The Best Free Things To Do In Philadelphia This Year
The city of brotherly love is one of the top city break destinations in the USA, with over 40 million visitors every year. The city was one of only 3 US cities to be named on the Conde Naste list of top destinations in the world for 2021. There's a huge amount to do in Philadephia, from world class museums to a great dining scene and a rich and inspring history to discover.
Best of all, you can get the best of Philadelphia without having to open your wallet as there's a huge number of free things to to in and around the city. We've listed the top 10 things to do in Philadelphia for free.
1. Elfreth’s Alley
Step back in time when you enter the oldest residential street in the United States. Located in Philadelphia’s Old City quarter, Elfreth’s Alley is one of only three 18th century thoroughfares remaining in the US today. Its quaint cobblestone footpaths and beautifully preserved historic buildings date back to 1728. These charming, tiny buildings exist as private homes, and are therefore not open to the public, but for a small charge you can visit the museum which occupies two of the houses. Learn how early settlers put down roots in the city, and explore how day to day life has changed for Philadelphia residents over the last 300 years.
2. The Liberty Bell Center
Pay a visit to this revered landmark of US independence. The State House Bell was constructed in 1751 and hung in neighbouring Independence Hall, where dignitaries signed the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Hidden from the British during the Revolutionary War, in the 1830s it was renamed the Liberty Bell. The bell’s stirring inscription: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”, resonated with the anti-slavery movement, and later inspired campaigners for civil and women’s rights. Whilst theories vary as to when the bell gained its distinctive crack, this historic icon continues to endure as a much loved symbol of freedom and independence.
3. Spruce Street Harbour Park
A great place to spend a warm evening, this pop-up park with views across the Delaware River and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge draws a crowd during the May to October summer months. Relax in one of the hammocks swinging between the trees, or join in an array of lawn and board games including bocce, chess and table tennis. Punters can enjoy regular live music performances, a range of food and drink outlets, and lounge chairs to chill out in. As dusk falls, colourful LEDs bathe the park in light, and reflect in the harbour water.
4. Franklin Square
This historic outdoor square has undergone thoughtful regeneration and is a fun place to let off steam, boasting a leafy kid’s playground and picturesque carousel. The 18-hole mini golf course features an array of familiar Philadelphia landmarks. If you’re peckish, there’s a gourmet burger outlet on site. At the heart of the square stands a beautifully restored 180 year old water fountain which lights up in the evenings, and during holiday periods the surroundings are bedecked in twinkling fairy lights. The square’s Living Flame memorial stands as a poignant tribute to the city’s fallen police officers and firefighters.
5. Reading Terminal Market
Established in 1892, the market is a bright and bustling array of over 100 independent food vendors, and a popular haunt for locals and visitors. Browse the outlets and prepare to be tempted by the wide variety of fare and wallet friendly prices. Stalls sell everything from artisan bread to freshly cooked lobster, soft pretzels, and home-made ice cream in an array of flavours. While you’re there, don’t forget to try the legendary Philly steak.
6. Philadelphia Museum of Art
A wealth of international art is housed in this striking 100 year old gallery, elegantly located on the banks of the Schuylkill River. The vast permanent collection tops quarter of a million exhibits, including works by Van Gogh, Renoir, Kahlo and Picasso. The museum regularly hosts major exhibitions and educational events. Under 18s enjoy free entry, and there is free admission to all visitors on Friday evenings after 5pm and every first Sunday of the month.
7. The ICA
One of several galleries within the city, Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Arts offers free entry to visitors all year round. First opened in 1963, this compact museum is renowned for its adventurous, thought provoking exhibitions. The ICA has hosted cutting edge works by modern luminaries including Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson and Robert Mapplethorpe.
8. Bartram’s Garden
The oldest botanical garden in the US, this relaxing sanctuary is ideal for escaping the crowds on a sunny day. Rediscover nature within its peaceful riverside location, framed by striking views of the Philadelphia skyline. Explore 50 acres of extensive woodland paths, historical gardens and meadows. The diverse flora includes a medicinal plant display, and rare tree species, such as the oldest Gingko Biloba in North America. The site has a welcome centre selling souvenirs and refreshments, a museum and several 18th century farm buildings.
9. Christ Church
Christ Church has an impressive roll call of former attendees. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Betsy Ross all regularly came to worship at this atmospheric 18th century Episcopalian church. The building is a beautiful example of Georgian architecture, and its interior contains an elegant original chandelier from the 1700s. Christ Church was the last resting place of Benjamin Franklin, who was laid to rest in the church burial ground.
10. Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk
Take a hike along the city’s popular 2,000 feet long boardwalk trail above the Schuylkill River, where you can enjoy some wonderful views of the water and the surrounding city skyline. The award winning trail is popular with walkers, runners and cyclists, as well as the odd fisherman. The boardwalk is interspersed with benches at scenic viewpoints, which are a great spot to sit with a snack or drink and enjoy the surrounding panorama. At sunset, solar powered lamps light up the trail, perfect for those seeking a picturesque evening stroll.
11. Fireman’s Hall Museum
A fun venue for younger visitors (and enthusiastic grownups). This free entry museum, located in Philadelphia’s Old City, is housed in a former fire station dating back to 1902. Explore the range of vintage and modern fire engines, extinguishers, and other fire related apparatus. Budding firefighters will love the interactive Blue Room, whose walls are decorated with a colourful and educational comic strip explaining fire prevention. Here, little ones can try on firefighter uniforms, and make pretend emergency calls.
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