The City of Brotherly Love is one of America’s greatest. Philadelphia is one part dynamic cultural capital, one part small town charm, and all parts vibrant. Known as the birthplace of America, you can find enough culture in Philly to fill an entire calendar year, award-winning restaurants, internationally acclaimed hotels, and more. Philadelphia packs a punch for an amazing weekend getaway, but after one weekend, you’ll know that a few days is hardly enough to uncover all that this amazing place has to offer.
Get Lost In Neighborhood Atmosphere
Philadelphia is truly a city of neighborhoods. The exact number depends on who you ask, but there are definitely more than 20 different Philly neighborhoods, each with its own personality. For a weekend visit to Philadelphia, here are a few to focus on that will give you the best snapshot of the city.
Start with Old City. This is, they say, where America began. History buffs will fawn over the cobblestone streets and the 18th-century brick buildings. This is the first stop for anyone who has never seen the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, or the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Strolling the Delaware River waterfront is a favorite activity from spring to fall, as well, when it comes alive with outdoor dining, beer gardens, and pop-up parks. Be sure to stop into the Cherry Street Pier, a historic pier that has been transformed into a year-round mixed-use space with shopping, art, and a weekend farmers market.
If you want to see the modern side of Philadelphia, then you have to head to Fishtown. This always-innovative neighborhood is splashed with vibrant street murals and is a hotbed of Philadelphia art, cuisine, and music. Breakfast at Philly Style Bagels is a must. You’re ordering the Classic Lox, which was named one of the five best new sandwiches in America by Bon Appetit magazine back in 2016. Afterward, take a stroll through Penn Treaty Park, which has beautiful views along the Delaware River. If you’re interested in whisky and cocktails, there are a few distilleries in Fishtown that offer tours. Try Philadelphia Distilling, the first post-Prohibition distillery in Pennsylvania.
And if you really want to see Philly at its finest, head to Rittenhouse Square, one of the most sought-after addresses in the entire city. This is where you’re going for the most elegant restaurants, high-end shopping, theaters, cafes, cocktail bars, and the best hotels.
Soak Up Museum Culture
Philadelphia is definitely a hub for arts and culture, with more than 20 museums that run the gamut from American history to modern art to Judaism. Visitors to Philadelphia will have so many museums to choose from that a weekend will hardly seem like enough. Here are a few unique Philadelphia museums to know.
Naturally, any first-timer will want to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, if only to recreate everyone's favorite Rocky moment running up the steps. Inside is one of the nation's greatest collections of art and a must-see Philly treasure. There are more than 240,000 works of art that span 2,000 years, including works by Renoir, Picasso, and a complete 14th-century Buddhist temple. Weekends are a great time to visit the museum, specifically on the first Sunday of the month, when admission is donation-based.
Looking for something a little more … off-beat? The Mutter Museum is not for the faint of heart. This medical history museum gets into the nitty-gritty (and sometimes graphic) details about the history of medicine.
Visitors can also trace the history of Jewish heritage at the National Museum of American Jewish History. There is a current exhibit on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, which is on view through the second week of January, 2020. Admission to the exhibit is $9. General admission is free.
Want more on museums? These are the best Philadelphia museums to visit, and yes, the Philly Museum of Art and the National Museum of American Jewish History make the cut!
Catch A Game, Any Game
No matter what time of the year you visit, Philadelphia sports fans are out in full force. From the Phillies to the Eagles, the Flyers to the Sixers, Philadelphia has epic sports seasons, and if you're into a little healthy competition, you can't find a better city to celebrate in. Start at the Wells Fargo Center to catch a Flyers or Sixers game (that's NHL and NBA, respectively). The Wells Fargo Center is also home to XFINITY Live!, an entertainment complex packed with drinking and dining options.
Football season is one of the most action-packed times in Philly, as Philadelphians are more than passionate about their Eagles. Lincoln Financial Field is more than a sports arena -- it's a way of life, especially on football Sundays when tailgaters fill the parking lots for cookouts and meet-ups with fans, whether they be casual or die-hard. Come spring and summer, baseball fans flock to Citizens Bank Park to catch the Phillies' games.
From January 1 through December 31, there is always an action-packed sporting event happening in the city, so there's never a wrong weekend to choose for sports fans.
Fun fact: Did you know that the literal translation of Pennsylvania is Penn's Woods? That's because when William Penn first came to the region, he was so impressed by the acres and acres of forests he found. Needless to say, the state of Pennsylvania is primed for outdoor activities, and Philadelphia is no exception. Today, the city is packed with urban parks, gardens, bike trails, and more that make it a great weekend destination for getting outside.
Start in the Callowhill neighborhood at Fairmount Bicycles and rent a bike to tour around the Schuylkill River Trail, which crosses over Falls Bridge along West River Drive (this is only open to bikers during the weekends). If you're loving seeing the city on two wheels, you can keep the bike for the rest of the weekend.
As for park spaces, Fairmount Park is one of the city's best, with about 30 miles of trails, 43 outdoor sculptures, two performing arts centers, the Philadelphia Zoo, Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens, and more. If you want the best views, head to Belmont Plateau for a picturesque view of Philly's skyline.
Along the Schuylkill River, you can enjoy eight miles of riverfront known as the Schuylkill Banks. This river promenade is a prime spot for walking, jogging, picnics, and more. It stretches along the river from the edge of Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount Park, and Kelly Drive. If the weather is warm, visitors can hop on a cruise or kayak tour along the river for a new perspective of the city.
Eating In Philadelphia
When it comes to food in Philly, the city is so much more than the cheesesteaks (though, those are pretty darn tasty). From casual street food to refined cuisine, diners of all persuasions will be eternally pleased with Philly’s ever-changing menus, plus culinary establishments that have held their own for decades.
A Philly Cheesesteak
But first, the cheesesteak, because how can you come to Philly and not try one? The battle continues to rage between the city’s heaviest hitters: Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. But you can typically find locals eating at Jim’s South Street. And don't stress if you go the whole weekend and run out of time to enjoy Philly's namesake meal, as there are great cheesesteak options at the airport to savor before you depart.
Epicureans in the know are already tuned into Zahav, one of the country’s best restaurants and three-time winner of the James Beard Award. In 2019 it took home the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant. The Israeli restaurant has been around for more than a decade serving heavenly, homestyle dishes, from staples like hummus and mezzo to coal-grilled protein (the chicken shashlik is to die for). For an additional $36 per person, you can add a wine pairing to your meal.
Reading Terminal Market
Can't make up your mind? It's understandable. Philadelphia has so many wonderful dining options and with just a weekend to experience it all, it's nearly impossible. That's why Reading Terminal Market is the perfect solution. Housed in one of the oldest public markets in America (and a National Historic Landmark building), this is where visitors can find the very best Philadelphia has to offer under one roof. From pizza and deli favorites to baked goods and distilled spirits, you can taste the entire city in one afternoon.
Shopping In Philadelphia
Even if you're not a shopper, you will be after a visit to Philadelphia. Why? Because of that beautiful Pennsylvania law that keeps clothing and shoes free of tax. From high-end labels to vintage and boutique shops, you'll find everything you're looking for (and a few surprises) in Philly.
Fashion District Philadelphia
When looking for fashion in Philly, the spot with fashion in the title seems like a logical first stop. Opened this fall, Fashion District Philadelphia is a shopping mecca with everything from mall staples to local businesses.
If labels are your bag, you'll love the swanky shops and international retailers of Rittenhouse Row, which is the area around Chestnut and Walnut streets near the park. This is Philadelphia’s premier luxury shopping district.
Find vintage, handmade, and bohemian goods in Northern Liberties, just north of Old City. This hip and dynamic neighborhood is known for its boutiques, furniture stores, and gift shops, specifically along Second Street.