This post covers (nearly) everything you can actually fit in on a day trip to Philadelphia!
Any day trip in Philadelphia would have to include history. It’s the city that gave us July 4th, the Constitution, and the very experiment called the United States of America, after all.
But, surprise, surprise! While exploring the city, you’ll find that in the midst of the birthplace of America, you can get fascinating and authentic glimpses into European culture too.
I don’t know about you, but we found this quite interesting! So, we wrote a different kind of itinerary for your day trip to Philadelphia.
We’ve included the top historical sites so you can get your fill of American history, and we’ve also included a few of the city’s famous open air markets and parks. But sprinkled into your itinerary, you’ll find some of the best spots in the city for getting a taste of European culture too!
Buy a City Sightseeing Pass to easily get around all the highlights of Philly
Morning- The Independence National Historical Park
Start your day exploring an area said to have more history packed into each square mile than any other place in the U.S.
Every step you take in The Independence National Historical Park in Old City will be on ground traveled by our founding fathers so be sure to carry your camera to document your trip!
Independence Hall is where our nation was born so stop here first. Inside the building you’ll see the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, copies of the actual declaration, and the Constitution.
For history buffs this part of the park is a no-brainer. But even if you’re not into history specifically, you may find yourself feeling warm inside when you see evidence of how it all began.
Almost as important as Independence Hall is Congress Hall, right next door. History lovers will love the rooms where America’s first government met when Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital city for a short time.
Antique lovers will love the fact that rooms for both Congress and the Senate have the original furniture from the late 18th century, and the preserved Georgian exterior will delight lovers of architecture.
From Congress Hall, walk a few minutes to Liberty Bell for a close up look at the shiny bell that rang on the night the nation got its independence. While you can’t touch the ancient bell, you can take pictures next to it so be sure to have your camera ready as you join the line to shuffle by for a photo op!
Also spend some time reading the different exhibits on the history and meaning of the bell. It may surprise you to learn how important Liberty Bell is to the rest of the democratic world.
Benjamin Franklin Museum or Elfreths Alley Museum
End your morning at the nearby Benjamin Franklin Museum for a deep dive in the life of one of America’s most famous founding fathers.
History addicts will particularly enjoy this part of the day trip as the museum is a real exploration of the character of the man who is so famous as a founding father he is mistakenly believed by many to have been a president. Each room is dedicated to one of Franklin’s five main character traits, with interactive exhibits and artifacts depicting the traits.
Entry also includes a library room where Franklin’s biography can be found.
If you’ve had your fill of founding history, instead of the Benjamin Franklin Museum you can take the ten minute walk to the Elfreth’s Alley area where 32 delightful antique houses and their cobblestoned alleys have been preserved from the 1700’s to give a rare glimpse into what life was like in that era.
Warning: These houses are all occupied by current owners so only the outsides can be seen. There is a museum in one of the houses if you want to explore the history of the neighborhood.
Lunch in Philly
For lunch you’ll be leaving Old City and walking 15 minutes to the beloved Reading Terminal Market for the chance to explore an open market with more food than you’ve seen in any one location.
Well explore the market afterwards, but for lunch we recommend finding Carmen’s for a juicy Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. You can thank us later!
Reading Terminal Market
We could easily suggest that you spend the rest of your day trip in Philadelphia exploring the historic Reading Terminal Market but you wouldn’t be happy when you left 10 pounds heavier! And you do have those European delights to explore, so you’ll want to have an early dinner to get to them before closing time.
What we will suggest is spending an hour or so exploring some of the 80 merchants in the market. Among the 80 are bakeries, ice cream shops, Old Dutch foods, Amish food, cookies, some killer corndogs (Fox and Sons), spicy Jamaican Jerk Chicken (Careda’s Caribbean Cuisine), a crepes place that’s so good you may never leave the counter (Profi’s Creperie), and a good coffee shop.
After you’ve (hopefully) eaten in moderation, it’s time to walk off some of those calories. Philadephia is famous for its murals and you can even join a cool mural art walking tour, or just look out for them on your way.
This popular green space is five minutes away from Reading Terminal Market and the perfect place for walking. Be sure to take a selfie close to the famous love sculpture the park is named for!
Tir Na Nog Irish Pub
Close to Love Park is Tir Na Nog Irish Pub, off-the-beaten-track, but well known to local lovers of sports and authentic Irish experiences. Everything here from the whiskey sours to the menu will leave you feeling like you’ve left Philadelphia and landed on the Emerald Isle! And seeing Irish memorabilia in the middle of your Philadelphia day trip will be a reminder that the Irish also figure greatly in American history.
We suggest spending a few minutes taking in the European sports playing on the countless mounted televisions and trying the whiskey sour as it’s one of the best in Philadelphia!
It often surprises lovers of art history to find a large collection of the works of french sculpture, Auguste Rodin, in an American Museum.
Here is the artist who spearheaded the techniques that would bring genuine human emotions to sculpture and force a departure from the mythical and religious figures dominant in Europe at the time. It’s extraordinary that a museum in Philadelphia has the most extensive collection of his work outside of France where there is another museum of the same name.
If you don’t love art, you’ll still enjoy a visit. Rodin’s works are as much a study in art as they are a release for pent up emotion. Expect to be moved as you stare upon works like the famous ‘Gates of Hell’ or ‘Thought’which depicts a distressed looking woman (Rodin’s lover who was later committed to an asylum with a broken heart). Your ticket also includes the delightful gardens on the property!
If you’re a fan of medical freaks and macabre ways to die, then a visit to the medical science Mutter Museum will be a quirky, if not eerie, experience. See how tribal leaders turned their foe’s heads into tiny necklaces, check out Soap Lady, the world’s largest bowel and a
Walk from Rodin Museum to end your Philadelphia day trip admiring the waterfront and historical boathouses in this part of the city before dinner – if you’re not a train racing back to New York.
Dinner in Philly
Have dinner at farm-to-table steakhouse, Urban Farmer on historic Logan Square where the focus is on feeding their local neighborhood with fresh ingredients from their rustic pantry filled with homemade preserves and chutneys. Known for their steaks, they also serve poultry and seafood.
If you’re here around Halloween, Eastern State Penitentiary has a month of truly spooky fundraising events. You can read all about my terrifying night on Blogger at Large!
Find some fun Philly activities and tours
Where to next?
How about the perfect shopping day in New York?
Or these fun road trip games to play while you get there!
How about a day trip to Amish Country, PA for some shoo-fly pie and antique shopping?
And if you want some cool vibes to listen to while you drive (or train), you can check out my Apple Music playlists here!