Hundreds of thousands of people are descending on the city of Philadelphia in anticipation of Pope Francis’ Mass on the city’s Ben Franklin Parkway.
Everyone knows the Philadelphia tourist standbys. You run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and pump your fists in the air like Rocky. You get a cheese-steak from Pat’s, you get a cheese steak from Geno’s. You fight over which one has better whiz.
But as a Philadelphia native, I can promise you that there is so much more to do in the City of Brotherly Love. When visitors aren’t busy trying to sneak a peek of and a blessing from Pope Francis, these are some of the things worth doing, eating and seeing.
Because they actually won’t let you leave Philly unless you’ve had a proper cheesesteak. (Photo: Chew Philly Food Tours)
1. Eat Your Way Through the City - Check out Chew Philly Food Tours for completely delicious culinary tours of Philadelphia neighborhoods to sample Philly favorites like the tomato pie, cheese-steaks and soft pretzels. Make sure to make reservations online in advance.
Check out where America’s favorite compulsive-late-night-shopping magic happens. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
2. Go Backstage at QVC - You don’t need to be a home shopping addict to love this tour of the inner workings of QVC, a strange and magical mecca of televised and electronic retailing.
View some sleek and rare vintage racing cars at the Simeone Automotive Museum. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
3. Rev Your Engines at the Automotive Museum - Most folks are familiar with Philadelphia’s popular museums like the Franklin Institute and the Academy of Natural History. Few but the most die-hard gear-heads know about the Simeone Automotive Museum, home to one of the most fabulous collection of racing sports cars anywhere in the world, including 65 incredibly rare vehicles.
See incredible panoramas of the city from the observation deck atop City Hall. (Photo: iStock)
4. Climb City Hall - Philly is home to the tallest City Hall in the United States. For hundreds of years the law required that all buildings in Philadelphia be shorter than the top of the William Penn statue on the top of the building, reaching some 548 feet in the air. Even though the city is now populated by sky scrapers that stretch much higher than Penn’s cap, you can still get a magnificent view of town from the observation deck just below the statue. Check in for the tower is in the City Hall Visitor Center in Room 121 of the building.
Follow in good ol’ Benny Frank’s footsteps, making stops at historical places like the Liberty Bell and National Constitution Center. (Photo: iStock)
5. Walk in Ben Franklin’s Footsteps - As the birthplace of American independence Philadelphia has seen its fair share of founding father’s, but none had so great an impact on the city as Benjamin Franklin. Take a guided walking tour that trace’s Franklin’s journey to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Carpenters’ Hall, Christ Church and the National Constitution Center.
See some great modern art at the Barnes. (Photo: The Barnes Foundation)
6. Experience the Barnes - The Barnes museum truly is a one of a kind experience for art lovers of all varieties. Assembled by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the collection contains some of the most venerated Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings in the world. Hook up with one of their specially trained docents to get the full experience.
Breathe easy as you stroll through the floral grounds of Longwood. (Photo: Longwood Gardens)
7. Relax in Longwood Gardens - Longwood Gardens in Brandywine Valley sits on 1,077 acres, with 40 indoor and outdoor gardens. Take a morning or afternoon to stroll, enjoy a picnic or even take a wee nap.
Find your new favorite cheese at DiBruno’s. (Photo: Di Bruno Bros./Facebook)
8. Buy Cheese at DiBruno Brothers - The weather in Philly is finally starting to cool off which means it is a wonderful time for a picnic. Swing by one of the locations of DiBruno Brothers to meet a mongers and allow them to choose your perfect cheese for you!
After serving up cannoli for almost 100 years, we’re pretty sure they know what they’re doing. (Photo: Termini Bros Bakery/Facebook)
9. Eat a Cannoli from Termini Brothers - This is a true old-school italian bakery, and they whip up some of the best cannolis in town.
Motuba, a Western lowland gorilla at the Philadelphia Zoo. (Photo: AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
10. Meet the Gorillas at the Philadelphia Zoo - There are few zoos like America’s first. The Philly zoo is home to more than 1,600 animals. What makes it unique is the brand new Gorilla Treeway, part of the zoo’s system where animals travel on trails throughout the zoo right above visitor’s heads.
The lobster mac & cheese at the Continental might just be be the best way to start your day. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
12. Brunch at the Continental - Philadelphia is home to plenty of good restaurants, but one of the best brunch standbys is Stephen Starr’s Continental. Make sure to try their lobster Mac & Cheese.
Get your spook on. (Photo: Ghost Tour of Philadelphia, PA/Facebook)
13. Get in Touch With Philly’s Ghosts - Philly fancies itself one of America’s most haunted cities. Who are we to disagree. Take a candlelight walking tour through the Old City to discover who has been haunting here since the birth of our nation.
Learn about one of Colonial America’s most amazing women at her former digs. (Photo: Getty Images)
14. Visit the Betsy Ross House - Spend time learning about one of the country’s earliest feminists, Betsy Ross in her 1740 row house. It may have been a gaggle of men who founded the country, but Betsy was the rare woman who learned how to thrive as a business person in Colonial times.
You and your kids will love how interactive everything is at the Please Touch Museum. (Photo: Please Touch Museum/Facebook)
15. Touch Everything at the Please Touch Museum - Not sure what to do with the kids? Make sure to visit the Please Touch Museum, home to the most touchable and interactive exhibits in the city.
Come on. It’s practically begging you to take a photo with it. (Photo: Liana Jackson/Flickr)
16. Photo Bomb the LOVE Statue - LOVE park sits right at the entrance to the Ben Franklin Parkway where the pope will be celebrating his historic mass. Go there a few days early to take a pic with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE Statue.
Because ancient biblical texts and the Pope pretty much go hand-in-hand. (Photo: Penn Museum/Facebook)
17. See the Sacred Writings at the Penn Museum - View one of the world¹s oldest fragments of the gospel of Saint Matthew, a polyglot New Testament Bible compiled by German scholar Elias Hutter and the earliest version of the Mesopotamian flood story written on clay over 3,500 years ago. For a limited time only the Penn Museum is showing, Sacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World, a special exhibition of rare artifacts from the Museum Collection and rare books and manuscripts from the Penn Libraries.
They got meats and they got beers. What more could you ask for? (Photo: Lo Spiedo/Facebook)
18. Meet up for Happy Hour at Lo Spiedo - Famed chef Marc Vetri recently opened this gem (which means “The Spit” in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Head here for delicious slow-roasted meats and wash it down with a shandy or a fine craft beer.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.