Just because you’ve been to Philly, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done all there is to do in this great city. It’s worth a second visit—or more, if you’ve already visited twice—because there’s so much to do in this city of 1,500 million. Whether you’re a businessman visiting for a conference, a twenty-something interested in the music scene, or a family excited to learn more about our nation’s history, there’s always something new to discover.
And in 2017, this couldn’t be any more true. We’ve consulted the experts and we’ve asked the locals—and here’s what they recommend you do.
1 Explore the public art
Sure, plenty of people visit Philadelphia with the sole purpose of running the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art—and some of them even walk into the museum itself to gaze upon a Duchamp or Cézanne. But did you know that Philly is home to the country’s largest collection of outdoor public art? That’s what you really want to check out.
The Association for Public Art has even put together the Museum Without Walls—an interpretive program in which locals tell you stories about the public art all over the city. It’s easy—all you have to do is call the number in front of your chosen art piece and listen. Another option is The Mural Arts Program, which offers tours of the city’s most popular murals. And they offer a mural finder map for your phone, too, which you can find here.
2 Hang out where the locals go
For your first visit to Philly, it makes sense to check out the tourist-packed streets of Center City and South Philly. And of course no visit to the city of brotherly love is complete without biting into a classic cheesesteak. But if you really want to experience the city like a local, you’ll want to explore the areas where the locals hang out on a Friday night.
You’ll want to head to Fishtown and Northern Liberties, traditional blue-collar neighborhoods that are becoming popular amongst artists, hipsters, and foodies. Whether you’re a fan of coffee shops with a retro vibe or a bar with great live music—or all you want is an artisanal pint of beer—this is where you want to be. Check out Not For Tourist’s guides to Northern Liberties and Fishtown to plan your perfect evening.
Don’t forget that these hipster neighborhoods are the place to go for shopping, too. Whether you’re looking for something fancy like a LoveProm dress or bargain hunting for a strange vintage hat, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
3 Rock out to the local music
Philadelphia is full of artists, and its musical history is rich. Philly was home to America’s first song composer, as well as many great jazz, rock, and blues musicians who then went on to make it big in New York City just a couple hours away. With this musical history, its working class city vibe, and affordable rent, it’s no surprise that many musicians call this city home.
There are countless music venues throughout the city, putting on both local and touring acts. Just a few of them can be found on South Broad Street, in Center City, from the Loft District out to Fishtown. According to TimeOut, the best venues include the Union Transfer, Johnny Brenda’s, and The Trocadero Theatre—but make sure you check out this list from Thrillist to explore the top 15.
4 Enjoy the great outdoors
Especially if you’re visiting on a sunny day—or a weekend full of sunshine, if you’re lucky—Philadelphia’s got some great outdoor activities to offer, too. Unlike many American cities that are only high buildings or so spread out they don’t feel like cities at all, Philadelphia’s got something special: the public square. There’s Logan, there’s Washington, there’s Rittenhouse in Center City.
If your visits a short one, then Rittenhouse is the one you’ll want to ensure you visit. Why? Because it’s an open space, just like all the other squares, but it’s central enough that it’s just a step away from high rises, restaurants, book shops, and clothing stores. You can enjoy the square and the city simultaneously. And don’t forget—if you really love nature, then consider checking out this list of day trips from Philadelphia.
So there’s no need to Google it, because we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a lover of the arts and music, or you want to have a fun time checking out all of Philly’s best bars, you’re bound to have a great time. And if you’re visiting with family, you’ll want to check out a couple of other guides—study up on these lists from the MommyPoppins blog and SmarterTravel.
Have you been to the city of brotherly love? What were your coolest local experiences, and what would you recommend to our readers?