The Philadelphia Guide
Recently, the City of Brotherly Love has become a hybrid of old and new, classic and cool—experiencing a renaissance of its own. Take, for instance, Fishtown: The neighborhood once known for commercial fishing has seen an influx of some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and art galleries, offering a destination for young professionals and creatives alike–and giving Philly a whole new, revitalized feel. But at its core, Philadelphia is a city that runs on a medley of loyalty, tradition, and so much history. There are the sports fans—diehards for their Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers—the ever-famous (rightfully so) cheesesteaks, and the deep-rooted historical context—after all, it was here where most of the American Revolution was devised and the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. For the teeniest tourists, the city’s landmarked buildings and cobblestone streets lend endless opportunities for exploration and surprise history lessons, not to mention, refresher courses for the adults.
The National Constitution Center525 Arch St., Center City | 215.409.6600
With a slew of interactive exhibits that make it a kid-worthy destination, this essential museum delivers on its promise of educating, and offering an engaging dialogue about the Constitution. Past exhibits, like Powers of the President, have looked at the nature of executive power under the Constitution as it has been defined through the legacies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and Richard Nixon, alongside lesser-known (but equally important) constitutional legacies. Through December 2017, you can see one of the twelve surviving copies of the Bill of Rights in the feature exhibit, Constituting Liberty.
The Liberty Bell6th St. & Market St., City Center | 215.965.2305
You pretty much can’t throw a stone in this part of Philadelphia without hitting something beautiful and historic. (But maybe don’t do that.) Case in point: You can plan a walk that starts at the Liberty Bell—one of the most iconic symbols of American sovereignty—and reasonably also include Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed), Carpenters’ Hall (where Congress met while Philadelphia was the capital), Christ Church (where George Washington and Benjamin Franklin once had assigned pews), and the Betsy Ross House (where the building’s namesake sewed an early American flag)—in a single, leisurely afternoon.
The Barnes Foundation Museum2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Center City | 215.278.7200
The Barnes Collection was originally established in 1922 by Albert Barnes, a Philadelphia businessman who amassed a stunning collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings—including significant works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau. In 2012, Barnes’ namesake foundation opened a stunning new campus building that devotes 93,000 square feet to storage, conservation, education, and exhibition space, which makes his stunning collection more accessible than ever. There’s no excuse for missing the downtown building if you’re staying in city center, but if time allows, make the trek to their suburban campus in Merion, which boasts a gorgeous arboretum.
Philadelphia Museum of Art2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., West Philadelphia | 215.763.8100
We should start by saying that yes, those stairs probably look familiar: They’re the Rocky steps, which means you can have your dorky running moment conveniently en route to the third largest art museum in the country. Definitely be sure to check out the museum’s adjacent Rodin collection—partially installed inside a formal French garden, it’s the largest public collection of the sculptor’s work outside of Paris—and it’ll also include The Kiss starting in February 2018.
Boat House Row1 Boathouse Row, West Philadelphia
When the Shuylkill Navy was founded back in 1858, each of the member rowing clubs built stunning boathouses along the river to host trainings and, of course, house their boats. Today, the Navy is active as ever, hosting regattas for every level of skill and competition, and the gorgeous houses (which are lit up with lights in the evenings) still stand, in excellent condition. The best view of the houses—and regattas, if you’re lucky enough to catch one—is from the Schuylkill River Trail, which is equally perfect for long bike rides into the suburbs or quick morning walks, cup of coffee in hand.
Rittenhouse Square18th and Walnut St., Rittenhouse
While most cities have some type of a public square, it's safe to say many aren't as historic as Rittenhouse Square. One of the five original city squares created by William Penn, it's named after the renowned inventor and astronomer David Rittenhouse. Some of the city's most beautiful homes surround it, many dating back to the mid-1800s. We like to spend an entire afternoon here, ambling along the tree-lined sidewalks, catching one of the flower markets or art shows, and shopping–particularly on Walnut Street, which runs along the northern edge of the square.
Rodin Museum2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Logan Square | 215.763.8100
While many come here for the art (most of which is devoted to the French Impressionist era), this is one of our favorite museums because of its incredibly gorgeous garden. But this is not to overshadow the more than 120 sculptures of artist Auguste Rodin–all of which are incredible. Located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Rodin Museum is a walk away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, thus making for a perfect, leisure, art-filled afternoon.
Ulises31 E. Columbia Ave., Fishtown | 267.702.0123
Named for the Mexican artist Ulises Carrión—who founded a groundbreaking space in Amsterdam in the '70s, dedicated to artists’ publications—this small, aspirational art-book store is just a few years old, and already something that feels like part of the fabric of the North Philly community. Filled with contemporary artists’ books and independent art publications, Ulises is also very much an exhibition space: They host events around quarterly themes; through October 1, Ulises presents “Migrations,” a meditation on how communities experience refuge and movement, explored through artists’ video, photography, and readings—plus screenings and lectures.
South Philadelphia Sports ComplexSouth 7th St., South Philadelphia
Philly fans have earned a reputation—take, for instance, the oft-cited incident of upset Eagles fans booing Santa Claus en masse in 1968, or that the former Veterans Stadium housed an (unprecedented) makeshift court in the '90s to handle an overflow of unruly fans—for being especially passionate. If you want to experience a part of that, the South Philadelphia Sports Complex houses pretty much all of it: The Eagles play at Lincoln Financial Field, which was built just over a decade ago, around the same time as Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies play; at the Wells Fargo Center, you can catch both the Flyers and the 76ers.
Morris Arboretum100 E. Northwestern Ave., Lafayette Hill | 215.247.5777
With its ninety-two acres of English gardens, this Victorian arboretum is a hit with kids and adults. As part of the University of Pennsylvania (about a 30-minute drive outside of the city), it offers educational classes on horticulture throughout the year–but the biggest draw, at least for littles, is the network of bridges, catwalks, and observation bridges suspended from the trees, fifty feet above ground. You can amble along the canopy walk, lie on the giant hammocks, or see the trees and gardens from a different perspective via the telescopes.
The Philadelphia OrchestraOne South Broad St., Center City | 215.893.1900
Lauded as one of the most renowned orchestras in the nation–and world, the Philadelphia Orchestra has been a destination for culture enthusiasts since its inception in 1900. It’s helmed by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who is only the eighth music director of the symphony, a fact that speaks to its tenacity and caliber. One of the noteworthy aspects of seeing this symphony is experiencing the Kimmel Center: an architecturally-iconic building designed by Raphael Vinoly that sits along the Avenue of the Arts, the center of Philly’s bustling performing arts community.