The Great American Getaway Guide to Philadelphia

Philadelphia, affectionately known as the City of Brotherly Love or simply “Philly,” is the birthplace of the United States and home to some of the nation’s most historic destinations. At under a two-hour drive from New York City and three-hour drive from Washington, D.C., this vibrant and diverse metropolis makes for a perfect long weekend getaway. To help you pack the most into your trip to the sixth largest city in the U.S., we have put together a 48-hour getaway guide that maps out some of our favorite and top picks to see, do, and devour.

Please note, this itinerary is meant to serve as a general guide. Before you depart on The Great American Getaway to Philadelphia, we highly recommend you check our suggested places to visit for any seasonal hours of operation and available offerings.

Day One

Afternoon — Arrive in Philadelphia and check into your choice of accommodations (keep scrolling for our picks at the bottom of this page).

Your first must-visit stop is the Reading Terminal Market. This National Historic Landmark, which is once again in the running for a USA Today’s Readers Chose 10 Best awards, is a quintessential Philly landmark and perfect for an afternoon snack. Located near City Hall, it’s home to some Philly foodie staples, such as a roast pork sandwich from DiNic’s, doughnuts from Beiler’s Bakery, and soft pretzels from Miller’s Twist. Bassetts Ice Cream, the country’s oldest ice cream company and the market’s first tenant in 1892, continues to scoop some of the best tasting ice cream you’ll find anywhere.

Reading Terminal Market Signage Board
Reading Terminal Market | Credit: Visit Philly

Newly fortified after some great Philly snacks, here’s your chance travel back through time as you tour Philadelphia’s many historical museums and sites. Home to 68 national historical landmarks, the City of Brotherly Love boasts what’s known as the nation’s “most historic square mile.”

There’s perhaps no better place to start your journey through history than the Independence Visitor Center. Here you’ll receive a great introduction to all there’s to see and do in Philadelphia’s Historic District and throughout the greater Philly region with trip planning advice from the visitor center’s friendly staff. They’ll direct you to a wide variety of free amenities, interactive activities, and ticket sales for more than 100 attractions, as well tours of all the sites that comprise the Independence National Historical Park.

You can map your afternoon using their brand-new, 42-foot, interactive digital Philly Welcome Wall that’s loaded with information about all Philadelphia has to offer. Next, cross the street to explore the President’s House Site that housed and served as the executive office for the nation’s first presidents, George Washington and John Adams, as well as the slaves who toiled there at the same time, clearly illustrating the paradox of liberty and enslavement dating back to the nation’s earliest days.

Even if you’ve visited before, the iconic Liberty Bell is a must-stop on any historical tour of the city. A symbol of freedom for centuries, the bell used to hang in the steeple of Independence Hall, but now rests near ground level. The Liberty Bell Center is open daily and admission is free to all.

In the background of the Liberty Bell, you can’t miss the sight of Independence Hall where in 1776 this nation was born. Voted as a “top place to visit in 2021” by Frommer’s, you can tour the hall to see where the U.S. Constitution was debated and adopted and the Declaration of Independence was signed. Just be sure to reserve your free, timed tickets if you want to enter and take the tour.

Evening — After walking in the footsteps of America’s Founding Fathers, enjoy an award-winning meal in the Old City neighborhood at Fork. Voted as one of the “100 Restaurants America Can’t Afford To Lose” by Esquire Magazine, James Beard award-winning chef Ellen Yin serves up seasonal, contemporary American cuisine paired with an exceptional wine list.

Outside Fork Restaurant
Fork | Credit: A.Ricketts

If you’re a jazz lover and even if you’re not, take a leisurely 20-minute stroll or quick drive after dinner to Time to end the night being serenaded with live smooth jazz. Check out their calendar of events for the nightly lineup of bands and musicians.

Day Two

Morning — Start your first full day in the city by visiting Philadelphia’s historic South 9th Street Italian Market. America’s oldest and continuously operating outdoor market is nestled in South Philadelphia’s Bella Vista and Passyunk Square communities. A collection of nearly 200 individual businesses located between two public parks and two beautiful churches, the market spans over 20 city blocks including 8th, 9th, and 10th Streets. Home to generations-old family businesses as well as many new, ethnic family businesses eager to share their traditions, you’ll have your pick of coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants to grab breakfast. If you happen to be visiting Philadelphia during May, don’t miss the epic South 9th Street Italian Market Festival featuring delicious food, of course, as well as music, art and craft vendors, and lots of fun!

Afternoon — Be sure to save some room after the Italian market because you can’t leave Philly without trying one of the city’s world-renowned cheesesteaks. You could sample both Pat’s King of Streaks and Geno’s Steaks to give your take on the decades-long debate on which is best, but if you really want to eat like a local, go to Angelo’s Pizzeria. In addition to their mouthwatering cheesesteaks, they also sell excellent pizza, hoagies, and specialty roast pork sandwiches. Be prepared to order by phone or in person and pay cash.

Afterwards, it’s a short 6-minute walk to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a nonprofit museum and immersive mixed media art environment that is completely covered with mosaics. The creator, Isaiah Zagar, used handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirror, and international folk art to chronicle his life and influences. The space is made up of two indoor galleries and a bi-level outdoor sculpture garden. General admission tickets are timed and self-guided, and booking ahead is advised. Find out more about guided tour options, including a 40-minute morning tour before the gardens open to the general public on select days.

Soak in the surrounding nature of Center City Philadelphia and venture less than 2 miles to Schuylkill Banks, where you’ll find the 18-mile Schuylkill River Trail. Make your way, on foot or rent a surrey or bike, up to the picturesque Boathouse Row or explore down the boardwalk towards South Philadelphia.

Evening — Depending on the season (of the year, that is), catch a great game and experience the electrifying atmosphere of one of Philly’s professional sports teams. Home to the Philadelphia Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, Flyers, Wings, and Union, watching a game together with Philly’s passionate sports fan base is an experience all its own.

Even better, Citizens Bank Park (Phillies), the Wells Fargo Center (Sixers, Flyers, and Wings), Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles), and Subaru Park (Union) each offer top-notch stadium fare to enjoy for dinner. If you’re in the South Philly Sports Complex, you can get a pre- or post-game bite and drinks at Xfinity Live!, a lively sports bar serving up local favorites such as Chickie’s & Pete’s famous Crabfries and Victory Beer Hall craft brews. Check in-season schedules and purchase tickets before booking your trip to ensure a game-winning getaway.

Day Three

Morning — Begin your morning by grabbing some delicious, locally-roasted, organic coffee and freshly baked goods or fresh smoothies and breakfast sandwiches at Time & Peace Café and Gallery. Then, it’s a 15-minute stroll to the cobblestoned streets of Elfreth’s Alley, widely recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited street in the U.S. In addition to its historical significance, the street serves as an Instagram-worthy backdrop. Dive deeper into the alley’s past and present on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays by taking a guided tour led by staff from the Elfreth’s Alley Museum. Tickets can be purchased at the museum or on their website.

kids biking along with father in the Alley
Elfreth’s Alley | Credit: Charles Ridgeway

Afternoon — For lunch, The Bourse is just steps away from Independence Hall National Park. Located in a 123-year-old building that was home to the first commodities exchange market in the country, choose from the variety of vendors offering a range of cuisines from tacos to cheesesteaks at this well-known, artisanal food hall.

Then it’s one more trip to the past to mark the end of your great Philadelphia getaway. Watch as the U.S. Constitution is brought to life through interactive exhibits, rare artifacts, and live theater at the National Constitution Center, the first and only museum in the country dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. Here you can learn the story behind the iconic words, “We the People,” and get up close to the 42 life-sized, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers in Signers’ Hall. Just remember to reserve a timed ticket online before you plan to go.

People exploring Museum
National Constitution Center | Credit: J.Fusco

Add A Day

Not ready for your trip on this Great American Getaway to end? Extend your stay to visit and explore even more in southeastern PA. Once again, here’s your opportunity to travel back in time to Valley Forge, the site of the Continental Army’s encampment during the brutal winter of its 1777-1778 where the army’s soldiers showed their true grit and dedication to the American Revolution. Considered the birthplace of the U.S. Army, this National Historical Park is less than an hour’s drive northwest from Philadelphia.

Here you can tour reconstructed soldiers' huts and George Washington's original stone headquarters. Be sure to stop in the Visitor Center to view artifacts, see the park's overview film, and browse through the Encampment Store. Drive the park's 10-mile tour loop or hike or bike its miles of trails. Trolley tours, living history programs, ranger-led walks, and storytelling benches are featured seasonally.

If you’re all historied-out, the King of Prussia Mall is right next door. Featuring a diverse mix of more than 450 stores and 30 eateries, it’s the Philadelphia area’s premier shopping destination as well as the third largest and one of the most iconic malls in the nation. With this many “shop till you drop” opportunities, you just might have to stay another night or two!

Places to Stay

The Guild House Hotel — The origin of the Guild House Hotel lies in the 1880s and the New Century Guild, the first-ever organization of its kind supporting working women by offering trade classes and providing a beautiful gathering space for rest, meals, entertainment, and activism. Voted one of the “Best New Hotels in the World in 2022” by Travel + Leisure, the hotel boasts 12 luxurious rooms and suites all named after prominent women of the past.

Independence Park Hotel — Originally built as a doll manufacturing plant in 1856, the Independence Park Hotel is now a National Historic Landmark offering guests old-time charm with the bonus perk of a complimentary breakfast. Conveniently located just steps away from Independence Hall, enjoy the hotel’s rich architecture, high ceilings, grand palladium windows, a fireside lobby, and an inviting interior courtyard. You can even still see the original granite storefront on the building’s façade!

Kimpton Hotel Monaco — Located in the heart of Old City, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is located within the country’s most historic mile. Take advantage of the array of amenities including their stunning ballroom, rooftop lounge, and attached restaurant, the Red Owl Tavern.

view of Independence Hall from window of Hotel Room
Kimpton Hotel Monaco | Credit: M.Fischetti

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