Visiting Philadelphia is a traveler’s choose-your-own-adventure delight. While the city’s rich historic past is evident in the plentiful museums and landmarks, Philly’s present-day appeal is also proudly on display with pop-up beer gardens, a harbor park that’s as much a playground for adults as for children, and unique boutiques and cafes.
One weekend is hardly enough time to make a dent in the activities, culinary experiences, and shopping possibilities that the City of Brotherly Love has to offer, but that’s all the more reason to return.
Get an active start exploring the city.
Biking, walking, running, or simply watching boaters and rowers along the Schuylkill River Trail is a great way to start off a summer morning in Philly. Dubbed “the best urban trail in America” by USA Today in 2015, the SRT continues to expand and draws sports and outdoor enthusiasts as well as commuters who prefer the path to traffic clogged streets.
A favorite section journeys past Boathouse Row; grab a breakfast of organic and local goodies at Cosmic Cafe before renting bikes, then stop for a picnic at whatever spot appeals to you.
Watch the sunset with unparalleled views.
Take in Philly’s ever-evolving skyline while dining at R2L, located on the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place and boasting views of over 40 miles. Other spots that are ideal for sunset-viewing include the city’s first elevated public park Cira Green or Bok Bar, on the roof of the historic, multiuse Bok building in South Philly. On Sundays, dogs are even welcome to join in the scenic fun.
Visit the medical oddities at the Mutter Museum with a collection that includes 139 skull specimens, a plaster cast of famous twins Change and Eng, and even parts of Einstein’s brain. For a more traditional art museum experience, the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers amazing programs, inspiring exhibitions, and an impressive permanent collection, as well as the opportunity to recreate Rocky’s epic run up the steps. The Rodin museum is just a short walk away and is a beautiful site for strolling (as well as a popular place for wedding photos).
Grab some veggie grub.
Love for the Philly food scene goes way beyond cheesesteaks, hoagies, and scrapple. The vegan options abound: James Beard-nominated chef/owners Rich and Kate Landau’s dining destinations include Vedge and V-Street (and a kiosk at the new Whole Foods), while Marquis & Co.’s places include hip, fast-casual food joints Hip City Veg, a vegan take on Latin flavors at Bar Bombon, and Charlie Was a Sinner, a hip bar/café with the tagline “Small Plates, Strong Drinks.”
Let your inner child come out and play.
Whether actual children will be accompanying you on your weekend visit matters not. Vibrant handmade hammocks, splash fountains, a boardwalk-style arcade, concerts, pop-up art markets, and a roller skating rink offer a day’s worth of activities and lounging at Spruce Street Harbor Park.
A carousel and a Philly-themed mini golf course are the main attractions at Franklin Square; movie screenings of popular films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Secret Life of Pets offer additional enticement.
Get your caffeine fix.
If all this adventuring has your energy level flagging, Philly has visitors covered in terms of caffeinated pick-me-ups. Specialty coffee roaster La Colombe has been a major force in the coffee world for more than 20 years. With four cafes in Philly, you can stop in for a cup or sip a can of their delicious draft latte on the go.
Rival Bros.’ coffee bars offer pastries and breads delivered daily from famed artisanal bakery High Street on Market alongside plentiful coffee options from Rival Bros. beans that are roasted each day. Their second location, in the lobby of The Touraine, is an airy, light-filled spot that’s ideal for people-watching.
Take in some history with a side of sweetness.
The newly opened Museum of the American Revolution incorporates personal artifacts, Revolutionary-era weapons, art, and even theater experiences to create a comprehensive and immersive trip back in history. Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, National Constitution Center, and Ben Franklin’s house are all located within walking distance for insatiable history buffs. For a brain break, indulge in the delicacies at much beloved soda fountain and ice cream shop Franklin Fountain.
Imbibe (for a good cause) in a garden.
Proceeds from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Pop-Up Gardens support PHS programs including City Harvest, which helps provide fresh and healthy food for more than 1,200 families in need each week.
If you visit during the week, check out the gardens on Tuesdays for Brewsday Tuesday when visiting breweries and live music combine for a great evening out. With two locations (one on South Street, the other in University City), the convivial Pop-Up Gardens offers plenty to sip and savor including craft brews, botanical cocktails, burritos, and tacos.
Stake out an unknown-to-you neighborhood (and make some new friends).
For visitors who tend to stay close to the Rittenhouse Square area, pick out a different area of town to explore. And South 4th Street is a great option. Brunch at Hungry Pigeon, shop for carefully curated handmade and vintage goods at Moon + Arrow, and then make a reservation for some feline fun: The Kawaii Kitty Café is a cute lounge for cats and cat-lovers with an attached café; all the kitties there are up for adoption through local rescue organization PAWS.
Or head north to Fishtown, and visit the world’s first pizza museum at Pizza Brain before hitting the local bars, restaurants, and galleries (especially during the First Friday of every month, when art spaces are open late).
Pick up some singular souvenirs.
Skip the Liberty Bell paperweight and the Phillies cap, and return home with something more unique to commemorate your time in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia Independents in Old City highlights exclusively handmade items from local artisans and artists (think: a onesie with a Philly soft pretzel or a one-of-a-kind gold leaf painting).
Omoii Zakka Shop stocks hard-to-find and impossibly hip Japanese stationery items as well as bento boxes, ceramic mugs, and jewelry. In the Rittenhouse Square area, stop by Stadler-Kahn, where owner Alex Stadler displays his textiles among other funky and irresistible items, or Egan Rittenhouse, a curated lifestyle store offering sleek tableware, stylish dog leashes, and hand-embroidered clutches, as well as gorgeous floral arrangements.