Liberty Bell: The Liberty Bell was cast in the Whitechapel Foundry of East End London and sent to the building currently known as Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, then to the Pennsylvania State House, in 1753. Inscribed at the top is part of a biblical verse from Leviticus: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof." Twelve feet in circumference, this bell is one of Philadelphia’s most symbolic treasures. 600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 215-965-2305. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with extended hours in the summer. No tickets are required for admission to the Liberty Bell; however, visitors must go through security screening to gain entrance to the center.
National Constitution Center: America's most interactive history museum is located just two blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, it is the only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution and the story of “We, the people.” 525 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 215-409-6600. Hours: M-F 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. General admission: adults $12, seniors $11, children $8. Admission from May 29-Sept. 7: adults $17.50, seniors $16.50, children $13.50.
Betsy Ross House: Built more than 250 years ago, the building now known as The Betsy Ross House was home not just to Betsy, but to dozens of artisans and shopkeepers over the years. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1937. Though she’s become an American icon for the part she played in the birth of our nation, there’s a fascinating real woman behind the legend. 239 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, 215.686.1252. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, April to October; closed Mondays, October through March. Suggested Admission: $3 adults/seniors $2 children 12 and under/students.
Independence Hall: It was here that the Constitution of the United States was debated, drafted and signed. 5th and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19103, (215) 965-2305. Tickets are required for admission. Free, walk-up tickets are available for pick up at the Independence Visitor Center on the day of your visit starting at 8:30 a.m. Arrive early—during the busy season, tickets are often gone by 1 p.m. To guarantee a ticket and to avoid waiting in the walk-up ticket line, consider purchasing timed tickets ($1.50 each) in advance, either by phone or online.
South Street: South Street is an incredibly unique shopping, eating and cultural experience. The infamous street is lined with the city’s most interesting shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. This is the home of Jim’s Steaks and the TLA, one of Philadelphia’s most intimate concert venues. South Street is located between Lombard and Bainbridge Streets from 8th Street to Front Street.
Reading Terminal Market: Reading Terminal is Philadelphia’s historic farmers’ market, where vendors offer fresh meats and seafood, produce from the field, and Amish specialties. An exhilarating selection of eclectic shops and restaurants is peppered throughout the market. 12th and Arch Streets, 215-922-2317. Hours: M-Sat 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sun 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Chinatown: This Asian cultural center offers its visitors a plethora of restaurants, bakeries and shops. Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisines are available. Be sure to check out Vietnam Restaurant, Kingdom of Vegetarians, Penang and Imperial Inn. Chinatown is located between 9th and 11th Streets and between Arch and Vine Streets.
Rittenhouse Square: Rittenhouse is one of the five original, open-space parks planned by William Penn during the late 17th century in central Philadelphia. The tree-filled park is surrounded by high-rise residences, luxury apartments, popular restaurants, a Barnes & Noble bookstore, and beautiful hotels. Its green grass and well-worn benches are popular lunchtime destinations for residents and workers in Philly's Center City neighborhood, while its statues and fountains are popular gathering spots for locals with small children or pets. Rittenhouse Square is located between Walnut and Spruce Streets and 18th and 20th Street.
The Franklin Institute: Founded in honor of Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Institute Science Museum serves to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology. Among other exhibits, the Science Museum holds the largest collection of artifacts from the Wright brothers' workshop. The Franklin Institute also offers fascinating traveling exhibitions and a magical IMAX dome theater. 222 North 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, 215-448-1200. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Admissions rates vary; however, the base admission is $14.75 for adults and $13.75 for seniors and students.
Academy of Natural Sciences: The oldest natural science research institution and museum in the United States was founded in 1812 by many of the leading naturalists of the young republic, with an expressed mission of "the encouragement and cultivation of the sciences." Its highlights include a dinosaur hall and a butterfly garden. 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1101, 215-299-1000. Hours: Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat & Sun 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: Adults $12, children/students $10.
Mutter Museum: The Mütter Museum was founded to educate future doctors about anatomy and human medical anomalies. Today, it serves as a valuable resource for educating and enlightening the public about our medical past and telling important stories about what it means to be human. The collection now boasts over 20,000 unforgettable objects. These include fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens; skeletal and dried specimens, medical instruments, anatomical and pathological models in plaster, wax, papier-mâché and plastic; memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians; medical illustrations, photographs, prints and portraits. 19 S. 22nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19103, 215-563-373. Hours: Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat & Sun 10 a.m-5 p.m. Admission: Adults $14, Children/Students/Seniors $10.
The “Rocky” Steps: The front steps (there are seventy-two) of the Philadelphia Museum of Art have become known as the “Rocky” Steps, the result of their appearance in the film Rocky, and four of its sequels, II, III, IV and Rocky Balboa, in which the eponymous character runs up the steps to the song "Gonna Fly Now." Tourists and local residents often mimic Rocky's famous climb, a metaphor for the underdog or everyman rising to a challenge. A bronze statue of Rocky was briefly placed at the top of the steps for the filming of Rocky III. This statue is now located at the bottom right of the steps and is a popular photo-op for visitors. 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130.
Eastern State Penitentiary: Opened in 1829 as part of a controversial movement to change the behavior of inmates through "confinement in solitude with labor," Eastern State Penitentiary quickly became one of the most expensive and most copied buildings in the young United States. It is estimated that more than 300 prisons worldwide are based on the Penitentiary's “wagon-wheel” radial floor plan. Some of America's most notorious criminals were held in the Penitentiary's vaulted, skylit cells, including bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone. After 142 years of consecutive use, Eastern State Penitentiary was completely abandoned in 1971, and now stands, a lost world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. A truly fascinating place to visit! 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19103. Hours: Every day 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (last tour leaves at 4 p.m.), June-August there are Twilight Tours offered Wednesday evenings until 8pm. Admission: adults $12, seniors $10, students and children $8.
Philadelphia Zoo: 150 years old, the zoo is located on the west bank of the Schuylkill River and was the first zoo in the United States! Today it is home to more than 1,300 animals as well as a children’s zoo, a balloon ride, a paddleboat lake, and many interactive educational exhibits. 3400 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 215-243-1100. Hours: March 1-Nov. 1, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Nov. 2-Feb. 28, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: March 1-Nov. 1, adults $18, children $15; Nov. 2-Feb. 28, adults and children $12.95.