I have a very protective guard over this American city for many reasons. It’s home to my most treasured friends and for an American city it is steeped in ‘modern’ history. Philadelphia is situated on the East Coast of the USA in the State of Pennsylvania (PA) with New York City to the North and Washington DC to the South.
I have a very fond love towards this city. In amongst all the great cities within the United States this features in my Top 5. I have become very familiar with this city and not as a tourist. For many years I used to work for an American Carrier which entitled me to travel between The UK and Philadelphia for business and pleasure, and from this travel, I accrued so many great American friends who I remain in contact with to this day despite my change in career. I have not only explored this historic city as a tourist but have also savoured it as a local.
A SHORT HISTORY
Philadelphia, or abbreviated to Philly, is crammed with history unlike most American cities. It was the ‘Original’ Capital City (1790-1800) of the newly formed United States after British America became independent from The UK.
Philadelphia during the British Colonial Era was the Largest city in British America and the second largest city in the British Empire after London and just in front of Melbourne, Australia and the Asian cities of Delhi, India; Singapore and Hong Kong.
The city hosted the First Continental Congress before the American Revolutionary War; the Second Continental Congress, which signed the United States Declaration of Independence, during the war; and the Constitutional Convention (1787) after the war. Several battles were fought in and near Philadelphia as well.
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION
ℹ️ Travel: I usually fly to Philly on a direct service from Manchester and this flight usually takes just under 7 hours. Non-US citizens must apply for an ESTA before travel. An ESTA is an electronic waiver form that allows certain nationals 90 days entry without a visa.
From the airport , for me, its easier and more straight-forward to catch the train (SEPTA) from the airport into a station called ‘Suburban’ that takes around 25 minutes passing Philadelphia University out of the left window (heading towards the city). Prices are roughly US$5.75 (GB£4.50) one way.
ℹ️ Currency: The US Dollar ($).
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Accommodation: I am fortunate that I have American friends that offer a roof over my head when I visit. Nonetheless, there have been occasions were I have stayed in a hotel, usually in Center City District near the Philadelphia Town Hall and the Liberty Bell. Consider either the 3* Independent Hotel City Center priced roughly at $137 p/n, or, the 2* Alexander Inn priced $130 p/n.
ℹ️ Weather: The North East Coast of the US usually celebrate hot, humid Summers when temperatures can reach the low 100f. Winters can be of complete contrast with heavy snowfall and temperatures dropping below freezing.
WHAT CAN PHILADELPHIA OFFER?
As Philly is a major centre for the modern day history of the USA most attractions involve museums. There are so many to visit and numerous ‘City Walk’ tours to undertake. Again, I could list everything the city offers but I am only going to write about my itinerary.
A park created in an L-shaped, along with Old City, has been dubbed ‘America’s most historic square mile.’ Once the backbone of the United States government, it has become the backbone of Philadelphia’s tourist trade.
Stroll around and you will see storied buildings in which the seeds for the Revolutionary War were planted and the US government came into bloom. You will also find beautiful, shaded urban lawns dotted with plenty of squirrels, pigeons and costumed actors.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN MUSEUM
In the courtyard south of Market St, underground, is a museum dedicated to Benjamin Franklin’s storied life as a printer (he started the nation’s first newspaper), inventor (bifocals!) and statesman who signed the Declaration of Independence. In the same courtyard, don’t miss the newspaper office where Franklin worked – park rangers demonstrate the printing press.
The ‘birthplace of American government,’ a modest Quaker building, is where delegates from the 13 colonies met to approve the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Even without a ticket, you can pass through to see Congress Hall , where the congress met when Philly was the nation’s capital.
Completed in 1901, City Hall takes up a whole block, and at 548ft, not counting the 27 ton bronze statue of William Penn, it’s the worlds tallest structure without a steel frame. The view from the observation deck near the top of the tower takes in most of the city. Queues are busy so book tickets in advance!
THE LIBERTY BELL
This iconic figure is housed in a glass building protecting it from the elements. You are able to peek from outside, or you can join the queue to file past, reading about the icons history along the way.
The gist of the story: the bell was made in 1751, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s constitution. Mounted in Independence Hall, it tolled on the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The bell developed a crack in the 19th century, and it was retired in 1846.
If all those city interests have still not satisfied your craving for more why not check out LOVE PARK (aka JFK Plaza). Here you can take in the beauty of the stone granite steps and lush fountain with a big attraction: the ‘LOVE’ statue. Why not spend some time walking around the Fairmount Park centre and gift shop, or stop for a bite to eat.
Navigate to Logan Square and you will discover the infamous Philadelphia Museum of Art. You will need to feel fit as the entrance to the Museum has 72 stone steps to climb.
These steps have become famous for another reason and are known as the “Rocky Steps” as a result of their appearance in the Rocky films.
PLACES TO PEOPLE WATCH
Again I could list all sorts of places here but I am only going to highlight a few of my favourites.
Located on 265 S 16th Street: Hop fans crowd this mellow, wood-panelled place for Belgian and American craft beers on tap. There’s also a reasonably priced menu, with typical mussels and fries.
READING TERMINAL MARKET
This is were I was introduced to my first official Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. To this day it was one of the most memorable places I have been to. Among the many highlights at this massive, multi ethnic food market: Beiler’s doughnuts, Miller’s Twist buttery pretzels, Tommy Dinic’s roast pork and Amish meals at Dutch Eating Place.
THE WHITE DOG CAFE
If the atmosphere and food here seems more refined it’s because it has been serving since 1983. Come here for your spring ramps and morels, peak summer tomatoes and plenty more. Located on 3420 Samson Street you will not be disappointed.
THE CITY TAVERN
Found on 138 S 2nd Street: As far as restaurants with costumed waiters go, this is a pretty good one — not too over-the-top, and with solid, faintly historical food, such as pepper pot. The building is a partial replica of the 1773 original. It is a beautiful building and everything I would expect from a historic, colonial feel.
PHILADELPHIA’S GAYBOURHOOD DISTRICT
Philadelphia’s LGBT visitors looking for a night on the town can choose from a range of lively bars and clubs in the city’s Gaybourhood district.
The area runs from 11th to Broad streets and from Chestnut to Pine streets, the Gaybourhood lays in the heart of Midtown Village and distinguishes itself with rainbow street signs throughout the area. You will also find fun rainbow crosswalks at 13th and Locust streets.
I have a soft love for Philadelphia. It always feels like ‘home’ to me when I visit the USA. I think it partially comes down to my group of incredible American friends who have always welcomed me with an open embrace. There is a lot to do in this city. Expect to walk lots and be prepared with your camera. The architecture in this city is stunning and it is great to feel a US city that actually has some significant history enveloping its streets.
If you wish to find out more on this historic city then click on the link HERE to the offical city tourist site.