Top Attractions for First-Time Visitors
With its central role in American history and vibrant arts scene, Philadelphia has no shortage of can’t-miss attractions for out-of-towners. But if it’s your first time visiting Philly, you’ll want to make sure to add these classic tourist destinations to guarantee you get the full Philadelphia experience.
Independence National Historic Park
No Philly introduction is complete without a stop at Independence National Historic Park in Old City. This National Park Service site protects the foundations of American democracy, including Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed. First-timers won’t want to miss seeing the iconic Liberty Bell up close, which you can view in the Liberty Bell Center. Time permitting, you can also tour the First Bank of the United States and Franklin Court, where you can learn about Benjamin Franklin’s life and legacy.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Home to one of the largest art collections in the country, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must-see for fine art lovers visiting Philadelphia for the first time. The museum’s vast collection spans over 2,000 years of human creativity from across the globe – so be sure to plan ample time to explore. Don’t forget to snap that quintessential “Rocky” photo on the front steps before heading inside!
Eastern State Penitentiary
For a first-time Philadelphia experience that’s equal parts educational and creepy, schedule a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary. This former prison was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, as well as being known for its grand architecture and strict solitary confinement. Today, the penitentiary is a National Historic Landmark that offers day and night tours, plus seasonal events like haunted houses that leverage the property’s eerie past. Visiting is an only-in-Philly experience!
Reading Terminal Market
No first-time visit to Philadelphia is complete without indulging in the city’s food scene, and one of the best places to dive in is historic Reading Terminal Market. This indoor farmer’s market and food hall has been in operation since 1893, making it one of the oldest public markets in the country. Today, over 80 vendors sell everything from produce, meats, and cheeses to ready-to-eat ethnic specialties and desserts. Come hungry and sample your way through cheeses steaks, hoagies, Amish baked goods, homemade chocolates, and more.
Home to over 1,300 animals, the nation’s first zoo is a beloved Philadelphia institution. It’s one of the top family-friendly attractions in Philly, with highlights like the expansive Big Cat Falls habitat, camel rides, and a raptor show. Little ones will love KidZooU, a miniature zoo filled with hands-on activities. With over 42 acres to explore, you’ll want to spend a full day seeing all this fantastic zoo has to offer.
The Franklin Institute
For science-loving first-timers, the Franklin Institute should be at the top of your Philly sightseeing list. Dedicated to innovation in science and technology, the institute features hundreds of interactive exhibits on topics ranging from the human brain to space exploration. Popular attractions include the Giant Heart you can walk through, a Planetarium, and an IMAX theater. There are always new limited-time exhibits to check out too, like adventures in ancient Egypt or journeys to the Antarctic.
How to Get Around Philadelphia
Navigating a new city for the first time is always a bit intimidating, but have no fear – Philly’s user-friendly transportation options make getting around a breeze for newbies. Here’s a quick rundown of how to travel across Philadelphia:
SEPTA operates an extensive light rail system that’s a convenient and affordable way to travel around Philadelphia, especially between popular tourist destinations. Single rides cost just $2.50, or you can purchase an Independence Pass for $12/day of unlimited rides. Key lines for tourists include the Market-Frankford Line (blue) and Broad Street Line (orange). You can find a route map and plan your trip on SEPTA’s website.
Taxis and Rideshares
When you need a quick point-to-point ride, taxis and rideshares like Uber are readily available throughout Philadelphia. Taxi fare starts at $2.70 plus $2.30 per additional mile, while Uber fares depend on demand. Taxis can be hailed on the street, while Uber/Lyft require a mobile app to request a ride. For safety, only ride with clearly-marked licensed taxis or established rideshare companies.
For ultimate convenience when traveling with a group, renting a charter bus is the way to go in Philly. No need to coordinate routes or meet-up spots – a charter bus allows your whole group to stay together and ensures you have reliable transportation to all of your desired attractions. Charter buses are available in a range of sizes, so whether you’re a family of four or a group of 40, there’s a bus to fit your group. Perks like reclining seats, climate control, luggage storage, and even restrooms make touring by charter bus a breeze!
Ready to Get Started?
We hope this first timer’s guide gets you excited to start planning your upcoming Philadelphia vacation! With so much history, culture, food, and fun waiting to be discovered, there’s no bad time to visit. And when you’re ready to book your trip, be sure to call Charter Bus Company Philadelphia at (267) 479-7355 for help arranging the perfect charter bus rental for your group’s transportation needs. Our team is available 24/7 to provide a free quote and answer all your questions – we can’t wait to be your guide to exploring Philadelphia!