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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

One Day in Philadelphia

Alisha McDarris
The Liberty Bell

Maybe you're passing through on your way to New York, maybe you're heading east to West for an adventure in middle America, maybe you're enjoying a mountain respite in the nearby Poconos. But whatever brings you to or through Pennsylvania, don't miss the opportunity to visit Philadelphia. The city of Brotherly Love is a happening and historic place that is not only easily walkable, but great for visitors who aren't keen to drop a hundred on day out activities. And while you could easily spend a week strutting around the city, seeing the sights, sometimes all you have is a day. And you know what? That's OK. So put on your walking shoes and check out this itinerary for Philadelphia in a day.

Above: The Liberty Bell



Morning:

Park it: First things first. If you didn't spend the previous night in the city, drive into town early and find a parking spot. Most lots offer early bird specials if you get there before 8-9:00 am, but you also have to leave around 5-6:00 pm. There are also a few free and cheap lots outside the city center, a fairly comprehensive list of which can be found on www.visitphilly.com. Take these with a grain of salt, though, as prices can be misleading. We found a small garage on 8th just south of Lombard called Patriot Parking. A steal at only $10 for parking until 6 pm. After that you can park on neighborhood streets for up to two hours at a time for free.

Take a walk: Head toward the historic center of town from your parking garage. Enjoy the characteristic charm along the way and maybe stop and pick up breakfast or a morning cup of coffee at Passero's Coffee Roasters, which has vegan baked goods.

Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall


Start at the beginning: Which, according to Julie Andrews, is a very good place to start. And the beginning happens to be right at the center of it all at the visitor information center in City Hall. Pick yourself up a map or two, get recommendations from the staff, and get your bearings before heading out on your first adventure.

Love Sculpture Philadelphia
The Love sculpture in JFK Plaza.

Take a snap: Take a photo in front of the Love sculpture in JFK Plaza next to City Hall. Don't be afraid to ask someone to take a photo of you and a loved one together. You know how I feel about selfie sticks.

Independence Hall Philadelphia
Independence Hall


Get your tickets: Head to the Independence Visitor Center where you'll want to stand in line to get tickets for a tour of Independence Hall where the Constitution was drafted. The tickets are free, and aren't required, but it will assign you a time to get in line so you don't have to wait as long. Alternatively, if you don't get there before tickets run out (and they will by mid afternoon) and you don't want to wait in line, you can go 45 minutes or so before they close. The line will probably be non existent and though the tour may be more brief and less structured, it won't be as crowded, either.

The Liberty Bell Philadelphia
The Liberty Bell


Visit Liberty: After you get your tickets, check out the Liberty Bell which is just South of the visitor center in the Liberty Bell Center. Learn about the history of the bell, what it stood for, and how many times they tried to fix that stubborn crack. Then take a photo next to it to post to Instagram.

The Portrait Gallery at the Second National Bank
The Portrait Gallery at the Second National Bank


Third: While you're in the area, check out the Portrait Gallery at the Second National Bank just down the block from Freedom Hall. It's a collection of photos of prominent figures from the United State's formative years and you can appreciate the art and read about the subjects while you peruse the echoey chamber.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum Philadelphia
Get sciencey at the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum


Get sciencey: Into chemistry? Don't miss the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Too much reading for me, but if you're into that stuff, there's some pretty cool old technology on display in a fun and sciencey environment. And since it's free it couldn't hurt to check it out.

A Philly Cheesesteak from Veggie T-Rex Deli in Philadelphia
The amazingly delicious vegan Philly cheesesteak from Veggie T-Rex Deli


Get your nosh on: All the history leaving you famished? Grab a Philly Cheesesteak for lunch. We grabbed a killer vegan Philly cheesesteak at Veggie T-Rex Deli on the corner of 15th and Cherry. At less than $7 it was one delicious steal.

The US Mint in Philadelphia
The US Mint in Philadelphia


Show me the money: After lunch, head down Arch Street toward the Federal Reserve Bank's Money in Motion exhibit and the U.S. Mint. There is an interesting exhibit about where money goes and how it's all processed at the former. You'll also walk out with a free bag of money! Shredded retired bills, of course. Sorry guys. But it makes a great souvenir! At the latter you can take a self-guided tour above the factory where you can watch coins be minted. Be aware, though, that weekends don't offer much action.

Pay your respects: Across from the Mint you can see Benjamin Franklin's grave through the fence at Christ Church Burial Ground. It costs a few bucks to go into the graveyard, but it's free to admire from the outside. Join in on tossing a penny on Franklin's grave who said, "A penny saved is a penny earned."

Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia is America's oldest continuously occupied residential street.
Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia is America's oldest continuously occupied residential street.


Walk through history: See America's oldest continuously occupied residential street right here in Philly. Elfreth's Alley is a lovely little laneway with classic cobblestones and an old-world feel. Head to the end to find a little bakeshop as a reward for the walk. There are also $5 tours if you're interested in learning more about the street.

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia
Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia


Peruse the market: By now you're probably getting the munchies again. Hit up one of the dozens of falafel trucks lining the streets or head to Reading Terminal Market for a wide variety of food stalls. Vegans, beware: a smoothie will probably be your only option. After you've wandered the market, head to Chinatown for a sesame bun or delectable pastry. Red bean buns are our weakness.

Edgar Allen Poe's home in Philadelphia
Read or listen to any of Poe's famous stories in the Library.


Listen for the Telltale Heart: Who doesn't love Edgar Allen Poe? If you love him enough to walk about 7 blocks (I do), you can take a free tour of the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site that he lived in here in Philly. Learn about his life, his love, and his work and stand where he penned several of his well-known classics.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia


Get reverent: On your way back, take a detour to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul if you appreciate stunning religious art and architecture. It's a beautiful sight to see, and you can even download a free audio tour prior to you visit, but feel free to take it up a notch and hear beautiful sounds, too, by attending a service.

Pizza from Blackbird Pizzaria
Vegan eats in Philly - Pizza from Blackbird Pizzaria


Dinner: Time to eat! And there's no better place than Blackbird Pizzaria south of the historic center. They offer delicious vegan pizza by the slice or the pie and some of the best vegan wings I've ever had. Not to mention a Philly cheese steak and several tempting vegan dessert options.

Settle in: If it's summer, find out if there's a free movie playing in the park or at the Landing. If so, grab a blanket and some snacks and hit the grass. Nothing beats a free outdoor movie on a summer evening! Check out the lineup at VisitPhilly.com. Don't forget the popcorn!

Any excellent offerings in Philadelphia you'd add to the list? Let us know!

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha has been a writer and photographer forever. OK, maybe not forever, but at least for more of her 20-something years than she hasn’t been those things... [Read More]

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