Philadelphia is one of two cities (with Boston, Massachusetts) that is intimately associated with the early history of the United States of America. There are many reminders of this time which are available to the visitor. Obviously, there are other attractions as well. Here is my list of the best of Philly, to be followed shortly by a photo album.
1. Independence Hall – One of the most important historic buildings in America, this was the site of the second Continental Congress and the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. Its bell tower was the original home of the Liberty Bell (now the Centennial Bell resides there).
2. The Liberty Bell – Reportedly rung to announce the first reading of the Declaration of Independence to anxious Philadelphians, it received its first crack when first rung in 1754. It was repaired but cracked again and was finally rendered useless as a bell. However, it has become a symbol of the American Revolution and occupies an exalted position in its new location, the Liberty Bell Center, across the street and in front of Independence Hall (see above).
3. Franklin Court – This area within Independence National Historical Park contains Benjamin Franklin’s home, the first Post Office, and also displays much Franklin memorabilia. Benjamin Franklin was one of the most famous early Americans, and credited with many inventions and firsts.
4. Drive or walk down Ben Franklin Parkway – This scenic avenue traverses the heart of Philadelphia’s cultural establishment. It begins at City Hall (see below) and ends at Eakins Oval, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (see below). The tree-lined and flag-lined parkway was designed to emulate the Champs-Elysses in Paris.
5. Shop and/or Lunch at the Terminal Market – Once the site of the Reading Train Terminal’s train shed, this indoor market is jammed with vendors selling primarily food, but other commodities as well. The market is a popular stop for visitors to the city and is especially crowded at lunch. There are several Pennsylvania Dutch vendors. The market dates to the mid-nineteenth century.
6. Check out Philly’s Italian Neighborhood (South Philly) – The Italian Market is a primarily outdoor market which displays and sells a wide variety of foods, most of Italian origin and style. It is most associated with 9th street in south Philadelphia.
7. Spend Several Hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art – This museum, located opposite Philadelphia’s City Hall (see below) along Benjamin Franklin Parkway (see above) is one of the top art museums in the United States. It was made famous when featured in the movie, Rocky, as the end of Rocky Balboa’s run during training. For a while, there was even a sculpture of the fictional boxer at the top of the stairs, in front of the museum.
8. Take a drive to Longwood Gardens – This is probably the premier botanical garden in the United States and one of the finest in the world. It is located in Kennett Square, just southwest of Philadelphia, and is a popular excursion from the city. Located on the former estate of Pierre DuPont, it contains twenty outdoor and twenty indoor gardens, along with numerous fountains.
9. Admire Philadephia’s City Hall – This dramatic 550-foot tall building, topped with a statue of William Penn, the founder of the Pennsylvania Colony, is the tallest masonry building in the world. It is also the largest municipal building in the United States, with almost 700 rooms and is a National Historic Landmark. It sits on an area designated by Penn as Centre Square.
10. The Mutter Museum – This unusual medical museum is noted for its collection of skulls and other anatomical specimens. In addition, there are numerous medical oddities and medical equipment on display.