Philadelphia – or “Philly” as it’s been nicknamed – is the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, the fifth most populous city in the United States and home to numerous significant cultural icons, like the Liberty Bell and the Rocky statue outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Despite its moniker as “the City of Brotherly Love,” Philly (and its inhabitants) often has a tough reputation, which is nonetheless offset by its boisterous and passionate sports fans, numerous colleges and universities, adoration of the cheese steak and decided historical significance.
You could go the traditional route in Philadelphia and visit all the most popular Revolutionary War-related tourist spots, but this is a city that thrives on the unique and eccentric personalities that make up its population. Go out and get a taste of the quirk and kitsch that Philadelphia has to offer: sometimes the best things to do while you are in Philadelphia are the most unexpected ones.
Have you heard the saying that it’s not about the destination – it’s the journey? Keep that in the back of your mind as you discover Philadelphia while getting about the city via some nontraditional transportation methods. Bikes aren’t the most spectacularly crazy way of getting anywhere, but if you’re foregoing a car, you might be pleasantly surprised by how fun and free you feel on two wheels, not to mention the fact that you’re much less likely to end up stuck in traffic. Rent a bike or hop onto a cycle with The Philadelphia Bike Tours, which will give you a three-hour jaunt to hotspots like the Liberty Bell.
Even if you don’t take a pocket protector everywhere you go, consider the I-Glide Tours, via Segway through the Art Museum area. You’ll get hooked up via wireless headset and enjoy about two and a half hours, guided by a tour expert, through the Fairmount Waterworks and Boathouse Row.
For other nifty ways to get around Philadelphia, check out the Zoo Balloon, which takes you 400 feet in the air and offers a compelling view of the city skyline, or hop on board the Philadelphia Trolley Tour, a 90-minute trip around the city that brings you to about 20 different sights.
Majorly Memorable Museums
Philadelphia has its share of eye-popping attractions in the form of some wildly out-there museums. The Mutter Museum, for instance, is a look into the history of medicine, but for many, it can send shivers down their spines, as the museum exists to give visitors “beneath-the-skin” exposure to what physicians see and study. The interior, though, is bright and tasteful, which is perhaps a startling juxtaposition to sights such as the skeleton of a seven foot, six inch man; diseased and enlarged organs; and the death cast of Siamese twins Chang and Eng.
For an equally entertaining visit, head to the Mummers Museum on South Second Street, an anthropological celebration of the art of celebration. Open since 1976, you will find within collections of costumes, paraphernalia and knick-knacks on display, as well as a colorful gift shop where you can purchase exquisite dolls in mummers’ costume, plus books and tokens of celebration.
Ghosts of the Past
The great Edgar Allen Poe, author of “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” lived throughout Philadelphia during the 1800s and the last house he, his wife and his mother-in-law occupied is the only one of his houses to survive. It’s now the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site, with neighboring buildings comprising a gift shop and some smaller exhibits. The house/museum is free and open to the public, with guided or self-tours from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
The Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) is no longer inhabited by notorious criminals, but the Fairmount Avenue Fortress is open to the public year-round, daily, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. for an admission fee of $12. During the Halloween season, ESP features “Terror Behind the Walls”, a haunted house event that is guaranteed to give you an adrenaline rush. Any other time of the year is good, too, as Al Capone’s luxurious cell has been restored to its appearance when he was held here and you can view the solitary confinement cells and walk Death Row.
Image provided by George Smyth from Flickr’s Creative Commons
Pete Johnson is a contributing writer who lives in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia and works as a grant writer. He loves having friends visit, so he can show them around his city and take them to all the one-of-a-kind attractions.