Travel Guide to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

By Rachael Funk

Philadelphia: a historic gem of the United States of America. The birthplace of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” this city is an icon of the American legacy. It’s possible you’ve already been to Philadelphia to soak up the history, but there’s so much more to the city than its past.

It also offers a thriving art and culture scene, a wide selection of beautiful beer gardens, and plenty of things to enjoy in each of its 5 counties. If you’re packing your bags and plotting your course to Philadelphia, this guide will help you prepare for the trip.

What to Know

On your visit to the ancestral land of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, you’ll find a history that stretches back for more than 10,000 years. Before the arrival of William Penn, the Lenape were driven out of the future site of Philadelphia by the Dutch, who settled throughout the Delaware Valley and called the land New Netherland. The English eventually conquered the colony and in the late 1600s, Charles II of England bestowed a charter upon Penn which stipulated that the land would become the Pennsylvania Colony.

Wanting to remain on good terms with the Lenape people who originally settled the land, Penn set aside the charter and purchased it directly from the Lenape people for 1200 pounds (adjusted for inflation, that would convert to about $281,311.92 USD in 2021).

In 1701, Penn signed the city into existence and as a nod to the friendship treaty he made with the Lenape tribe, named it “Philadelphia,” which means “brotherly love.” It was in Philadelphia where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, leading to the birth of the United States.

When to Go

Fall and winter are great travel seasons for Philadelphia. It tends to be quite chilly, but you’ll find the lowest prices and the fewest travelers. If you’re looking for a little springtime bliss, a visit to Philly between March and May is a great way to see the city come to life without forking over the big tourist dollars. The city’s high season is summer, so if you’re headed out during June, July, or August, prepare for large crowds and inflated prices.

How to Get Around

If you don’t want to spend precious vacation time sitting in city traffic, Philadelphia’s got you covered!

On foot

A delight-Philly walkable city, Philadelphia’s layout is easy to navigate, thanks to William Penn’s easy-to-follow grid design. The city spans 25 blocks between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. The streets that run north/south are numbered and the streets that run east/west are named after trees. There are even curb cutouts that make the city stroller and wheelchair accessible.

*Pro tip: If you get lost downtown, look for the colorful “Walk! Philadelphia” signs—they’re designed to help get you where you’re going. *

On bicycle

Big cities don’t get more bike-friendly than Philly! You can expect dedicated bike lanes on city streets and hundreds of miles of trails to ride.

On the Philly PHLASH

Tired of walking? Hop aboard the Philly PHLASH Downtown Loop is a bus service that makes stops at the city’s top attractions like Penn’s Landing, Independence Mall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, and many more! The best part? A one-day pass only costs $5!

*Note: PHLASH service is seasonal, so check [the Philly PHLASH site[( to make sure the bus is in service while you’re there! *

On public transit

Philadelphia also has an excellent transit system. Not only does it offer wheelchair- and bike-friendly transportation, the city’s transit system has consistently been ranked among the best in the nation. Whether you’re hopping a bus, catching the subway, or riding the commuter-rail, you’ll have no problem making it to your next stop.

What to Eat


‘Nuff said.

Roast Pork Sandwiches

Though overshadowed by the decadent Philly Cheesesteak, roast pork sandwiches are another of the city’s signature sandwiches. Juicy roast pork, sharp provolone, chopped broccoli rabe, and (if you can take the heat) long green chili peppers, are all lovingly crammed into a long roll, creating a mouthwatering meal you’ll dream about long after you’ve returned home.

Anything from Reading Terminal Market

This indoor market dates back to the 19th Century and is filled with local delicacies and all kinds of tempting food to sink your teeth into.


Philly’s beer scene here is a cut above. You’ll have plenty of breweries, craft beers, and cheerful beer gardens to choose from. Beer fans can use the PhillyTapFinder to find the perfect pint.

What to See

The Historic District

The birthplace of our nation AND the first World Heritage City in the U.S., this is where you’ll find the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall & Congress Hall, the Betsy Ross House, and more.


This city has so. many. museums. And world-class museums, at that! Be sure to make time to see places like the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Science History Institute, the Mummers Museum, and plenty of other exciting museums.

The neighborhoods

Philadelphia is a rich tapestry of vibrant neighborhoods, each with its own distinct culture and atmosphere. Travel + Leisure said, “Beyond Philadelphia’s historic center lies a constellation of neighborhoods that have become hubs of diversity and creativity.” To get a feel for the real Philly, take a deep dive into the city’s local life.

The Delaware River Waterfront

There’s tons of fun waiting at the waterfront! This is where to find the city’s seasonal parks, historic mansions, Washington Crossing State Park, the hammock-filled haven of Spruce Street Harbor Park, and other ways to enjoy the city’s attractions with an excellent view.

Tips and Tricks

  • Many restaurants in Philly are BYOB. You can cut down on meal costs by bringing your own alcohol, but be aware…
  • Most BYOB restaurants are cash only. Be sure to check ahead of time so you don’t show up unprepared.
  • Treat yourself to dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront at least once. The views are incredible!
  • Philadelphia is full of free things to do! Do a little research on the city before you go to give your wallet a break.
  • If you have a car, be sure to carefully check parking signs and regulations; they vary by location and the Philadelphia Parking Authority is quick to ticket once the meter runs out.

Day Trips

Gettysburg National Military Park

Visit the site of the battle that changed the course of the Civil War and where Abraham Lincoln gave his iconic Gettysburg Address. Take a tour of the battlefield, visit the monuments, and explore the museum exhibits.

Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Hop over to Lancaster County, where you can peruse shops filled with Amish handmade quilts, baskets, and local food specialties. Experience the Amish way of life in Strasburg’s Amish Village, where you can tour the 1840 farmhouse or take a scenic, 45-minute train ride in a century-old steam train on the Strasburg Rail Road.

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Wander exhibits, take a tour, and watch a film to learn about the American soldiers encamped at Valley Forge during the brutal winter of 1777. See Washington’s Headquarters, a National Memorial Arch, and walk the grounds where Washington’s men built a 2,000-hut village.

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