, town hall style debates are often held here as well, giving you a glimpse inside the soap opera that is American politics.
Being one of the largest art museums in the United States, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a site that will please lovers of visual artistic expression. This stunning Greek Revival structure play hosts to works from across the globe, including paintings from the likes of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Even if you aren’t into this form of art, come to emulate Rocky Balboa from the original film, as he ran up these steps during his training regimen at one point in this iconic movie. A statue honoring this moment in American pop culture, entitled Rocky Steps, can be found at the top of the steps in front of the museum entrance.
One of the oldest science museums in the nation is named after one of Philly’s most famous scientific minds, as the Franklin Institute continues the mission of Benjamin Franklin in spreading the knowledge and inspiration that this vital field offers all of humanity. Notable collections here include the largest number artifacts from the Wright Brother’s (responsible for the first heavier than air flight in the world), an exhibit detailing Franklin’s work with electricity, plus many other endless interesting interactive displays.
Connected to the Franklin Institute is the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, which is a monument created in the same style as the presidential monuments in Washington DC. The one honoring Franklin features him in a seated position in a rotunda, carved out of fine white marble.
While this famous scientist is one of Philly’s favorite sons, he wasn’t the globally famous person to call this city home. Authoring the dark poem entitled The Raven among other fine literary works, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site honors the writer of the same name. Situated in a home that he once rented out in the central neighborhood of Spring Garden, this home is home to a reading room furnished after the theories posited in his essay The Philosophy of Furniture, exhibits of his life, a screening room, and a statue of a raven outside, paying homage to his best known poem.
Finally, if you don’t mind clogging up your arteries a touch, then making the trip to a purveyor of Philly Cheesesteaks is highly recommended for the orgasmic flavor experience that will ensue upon consumption. Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s are the best known of the lot, as Pat’s claims to have invented the sandwich, while Geno’s (as a restaurant) has been around the longest.
If there’s one more museum you should see before delving into the other less cultural attractions that make Philadelphia a great place to visit, then taking a trip to the Academy of Natural Sciences will satisfy your lust for learning. Being the oldest museum in the Americas dedicated to natural sciences, this institution on the campus of Drexel University will please dino lovers, as a 43 foot skeleton of a specimen can be found on the premises. Additionally, the presence of 37 dioramas (a method of 3D representation of habitats in the olden days) will delight fans of nostalgia.
If the Walking Dead has piqued your interest in prison environments, then scope out the Eastern State Penitentiary before the coming apocalypse arrives. For the rest of us, the fact that Al Capone and famed bank robber Willie Sutton were guests here will prove to be reason enough to pay this otherwise creepy place, constructed in a castle-like fashion in the Gothic style a visit.
It seems fitting that in a city nicknamed The City Of Brotherly Love that a place like LOVE Park exists. With a landmark sculpture using the letters that compose the amorous word in a two by two configuration at its center, this small downtown park also features a single fountain that shoots a jet of water about 30 feet into the air, making it the perfect place to rest during an exhausting bout of sightseeing.
If you are seeking a bigger park to visit during your time in Philadelphia, then swinging by Franklin Square should be make your list of places to see and experience. If you are traveling with a family, it is a fun place to spend an afternoon, as it features a mini-golf course, a carousel, and a burger shack that is well-loved by area locals.